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Italian teacher at Cape Henlopen awards second scholarship


Teachers often say “I don’t do it for the money”; that is true. I believe the “good” teachers do it for the kids. They work hard in and out of the classroom because they know that they make a difference in a student’s life. My life has been touched by the young lady who will be getting an Italian scholarship.

This is only the second scholarship I’ve awarded. Both last year and this, Franca Riccardi of the America-Italy Society of Philadelphia (AISPhila) sent funds to the Italian program at CHHS “to foster the diffusion of the Italian language and culture.” This year, the amount sent was even greater than last year’s. I decided to award the entire $4,500 to one senior.

Scholarship recipient Alena Wright shares the moment with her grandmother Willie Mae Ayers and her teacher Cristina Christy.

While at Cape, my senior dealt with many hurdles. Often what we take for granted (food to eat and a roof over our head), she did not have. She nonetheless never complained or used her life as an excuse to get out of work. In fact, she somehow always managed to greet me (and each day) with a renewed sense of determination. As in “I WILL be successful, and I WILL make the best of today and every day!” But the day she informed me that she was going to study political science is when I knew that this student was “the one.” My father (K. Robert Nilsson) was a political science professor at Dickinson College. It is because of him and my Italian mother that I grew up in Italy; that I fell in love with Italy, its language and culture. They are my “why” – the reason I teach.

There is a center in Bologna named the K. Robert Nilsson Center for European Studies. It has always been my dream to have one of my high-school students go to college and study overseas. I hope my scholarship will help get my student to Bologna. This young lady has no idea how much I admire her; I should have told her more often. I have no doubt she will be successful; she wants to break her family’s generational curse and be the first in her family (other than two grandparents) to attend college. Who is she? She is Alena Symone Wright! Go get ‘em, Alena! Ti amiamo!

Cristina Christy

Cristina Christy teaches Italian at Cape Henlopen High School.

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