Where Are They Now? Hard work and education are shared values for the Minolfo family

The Minolfo family has deep ties to the Aiken community that took root in 1977 when they relocated from Long Island, New York. Siblings Sal Minolfo, Trina Terlizzi, and Danny Minolfo were raised in the community and attended Aiken County public schools before pursuing bachelor's degrees from the University of South Carolina Aiken.

Their father, Dominick, immigrated to the United States from Sicily at age 18 and met his wife Andrea while living on Long Island. Danny, the youngest of their three children, says, "After they got married, Mom and Dad vacationed in Aiken to visit Mom's family and loved it here. They loved the manners, the please, thank you, and holding doors. They thought, 'This is where we want to raise our kids.'"

When Danny was just a few weeks old, the family moved to Jackson, where the children attended Jackson Elementary School, Jackson Middle School, and Silver Bluff High School.  Dominick worked as a mechanic, and Andrea earned her teaching degree from USC Aiken and worked in the Aiken County Public School District for 30 years.

Sal says, "They taught us a strong work ethic and instilled the importance of education. It was a priority for us to learn, and they told us if we put forth the effort, we would be successful."

Many in the community know Sal as the Director of Administration for the Aiken County Public School District. He attended USC Aiken from 1990 to 1994, earning his bachelor's degree from the School of Education. During high school, an experience with one of his teachers called him to enter the teaching profession.

"I wanted to be a teacher because I was frustrated with one of my high school teachers. I wasn't happy with the way he taught," he says, "My motivation today is that I fully believe the best place for me on this earth is to help children achieve their fullest potential and leave a legacy in the lives of people in general."

That calling has led him down a 30-year path in education, during which he has taught at Aiken Middle School and Leavelle McCampbell Middle School and served in administrative roles in the Marlboro County School District and the Aiken County Public School District. He was named the 2019-20 district-wide Principal of the Year for his service at Belvedere Elementary School and was appointed the district's Director of Administration in 2020.

He says, "The capacity in which I can best touch kids today is to work with the adults who work with them. I have spent most of my career working with adults and helping them grow and reach their fullest potential as educators. I still get excited about seeing kids succeed."

Sal is not the only member of the Minolfo family to follow in his mother's footsteps.  His sister Trina Terlizzi is a teacher at Horse Creek Academy and Danny's wife Jennifer teaches at Millbrook Elementary School. Danny, however, found his calling in sales, having discovered a love for both retail and real estate. While he is now a Realtor with ERA Wilder Realty, many will remember him from Lionel Smith, Ltd. in downtown Aiken.

Danny's career in men's clothing began in high school when he took over his brother's position at Belk in the Aiken Mall. When it was time to consider college, Danny says his father gave him the same options as his older siblings. "We could go anywhere we wanted if we had a full ride. Or, we could go to USC Aiken, graduate in four years, and maintain a 3.0 grade point average or better," he says.

While Danny initially wanted to enroll in the journalism program at USC Columbia, he decided to first take core classes at USC Aiken, which had just introduced its communications program. Danny made the most of his experience, joining many campus organizations and forging lifelong friendships in the process, and ultimately decided to finish his education at USC Aiken. He graduated in 1999 as part of the first class with a communications degree.

During his junior year, the owner of Lionel Smith, Ltd. offered him a part-time job. It was an appealing offer given the store was closed evenings and Sundays, so Danny resigned from Belk and accepted the job. During his senior year, he also had an unpaid internship at the Aiken Standard, which later became a part-time paid position. As his graduation neared, both employers offered him a full-time role.

"I appreciated both of those jobs, but I felt that Lionel Smith had more of what would fit my personality," Danny says. "I could meet new people every day and channel my passion for clothing.

Danny accepted the job with Lionel Smith Ltd. and remained with the store for 22 years. He was part owner for seven years before selling his shares and resigning in 2019. In early 2020, he earned his Realtor license with the dream of opening his own clothing store, but he says that God had a different plan for him.

"Covid hit that March, and the retail world crashed and the real estate world blew up," he says. "So I went through the door God opened for me. I never thought I could love something as much as men's clothing, but I love real estate and helping clients with major life purchases."

Today, Danny enjoys serving his residential real estate clients throughout the Central Savannah River Area.

Both Sal and Danny credit their success in part to the education they received at USC Aiken and the relationships they formed there. Sal continues building those relationships today through his service on the USC Aiken Alumni Association board, working to enhance the connection between alumni and the university community.

"In the School of Education, we got very close with our professors," he says. "Those relationships were critical in shaping my career path. I kept many of those close connections following graduation, and work with many of them still today, both as an educator and through the alumni association."

Danny echoes the value of those connections. "Build relationships with your professors," he says. "I have approached many for advice, even after college, and they have always been willing to help me. I cherish those four years not only for the education that I received but also the lifelong relationships that I built."

Danny also encourages students to participate in every aspect that college life has to offer. "Education is the priority—that's why you're there—but don't neglect the opportunities that USC Aiken has in student life," he says.

Both Minolfo brothers are enthusiastic advocates for USC Aiken and all the university offers through its rich history, high-quality education, and efforts to help students be successful. Sal says, "The university has done a tremendous job creating its presence. A lot of folks come in from outside the county to attend because of its reputation. You don't have to go to a college with 20,000 students to get a valuable education such as that from USC Aiken." 

For more information, contact Leigh Thomas, thomas29229@yahoo.com