Board Member: Michael DeSapio
Mike is a life long resident of Kingwood Township located in rural Hunterdon County, New Jersey. While not necessarily an Italian enclave, it certainly felt like one growing up in the close-knit (and sizable) De Sapio family – instilling in Mike, his five brothers, and numerous cousins a strong sense of pride in their Italian roots and culture.Mike first connected with his ancestral homeland during a study abroad experience, living in Milan for six months. His time abroad enabled him to study the Italian language and history, tour most regions of the country, and visit the hometown of both his paternal (Monteforte Irpino, Campania) and maternal (Benestare, Calabria) families. The highlight of the experience was the opportunity to become acquainted with his cousins from the De Sapio family still living in Monteforte, a relationship that continues today. Mike has since made a dozen trips back to bell’Italia, and tries to return whenever possible. It always feels like going home again.Throughout the years, Mike has worked to promote the Italian and Italian-American cultures. He is a longtime member of several Italian American organizations, including the National Italian American Foundation, past president and Board member of the Italian American Heritage Club of Hunterdon County, and board member of the Italian American Baseball Foundation.Mike’s educational experience includes a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies from Penn State University, a J.D. from Widener University. The love for all things Italian prompted Mike to established De Sapio Dual Citizenship Services to assist applicants for Italian Citizenship.
Board Member and Communications: Michael Grillo
Michael Grillo is an Italian Teacher and the proprietor of a tour company specializing group excursions to Italy. He enjoys promoting the rich Italian culture among both his students and travelers. Michael is very involved in the Italian Parish of Saint Lucy in Newark, NJ, where he proudly assists in carrying on the more than 120-year tradition of the feast of Saint Gerard each October as well as the Italian Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, also located in Newark. A proud Italian American, Michael, is a founding member of The Rutgers University Italian Cultural Organization and is a long time member of The Federation of Italian American Societies of New Jersey. Throughout the years Michael has been a part of numerous Italian American philanthropic organizations specializing in scholarships for students in need. Michael looks forward to working with Italian Enclaves and is very proud of the work they are doing..
Dominic was born and raised in an Italian American family in a small town in metro Detroit. He competes as a track athlete at DePaul University, and has been able to expand his knowledge of Italian American culture through his experiences living in Chicago. He has always been interested in his heritage, and grew to love the stories and history of Italians in America. He aspires to continue learning about Italian American culture with the goal of preserving the history and traditions for generations to come.
Board Member: Dominique Sessa
Dominique is a disabled Italian American woman with a passion for inclusion, being a leading voice for the Italian American disability community, accessibility in preservation work, and Italian history and culture.
She founded The Girl in The Pink Wheelchair. She’s known locally, statewide, and nationwide for advocacy. It also has allowed women and young girls to find a connective solution through her platform.
Dominique is the founder of Italo American Imagery. It’s the first accessible Italo-American digital archive. The project focuses on telling the stories of Italians and Italian Americans, historical enrichment, genealogy, and preservation of Italian and Italian Americans.
She also founded and created the Italian American Disability Alliance. This platform allows both disabled Italians and Italian Americans to engage in community, culture and advocate together.
She proudly serves her state in these roles: Chairwoman of the Assistive Technology Loan Program Board of Directors of Maryland, a Commissioner for the Maryland Commission on Disabilities and the Maryland Advisory Council on Hereditary and Congenital Disorders. Dominique is an active community member in her City by serving on Committees and volunteering, enthusiastic about Italian history, and a published writer.
Advisory Board Member, author and expert regarding Italian enclaves in northeastern Pennsylvania: Stephanie Longo
A graduate of both the University of Scranton (BA, Italian and French; MA, History) and Regent University (MA, journalism), she has made it her mission to continue to preserve the history that her ancestors brought to the United States from Guardia Lombardi, Italy. She also possesses a Women in Leadership certificate and a Women in Entrepreneurship certificate from Cornell University and is a graduate of the Leadership Lackawanna Core Program.
