The unstoppable Josephine Maietta lives the Italian American dream

May 09, 2024 678

Each year, through the prestigious Donna Distinta Award, we honor women of Italian descent to spotlight their contributions, from culture and industry to philanthropy and activism. The second 2024 Donna Distinta Award goes to Cav. Josephine Maietta. 

For the past seven years, Cav. Josephine Maietta has produced and hosted the radio talk show "Sabato Italiano" on 88.7 FM WRHU, a student-run radio station at Hofstra University. WRHU was rated the #1 university station in the world by UNESCO and has won five Marconi Awards, considered the highest honor in American radio.

Maietta is a mentor and inspiration to her sound engineering students. She launched the radio program on Saturday, June 11, 2016, with Former First Lady Matilda Cuomo and Mons. Hilary Franco, from the United Nations, in the studio. 

Maietta serves as the president of AIAE (the Association of Italian American Educators) based at Hofstra University. The mission of the organization is to enhance the Italian American image and presence in academia. AIAE, several years ago, received the "Silver Medal" from the President of Italy. As of today, AIAE has given more than 320 scholarships in the study abroad program to Roma and Pisa.  

Maietta, born in Sicily, adhered to the quintessential Italian American story of determination, hard work and commitment. She came to America when she was just 15 and she took advantage of everything that an American education had to offer. She studied at leading institutions of higher education, including Hunter College Graduate School, Fordham University, LIU and others. Her major fields of study and course work included Comparative Literature, Foreign Language Teaching, Bilingual Education, and Supervision & School Administration.

In 1997, Maietta was asked to assist in the formation of a new foreign language program for children in Syosset, N.Y. In the tradition of Christopher Columbus, she forged a path for children to learn the Italian language and culture. From the very beginning, as an Italian language teacher in Syosset, she not only taught the language but the beauty and passion that exist in the culture by immersing her students in all things Italian. When asked, she then expanded the program to other languages, including sign language, and spent 23 years creating resonant learning opportunities. Her students not only learned the language, they lived it.             

As a promoter of Italian language and culture, Maietta has become a unique bridge between Italian and American governmental and cultural institutions. She has been a guest of U.S. and Italian Secretaries of Education in Washington, D.C. and received the first NIAF Teacher of the Year Award. She has given workshops and conferences for various professional organizations. For her collaborative efforts, Maietta was knighted in 2005 as Cavaliere dell’Ordine Della Stella Della Solidarieta' by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi of Italy.

Another proud and most humbling moment came in 2004 when she was made a Lady (and now a Commander with Star) of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in recognition of her humanitarian contributions in helping Italian children in NYC who needed special medical attention. 

Over the past 20 years, Maietta has brought together 120 Long Island women in remembrance of the Italian American girls and women who perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911. 

During a recent visit by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at NYC’s Columbus Circle, Maietta had the pleasure of meeting the Italian politician. For several years Maietta also promoted the Messina Citta D’Arte: International Poetry Contest in New York State. Maietta organizes and is an active participant in the New York City Columbus Day Parade since her college years.  

She was also invited to meet with Pope Francis and spent five days visiting the Vatican and two days in Assisi thanks to "The Pave the Way Foundation." Thanks to the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), Maietta was invited to the White House for a reception with Italian American Leaders given by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden this past October. Thanks to Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), she traveled to Los Angeles to participate in the launch of the Russo Brothers Italian American Filmmaker Forum.

Maietta's group, AIAE (the Association of Italian American Educators), is a proud member of COPOMIAO.

SOURCE: Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations

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