The Biondos - a Multigenerational NIAF Scholarship Family

May 14, 2023 1500

BY: Sandra Tornberg

Gabriel Biondo recently learned that the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) has awarded him a $7,500 scholarship. The second in his family to receive a NIAF scholarship, after his mother Janet received a scholarship in 1993, Gabriel was selected from an applicant pool of over 3,000 students who applied for the NIAF scholarship program.

Julia Streisfeld Kennedy, NIAF Director of Scholarships, Grants and Youth Engagement, advised Gabriel of his awards, stating: “Your outstanding academic achievement, commitment to community service, and demonstrated passion for your heritage make you an ideal candidate to represent the values and efforts of the National Italian American Foundation.”  

Gabriel graduated as valedictorian from Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 2021. He is completing his sophomore year at the University of Notre Dame where he is pursuing a double major in Neuroscience and Behavior, and Italian. In addition, Gabriel was one of one hundred students in the class of 2025 selected to participate in the ND Glynn Family Honors Program, which entails taking only honors-level courses as core major requirements. Gabriel is the president of the Italian Club at the university. Not only is he passionate about his Italian heritage, but he also has a circle of close friends at Notre Dame with whom he only communicates in Italian each day.  

Gabriel’s career goal is to become a physician, specifically an epileptologist, which is a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy. He aspires to one day work between the United States and Italy. In addition to his schoolwork, Gabriel is actively doing research for The Epilepsy Study Consortium. His findings were presented at the American Epilepsy Society in December 2022. He is also an ambassador for the Epilepsy Foundation.  

After completing his exams this spring, Gabriel will be leaving for Italy. He will spend the summer in Trieste interning at Ospedale Maggiore, where he will work with immigrants travelling to or through Italy. He wrote the proposal for a study that is being executed there by DONK Humanitarian Medicine, to study the prevalent neurological issues exhibited by these immigrants, the care they are receiving and how it can be improved. In the fall, Gabriel will transfer to Rome where he will study at the European University of Rome as part of the Notre Dame Rome Scholars program. He plans to continue his work and research on the weekends at the hospital in Trieste. 

Gabriel is the son of Dr. and Mrs. Andrew and Janet Biondo. Gabriel’s older brother Andrew is also a University of Notre Dame graduate, who majored in Classics, Philosophy and Italian. His grandparents are Andrea and Nina Biondo (deceased) and Andrea and Maria Sugameli. Maria has also promoted the preservation of the Italian language in the United States. Over the course of more than 30 years, Maria has taught Italian to hundreds of children and adults at the Italian American Cultural Society in Clinton Township, Michigan, where she is the director of the Italian Education program. 

During her high school years, Gabriel’s mother, Janet, wrote a monthly article for the IACS Italian American Newspaper entitled “Idee Giovani” (Young Ideas.) She attended Paul K. Cousino High School in Warren, Michigan, which has a radio station. In the late 1980s, Janet began a Saturday morning, two-hour Italian radio program featuring current Italian music and interviews with leaders from the local Italian American community. 

In her senior year of college at Michigan State University, and after three unsuccessful attempts to earn a NIAF scholarship, Janet had a conversation with the late Frank Stella, who encouraged her to apply a fourth time. This time she was successful, winning a $5,000 NIAF scholarship for journalism.  Janet believes that the NIAF realized the important role of journalists in projecting and maintaining a positive image of Italian Americans in the media.  

It was important to Janet that her children maintain a cultural, verbal and traditional understanding of their Italian heritage. Clearly, she was eminently successful! Congratulations to Gabriel and his family on his amazing achievements. 

Thanks to the generosity of the Italian American community, the National Italian American Foundation has awarded over $10,000,000 in scholarships since its founding. NIAF administers nearly 200 scholarships annually, ranging in value from $2,500 to $12,000 to Italian American students studying a wide variety of subjects. More information about the NIAF Scholarship program can be found at https://www.niaf.org/programs/scholarships

You may be interested