Retired educator's program helps aspiring U.S. citizens pass exam

As a child, Luigi Fabiano hated accompanying his mother to her citizenship classes.

"I was a little boy who wanted to go outside and play," recalled Fabiano, 76, a retired educator who worked three decades at the former Ursuline High School in Santa Rosa.

But the memory stuck of his immigrant parents successfully studying to become U.S. citizens. About three years ago, he decided he wanted to tutor those who are seeking to pass the country's citizenship exam.

"Basically he came to us wanting to help out," recalled Mary Lowe, the naturalization representative for Catholic Charities in Santa Rosa.

Fabiano soon was drawn to help those immigrants who lacked enough English skills to adequately follow along in classes taught by Catholic Charities. As a result, Lowe said, he took the initiative and started his own tutoring group at the Central Library on E Street. He even brought in three more volunteers to help immigrants learn to better speak, read and write English.

"He took the ball and ran with it, and we're grateful for that," Lowe said.

Fabiano grew up in San Francisco. His father was a cobbler and his mother a seamstress. Both had immigrated from Italy.

After graduating from St. Mary's College, Fabiano received master's degrees in history and counseling from the University of San Francisco.

He worked as an educator in Catholic schools in San Francisco and Fresno before coming to Ursuline in 1981. He served there as head counselor and later alumni director until the school closed in 2011.

Fabiano suffered a stroke in 1996 that left him partially paralyzed. He uses a cane and a red scooter to get around.

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