of the Dante Alighieri Society of Santa Cruz
a 501(c)(3)corporation

Mary Altier is a travel photographer and writer whose work has been published all over the world. She has Italian citizenship from her paternal grandfather who was born NE of Naples. When not traveling, she and he husband, John Walker, make their home in La Selva Beach. For more information, please visit www.maryaltier.com

Sam (Salvatore) Bertuca is an FBI (full blooded Italian). He received a BA and an MA and a teaching credential from California State University at Long Beach and has been a public school teacher for 36 years. He has been to Italy several times including visits to the villages of his parents in Sicily and Calabria. He continues to study Italian and has a deep appreciation for his heritage.

Ceil Cirillo loves her Italian roots and has visited Italy many times with family members still living in the region of Calabria/ Catanzaro where her father migrated from in 1918. Both he and her mother were Italian. Ceil grew up in Connecticut in a community with many Italian immigrants. She is the retired Executive Director of the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Santa Cruz, hired in 1990 to assist in the rebuilding of the City's downtown following the Loma Prieta Earthquake. In that capacity she also created the Tannery Arts Center at the former Salz Tannery. She currently serves on the Cabrillo College Foundation, is the chair of PAMF/Sutter Community Board and the community member on UCSC's LRDP. She loves Dante's Italian movie experiences.

Kelly Cuffe is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area with a BS in earth sciences from UCSC and MS in coastal geology from USF Tampa. Her strong interest in the landscape and physical processes of the earth have inspired Kellys interest in both the physical and cultural landscape of Italy. Kelly has taken a few Dante language classes to help make her travels to Italy richer and more culturally interactive. She continues to study Italian with folks she met through the Dante Alighieri Society.

Santa Cruz native Andree LeBourveau fell in love with Italy when she represented Santa Cruz on a trip to its Sister City, Sestri Levante. Since then she has lived and studied for one year in Venice, where she perfected her Italian., led art tours throughout the country, and spent a month studying in Sicily with Cabrillo College's Italian program. She is a much-exhibited artist who is employed in Cabrillo's Visual and Performing Arts Division as their Visual Resource Curator.

Ellen Lowenstein is a sculptor, working primarily in stone. She is an associate professor of sculpture at Skyline College, San Bruno, where she has been on the faculty for 32 years. Already in love with Italy, an opportunity to study marble carving in Liguria further cemented the relationship. Seven visits later it continues to grow.

Susan O'Leary Susan was born and educated in Russia, where she earned a college degree in Physical Education. She has had a variety of jobs, from health and fitness to retail. She is currently employed as a fine jewelry sales representative at Dell Williams. A few years ago, she became interested in adding a fourth language to the three she already spoke (Russian, English and Spanish) and began studying Italian in the Dante language classes. Her success there led her to complete the Cabrillo College Italian classes. Today she is employed as a part-time aide in those classes. We honor Susan as one of our most successful graduates of the Dante language program! She and her family reside in Santa Cruz.

Mirella Savegnago was born and lived 40 years in Milano, Italy and several years in San Luis Obispo (CA), Oxford (UK), Nanjing (China) and recently moved to Aptos with her husband Francesco Mazza, CEO of Spectra-Mat, a Sales Group company in Watsonville. Her son Lorenzo, an osteopath, lives and works in Milano and her daughter Arianna is a student at UC Davis. Mirella is passionate about getting in touch with people from all countries and the value and fun that come from connecting with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. She has worked internationally in marketing and management for more than 25 years. For more about Mirella, go to her linkedin page: Mirella Savegnago


Irene Chissotti Bargetto was born and raised in Chieri, Piemonte, Italy, where she graduated with a degree in Accounting. Before she moved to the United States, she traveled to many regions in Italy and various European countries. Her passion for foreign languages brought her to California. She also speaks French and Spanish. Irene returns to Italy every year to visit her family and to keep well connected to her Italian heritage. Over the years, Irene has enjoyed tutoring family members and friends in Italian. She is currently teaching conversational Italian for the Santa Cruz Dante Society. She lives in Soquel with her husband, Peter, where they raised their bilingual son, Simone, and daughter, Sabrina. Irene is the Business Manager for Santa Cruz Ear, Nose and Throat Medical Group in Santa Cruz and also helps her husband with their business, Soquel Vineyards.

A native of Genoa (Italy), Michela Martini is a linguist and a published literary translator. She taught Italian for several years (Indiana University, Suffolk University, UCSC, Cabrillo College) and co-founded the Dante Alighieri Society of Santa Cruz in 2002.