JCU Students and Chairman of the Board Awarded “Premio America” by Italian Parliament

Earlier this month students Diedre Blake, Neal Huddon-Cossar, Challis Popkey; and the Chairman of the Board, Frank J. Guarini, were awarded the Premio America award for their service endorsing positive ties between Italy and the United States by the Italy-USA Foundation. The ceremony was held on October 9. All three students have immersed themselves in Italian life outside of the university. Diedre Blake, an Italian Studies and Creative Writing major, is known around campus for her alacrity to help others. With the time she has spent in Rome, Blake has learned Italian with ease and poured herself into the JCU community. She earned degrees from Stanford and Lesley University, where she studied therapy, before moving to Europe. Neal Huddon-Cossar, who studied Italian in Perugia before coming to JCU, worked for an environmental NGO, Gruppo 183, where he organized a national photography contest showcasing Italy’s lakes. He also worked for the US Mission to Italy, where he launched a #EarthDayinItalia social media campaign. In addition to his accomplishments outside of school, Huddon-Cossar is the president and co-founder of Grassroots club. Challis Popkey first came to Italy in 2012, harvesting grapes in Tuscany. From there, she went to Ferrara, where she studied Italian intensely and Popkey, an Italian Studies major, is interested in broadcasting. After college, she hopes to incorporate her love of Italy with her interest in the media. Chairman of the Board, Hon. Guarini, a New Jersey native, second-generation American-Italian and chairman emeritus of the National Italian American Foundation, has stayed close to Italy over the years. Guarini has been an integral part of JCU’s development. In accepting his award, Guarini said, “I am very proud of the hard work and the accomplishments of Italians in America: from factory workers and manual laborers, they became shopkeepers and finally senators and governors. They have become an integral part of the United States, the great nation that first gave them the opportunity to have a better life.”

The Premio America, “America Prize,” is awarded annually to people who endorse Italian-American relations. Some of the other recipients this year were leaders in journalism, fashion, film, music, education and government.

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