Study Abroad Alum Launches a Charity in Cinque Terre, Italy

By Purnell T. Cropper | July 31, 2012

Yana Pietras, a study abroad student with The College of Global Studies at Arcadia University, took co-curricular learning to a whole new level while studying in Florence, Italy: She founded her own charity, Students for Cinque Terre (S5T), in Spring 2012.

The charity has caused such a stir and been so successful that Pietras has already been interviewed by The Florentine newspaper and by ABC News in Minnesota.

S5T has already raised more than E4,500 Euro through local events and fundraising effort, including sales from the 2012 Accademia Italiana Fashion Show. Currently, Pietras is developing a website to continue the charity online.

Pietras was a participant on Arcadia’s semester study abroad program at the Accademia Italiana in Florence when she came up with the idea for S5T. She wanted to meaningfully help locals of the Cinque Terre (Five Lands) region of Northern Italy to rebuild their villages after they were devastated by torrential flooding in October 2011 causing four deaths and over 150 million euros-worth of damage.

“I wanted to do something to help the towns, the people and the territory of this place I had grown to love so much,” she said. S5T started by making buttons to sell for donations to rebuild the villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

The buttons evolved into posters, stickers and t-shirts. A whole non-profit organization was born, where students can help the people of Cinque Terre in a range of ways, from volunteering locally to merchandise development, sales and other initiatives.

Pietras has submitted her activity around setting up S5T for a Co-Curricular Learning Certificate with The College of Global Studies. This is an official record of learning achieved outside the classroom granted by Arcadia University.

Pietras has one more year left at her home school of University of Minnesota, where she is a graphic design major. She plans on getting an internship at a local design firm during that year. After graduation, she intends to move to Italy to work in graphic design and continue to be directly involved in S5T.

“While in Italy I will be able to plan and be in charge of student volunteer trips to Cinque Terre and see them through. Also I plan to design more merchandise,” she said. “It is my hope that Students for Cinque Terre will evolve into a student support organization for the Cinque Terre for years to come.”