The Buffalo News - NeXt Latest stories from The Buffalo News en-us Thu, 10 Jul 2014 18:44:46 -0400 Thu, 10 Jul 2014 18:44:46 -0400 <![CDATA[ Young musicians team up to create CD ]]>
People are attracted to the idea of being famous. It looks glamorous and exhilarating.

Famous people seem to have it all.

But there are a lot of negative aspects to fame that the camera does not show.

Francesca Harvey, Jordann Luce, Leah Santiago and Gabi Hartman, a team of writers and musicians from Live! Starring…You!, a media organization that pairs teen journalists and writers with professionals to publish an online sports and entertainment magazine, books and music, are trying to give people an inside look at exactly what it is that the camera keeps hidden.

They created a full-length, professionally recorded CD called “Edge of the Spotlight” about the ups and downs of living life in the spotlight.

Francesca is a recent graduate of Mount St. Mary Academy in Kenmore. In the fall, she will be attending the University at Buffalo, where she plans to study theater performance and communications, with a concentration in media studies.

Jordann, also a recent grad of Mount St. Mary, will attend SUNY Fredonia State, where she will study music industry.

Leah will be a junior at UB next semester. She is studying business administration and music. She plans to have a career in the music industry after graduation, as does Gabi, a Buffalo native whose father, Mike Hartman, played for the Buffalo Sabres. She is a junior studying music at New York University.

“Edge of the Spotlight” is based off a book of the same name written by Live! Starring...You! founder and children’s author Tim O’Shei. The book is an inside look at the realities of fame, told through the eyes of a teen pop star.

What sets the story apart is the voice: It is told in the second person so that the reader is the main character. The reader will be able to experience what it’s like to be a teen celebrity dealing with nosy media, jealous rivals and maintaining relationships while riding the roller coaster that is fame.

“The book ‘Edge of the Spotlight’ is a story with a lot of musical references in it, and I thought it would be cool to bring that music to life,” O’Shei said.

At first, “Edge of the Spotlight” started out with only a few songs performed by Francesca, who was handpicked to perform them by Grammy-nominated producer Anthony Casuccio. But the project expanded as O’Shei added singer/songwriters Leah and Gabi, along with producer and writer Jordann and professional sound engineer Brad Lauchert. The CD was recorded at GCR Audio, which is owned by Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls, and Cassucio’s studio, Xtreme Audio.

“It was really nice to work with these girls who were very eager to hear what I had to say and really embrace my ideas,” said Casuccio. “With these young musicians, it was amazing because we could talk about things and they didn’t hesitate. They tried it. I think it was empowering on their part as well because we came out with some really good tracks.”

Each of the three singers recorded music that represents a character from the book. Francesca’s songs are the ones that belong to the teen pop star and main character. Leah’s songs belong to Hailey, the main character’s former best friend back home and a standout musician herself. Rival pop star Sofi’s songs were written and recorded by Gabi.

All of the singers and writers have at least one original song on the CD that they either wrote or co-wrote. Although the songs go along with the situations described in the book, the girls wrote the songs based on personal experiences.

While grateful for the opportunity to record their songs in a professional recording studio with professional musicians and producers, at times it was intimidating for the girls who were putting their emotions out there for the world to hear.

“It’s like everybody reading your journal,” Leah said. “It’s scary because you don’t want people to not like what you have to say. You want them to like your music, but it’s just weird having them hear exactly what you felt at a certain time in life.”

Jordann agreed. “It’s weird writing lyrics that everyone is going to hear. You want to know how they’re going to react to it and you want to know if they’re going to like it,” she said.

Putting together a full-length CD is not a simple task. The production of the CD spanned a half-dozen recording sessions and hours of experimentation with vocals, guitar, bass, piano and percussion to get the sounds just right. Some songs took up to eight rounds of revisions to get every detail in tune.

“It was a really long process,” Leah recalled. “We went back a couple of times because we really wanted to make these songs good. We had fun. Every single time we went in there it was so much fun.”

“Working with professionals like Anthony, Brad and the rest of the team at GCR was a real learning experience for Leah, Francesca, Jordann and Gabi,” O’Shei said. “It helped them grow from talented young performers into talented and more knowledgeable performers. A lot of learning happened; that was a big goal of mine with this project.”

Being in the studio is very much a collaborative process between the musicians, engineers and producers.

“Sometimes you have to be really open to other ideas because those ideas may be better than the ones you came up with,” Casuccio said.

“It’s good to feed off of each other,” Francesca added.

Their hard work paid off when they got to hear the final mixes of their songs for the first time.

“To hear my music come to life for the first time was a really cool thing,” Francesca said.

“It was really cool to hear how far the songs have come. The original live versions were a little rough,” Jordann said.

One of the most memorable moments in the studio was when Takac popped in during one of Leah’s sessions and told her that he had been hearing her songs and he really liked them.

“I tried not to freak out,” she said. “To have a Goo Goo Doll come in and say that he already heard your stuff and that he actually likes the way it sounds is amazing because he’s such an accomplished musician already and his band is so successful. To hear that from him made me feel like I was going in the right direction.”

In addition to the eight original songs on the CD, the team also decided to include instrumental tracks to each of the songs so that listeners can sing along and make the music come to life. There is also an interview track, conducted by Mount St. Mary Academy senior and Live! Starring…You! sports editor Hailey Rose Gattuso, called “Where the Red Carpet Ends” that gives listeners an inside scoop on what Francesca, Jordann, Leah, Gabi and O’Shei have learned about fame.

Natalie Brophy is a senior at Mount St. Mary Academy. ]]>
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:11:51 -0400 By Natalie Brophy

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ Hype: What’s happening for teens ]]>


MOVIES: Opening Friday, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (PG-13); opening Wednesday, “Earth to Echo” (PG).

CONCERTS: Sevendust acoustic tour, 7 p.m. Friday, Rapids Theatre, 1711 Main St., Niagara Falls.

George Thorogood & The Destroyers, 7 p.m. Friday, Canalside.

Pete Perrone Memorial Event with Girlpope, the Irving Klaws, the Steam Donkeys, Willie & the Reinhardts and more, 6 p.m. Saturday, Town Ballroom, 681 Main St.

Bruno Mars, 8 p.m. Monday, First Niagara Center, 1 Seymour H. Knox III Plaza.

Blue Rodeo and 54-40, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Artpark, 450 S. Fourth St., Lewiston.

Fall Out Boy and Paramore, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, 9993 Allegheny Road, Darien Center.

O.A.R. and Phillip Phillips, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Artpark, 450 S. Fourth St., Lewiston. ]]>
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:11:31 -0400
<![CDATA[ ]]>
NeXt will resume publication in September with some new correspondents added to the crew.

While we take our summer vacation, we hope our readers will save a copy of NeXt for our annual “Take NeXt on Vacation” feature.

Readers 18 and younger are welcome to have themselves photographed holding NeXt on a mountaintop, in a canoe, on a skateboard or whatever, and emailing the photo to Include your name, school, age and some information about where you were when the photo was taken.

See you in September!

takes a vacation / Take NeXt on vacation

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:11:25 -0400
<![CDATA[ Tapping in to the value of typewriters ]]>
The typewriter was well-used technology that was built to last and could be found in almost every office or home. The most famous companies: Underwood, Royal, Remington and Smith and Corona created pieces of history. Without them I wonder if Ernest Hemingway or Sylvia Plath would have written their novels.

