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Growing up in Buffalo has been tricky for our generation. We’ve been hearing from our parents and grandparents about negative aspects about our city for our entire lives. Why? They’ve lived through all of Buffalo’s hard times. As a result, our first instinct is to say, “I’m getting out of Buffalo!”

But Buffalo as we know it is changing.

For the better.

From the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to developments on the waterfront, our city is advancing. But still, why should we want to stay?

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who has been involved in many of these improvements, spoke in a recent interview about the growth of Buffalo and what it means for area teens.

“I think Buffalo is on the upswing – there is empirical evidence to support that,” said Higgins, pointing to the medical campus, development on the waterfront and events and concerts at places like Canalside and the outer harbor.

“I think people are more optimistic about the future of Buffalo,” Higgins added, “where with the previous generation that was not necessarily the case. There was at least uncertainty about Buffalo’s future.”

All of these developments make Buffalo a more exciting place to live. But, of course, education is key to establishing a fulfilling life.

“The world doesn’t care what you know, the world cares about what you can do with what you know,” Higgins said. “And there’s a big difference there.”

With dozens of colleges and universities, ranging from Erie Community College to the University of Buffalo, anyone can get a good education in Western New York.

“It’s not the institution you’re associated with. Students make the institution, the institution doesn’t make the student,” Higgins said. “I think there is a false sense of pursuing the big names and they have huge price tags attached to them, and I think you get a very good education at a school like Canisius, and you also get a very good education at Buffalo State College.”

For many reasons, people often return to Buffalo after college.

“A lot of people who were educated here and then forced to leave because the high-paying jobs were elsewhere, would go to New York City, Boston and San Francisco,” said Higgins. They would “find over a period of time that all the things they thought were great about those places, and all those things they strived for were missing. They were coming back to Buffalo.”

Instead of paying $3,000 a month to rent a New York City apartment, Higgins said, young professionals can spend that money on an older home in North Buffalo and renovate it.

“They just found that the huge intangible is the quality of life,” Higgins said. “We have clearly defined neighborhoods, we have a history, we have a culture.”

The congressman predicts more improvements are to come. Downtown Buffalo will continue to grow, and just like the Elmwood Village is flourishing, he believes the lower West Side will become a popular neighborhood for young professionals.

“Pockets of instability are being filled,” he said. “Teens will be the beneficiary of that. Other neighborhoods that nobody thought would ever improve will improve and present new opportunities.”

Rebecca Brandel is a sophomore at Mount St. Mary Academy.