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Theresa Rossi Petrella College Fund
By Jean Cohoon / March 23, 2018 /   Loading Disqus...

“My mother was generous even though she didn’t have a lot of resources. I love that she modeled and taught me to help others and to be generous,” Diane Petrella says of her late mother whom she is honoring through this fund.

Born in a small mountain village in southern Italy, Theresa Rossi came to the United States when she was in her early 20s and worked in a factory. After marrying her childhood sweetheart, Adelmo Petrella, she was a homemaker and later a stay-at-home mother to the couple’s three children. Adelmo worked as a tailor and manager of a dry cleaning store.

But Adelmo died young, leaving Theresa with a young family to support. “Money – or the lack thereof – became a stressful problem. My mother did the best she could, but she struggled financially and always had minimum wage jobs. Even though money was tight, my mother made small donations of money or toys to the Italian Home for Children in Boston. And there was never a question that I would go to college. She always supported education, even though she didn’t have one,” Diane says.

Through her mother’s hard work, along with scholarships and financial aid, Diane attended Boston College as an undergraduate and Simmons College where she earned her master’s of social work degree.

Currently a psychotherapist working with adults, Diane earlier worked with children, including those in the care of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. “I have a sensitivity to kids in foster care. The teen years are hard enough, and foster kids have a much harder time. I’m aware of the struggles these kids have.”

In creating this fund, Diane says she is honoring her mother while fulfilling her desires to help foster children and to pay forward the help she got in paying for her education. “My mother would love the fact that although she only had a fifth grade education, she has a college fund named for her,” Diane shares.

This fund is designated for East Providence-based Foster Forward and will support one or more foster children attending college. 

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