I believe that one could say that typewriters are still valuable today. For writers everywhere, a story does not feel real or come alive until it is pounded out and written in black with a classic font that cannot be found anywhere else.

I am the new owner of a 1909 Underwood 5. It is 105 years old. For less than $100, I had it cleaned, fixed (a previous owner had carried it by the carriage and bent something) and replaced it’s ancient ribbon. That investment will last 10 years, and I can order new ribbons online. Writing something on a typewriter that no one can hack into that I can hold in my hand in a tangible way is very gratifying. It’s something you just don’t get from a document saved in a file somewhere in a laptop.

The nostalgia of typewriters is preserved even today in highly popular jewelry made from the glass letter keys from old damaged typewriters.

Arianna Gabriel is a sophomore at Denis Morris Catholic High School in St. Catharines, Ont. ]]>
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:11:20 -0400 By Arianna Gabriel

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ Concert Preview: Vans Warped Tour is more than just a music fest ]]>
Warped Tour is a music and extreme sports festival that’s sponsored by the shoe company Vans and has been around since 1995. The tour, which is held in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe, features dozens of bands on at least 10 stages.

I have discovered so many awesome bands because of Warped Tour. It’s an all-day extravaganza for people of all ages to come together and appreciate music. Lots of bands have been discovered and claimed fame because of Warped Tour. Some bands have appeared multiple times over the years, such as A Day to Remember, AFI, All Time Low, Avenged Sevenfold, Blink 182, blessthefall, Bowling for Soup, Fall Out Boy, Mayday Parade, Motion City Soundtrack, Motionless in White, Of Mice & Men, Paramore, Pierce the Veil, Simple Plan, Silverstein, Sleeping With Sirens, Sum41, Thrice, We the Kings, Yellowcard and many more.

But there’s more to Warped Tour than just music. There are slip-and-slides, misting stations, snow cone machines, free unlimited water stations to fill up water bottles, undiscovered bands promoting their music, body paint tents that help to raise money for various causes, and free food sample tents. There are also plenty of security guards scattered around to make sure no one gets hurt. There are merchandise tents that sell band T-shirts, jewelry and sunglasses. Organizations such as To Write Love On Her Arms and ROXY also are present. Concertgoers can get signed posters and pictures with bands.

Some of the major bands that are appearing at this year’s Warped Tour are Bowling For Soup, Breathe Carolina, Cute Is What We Aim For, Dayshell, I The Mighty, Issues, Mayday Parade, Neck Deep, Of Mice & Men, Parkway Drive, Real Friends, the Story So Far, the Word Alive, the Maine, the Devil Wears Prada, We the Kings and Anberlin.

The tour will hit Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on July 8.

I’ve gone to the past two Warped Tours, and it’s always a different experience, each one better than the last. The most amazing people and the best music you will ever hear is at Warped Tour. There are mosh pits and plenty of opportunities to crowd surf. But it’s more than just music, it’s a lifestyle. Punk rock represents everything that young adults stand for and recognizes that standing up for your beliefs is a must. When you’re there, you feel like you’re home. Everyone is so friendly and accepting of one another. You meet all kinds of people you never thought existed. People can come together and put their differences aside to have some fun and enjoy great music.

Catherine Keller is a senior at Lancaster High School. ]]>
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:09:44 -0400 By Catherine Keller

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ News & Notes ]]>


Samantha Bennett, a sophomore at Hamburg High School, has organized the sixth annual fundraiser for Carly’s Club at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. A yard sale will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 12 and 13 at 4989 Armor Drive (near South Abbott Road) in Hamburg. Last year’s total of $12,153 brings the grand total to more than $38,000 raised over the last five years. If anyone would like to donate items for the yard sale or a basket for the silent auction, call 480-2456.


Food trucks will be parked at the Buffalo History Museum, 1 Museum Court, beginning at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Admission to the museum will be free from 5 to 8 p.m. The evening also will feature crafts, tours, scavenger hunts and music.


Outdoor Chess with Archangel 8 Chess Academy will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. today at the Central Library, Lafayette Square (front ramp, Washington Street entrance).


The Niagara University Summer Academy is a program designed for students entering 11th and 12th grades in the fall, as well as incoming NU freshmen, who want to get a head start on their college careers. Participants will attend classes in a college setting and earn credit hours. The classes will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 21 to Aug. 1. To download a brochure and application, visit or call 286-8411.


Danny O’Brien, 11, of Hamburg, is the winner of the second annual Hamburg Soap Box Derby. The fifth-grader at Union Pleasant Elementary School will participate in the International Race in Akron, Ohio. To see photos from the Soap Box Derby, visit


Erica Swannie received St. Mary’s High School’s Marian Award. The highest award presented to a St. Mary’s graduate, it recognizes the senior who has shown friendliness to all people, willingness to help others, leadership and active support of the school. Erica was class president all four years; a member of the National Honor Society, Scholar Program, Recruiting Team, SEEK, and the Student Mentoring Program; and she played varsity and junior varsity volleyball, including the 2012 state championship team. She has received numerous awards including inductee into the Lancaster Youth Bureau Hall of Fame, All-Western New York Scholar Athlete for fall 2013, Brady Workplace Safety Academic Excellence Award, 2013 Student Sage Scholarship Award, Pure Love Award, and the Linda Morgante Memorial Scholarship. She was the salutatorian for the Class of 2014. She plans to study physical therapy.


St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster won the People’s Choice Award at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s Art Alive Competition earlier this month. Under the leadership of art teacher Laura James, Anna DiDomenico, Leah May, Kaila McKay and Nick Samson chose to re-create several of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art paintings, including “Ohhh ... Alright, “In the Car” and “M-Maybe (a Girl’s Picture).” ]]>
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:09:10 -0400
<![CDATA[ Commentary: Everyone deserves freedom and justice ]]>
The Constitution protects the rights of all couples:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Because a person is gay, he or she is going to be denied the rights of a U.S. citizen? They pay taxes, obey the law and want to marry the person they love. In that sentence, can you tell whether they are straight or gay? No, because sexuality doesn’t make a person any less of a citizen.

It is clear same-sex marriage makes some people uncomfortable because it’s different than what they grew up knowing as the American dream. The only thing is, how do we know that they aren’t uncomfortable with heterosexual marriage? Turn around the circumstances: Heterosexual marriage becomes illegal. Now what? Would you be offended? Would you think, “That’s absurd?” Would you ask, “Why can they marry and I can’t?”

Walk in someone else’s shoes and feel what they feel. Americans are lacking empathy. The United States is known for freedom and justice. Unfortunately, not everyone is receiving it.

Alexandra Zurbrick is a sophomore at Orchard Park High School. ]]>
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 13:08:52 -0400 By Alexandra Zurbrick

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ Young people speak out on the growing debate surrounding e-cigarettes ]]>
Times have changed greatly since then, but much of the debate is shockingly similar. Now, schools, families and students all across America are confronted by the next national phenomena: electronic cigarettes, often referred to as e-cigs.

