When four-year old Filomena Masciantonio was growing up in the Abruzzo Region of Italy, just an hour from the Adriatic Sea, she begged her mother to let her go to school. Although her mother patiently explained that she could not attend because she was not yet five, Filomena persisted. Willing to support her daughter’s obvious passion for learning, she arranged to have Filomena sit-in on classes with the five-year olds. She learned so much that year that she was promoted directly to the second year of elementary school, officially bypassing Year 1. Seeing Filomena’s success, her parents realized that their children would have greater educational opportunities for learning in America. So, when Filomena was eight, the family immigrated to America, settling in Kennett Square, where relatives already resided. Continuing her pattern of persistence, within a year, she was speaking fluent English.

Today, Filomena Masciantonio Elliott, Kennett Library’s Director of the Adult Literacy Program (ALP), is sharing her passion for learning by helping recent immigrants pass GED tests, master English, become citizens, and register to vote. Beginning in 2015, once she had retired from teaching French, Spanish, and Italian in Kennett and West Chester high schools, Filomena began volunteering at the Library and recognized the need to expand the existing literacy program. With continued support from the Kennett Library and partners such as the United Way of Southern Chester County, Family Promise, LCH Health & Community Services, KACS, and many others, the COVID era Zoom classes will resume in-person in Kennett Square, West Grove, and Oxford, once the threat of COVID is lessened in the community.

Under Filomena’s leadership and the able assistance of Lupe Ruiz, Adult Literacy is a highly respected program in Kennett Square. In the past few years, ALP students have gone on to open businesses, study for and obtain their GED, and since 2019, 27 students have become America citizens. Filomena should be proud of her impact on the Adult Literacy Program: “We’ll continue to do good work because there will always be a need for people to master English, to improve their progress in school, and to contribute to the betterment of their community,” she said.

~ Brenda Mercomes