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Saving BedoniaBy Anthony Parente
A chance meeting at an Italian American-festival in New Jersey between Valerie Raffetto, from Villa Tre Angeli Bed & Breakfast in Bedonia, and Dr. Gina Marcello, PhD, Assistant Professor for Communication, Graphic Design & Multimedia at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, New Jersey, sparked an idea that helped change the fate of Bedonia.
Dr. Marcello recalls, "We talked about Italy and our shared Italian heritage. Val's love of Bedonia and Villa Tre Angeli planted the seed of a trip I could one day take with my students." This was going to be more than just a trip. It was going to give the students an opportunity to use the skills they learned in class and work with locally elected officials, residents, and businesses to promote the region through social media content creation. "This type of trip requires months of planning and follow-up from the faculty member and the students. It is an invest of time, money, and resources for all involved."
While Dr. Marcello was getting the Georgian Court University on board with the project, Valerie was working on putting together an itinerary and getting the approval from the town council. "They (town council) were absolutely thrilled with the idea and have bent over backwards trying to give the kids an authentic experience of all the local gems such as hiking, horseback riding, the small manual planetarium, swimming in the river, a great spot for locals." It took a lot of planning and organizing before the Professor and her students were able to travel to Bedonia.
I asked both Dr. Marcello and Valerie if they felt this project was a success. Both responded in a positive light. Valerie eloquently told me, "Coming to us has opened their eyes to another culture. Having them care has opened the hearts of the Italians." Dr. Marcello reflected, "It was a life changing experience for many students. We experienced Italy as local residents and as tourists. What could possibly be better?" Dr. Marcello plans to return to Bedonia with students to continue their work and help promote this beautiful hamlet to the world.
Many universities offer study abroad programs allowing students to travel to foreign lands to study and enjoy the culture. For Georgian Court University they offered their students more. This is a great project and one that benefits everyone involved. It gave the students of Georgian Court University an amazing opportunity to apply the skills they are learning and at the same time interact with the people and the community they are helping. In turn it affected the lives of the people of Bedonia who were touched by this group of students who gave them hope that things can get better. The relationships and bonds that were created will last a lifetime. This model is one that is unique and over time will make an impact on all involved.
Visit Explore Bedonia to learn more about this beautiful area of Parma, Italy and see firsthand the work that the students have done.
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