According to experts, these products, relatively untested and unregulated by the scientific and medical community, have the potential of being dangerous, while others equate smoking them to giving children coffee. The industry asserts that e-cigarettes help people quit more dangerous tobacco products, and this notion, as of now, cannot be fully disproven. With vapor parlors, where adults gather to buy and smoke these new e-cigarette products, opening up across Western New York, young people are speaking out, on both sides of the issue.

Cecilia Rapp, a sophomore at Williamsville South High School, has witnessed the use of electronic cigarettes in the community.

“I personally know people that use electronic cigarettes, although I do not approve,” she said. “A majority of them began using them this school year.” She added that she has seen fellow students use e-cigs inside her school building and on school grounds, particularly inside the locker rooms.

Sara Galante, a 17-year-old senior at Williamsville South High School, also noted that she heard of e-cigarette use in school locker rooms but has witnessed usage in school classrooms.

Cecilia also believes that e-cigarette use is probably a fad among young people.

“I don’t think that many young people use them in order to get off another addiction,” Cecilia said. “In fact, I think electronic cigarettes can be considered a gateway drug for some young people. Certain people believe that the use of electronic cigarettes is not harmful to their health in any relevant way, which leads them to use electronic cigarettes,” she said.

Others, like Richard Miller, a freshman at the University at Buffalo, do not see the issue with e-cigarettes, at least so far.

“I think that [the use of e-cigarettes] is not a major problem right now simply because I haven’t witnessed people using” them, he said. “I don’t even know anyone who enters vapor parlors, though as for my opinion, I don’t believe minors should be allowed to enter these places.”

Richard said he became aware of e-cigarettes two years ago at a Boulevard Mall kiosk but has not seen many of his friends or fellow classmates using them. While Richard says that he does not believe they are harmful, he does believe they should be regulated and treated as normal cigarettes and that kids simply use them to “look cool” rather than to recover from another addiction.

Most of the young people NeXt talked to confirmed that they have mostly witnessed young people using e-cigs, not adults. However, e-cigarette advocates, including those at Vapor Trails in South Buffalo, one of the largest electronic cigarette providers in the area, maintain that these products help adults quit their smoking addictions.

Abby Paquet, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Mill Middle School, said that she first heard of e-cigarettes at school last year but did not learn about them in detail until health class this year.

“I do not witness e-cigarette use at my school, but I have heard that kids have used them last year in the school building,” she said. However, she added that she does not know of any adult who uses e-cigarettes.

While one can argue that this issue of e-cigarettes has had a spotlight of attention on it in recent months, professionals say the issue is no laughing matter.

Andrew Hyland, chairman of the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, is one of the area’s leading experts on tobacco and e-cigarette-related issues.

“E-cigarettes are a phenomenon that has taken the marketplace by storm,” Hyland said. “There could be some reason to believe that they may be beneficial to public health, but there is also great reason to be concerned.”

He compared recent e-cigarette usage to light cigarettes, which were once also thought to be beneficial to helping people quit their smoking addictions before more data found this not to be true.

“Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control shows a significant uptick in the use of e-cigarettes,” he said. “It should be noted that most of this is concentrated in kids smoking cigarettes already.”

He also mentioned that e-cigarettes are not under any authority of the federal government, not even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and he maintained that this murky area has caused a lot of confusion for young people and parents alike.

“There is insufficient data, as of now, that conclude e-cigarettes are an efficient way to help people quit smoking,” Hyland said. “There are FDA-approved substances that people can use instead to help quit.”

One thing Hyland says he can conclude for sure is that while he knows e-cigarettes are not safe, they are safer than cigarettes, but more research is needed. He believes advertising limitations are needed immediately to limit the pervasive effect of e-cigarettes on the culture. Hyland said regulatory control of e-cigarettes is desperately needed, considering the fact that, according to him, e-cigarette labels can generally be inaccurate and often misleading.

On the issue of addiction, Hyland maintains that there is still a possibility of young people or adults becoming addicted to e-cigarettes, even if to a lesser degree than to regular cigarettes.

“Virtually right now there is no oversight or regulation of e-cigarettes or how they are marketed, and that is certainly a big problem,” he said.

“For instance, particulate matter contained in the vapor is particularly troublesome because this fine matter can get deeper into one’s lungs and put one at greater risks for adverse health outcomes,” he said. He also mentioned how the cartridge of liquid nicotine solution in e-cigarettes can easily be replaced by any liquid, which can lead to the use of synthetic marijuana.

One silver lining, he said, is that there is a lot less repeat usage of e-cigarettes among the general population than with cigarettes, and he attributes much of this to the lack of uniformity regarding the nicotine levels in e-cigarettes, as users do not often feel the same effect of the product each time.

School superintendents and adult leaders say parents are immensely concerned about electronic cigarettes and their impact on young people. Students feel similar as well.

Sara believes that e-cigarettes are appealing because they have loose restrictions on them and are similar in many ways to cigarettes.

“I think that [this issue] is not being blown out of proportion because the more kids know about it, the less likely they will be to use [e-cigarettes],” she said. While Sara does acknowledge that e-cigarettes can help adults quit their smoking addictions, she thinks that they are a bad idea for children.

“I think this is an issue we should be addressing because I think that once someone uses an e-cigarette, he or she will be more likely to use other drugs,” she said.

Camille Green, a 17-year-old senior at Williamsville South High School, knows a young person who smokes e-cigarettes daily, but she does not know any adults who use them. She believes e-cigarettes are pervading our culture, as she sees students using them on and off school property, and she notices the vapor parlor advertisements popping up across the community.

“The individuals that I know that use e-cigarettes use them because they think it is cool and not in an attempt to get off some other addiction. I think some kids like to use them because they can technically ‘smoke’ without getting caught because they will not smell like cigarette smoke,” Camille said. “I think more studies are needed in order to determine the risks or potential harm. It also appears like the manufacturers are encouraging youth to use [e-cigarettes] as they offer flavors that are appealing to youth like bubble gum. How many adults do you know still chew bubble gum and would be interested in this flavor?”

Yaseen Abbass, a sophomore at Erie County Community College, said he tried e-cigarettes because many of his friends were doing so, but claims they were not addictive. He also said he had no prior addictions, but somewhat got peer-pressured by his friends into trying e-cigarettes.

“My father smokes, so I know the dangers of such habits,” he said. “So, if there is enough evidence proving that e-cigarettes are truly dangerous for your health, I would probably stop.” He went on to say that e-cigarette usage is very common among other young people he knows, but that he does not witness much use at his school.

Thomas Beckley-Forest, a recent graduate of Canisius High School who plans to study at Syracuse University later this year, said that he has tried e-cigarettes in the past.

“I never owned one, but I have tried them a few times,” he said. “A lot of people I know had them, and since it was something I’ve never done before, I figured I would try.”

He said that if he knew conclusively that they were dangerous, he would probably not have tried them; he also mentioned that he did not feel addicted to them in any way.

“I guess there is a possibility of being addicted to the nicotine, but they are obviously not as bad as cigarettes,” he said. “And there is also a possibility that they help people quit their much more serious smoking addictions.”

Hyland maintains that the stigmatization of cigarette smoking in recent years has led to the decline of usage among the general population; he and others believe that a similar effect with e-cigarettes could occur once these products phase out of their period in the spotlight. Surely time will only tell whether or not these products are truly here to stay or just the latest fad among young adults.

