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Buffalo Niagara 360 Spotlight Professionals

A new year has dawned for the Buffalo Niagara 360, Buffalo’s largest young professionals program. This group is part of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, or what your daddy used to call the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce. These types of gatherings allow incredible networking opportunities, so important to a city’s growth, as a lot of these folks are going to run things here someday… and hopefully start small businesses that turn into large businesses, all while helping to create Buffalo’s future. 
These events also help leaders to emerge, and encourage their members to engage in projects that help the community. The fall season kicked off at Rocco Termini’s brand spanking new Hotel @ the Lafayette, at the Pan American Grill and Brewery, in what used to be the old Lafayette Tap Room, along with rooms that are connected to it, the Mezzanine, the Courtyard Room and the Greenhouse Room.


This year ten members were honored as Spotlight Professionals for 2012-2013. All 10 chose to move to Buffalo and are positioning themselves to affect major change in the region in years to come. I caught up with a most of the 10, and asked them why they chose Buffalo. I loved the great energy and enthusiasm they brought to the table! Here are some of their stories:
Jared met his future wife at a wedding, and networked his way to a job
Jared Hojnacki is on M&T Bank’s Peer Analytics and Investor Relations Support team (easy for you to say!).  Jared lived in Washington, DC. where he worked on the Adelphia Communications bankruptcy case. Jared went to a wedding in Varysburg, NY, and met Bethany, who later became his wife. Jared knew some people at M&T Bank, and through networking ended up getting hired there eventually. A great local love story and networking success story!    
Amanda moved back to Buffalo for family, a better chance for change, and faster change than New York City
Amanda Winklesas is a Curriculum and Instructional Specialist at 3rd Learning. Originally she graduated from Canisius College, moved to New York City, got her Masters, taught in Harlem, but moved back to Buffalo for family. Also, in relation to NYC, Amanda feels change is much more possible here in Buffalo than in NYC. Also it happens faster in Buffalo then NYC, where change seems to happen slower possibly due to the bureaucracy. Also, people listen to each other in Buffalo, even when they don’t agree. Not so in NYC.
Christopher was recruited from UCLA to work at Roswell Park. He hopes to cure cancer.  
Dr. Yeong “Christopher” Choi was performing his post-graduate work at UCLA while also managing the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s cGMP facility. Chris was recruited by Roswell Park to be the Director of the cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practice): Therapeutic Cell Production Facility and Assistant Professor of Oncology. They are using cellular therapy to treat cancer. Roswell Park has invested in a drug manufacturing facility to make these cellular therapy drugs.  To make these drugs, which are custom made for each patient, researchers take blood from the body, transport the blood to the drug manufacturing laboratory, isolate a specific immune cell (dendritic cell), manipulate these cells so that they may recruit killer immune T cells and recognize the cancer and attack when these cells are injected back into the body.  The ultimate goal is to design new cellular therapies to understand, prevent and cure cancer.  


Christina was in LA, wanted to go east, even though she did not know anybody in Buffalo
Christina Singh is the Community Director for the March of Dimes. She was in Los Angeles, California, and wanted to come to the east coast. She didn’t know anybody in Buffalo, but came anyway. Christina, you are a brave soul! Why Buffalo? Affordable housing, good community, and a small town atmosphere. Christina was able to find work at Evergreen Health Services and the Muscular Dystrophy Association before her current job.
Keith moved to Buffalo for educational specialization, affordability, and small town qualities
Keith Rowe is a Medication Therapy Management Pharmacist at Independent Health. Keith was a woodworker in New York City.  He was seeking an uncommon Pharmacy degree that is not readily available elsewhere, plus the University of Buffalo was highly ranked in his area of interest. Keith felt Buffalo was small enough that he feels he can make a difference within the community. Buffalo is very affordable, and offered many of the amenities of a larger city, like events, museums and shopping. But Buffalo is also small enough to still be able to enjoy the city itself, whether on foot or bike, without having to deal with major traffic or hectic pedestrians. The architecture and greenery in the city are to die for! Keith found a job at a company whose beliefs and values were in alignment with his own, and a place where he can make a career! He ended up getting his doctorate in Pharmacy, and an M.B.A.
Anthony wanted to to get as far away as possible from New York City
Anthony Rijos is a Home Mortgage Consultant at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Anthony wanted to study communications and business. He wanted to go to school, but also to get as far away as possible from New York City, but still be in New York State. His two finalist schools? SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Fredonia. Fredonia was farther than Plattsburgh, so he took a greyhound bus and enrolled at SUNY Fredonia.
Britta liked the upstate New York feel of Buffalo
Britta McKenna is a partner in estate and trusts practice at Hodgson Russ. Britta went to Boston College, liked the upstate New York feel of Buffalo, and got her JD from the University of Buffalo Law School. 
Vince wanted to stay in his company but get transferred to Buffalo
Vince Nicoletti is the Manager of Promotions and Partnerships at Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort. Vince studied at St. Bonaventure University, worked for the Buffalo Sabres, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Atlanta Braves A Level), and then Herschend Family Entertainment in the south. Vince had an opportunity to still stay with his company, work at the Darien Lake Theme Park Resort and come back to our area – he jumped on it. 
Buffalo Rising reader, please share with us any stories of why you came to Buffalo!
p photo by Jim Cookfair

Written by RaChaCha


RaChaCha is a Garbage Plate™ kid making his way in a Chicken Wing world. Since 2008, he's put over a hundred articles on here, and he asked us to be sure to thank you for reading. So, thank you for reading. You may also have seen his freelance byline in Artvoice, where he writes under the name his daddy gave him [Ed: Send me a check, and I might reveal what that is]. When he's not writing, RaChaCha is an urban planner, a rehabber of houses, and a community builder. He co-founded the Buffalo Mass Mob, and would love to see you at the next one. He represents Buffalo Young Preservationists on the Trico roundtable. If you try to demolish a historic building, he might have something to say about that. He is a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Things you may not know about RaChaCha (unless you read this before): "Ra Cha Cha" is a nickname of his hometown. (Didn't you know that? Do you live under a rock?) He's a political junkie (he once worked for the president of the Monroe County Legislature), but we don't really let him write about politics on here. He helped create a major greenway in the Genesee Valley, and worked on early planning for the Canalway Trail. He hopes you enjoy biking and hiking on those because that's what he put in all that work for. He was a ringleader of the legendary "Chill the Fill" campaign to save Rochester's old downtown subway tunnel. In fact, he comes from a long line of troublemakers. An ancestor fought at Bunker Hill, and a relative led the Bear Flag Revolt in California. We advise you to remember this before messing with him in the comments. He worked on planning the Rochester ARTWalk, and thinks Buffalo should have one of those, too (write your congressman).

You can also find RaChaCha (all too often, we frequently nag him) on the Twitters at @HeyRaChaCha. Which is what some people here yell when they see him on the street. You know who you are.

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