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Even after the Sept. 27 death of local inventor and businessman Wilson Greatbatch, Western New York teens can appreciate his influence, through the opportunities offered by the Wilson Center.

The creation of the Wilson Center stemmed from conversations between Greatbatch and Dr. Emmet C. Murphy, co-founder and leadership analyst.

According to Murphy, "Dr. Greatbatch, myself and a board of directors thought that the most important and first activity to advancing leadership in Western New York would be to encourage and recognize future leaders."

This is the third year that the Wilson Center is offering the Wilson Center Leadership Award. The WCLA is a $1,000 award given to four high school seniors. Applicants are required to write an essay and submit teacher recommendations; the essay varies yearly but is focused around the central idea of leadership.

According to Sally Moehlau, WCLA chairwoman, it's easy to "recognize a leader; it [leadership] just pops out at you."

Moehlau advises future applicants to not "be afraid to express opinion; this is what sometimes holds people back."

"You can put thoughts out or not," adds Murphy, but, "if you can't articulate, you can't do any good."

Last year's winners were Shannon Tierney from Wilson High School, Emily Rechin from Silver Creek, Amy Lanighan from Newfane and Teddy Tiftickjian from Amherst. These four received their awards last May and have used them to further expand their leadership skills and gain valuable life experience.

For high school students wishing to apply for this year's award, see your high school guidance counselor or visit www.thewilsoncenter.org. Applications and instructions are available on the website, along with contact information. Applications are to be sent to: The Wilson Center, 4696 Pine Manor, Clarence, N.Y., 14031, no later than Dec. 23.

Catherine Kelkenberg is a junior at Akron High School.