Michael Khan is a recent graduate of Canisius High School. ]]>
Thu, 26 Jun 2014 00:31:31 -0400 By Michael Khan

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ Countdown to College: What one parent learned during the college hunt ]]>
Over the last several years I have hosted a “Veterans and Virgins” lunch where I bring together veterans – parents who have recently gone through the process and virgins – parents about to enter the college admissions process. It’s always interesting. I didn’t do it yet this year, but Karen would be a wonderful contributor. Here’s what she had to say:

Q. What did you do right?

A. We started early, looking at schools at the end of sophomore year. At first it was just casual “window shopping” while we were on vacation – mostly to help Jacob get a basic sense of whether he wanted small/medium/large, urban/suburban/rural, etc. We always attended the information session, toured the campus, and ate lunch in the dining hall or student center. We had a really good time on these trips, and it helped focus Jacob’s search.

But … the downside to starting early is that by the time we got to the application process in senior year, Jacob didn’t always remember the details, despite some written notes. The schools start to blur together.

Q. What advice do you have for others just starting the process?

A. Start essays early in the summer, as soon as school ends, before the “lazy days of summer” begin.

Do more Internet research to learn about schools that you cannot visit or that are perhaps under the radar.

The individual personalities and styles of the admissions official (presenting the information session) and student tour guide greatly affected our impression of the school. It’s very unfortunate that a single person has so much influence, but it happens. Find a way to counteract a bad impression due just to the presentation – and good luck changing your teenager’s mind!

Have a game plan for spring break of senior year. You’ll make final decisions in April and cannot possibly visit all the schools in one week, so determine up front what you want to accomplish that week.

Apply to state schools with “rolling admissions” so you immediately have some acceptances and a great sense of relief.

Q. What did you do to keep your parental emotions in check?

A. I kept reminding myself (and Jacob) that it all works out in the end. Everyone goes to a place that’s a great fit overall. Everyone winds up where they belong – it doesn’t matter if you don’t get into your top school, it’s what you make of it while you are there.

Q. What was the hardest part for you?

A. Sitting on the sidelines was very difficult; watching him struggle with a heavy workload, senior exit, testing and college applications and not jumping in to save the day. I viewed this as the first “real-life” college experience with competing priorities – the main skill you need to learn in college. Let them figure it out on their own.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. Visit her website at www.CollegeAdmissions ]]>
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 15:20:55 -0400
<![CDATA[ The future looks brighter for area youth ]]>
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Buffalo-Niagara has seen an increase in the demographic of 20- to 34-year-olds every year since 2008. The region is outpacing the national average by more than 1 percent. About five years from now, the percentage will grow to 10 percent, well outpacing the national average.

What accounts for this growing demographic? Buffalo is a city of beauty and reinvention.

Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, CEO of the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership, shares her knowledge and insight about the future of Buffalo. “There are a number of things that are changing,” she said. “The community at large is aligned for changes. Our governor, Andrew Cuomo, is supporting Buffalo.”

She says the greatest aspects of Buffalo are HarborCenter, Canalside, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the Buffalo Zoo; and the area’s famous architecture and homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, including the Darwin Martin House and Graycliff. These attractions enhance the view of Buffalo as well as help provide a strong economy.

“The refugee community is doing a lot of cool things,” she said. “West Side is really getting transformed by a class of entrepreneurs and refugees who have changed the city.”

The refugees have brought their culture with them and have started up authentic restaurants.

Gallagher-Cohen advises Buffalonians to take an active role in loving the town they are very much a part of and spreading Buffalo’s treasures.

Teens can have a large role in the “promotion” of Buffalo. The decision of whether to remain in Buffalo to attend college is a reflection of the conversations about Buffalo. Teens will have the ability to change the way the city is viewed by outsiders.

Gallagher-Cohen believes youth will be inclined to stay and support Buffalo if they are aware of and value the treasures of our city.

“Buffalo is an authentic place, we are who we say we are,” she said.

Matthew Andriaccio, a freshman at Erie Community College, is glad to be living in a suburb of Buffalo. When asked why Buffalo is important to him, Andriaccio said, “For starters, my family’s all here.” When asked if he believed that Buffalo had a sense of identity, he said, “Absolutely. People don’t say, ‘I’m from Western New York,’ they say, ‘I’m from Buffalo,’ with a certain pride. It’s not like when the canal was first opened, it’s not Buffalo’s heyday. You hear about how Buffalo is a city in decline, but being a part of this city’s youth, you can feel like there is a new optimism for where the city is going.

“I would like to (remain here), but its all about the job market,” Andriaccio said of the future. “I am studying to be a high school history teacher, and there are plenty of opportunities in the South and Midwest, but here, it’s very limited. I love this city and the community here. I want to see her back in the spotlight someday.”

He plans to attend Columbia University in the fall to study international affairs or political science. While he looks forward to the New York City experience, he said, “(Buffalo) has a sense of identity. When people come to the state of New York, they think it’s only New York City but when people come to Buffalo, they realize there is more to New York State than New York City.”

“We have some pretty good food here and a lot of great restaurants,” she said.

That could be appealing to young adults who go out to socialize with friends or on dates.

Nicole believes young people can be great ambassadors for Buffalo. Deciding to make Buffalo her home during her college years and beyond, she echoed a well-known sentiment: “Buffalo is known for being the city of good neighbors.”

Eliza Lefebvre is a senior at Sweet Home High School. She plans to study media production and public relations at SUNY Buffalo State in the fall. ]]>
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 15:20:30 -0400 By Eliza Lefebvre

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ Top top five songs on iTunes ]]>
1. “Fancy” (featuring Charli XCX), Iggy Azalea

2. “Rude,” Magic!

3. “Problem” (featuring Iggy Azalea), Ariana Grande

4. “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith

5. “Am I Wrong,” Nico & Vinz

– Associated Press ]]>
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 15:20:05 -0400
<![CDATA[ Hype: What’s happening for teens ]]>


MOVIES: Opening Friday, “Think Like a Man Too” (PG-13); coming June 27, “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

CONCERTS: Barefoot Movement, 8 p.m. Saturday, Buffalo Iron Works, 49 Illinois St.

Ozric Tentacles, 8 p.m. Saturday, Tralf Music Hall, 622 Main St.

Tedeschi Trucks Band, 7 p.m. Saturday, Canalside, 44 Prime St.

Primus and Fishbone, 3 p.m. Sunday, Gratwick Park, River Road, North Tonawanda.

Tank, 9 p.m. Monday, Buffalo Iron Works, 49 Illinois St.

Journey and Steve Miller Band with Tower of Power, 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Center.

Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Artpark, 450 S. Fourth St., Lewiston.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Tralf Music Hall, 622 Main St.

Delta Rae, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Tralf Music Hall, 622 Main St.

Foxy Shazam with Larry and His Flask, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Town Ballroom, 681 Main St.

Ziggy Marley & Steel Pulse, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Artpark, 450 S. Fourth St., Lewiston.


