As a teenager, Vincenzo Morlini traveled 3,000 miles from his home in Reggio Emilia to the small town of Crestline, Ohio, in 1967 to spend a year with Harry and Donna Keplinger and their family. It was here that he endeavored to perfect his English and his understanding of American culture. His adventure was paid for by American Field Service (AFS), an organization that fosters intercultural learning opportunities to help young people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.
Today, Mr. Vincenzo Morlini is the CEO of AFS, responsible for more than 13,000 students studying all over the world, with an additional 400,000 alumni. He is the first European president of the AFS Intercultural Program, which now has 50 partner organizations in more than 80 countries.
AFS started as the American Ambulance Field Service in 1915. Americans who supported the French in World War I before the United States entered the war, became ambulance drivers helping more than 400,000 wounded soldiers on the frontlines. AFS was started 70 years ago out of their desire to keep alive the fellowship they shared on the battlefield with their European counterparts.
The program is popular in Italy with more than 2,000 high school students studying abroad each year and 1,800 students living with host families throughout the country. Recognizing the importance of global education, Italian corporations, banks, foundations and individuals contributed more than 4 million Euros last year in support of AFS.
There are many distinguished Italian alumni including: Franco Bernabè, Italian banker and manager, formerly the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Telecom Italia;
Enrico Cucchiani, former CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo; Luca Barilla, Deputy Chairman, Barilla Holding S.p.A.; Samantha Cristoforetti, astronaut of the Italian European Space Agency astronaut, and pilot and engineer of the Italian Air Force: She holds the records for longest single space flight by a woman (199 days 16 hours) and for the longest uninterrupted spaceflight of a European astronaut;
Luca Parmitano, Italian engineer and astronaut in the European Astronaut Corps for the European Space Agency.
“Italy’s future depends on having well-educated young people who speak more than one language and have the confidence to compete in a global economy. That’s why AFS is so important. It provides the priceless experience of being immersed in another culture,” said Dr. Morlini.