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For these five students, scholarships a celebration of Italian heritage

Jake Rickard (from left) Amy McKeown both Oak Forest High School; Delaney Kleber Chicago Academy for Arts; MesopotamiNowotarski Stagg High

Jake Rickard (from left) and Amy McKeown, both of Oak Forest High School; Delaney Kleber, of Chicago Academy for the Arts; Mesopotamia Nowotarski, of Stagg High School; and Owen McKeown, of St. Laurence High School; are awarded $500 scholarships at a June meeting of the Order Sons of Italy in America Leone D'Oro Lodge 2700. | Ginger Brashinger/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 9, 2014 2:10AM



Five recent high school graduates each received a $500 Joseph Calderone Memorial Scholarship at the June meeting of the Order Sons of Italy in America Leone D’Oro Lodge No. 2700 in Orland Park.

Each recipient was required to write an essay crediting their Italian heritage in forming strong family ties and family values.

Jake Rickard, an Oak Forest High School graduate who plans to study engineering at Carthage College, wrote about the inspiration of his Italian grandfather, who set an example that made Rickard proud to be part of an “integrity-filled ancestry.”

“Growing up very close to my papa ... I learned early on in life the principles that being Italian instills in a person,” Rickard said. “He has always inspired me to do the most quality work that I possibly can no matter what the circumstances.”

Mokena resident Delaney Kleber said she was “really honored” to be a scholarship recipient. Kleber said the best thing about her Italian heritage is “the endless support of my family.”

“My big Italian family is who always encouraged me to go after my goals, no matter what they are,” Kleber said. “Though loud and opinionated, they’ve taught me to go after what I want with all that I’ve got.”

A Chicago Academy for the Arts graduate, Kleber is to attend DePaul, where she plans to study psychology and health sciences. Kleber said she wants to spend her life in service to others, especially children with illnesses.

Amy McKeown, an Oak Forest High School graduate, and her cousin Owen McKeown, a St. Laurence High School graduate, shared similar memories of their childhood in an extended Italian family.

The tradition of making homemade ravioli for a Christmas dinner where everyone had a job to do and the “outcome is delicious ravioli” was a favorite memory of both.

Amy, who will attend Northern Michigan University to study criminal justice, said she hopes to pass on the “long tradition of gathering around the table” to her own family and keep her “Italian attitude” throughout her life.

Owen commented that his journey to Ferris State University in the coming school year will be “a breeze” compared to his Italian grandfather’s journey to America. Owen said his grandfather came from Calabria, Italy, to the United States as a teenager and worked all his life on railroads and bridges, the inspiration for Owen’s future mechanical engineering studies.

Stagg High School graduate Mesopotamia Nowotarski said the “first thing I tell people when they ask my nationality is that I am Italian.

“Being Italian has taught me the value of family,” Nowotarski said. “At the end of the day, I always knew I could come home to somebody who loved me, and just knowing that and having that security, I really appreciate it.”

Nowotarski will study marine biology at Florida State University.

In addition to writing an essay, scholarship recipients were required to tell their goals and aspirations.

Lodge president Paul Loparco said one of the goals of the scholarship program is to promote “a positive image of Italian-Americans.”

“We believe so greatly in the benefits of education for our children,” Loparco said.

The Order Sons of Italy in America Leone D’Oro Lodge No. 2700 meets at 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month in the Orland Park Civic Center, 14750 Ravinia Ave.

For more information, call (708) 560-0632.



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