Wed, 18 Jun 2014 15:20:01 -0400
<![CDATA[ Commentary: School is a place to be different while finding acceptance ]]>
It felt a lot less scary to enter into a new beginning when the moment of realization arrived that I was surrounded by others who also share the same experience of being from another country. It comforted me like a childhood blanket. The movement of the changes in my life was so incredibly fast and new that I didn’t even have time to think about what to expect in a new learning environment. It didn’t take long to feel situated in a new school compared to how I felt when outside of the building. I was a student who was learning the same curriculum as the rest. A sense of belonging was present even though we came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. We didn’t share the same spoken language at home, but School 45 was our equalizer. The experience provoked a step out of the circle of comfort. It triggered an interest to learn something new about others that would eventually lead to friendships. It opened doors to infinite discoveries that are always waiting for an open mind to grasp. I developed an appreciation for culture. Whether its expanding my food palate, or seeing a friend’s traditional clothing, beliefs and rituals, learning the meaning behind it all encouraged a dream to travel the globe. This exposure to different cultures has helped me cope with other changes in my life.

High school introduced a new concept of diversity. Those hallways will teach you that the ability to form opinions, make decisions and mistakes comes from young souls who are just trying to figure out their identity. Also, they will teach you that not everyone is going to be a lifelong friend who will accept these opinions, decisions and mistakes. They will prove that no one is alone in this place. Whether it’s a phase of having different colors of hair, gravitating to different fashion styles every year, indulging in different genres of music, the place that provides education also gives a shelter for acceptance.

Different is a good thing. The greatest way of communicating to your peers is looking past any barriers and speaking the language of kindness and acceptance. Two important concepts that will help not just you, but anyone that walks into your life.

Sydney Berbano is a senior at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School. ]]>
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 15:19:58 -0400 By Sydney Berbano

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ News & Notes ]]>


Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center in Hamburg will hold an astronomy program at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Telescopes will focus on Jupiter, Mars and constellations. Cost is $3, free for members. For more information, call 627-4560 or visit


Young Audiences of Western New York will offer Curators of Culture, a free summer program in the arts for teens, ages 13-17, who live in Erie County. The program runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday from July 8 to Aug. 29. It will be held at the Central Library, Lafayette Square, and, on Fridays, at the SUNY Buffalo State Community Academic Center, 214 Grant St. For more information, call 881-0917 or email


The deadline to register for Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School’s Summer Enrichment Camp for boys entering sixth, seventh or eighth grades is Friday. For more information, visit or call 826-3610, Ext. 243.


Cooper Sullivan, a senior at Williamsville North High School, has been selected to participate in the 2014 National Youth Orchestra. Cooper, who plays the bassoon, is the only musician selected from Western New York. After touring with the NYO, he will attend Yale University in the fall.


Gow School senior Kevin McNamara, of South Wales, has been chosen to receive the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York’s Gerard J. Buckenmeyer Volunteer Scholarship of $1,000. He plans to study computer science at Bethany College in West Virginia.


The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library has announced its Summer 2014 – Fizz! Boom! Read! programs, including the Summer Reading Challenge, Battle of the Books, events every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Canalside and more. To find out more, call 858-8900 or visit


Openings are available for singers entering grades three through 12 with the ABC Bel Canto Choirs. For an appointment, call Sue Fay Allen at 759-6428 or email or


Alexa Draman, of Williamsville; John Lehsten, of Orchard Park; and Nicholas Pino, of Grand Island, are three of 24 students selected for the 2014-15 Service Scholars Program at St. John Fisher College in Rochester. The students will receive payments for half their tuition and room and board each year. The students will be expected to continue their involvement in community service.


Young Audiences of Western New York will present family-friendly programs, including a visit from Gretchen Murray Sepik and Mary Jemison at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Alden Ewell Free Library, 13280 Broadway, Alden, and a folklore workshop with Celes Tisdale at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday at the Arcade Free Library, 365 Main St., Arcade.


The All-American Soap Box Derby of Hamburg will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at 97 S. Buffalo St., Hamburg. To find out more information, visit Facebook or


Pole Position Raceway at the Walden Galleria will partner with the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York to raise awareness and funds Saturday with the Longest Day, a sunrise-to-sunset event that reflects the patience, strength and endurance of caregivers. Individual races will cost $28 and teams of 10 can have a private race for $280. For more information, visit or call (315) 423-RACE (7223).


Just Buffalo Literary Center offers workshops designed for young writers ages 12 to 18. For more information, visit


Buffalo-area Engineering Awareness for Minorities (BEAM) will host summer enrichment programs for students entering grades eight to 12 who are interested in science, technology and engineering. Application deadline for the free program is Saturday. For more information, call 645-3066, email or visit or ]]>
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 15:19:53 -0400
<![CDATA[ Recipes to get teens cooking ]]>
How cute.

No, this is a series of recipes and techniques geared for YOU, the lonely hormonal teenager. These recipes are quick, easy, require few ingredients and, most importantly, are downright delicious. Life is a pretty good thing, but a life without deliciousness is a life I want no part of. Life’s too short, so cook.

Game Day: Hushpuppies

There is a time to be healthy. There is a time to have raw kale salad with a tall glass of Ensure for Muscle Health. But I assure you, Sundays, the day where modern-day, super-human warriors bash skulls on perfectly groomed grass, are neither that time nor place. Sundays are the day to relish the finer things in life, like the sounds of hot-bubbling oil on the stove; like friends gathered around the kitchen burning their mouths because they were too excited to wait for the hushpuppies to be done. Mmmm, that’s right. Perfectly golden brown, soft on the inside, crunch on the outside. Serve these bad boys straight from the deep fryer.

1½ quarts peanut oil, for frying

1½ cups self-rising cornmeal

1 cup self-rising flour

½ cup chopped onion (a finer dice is better than a rough one)

1 (4-ounce) can diced jalapeño peppers, drained or 1½ fresh jalepeños diced (seeding them will make them less spicy, but it’s all up to you)

1 (15-ounce) can creamed corn

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a deep fryer or Dutch oven.

In a 1-quart mixing bowl, stir the cornmeal, flour, onion, jalapeño, corn and eggs, until blended. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.

Drop the batter by teaspoonfuls into the hot oil. After each drop, dip the spoon in a little water and the hushpuppies will slide right off. Drop about 3-4 at a time; leave room for the hushpuppies to be turned. Cook the hushpuppies until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a sheet pan, lined with paper towels, with a wire rack on top. Keep the cooked hushpuppies warm in an oven while cooking the remaining batter (or serve straight from the fryer). Serve with a sweet chili sauce made with a little mayo, chili sauce and sriracha, if desired (just add the ingredients until the mixture is slightly pinkish and the spice is to your liking).

– Recipe modified from Food Network’s Paula Deen and Trisha Yearwood

The Impress Your Significant Other with Chocolate Recipe: Chocolate Pots De Creme

Why has flirting been reduced to such an emasculate art form? What was once laying down your coat to cover the mud is now favoriting her numerous tweets regarding One Direction. I won’t claim to be an expert at casual female interaction, but I do know my way around chocolate. And what is one thing that girls love more than HarryLouisZaynNialandLiam? Chocolate. My fellow teenage boys (and to the girls, guys LOVE chocolate too, but this analogy won’t really hit home with you), I assure you: Learn the art of chocolate and you’ll be the Casanova of your high school in no time.