Ms. Longo is the associate producer and administrative officer for The Italian American Podcast. An award-winning journalist, she is the former editor of The Villager newspaper (Moscow, PA) and The Abington Suburban (Clarks Summit, PA), as well as a former correspondent for Go Lackawanna (Scranton, PA). She is also the former director of marketing and communications of The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.
A dual citizen of the United States and Italy, Ms. Longo has spoken both regionally and nationally on the subject of Italian immigration to the United States, including at the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum (Scranton, PA), the Lackawanna Historical Society (Scranton, PA), the Dunmore Historical Society (Dunmore, PA), the Forest City Historical Society (Forest City, PA), I AM Books (Boston, MA), the IDEA Boston festival (Cambridge, MA), the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (Rockville, MD) and the History of Italian Immigration Museum (Philadelphia, PA). She has also been a panelist on Italian American culture for Pennsylvania’s Mining Heritage Month. Her works are also part of the Biblioteca del Senato “Giovanni Spaldini” in Rome, Italy. She currently resides in Dunmore, PA
Advisory board member: JOHN M. VIOLA – The Professional Italian American
John’s Bio from: https://italianamericanpodcast.com/ :
If around here we’re afflicted with a passion to celebrate our Italian American heritage, then John may be the sickest of us all—his professional and personal interests continuously land him in the world of Italian America. His appreciation for The Italian American Podcast goes back to his time as President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), where he served with incomparable energy and passion from 2012-2018 as the youngest president in NIAF’s history. Under John, NIAF became the podcast’s first major sponsor, and in 2018, Anthony and Dolores eagerly welcomed him into the fold as a creative partner and visionary, who helped expand and invigorate the show’s platform with the addition of The Italian Power Hour. You can regularly hear him sighing on air, trying to wrangle in the rest of us as our tireless moderator.
As the professional Italian American, John serves as co-vice president for New York City of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA) and on the Boards of Directors of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago, La Scuola d’Italia-Guglielmo Marconi in New York City, the Two Sicilies in America Foundation, and the American Initiative for Italian Culture (AIFIC) in Washington, DC. He was fundamental in the creation of Pope John Paul II Family Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y., serving as the Academy’s General Director, and the Director of the Madonna della Neve Foundation for many years before joining NIAF. Committed to living his passion for our history, he is a Knight of Merit with Star of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, one of the oldest Orders of knighthood in the world, and serves as the United States Delegate for the Constantinian Order and the other Chivalric Orders of the Royal House of Borbone of the Two Sicilies. He is also a Knight of the Order of Merit of Savoy, the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre…so, yeah, he spends an inordinate amount of time wearing capes at High Mass. He used to have a sword, too, but it got lost in transit on a flight home from Palermo.
In his rare ventures away from things Italian, he serves as president of the Florida Panthers Foundation, enjoys reading, travelling, and forcing friends and loved ones into indulging his constant desire to sing karaoke. A native of Brooklyn, John traces his ancestry to the Vallo di Diano in the province of Salerno, Puglia, Basilicata, and his beloved Sicily.
Non Voting Board Member and Marketing: Danielle Ferrante
Italian food blogger and professional culinary consultant Michele Di Pietro is the creator and founder of ‘It’s All About The Food LLC’ Culinary Consulting and ‘Mangia With Michele’, the expression of her lifelong passion and (self-admitted) obsession with all things Italian and Italian-American food-related, where she regularly serves up innovative and classic family-style inspiration and nostalgia in La Cucina Italiana online, creating delicious and easy-to-follow recipes based on a lifetime of cooking, eating and culinary travels to Italy. She is also a regular guest host on the Flavor of Italy podcast.
Her professional culinary experience in the foodservice industry spans more than 20 years at both large-scale retail establishments and growing start-up companies. With a degree in business from Georgetown University followed by 5 years as a Certified Public Accountant for Ernst & Young prior to graduating with top honors from The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, Michele brings a unique “right brain + left brain” approach to her culinary business style and all of her projects. Thanks to this unique background and blended skill-set, Michele has become a valuable advisor and strategist for an eclectic lineup of foodservice operations, developing and commercializing hundreds of menus and recipes along the way.