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Gloucester County Italian Heritage Commission Names Glassboro Teacher Caterina Dawson
Commission will honor Dawson during Taste of Italy Fundraising Event
By: Gloucester County Italian Heritage Commission
Dawson is a Mickleton resident who teaches Italian and Spanish at Glassboro High School. She is a founding member and Past President of the GC Italian Heritage Commission and now serves as Vice President.
The Commission will honor Dawson at its "A Taste of Italy" fundraiser on October 27 at 6 p.m. at Auletto Caterers in Deptford, NJ. The public is invited to attend.
Priced at $40, tickets can be purchased in advance at tasteofitaly2016.eventbrite.com or by contacting Carol Ann DeSimine at (856) 494-3281, or at the door. The event supports the Annual Italian Heritage Festival of Gloucester County and scholarships to Gloucester County students studying the Italian language.
About Caterina (Cathy) Dawson
Caterina Dattola Dawson was born in Calabria, Italy, and arrived in the U.S. as a teenager, unable to speak the English language. She continued her public school education and graduated from Paulsboro High School. With more confidence in the English language she continued her college career. She then took a break to raise her three sons and by the time the youngest enrolled in kindergarten, she finally completed her college degree.
With the help and encouragement of Santina Haldeman — at the time the principal of Glassboro High School (GHS) — as well as then-Superintendent Nick Mitcho, she embarked on her teaching career, where she was able to incorporate her passion for the Italian language. She rebuilt the Italian language program, which, in the 1970's, was the only such program in Gloucester County.
Through her enthusiasm and love of the culture she brings her high school classes to life; she was quoted by one reporter as being "a non-traditional teacher where she allows her students to have hands-on activities whenever possible."
Because of her involvement with the Vivaci!Italian folk dance group and her memories from growing up in Calabria, she was able to incorporate these experiences into the GHS Italian Club, which now is very active in performing folk dancing in the Tri-State area. She recently created a younger group, I Piccolini, 3, 4 and 5 year olds whom she's teaching the Italian language through song and dance. Caterina is also the advisor for the GHS Italian trips, where students are immersed in the language and culture.
Caterina has demonstrated an innate ability to organize and lead others to promote the Italian language and culture. Her experiences enable her to disseminate valuable information to her students and colleagues. She is affiliated with many Italian-American organizations nationwide, including serving on a panel with Rowan University professors in the selections of prospective Italian teachers. She is very proud of being a co-founder of the Gloucester County Italian Heritage Commission. She was president for many years and was part of the committee that created the Annual Italian Heritage Festival of Gloucester County.
Caterina lives in Mickleton with her husband Vern, whom she recruits each year to help with the Festival. She has three sons. While at home she practices many of the traditions that she grew up with, from bread making to canning and freezing of fruits and vegetables, to making wine and limoncello, and curing traditional Italian meats.
Her eldest son Sebastian says, "We would come home and there would always be something. When it snowed we knew there would be pizza. There was a bread for every type of vegetable we grew in the garden. During the holidays it was over the top. I still don't know where she finds the time to do it all, especially with raising three sons!"
Previous Italian-American Citizen of the Year award recipients* are:
2015: Honorable Judge Samuel G. DeSimone, for his love and dedication to his Italian heritage, for his many accomplishments worldwide, and for his many years of service to the Citizens of Gloucester County and the State of New Jersey.
2014: George Anastasia for his accomplishments as an author and journalist
2012: Diane Macris for her contributions to local arts and history development in Gloucester County and support of the Commission
2011: Nick Micho for his service to organizations and his leadership in Gloucester County
2010: Jim Daloisio for his civic involvement in Gloucester County
2009: Assemblyman John Burzichelli for his service to the residents of New Jersey
2008: Jim Auletto for his continuous support and gracious hospitality of the Italian Festival and for his service to other community organizations
2007: Joseph Cannavo for promoting the study of the Italian language in Gloucester County schools
2006: Angelo Romeo for accomplishments under his leadership as Gloucester County's Director of the Office of Veterans Affairs
* In 2013, rather than selecting an individual for the award, the Commission honored past I-A Citizen of the Year recipients as part of its 10th anniversary celebration.
The Gloucester County Italian Heritage Commission was organized in 2007 with the mission of promoting the study of Italian language in Gloucester County schools and to perpetuate the traditions and art forms of the Italian culture through an annual festival and other cultural events throughout the year. To learn more visit www.facebook.com/
Carol Ann DeSimine