9 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips, which won’t need chopping)

1½ cups whole milk

1½ cups heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

5 tablespoons granulated sugar (add an extra tablespoon if using bitter chocolate)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Place the chocolate in a blender, but don’t blend yet. Whisk the milk, 1 cup cream, egg yolks, granulated sugar and salt in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spatula and almost boiling, 5 to 6 minutes. (A good test to see if it’s done is to run your finger down the back of the spatula and if the liquid doesn’t just cover the space back up, it’s nearly done.).

Immediately pour the milk mixture over the chocolate in the blender. Cover and hold the lid with a thick kitchen towel; blend until combined and smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the blender as needed. Divide the chocolate mixture among ramekins or small cups and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. You might be tempted, as I was, to use mugs, and that’s fine, but if you do they need to refrigerate overnight. Best bet: Use smaller ramekins.

Whip the remaining ½ cup of cream and the confectioners’ sugar with a mixer or in the blender until soft peaks form. Top the chilled pots de creme with whipped cream.

Modified from Food Network

The Netflix Marathon Dinner: Fettuccine Alfredo

I don’t think there is anything more therapeutic than lying down on your couch, under a blanket, eating a big bowl of comfort food and watching three straight seasons of “Breaking Bad” with the lights out in your basement. Netflix, besides life itself, is the greatest thing to ever happen to planet Earth. And it goes great with Fettuccine Alfredo.

1 pound of pasta cooked al dente in heavily salted water, then drained

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons of butter

∏ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (and when I say freshly grated, I mean freshly grated)

6 solid twists of freshly grated black pepper, plus more for serving

A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pour ∏ of the cream and all the butter into a pan that will accommodate all the pasta that you have. Melt the butter, then simmer the mixture for about 20 seconds, then kill the heat. After the pasta has been drained, get the pasta into the pan containing the cream and butter mixture and toss gently. Then bring the heat back to a simmer and add the rest of the cream, cheese, black pepper and nutmeg. Toss to combine and warm everything, and serve with extra Parmesan cheese on the table.

Modified from Marcella Hazan’s “The Classic Italian Cookbook”

Why is There Nothing in the Fridge?!?! Lunch: Stir-Fry

We’ve all been there. We go from fridge, to pantry, to fridge, to pantry, to fridge, to lying down on the floor crying at your lunchless existence. It’s one of the first problems privileged teens face each and every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, and it’s a shame. No longer should we have to settle for ham and cheese. No longer should we settle for a quick run to Moe’s. Instead, make a stir-fry! I know what you’re thinking ... don’t think. Just cook. Trust me. This one’s easy, quick and so much better than fast-food burritos.

Any fresh vegetables, including

onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper,

broccoli and basically anything else lying around

Peanut Oil

Low-sodium soy sauce

1 cup jasmine or basmati rice

Add the rice and 2 cups of water to a pot and bring to a boil. Immediately cover with foil (if the lid to the pot isn’t tight fitting) and simmer for 12 minutes. Then kill the heat and let it rest with the foil/lid on for 10 minutes.

Then start the veggies. Use a large saucepan (or wok if you’re serving more than just yourself) and add 2 tablespoons peanut oil. Heat until very hot and the oil is glimmering. Then add the veggies, cooking each vegetable individually. Right before they’re done, add about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and cook down slightly. Cook until tender and fragrant, but not brown. The trick is to keep the pan as well as the veggies moving to avoid browning (and eventually burning) the vegetables.

Sam J. Schatmeyer is a freshman at Williamsville East High School. ]]>
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 15:19:46 -0400 By Sam Schatmeyer

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ Commentary: Proud to see school community come together ]]>
One of the things that I am most proud of is the strong parental support within our community. I am also proud of the fact that the School Board provides a forum for open discussions and takes the views of the residents seriously. This is a very special community.

The School Board ultimately voted, 5-2, to keep the school open. There were many reasons people wanted it to remain open. One parent reminded the board that it had always voted unanimously. She mentioned that schools were turned against schools, and teachers against teachers. She also said that our school community doesn’t operate like that – it operates like a family. How true. I was proud to hear this. I couldn’t help but think how right it is to focus on the positive.

As in any spirited issue, there are always those who try to use negative positions in their fights, like some of the comments that were posted on Facebook. I was not proud of this. From a student’s point of view, we don’t ever think dollars and cents. We do, however, feel at times like the school and money issues are stacked against us. It’s nice to know that sometimes when we all band together, these large obstacles can be overcome. I have always been a firm believer that obstacles are merely opportunities in disguise, opportunities for growth. I hope so because I know we’ll revisit this issue again.

Each year will pose greater problems than the year before. Sometimes what you wish for comes true, but then something else has to give. Will it be programs that we dearly love? Will it be the end to music? Will it be the end of sports? It is too soon to tell. But one thing we can be sure of is if another vote is needed, our community will be able to voice their opinions directly to the people making the decisions, and most importantly, they will be heard. Now, we need to stop and think: What do we wish for?

Molly Teti is a senior at Sweet Home High School. ]]>
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 15:19:46 -0400 By Molly Teti

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ Internship program connects high school students to potential careers ]]> It’s a commonly asked question: What do you want to be when you grow up? As a child this question might seem easy to answer, but when students get to high school and begin to give it serious consideration, it can be difficult to decide which career is a good fit.

Enter Laurie Kennedy, certified internship coordinator at Williamsville South High School. “I think every student should do an internship,” said Kennedy. “It’s an application of what you’re learning (in school) in a work environment.”

The program at Williamsville South offers students a chance to make connections and develop “job skills for life.”

To begin the process, Kennedy interviews students, who “express their career interests.” Then, she said, “I work to find an internship site related to that career.”

For some students, Kennedy’s task is simple.

Alexa Draman, a senior at Williamsville South High School, had a good idea of what she wanted to do.

“I always knew I wanted to go into education,” Alexa said.

Kennedy helped place Alexa in an internship with Catherine Truesdell, Alexa’s “all-time favorite teacher” from Mill Middle School.

“I knew, because she was a teacher I admired, that I wanted to intern with her,” Alexa said.

The internship exceeded Alexa’s expectations. “I only thought I was going to be able to observe, but Mrs. Truesdell gave me a lot of free rein in the classroom,” she said.

That free rein included forming and executing lesson plans and grading papers when she worked in the classroom three days a week.

“Being hands-on in the classroom solidified that I wanted to do education” as a career, said Alexa, who plans to study elementary education at St. John Fisher College in Rochester. Alexa valued the experience, saying that she “was able to experience things that a typical 16-year-old never would.” In addition, the experience made her feel like she was making a difference in the community: “I’ve met some kids that, a year later, I know will still remember me, and I know I made an impact on their lives. That’s worth it to me.”

Internships also can help students rule out careers. Kennedy said some students “have a preconceived idea in their mind, but it’s not until they’re out there alongside a professional and see what the person does day in and day out that they find ‘yes, this is what I want to do’ or find out ‘it’s not what I thought.’ ”

Sara Galante, a senior at Williamsville South, approached the program wanting to pursue a career in crime scene investigation. The summer after her sophomore year, Sara worked with the Town of Amherst Police Academy, where she realized that real-life CSI is different from the TV show. Her internship experience helped her cross this career off her list.

