Alessandra Gardino Montgomery, Board President & Grazia Solazzi, Founder and Board President Emeritus

Scuola Italiana di Portland announces the appointment of Alessandra Gardino Montgomery as board president and Robert Morse, Sally Hudson, and Melissa Egizio Slechta as new board directors. Departing president and founding member, Grazia Solazzi, has been named Founder and Board President Emeritus for her significant role in establishing and leading the organization since its formation in 2006.

Newly elected board president, Alessandra Gardino Montgomery, has been the managing director of her own business, Customized Journeys, for nearly 15 years, bringing valuable insight and experience to the board. Her expertise with planning, marketing, budgeting, and managing her company will enable her to skillfully guide and grow the school into the future. Alessandra has a passion for languages and fluently speaks Spanish, French, and English. She is also certified to teach Italian as a second language to college level adults. As a native Italian and parent, Alessandra is committed to the mission and success of Scuola Italiana di Portland.

Robert “Bob” Morse has taught Italian for more than fifteen years, both at the College and Adult Education levels. He earned his Master’s degree in Italian from the University of Virginia in 2007, then taught at Saint Mary’s College in Indiana until 2016. During fifteen years living and working in Italy, Robert had an outstanding career as a professional basketball player in Varese and Reggio Emilia, and later worked in the sports business in Rome, while learning Italian fluently. In 2009, he became an honorary citizen of the City of Varese, Italy.

Sally Hudson has been an integral part of the Italian – American community for many years. She has been involved with the Portland-Bologna Sister City since its inception, has served as its co-Director and has coordinated their Youth Exchange Program for 10 years. She has wide-ranging experience working with educational institutions, including the University of California and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna. She is currently the Director of High School Programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Portland State University.

Melissa Egizio Slechta grew up in a very strong Italian-American community outside of Chicago and spent many summers visiting family in Caramonico Terme, Abruzzo. She was the first recipient of the Italian-American Cultural Society college scholarship and went on to study Political Science and Italian Studies at the University of Illinois, including a year at the Universita’ di Bologna. Melissa continued her education with a graduate degree in Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois and has worked in the Human Resources field for the last 15 years, always with a passion for organizational development and employee relations. She recognizes and values the great benefit of language immersion programs and wants to give her children a strong foundation in language learning. She also wants to be part of strengthening and growing Scuola Italiana di Portland for future generations.

Founder and longtime board president, Grazia Solazzi, says she will miss Portland, the scuola, and the Italian-American community. She knows Scuola Italiana is in good hands and will thrive under the new leadership of Alessandra Gardino Montgomery. Grazia is leaving Portland to return to her beloved Italy, where she will focus on her business, Cook with Grazia, spend more time with family and friends, and enjoy the beautiful seascapes and beaches of Lerici. Her new designation of Founder and Board President Emeritus recognizes Grazia for her unfailing passion and commitment to make Italian language available to all children in the Portland metro area. She has been the driving force behind Scuola Italiana for more than ten years and will be greatly missed in the community.

Scuola Italiana di Portland is a 501c3 nonprofit and school that was founded in 2006 by a group of Italian speakers eager to give their children a more formal education in Italian language and culture. Since that time, the school has grown to include a Reggio Emilia inspired, immersion preschool; children’s after-school and weekend lessons; summer camps; a free Mommy and Me playgroup; and a rapidly growing adult language and culture program.

Scuola Italiana operates with a mission is to promote the Italian language and culture to children and adults in a student-centered environment, nurturing responsible, global citizens by providing cross-cultural understanding and fostering a deep appreciation for world civilizations that intersect with the Italian culture.