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Local College Students Connect with their Surroundings

By Kellie Coppola

Everyone knows that no matter where you come from, when college begins your campus easily becomes the center of your universe.  However, what many Buffalo area college students may not know is that their school is just a single jewel in Buffalo’s treasure trove of local shops, restaurants and attractions. Luckily, colleges such as Daemen College, Canisus College and University at Buffalo ensure students are in the know by providing programs to introduce students to Buffalo’s ecosystems such as Elmwood village, Hertel Ave, Williamsville and the downtown area.  These programs open up students’ eyes to hang out spots, adventures and opportunities beyond campus grounds, and while affirming steadfast connections between the educational institutions and their surrounding communities.

As a part of Daemen Day on September 19th, Daemen College students will take the streets to explore the many businesses of Main St. and Williamsville.

According to Dr. Greg Nayor , Vice President of Student Affairs & Dean of Students at Daemen College, Daemen Day will “provide an opportunity for faculty and students to reach out and explore the village of Williamsville.”

“We’ve always referred to ourselves as an Amherst college,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of support and are really excited about this partnership.”

The partnership Nayor is referring to is with the Williamsville business association, with whom they’ve been collaborating to coordinate participants.

“I think its great that they [Daemen] realize the resurgence in this area and are willing to showcase it” Tara Cadmus, head of the Williamsville Business Association Committee collaborating with Daemen.

Business participants will have the Daemen mascot, a wildcat, decorating their storefront and will offer discounts with the presentation of a student ID.

One particularly excited participant is Syd Hoffman, owner of Tea Leaves, 5416 Main St.

Hoffman said that when the Williamsville Business Association was approached by Daemen to participate, it was a “no brainer.”

“Williamsville is all locally owned and we all work together,” Hoffman said. “We were ready to do whatever they wanted us to do.”

Tea Leaves will be offering a 20 percent discount on to-go mugs with a student ID.

According to Nayor, besides store discounts, there will be live music at the Irishmen, and a shuttle service to take student between campus and Main St. He said that the night will culminate with a 9:30 p.m. showing of the Avengers on the Daemen campus lawn that the whole community can attend.

“The heart and soul of this partnership is the community and businesses,” Nayor said. “This is going to be a great way to reach out and show we care.”

At Canisus College in the city of Buffalo, familiarization with the local community is a part of the curriculum. Griff 101 is a freshman class that allows first year students to get acquainted with Buffalo outside of the classroom. In the last couple years, Kathleen Brucato, Director of the International Student program, added a course section titled Nickel City.

This class allowed international students and out of state students to “get out and explore Buffalo” for a couple hours on a Friday.

“I was born and raised in Buffalo” Brucato said. “It wasn’t until I finished school that I really got to explore and see how great the city is.”

To prevent students from making her mistake, she takes her students on adventures such as a three hour bike tour through the Old First Ward. Brucato also said that she constantly updates the class’s Facebook page with hangout place ideas and an event schedule.

Brucato said that there will be two sections of this course as well as other buffalo related sections.

According to Anne- Marie Dobies, Assistant Vice President/Director of the GRIFF Center for Academic Engagement, new this year is a section revolving around the subway system, where students will participate in activities that will force them to learn the subway system. Dobies said that the metro pass has been integrated into student fees for the past 6-8 years by student demand.

Of course, they didn’t forget about Buffalo’s amazing food. Order out Buffalo is another Griff 101 section that allows students to sample from take-out eateries.

“This isn’t supposed to be just another class with assignments” Dobies said. “ We want to get them out to Hertel and Elmwood so they can figure out what its like on a typical Tuesday night at Spot coffee or the North Park theatre. We want to make Buffalo as much of a normal part of their routine as possible.”

Lastly, University at Buffalo lets their honors students explore the ins and outs of Buffalo as a part of their Honors Colloquium, a 2 credit Fall semester class that allows students to learn about the city and get involved.

“We have three goals in this program,” Jessica Seabury, Senior Assistant Director of the UB Honors College, said. “The first is to let students learn about Buffalo and its challenges.”

Cathleen Draper, now a junior Communications major at UB, entered the Honors program thinking she knew all there is to know about the city she called home for the past 18 years.   

“The first night they took us on a bus tour all over Buffalo” the Amherst native said, “I’ve lived here all my life and we did things that I never would’ve thought to do, like see silo city. It was my favorite part.”

Seabury added that the point of this 2.5 hour bus tour was to acquaint the students with not only the developments in Buffalo, but the challenges as well.

She explained that the next part of the Colloquium kick off took place at the Statler Hotel, “an emblem of Buffalo’s resurgence.”

Seabury said that students dine and hear a moving speech by Drew Kahn, a Buffalo State professor who works with the Anne Frank Project, about “being a change in the world.”

“We usually have over 300 students and this year we will have over 400,” Seabury said. “And every year they all fall completely silent. His speech is so moving.”

This speech initiates the second goal of the program, which according to Seabury is community service.  Each student is required to complete 25 hours of community service during the semester at an assigned venue.  For Draper, it was the Friends of the Night Organization on 394 Hudson St. Buffalo.

“I would go for a few hours every week,” Draper said. “It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.”

Students also are required to attend an event of their choice and write a blog post about it. Seabury said that the aim of this component is to get students out to places on Elmwood, Hertel and Downtown to have fun, in hopes that attending these events will become a regular activity.

The last, and perhaps the most important goal of this program according to Seabury is to get students to “think about how they can strengthen engagement in Buffalo.”

“Ultimately we want these bright students to join the Buffalo work force and engage effectively. To do that, they need to be aware of the challenges and opportunities and this program is a great way to engage in the community.” Seabury said.

Ultimately, these universities, in their own way, provide students with the tools to enjoy Buffalo in a way that will not only enrich their lives, but the community and the future of the city itself.