When Sara discussed her thoughts with Kennedy, mentioning an interest in business, Kennedy placed her in an internship position at Pairings Wine Bar on Main Street in Williamsville. There, Sara learned about marketing. Her duties included updating the restaurant’s Facebook page, designing fliers and a new takeout menu, and sending emails to patrons. Sara enjoyed the “relaxed, non-intimidating” atmosphere.

“It was nice because I got to set my own schedule,” she said.

The position later yielded a paid job: Sara works at Pairings periodically to continue some of the work she did during her internship. Moreover, Sara values the skills she learned in the internship program’s classroom component: She learned how to effectively format a résumé and write a cover letter as well as some business basics. She and her classmates presented final projects on their prospective careers that were tied into their unique internship experiences.

The internship at Pairings made Sara realize that she likes business as a career, but, she said, “I want to focus more on the numbers.” She plans to study accounting at Canisius College.

The experience also has made her more aware of her surroundings: She said since the internship, “I pay more attention to the local businesses. “I had driven by (Pairings) every day and never really noticed it.”

Internship experiences often transform not only students’ identity as a worker but also as a citizen.

Megan Morris, a senior at Williamsville South, did an internship the spring of her junior year. When she talked with Kennedy about her interest in politics, Kennedy recalled that State Assemblyman Ray Walter had mentioned he was looking to hire an intern. Megan was matched up with his office, and the experience was life-changing.

“I went into (the experience) as a solid Democrat – Ray Walter is Republican – but I came out more middle-of-the-road libertarian,” Megan said. “I plan to register Republican.” Regardless, she says that after the experience, “I’m a more educated voter.”

Megan partly ascribes her change in party identification to the “heated discussions” regarding gun control she had with the assemblyman and the other two staff members at Walters’ Main Street district office. It was around the time of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, so gun control was a hot topic.

During the internship, Megan got to set her own schedule, mail “welcome to the neighborhood” letters, send out voter registration forms and perform tasks such as helping the assemblyman “prepare for meetings with constituents.” She got to see firsthand the casework that she had been learning in her AP U.S. Government course. Megan also got to meet other local politicians, such as area judges and Amherst Town Board members.

The experience helped her decide on a career choice.

“I don’t want to run for office; I want to have that job behind the scenes,” Megan said.

She plans to attend the University at Buffalo in the fall. “I will enter undeclared, but I’m leaning toward political science, and this (internship) definitely had something to do with that.”

Megan said she and Walter parted on excellent terms: He offered to write her letters of recommendation. Megan also believes the connections she made during the internship will help her gain internship positions in college.

In addition to providing her with career insight and connections, the internship has illuminated parts of the political system for Megan.

“I would see constituent letters coming in, and they (Walter and the staff) would actually read them,” she said, adding that it showed her that, to politicians, and especially to Walter, “constituents are important.”

At the end of the day, Kennedy describes her job as rewarding and gratifying, not only because she has helped students answer the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” but also because the internship program has given students “a chance to meet people that they otherwise would not have met and ... gain firsthand knowledge of what a career is really like before they commit to a major in college.”

So instead of students tackling the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” perhaps they should consider “what do you want to be now?” A good answer might be, “an intern.”

Kaelyn Timmins is a senior at Williamsville South High School.
Thu, 19 Jun 2014 00:23:47 -0400 By Kaelyn Timmins

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ Hamburg woman works with schoolchildren to create mass people photos that she hopes will inspire patriotism ]]>
An eagle? She’ll stripe it. A liberty bell? She’ll star it. But Watson doesn’t use a brush or a pencil to paint her pictures. She uses people. Thousands of people.

Patty’s People Pictures, an organization founded, funded and orchestrated by Watson, is coating the country in cooperation, peace and patriotism, one image at a time.

“9/11 is when I started really getting interested in starting this whole formation, mass people pictures, and it was really to work with kids and show some patriotism and support,” she said.

A mother of four and a former nurse, Watson has made 41 mass people pictures to date, and she’s far from finished.

Though she’s created her pictures at many area schools and several non-educational locations, Watson, an alumna of Pioneer High School, concentrates most of her creative energy in the Frontier School District in Hamburg.

Each picture starts with a simple idea. “I can’t stop thinking about them,” Watson said. “Most of what I do is patriotic. I feel strongly about showing support to the troops and to the injured.”

After each plan is conceived, it’s straight to the drawing board, followed by 40 to 80 hours of prepicture work. Watson and her team of volunteers pour their energy into graphing the image, enlarging the graph on a tarp and then spray-painting the image on the ground outside before arranging the people for the final shot. And while the process may seem smooth to an outsider, anything from billowing snow to a yellow scarf can alter the end result.

“It’s like doing a very big puzzle and plugging in all these classrooms into the puzzle, and by height,” Watson said. “Every single face is showing. That’s my goal, is to have 100 percent faces showing.”

The post-picture ceremony is often as incredible as the image itself. Local veterans, fire companies and political officials are invited to every picture-taking event.

“The ‘America’ was the most special,” she said about the ceremony following the picture taken with Frontier elementary and high school students in September 2011. “We had skydivers with an American flag, we had an American eagle, we had an injured soldier in full uniform with a Purple Heart stand up with a piece of ground zero and speak. … The kids were beautiful. They totally got the message.”

Watson, the designated architect, works alongside her designers and planners Theresa McClusky and Kim Finley, her painter Mike Suffoletto, her primary photographer Dave Sion, and her husband, Mike, to put each idea in action.

During the actual picture-taking, Watson stays on the ground amid it all. “I shoot candids as we’re going, just these cool, precious moments of kids doing kid things,” she said. “So many really moving moments happen in addition to that final image. And I like those as much as I like my finished image.”

In addition to several dogs that have made it into the photos, a traditional “Where’s Waldo” figure can be found in many of Watson’s people pictures.

All of her pictures are self-funded, with the exception of occasional sponsors, and all of the proceeds from T-shirt and sticker sales go directly to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which benefits injured soldiers, veterans and their families.

Watson also is grateful for volunteers of any age who help with the setup of each photograph.

“I really love working with kids. And there’s a certain amount that’s serious and I’m not kidding around, but there’s a lot more laughs than anything else,” she said.

It was Natalie Krupa, now a sixth-grade teacher at Frontier Middle School, who set the wheels in motion in the spring of 2002 by deciding to paint a map on the lawn of Cloverbank Elementary School.

“I was teaching fifth grade, and it was May … I decided to somehow teach the rest of my curriculum hands-on outside,” Krupa recalled. “I thought, well, I’m going to spray paint an outline of the United States.”

That simple outline proved to be no easy task. And that was when Watson, whose son was in Krupa’s class, first entered the scene.

“She just kind of ran wild with it,” said Krupa. “That was the end for me, but Patty just decided, you know what, I can run with this.”

Run? More like fly.

Watson’s New York image has been posted on the I Love New York Facebook page. Her USA image was tweeted by the USA Olympics during the London Olympic Games in 2012. One of her flag images was posted in Times Square on Nov. 5, 2013. Her Buffalo Bills image is an 8-foot mural in the NFL headquarters. Her Stand Up to Cancer image was broadcast during the Stand Up to Cancer National Telethon in 2010 and 2012. This year, five of her images were accepted into the Smithsonian American History Museum.

