IGNACIO – When Ignacio School District Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto was 7 years old, he walked onto a ship in Genoa, Italy, and started a long journey to the United States.
More than 60 years later, he decided to retrace that path.
Fuschetto’s family left Italy in the 1950s in search of better opportunities. In November, Fuschetto and his wife, Mary Jane Fuschetto, set off on a monthlong cruise. Fuschetto’s experiences as an immigrant in two countries inspired his successful career in education and the lessons he shares with students.
“At that time, I didn’t even know where Argentina was, or America was,” Fuschetto said. “The main thing I wanted was to go back and do basically that trip.”
Fuschetto grew up in a low-income farming family east of Naples, Italy. In 1955, he boarded a converted British warship from World War II and sailed for 22 days to Argentina. His family stayed there for eight years before joining Fuschetto’s uncle in New Jersey in 1963.
The cruise ship retraced the first part of his journey, from Genoa past the Strait of Gibraltar and out into the Atlantic. The trip was the first time he saw Genoa, which was barely recognizable, he said.
The Rock of Gibraltar, rising almost 1,400 feet out of the ocean south of Spain, stood clearly among his memories.
“I started screaming ‘America, America!’” Fuschetto said, as others onboard did the same. “We thought we were already in America without knowing that it would take us 20 more days to go to South America.”
Immigrating to Argentina and the United States meant learning new languages and cultures. Although the award-winning educator dedicated his life to education, school was one of his biggest challenges.
Fuschetto, who has been in Ignacio since 2010, was a foreign language teacher, an assistant principal and a principal before he became a superintendent in eastern Colorado. He has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and French education, a master’s degree in Spanish and French, and a doctorate in educational leadership.
In Argentina, Fuschetto had to learn Spanish. In school, he started three years behind his age group. After school, the 8-year-old started working in a grocery store, weighing food even when he was too short to reach the scale.
Soon after he finally caught up, the family moved to the United States in 1963. The process started over. He learned English and adapted to another culture. After school, he mowed lawns on million-dollar estates.
Years later, he visited his children who were enrolled at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York. He was looking out the car window, trying to remember why the area looked familiar.
It was the same area he used to pull weeds, and now his children were attending school in that neighborhood, his wife said. “He is the American dream,” she said.
For Fuschetto, his experiences showed that with hard work, anyone could succeed – especially his students.
“If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, and willing to work hard, you can go from that stage to where I am today,” Fuschetto would tell the students..
Decades after his first voyage, Fuschetto watched the Rock of Gibraltar as the cruise ship passed, remembering shouts of “America!”
“Didn’t they know you were going to Argentina and that you weren’t going to America?” Mary Jane Fuschetto asked him at the time.
“He said, ‘All we knew was every place we were going was going to be better, and it was going to be America,’” she said.
As the monolith faded into the distance, Rocco Fuschetto thought about how much his father left behind when he boarded a ship, alone, to pursue a better life in a completely different world.
“It was necessary. My dad always felt that he wanted something better for his kids,” he said. “I think he was willing to sacrifice his life.”