A note from COPOMIAO President Basil M. Russo: Each month, we honor a woman of Italian descent to spotlight her indelible contributions to our culture and community. June’s Donna Distinta Award goes to Stephanie Longo, a pillar of Italian American academia and a 21st-century leader whose intellect and drive are an inspiration to us all. Stephanie is a teacher, doctoral student, digital pioneer, local historian, award-winning author and journalist, a chief of staff and the list goes on. Please join me in congratulating Ms. Longo, as she continues to push the envelope of Italian American excellence. 

Growing up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, an area with a vibrant Italian American community, Stephanie Longo first became intrigued by her heritage when she was five years old when her mother took her to Dino and Francesco’s restaurant in Clarks Summit, PA, which had a large map of Italy on their placemat.  While they were there, her mother, Ann Marie, took Stephanie’s hand and traced her fingers across her ancestral homeland, showing her where her grandfather, Joseph Anthony Longo, was born — the town of Guardia Lombardi, in the Province of Avellino.  Joe passed away in 1973, eight years before Stephanie was born. 

From that day on, Stephanie always carried a great passion for her Italian heritage in her heart. She majored in Italian at the University of Scranton, with the goal of mastering the language, and understanding the land of her ancestors. Stephanie also descends from immigrants who lived in the town of Nicastro, now Lamezia Terme, Province of Catanzaro, Calabria. Following her graduation, she had the fortune to become acquainted with Dominic Candeloro and Jerry Krase, who encouraged her to start writing about the Italian community in her region, a story which deeply needed to be told. This would lead to three books, Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania (2004), Dunmore (2012), and Italians of Lackawanna County (2018). Italians of Lackawanna County received the Gold Award from the Nonfiction Writers Association.

Researching and writing about the Italian American community has become her career, and she has stayed active in local, regional, and national Italian American circles, always volunteering and helping where she could.  These activities culminated in her being named the Associate Producer of the Italian American Podcast in 2020. This job has completely changed her life, allowing her to encounter Italian Americans from all over the country and getting the chance to take on additional leadership positions in the community, including work with the National Columbus Education Foundation (NCEF) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO).  It is through COPOMIAO that Stephanie is the national co-chair of the Reconnecting with our Youth Committee, along with John Viola. 

Recognizing the need to bring Italian American culture into the digital age, Stephanie enrolled in the Doctor of Strategic Communications program at Regent University in 2021.  Her goal with this degree is to assist Italian American organizations with increasing and enhancing their digital presence. Her expected graduation date is May 2024.

Stephanie is an award-winning journalist on the state and national level for her work with The Scranton Times-Tribune/Times-Shamrock Communications and other regional news outlets.  She has used this experience to create a blog, Irpinia Stories, which seeks to educate people about the Province of Avellino, including its heritage, culture, history, and diaspora.  Irpinia Stories has won several state and national awards and is the only English-language blog about that section of Italy.

Stephanie is also very active in preserving and promoting Guardiese culture. She was named an honorary citizen of Guardia Lombardi in 2005 and was also named an honorary associate of the Guardiesi si Nasce Society in 2021 for her work in creating a sister city relationship between the city of Scranton, the borough of Dunmore, and Guardia Lombardi, as well as having a street between the two American towns given the honorary designation of Guardia Lombardi Way. She is currently working on a website designed to further unite the American Guardiese community with its hometown.  All of this is done in honor of her grandfather, who was proud of his hometown despite never having the opportunity to return.

A dual citizen of the United States and Italy, Stephanie has spoken both regionally and nationally on the subject of Italian immigration to the United States, including at the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum (Scranton, PA), the Lackawanna Historical Society (Scranton, PA), the Dunmore Historical Society (Dunmore, PA), the Forest City Historical Society (Forest City, PA), I AM Books (Boston, MA), the IDEA Boston festival (Cambridge, MA) and the History of Italian Immigration Museum (Philadelphia, PA). She has also been a panelist on Italian American culture for Pennsylvania’s Mining Heritage Month. Her works are also part of the Biblioteca del Senato “Giovanni Spadolini” in Rome, Italy.

She currently resides in Dunmore, PA with her mother, Ann Marie, and her rescue Maremma Abruzzese sheepdog, Duke.  She is engaged to Sean Brennan, a professor of History at the University of Scranton.  They are planning an October 2023 wedding.

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