“I try to think of, when I’m creating an image, what other impact can we make across the country or the world,” Watson said.

Krupa, who has been in 13 of Watson’s pictures, believes the impact of Watson’s images resonate most strongly here at home.

The students “see firsthand that they’re a little part of something big. That what they do, that part that they do, is going to make this whole thing a success,” Krupa said. “They really take pride in that end result.”

“It’s good that everybody in the school, even if we don’t all like each other, can come together and do something as beautiful as a picture for everybody in the community,” said 12-year-old Dillon Alvarez, a student in Krupa’s class who has been in two of the mass people pictures.

His classmate, 12-year-old Adam Burke, agreed. “It’s amazing how we put our whole school together just for the community and for all of the servicemen that worked for us in the Army and make this big picture to represent how we love our community.”

Frontier Middle School, a primary location for Watson’s pictures, is crowned with typical athletic trophies and club posters. But it’s clear that the school’s proudest pieces of hallway decor are its mass people pictures, located where even the most tunnel-visioned visitors can’t miss them.

“It just makes us feel good that we’re respecting these people and what they do,” said 12-year-old Carly Wicka.

Watson doesn’t fail to notice the impact she has on schools.

“I’ve had teachers tell me, ‘This is the best day in my whole teaching career.’ Like the best day where you really feel unified,” she said.

“A lot of servicemen and servicewomen, I think they enjoy it to see that we do stuff for them, just like they do stuff for us,” said 12-year-old Kenzie Hauser.

With every click of her camera, Watson brings people together.

“What’s cool is when you get these people to believe in what you’re doing to jump on board,” she said. “This means a lot to me.”


At noon on Friday, Patty’s Picture People will hold the Canalside Buffalo Lunch Brunch. An aerial picture of a human formation of a buffalo will be taken. Tickets are $20 and include a T-shirt, Chiavetta’s chicken barbecue and participation in the “living Buffalo” photo. Preregistration is required at Proceeds will benefit the Bob Woodruff Foundation and WNY Heroes. For more information, visit

Rachel Whalen is a junior at Williamsville South High School. ]]>
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 23:54:59 -0400 By Rachel Whalen / NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ A venue for teen artists to show their work ]]>
“It was her hope to promote young and talented artists in the Town of Amherst,” said Tony Vitiello, adviser of the high school division planning committee. The next year, the Glen Park Arts Festival included a section devoted solely to high school artists.

Rachael Thomeer, a senior at Williamsville South High School and a member of the high school division planning committee, values the new division because “it’s focused on us as students.”

In past years there has been an array of student artwork represented: everything from paintings to candles and pottery. Also, at the festival, “students can sell their art,” said Rachael, who shows and sells her wood burnings and glass mosaics. Rachael says making art with the intention of selling it has “improved (her) craft.” She said that there is a sense of affirmation for young artists when people buy their art.

The committee for the high school art division, which includes several high school students from area schools, is an integral part of the festival. Rachael said that at the planning meetings, “We provide reports on the high school committee and we give our input.”

On the day of the event, committee members like Rachael and Gina Nasca, a 2013 graduate of Williamsville South, set up tables and chairs, communicate with student vendors, and help run the event.

Students on the committee are “part of every part of the process,” Rachael said. “We take care of anything” student vendors need.

Last year, Morgan Cicero, a sophomore at Williamsville South, was a contributing artist; she showed her polymer clay pieces. Morgan enjoyed her experience in the high school division so much that she wanted to get involved with the planning in order “to help it continue for years,” she said.

The future of the high school division looks promising. “Adding the high school division has attracted more people” to the art festival, which started as a group of five vendors, said Vitiello, adding, “The high school division is an art show in and of itself.”

The high school division also partners with Autism Services, an agency committed to aiding autistic people ( At the festival, Gina sells cards and paintings made in Autism Services programs, and the money from the sales in turn funds more of Autism Services’ programs.

Participating in the festival “gives you a better sense of community because it brings everyone together,” Gina said.

The Glen Park Arts Festival provides “a good chance for students to get their names or their work out there,” said Vitiello. Last year’s high school division featured 11 student artists from three area high schools. This year the committee is looking to expand its student artist population. Interested students can apply online at The deadline to apply is June 20. Students must be in high school, entering high school in the fall, or graduating high school this spring to apply. Participation is free for high school students.

This year’s event – July 26-27 – will mark the fourth year of the inclusion of the high school division.

“We are a demographic that is not always represented at these kinds of events, so it’s nice to have this opportunity,” Rachael said.

Kaelyn Timmins is a senior at Williamsville South High School. ]]>
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 15:28:09 -0400 By Kaelyn Timmins

NeXt Correspondent

<![CDATA[ Countdown to College: Application lessons learned the hard way ]]>
Jacob, after all, is officially a veteran of the college admissions process. While he is busily preparing for high school graduation, he is actually thinking much more about what his life will be like in three months when he moves into his college dorm.

For Jacob, it was a lengthy and sometimes stressful process. He started visiting colleges in his sophomore year. He took the most rigorous curriculum his high school offered, had stellar test scores, participated in a variety of clubs, held leadership roles, got involved in community service, played an instrument, won awards, immersed himself in a foreign culture during his summers; in short, he did everything right.

Here are some snippets of my conversation with Jacob:

Q. What did you do right?

A. I visited many colleges and applied to a good variety of schools: 3 safety, 1 to 2 target and 3 to 4 reach.

Q. What did you do wrong?

A. I didn’t start essays or ask for letters of recommendation early enough. It was hard to write essays in the fall and still keep up with all the work during first semester. Some teachers had fulfilled their quota of letters of recommendation before the end of junior year, so waiting to ask as a senior was too late and I had to scramble.

Q. Did you find any shortcuts or do you have any ideas to make the process run more smoothly for rising seniors?

A. I was able to reuse several essays for schools a few times, although I did have to make significant adaptations.

Q. Was it challenging at school with everyone asking where you’re applying?

A. Yes, especially with juniors. They think they understand everything about the application process and believe that holding many leadership positions and getting straight As in AP classes guarantees students a spot in the most prestigious schools. They don’t understand that even for the most qualified students, the admissions process is still incredibly random. Some students don’t understand when seniors don’t get into top schools. I regret sharing my list of schools with all of my friends and I eventually decided to put my acceptance/rejection decisions on “lockdown” in April.

Q. If you had high school to do all over again, what would you do differently?

A. I don’t have many major regrets about high school, but I wish I had been more involved in clubs freshman year and selected activities that I knew I could continue for four years. I would also focus more on a few select clubs and not join every honor society just to be able to put it on an application. I always agreed with the “depth not breadth” argument but my position was confirmed when I actually started applying.

As I began filling out applications, especially the Common Application, I realized how few spots there actually were to put extracurricular activities, so being superficially involved in a ton of activities truly doesn’t help at all.

Q. What was the biggest waste of time?

A. Visiting some schools over the summer, some schools were completely empty, so I didn’t get a good sense of the atmosphere; others still had students. Families should check with admissions to see what kind of campus life is going on during the summer.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. Visit her website at ]]>
Wed, 11 Jun 2014 15:28:06 -0400