By Timothy Chipp firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — The theme inside Lewiston-Porter High School’s auditorium Thursday was community. Give back to it. Help it grow. Allow it to help you grow.
All four of the district’s distinguished alumni, honored during a morning assembly and giving help to classes during the afternoon, embody the nature of their comments. Speaking directly to the members of the school’s student body, represented across all four grade levels, the group showed their individual mentalities had common ground.
“Get out there,” Nancy Diez Orsi, class of 1963, said. “Get involved in your community. Help with events ... or volunteer at a food pantry. Everything you do does make a difference.”
Diez Orsi, who previously worked at the district as its curriculum and instructional coordinator besides graduating from the school, said she never had a direct plan in her life. She said she went through school enjoying herself but ended up leaving college without a degree after two years.
With the help of her husband, she ended up returning to school to complete her education. He ended up completing his four-year degree after she was done and working, she said.
“Look ahead, set some goals,” she told her audience. “But don’t (accomplish) a lot of them fast. Work on one, finish it and start a new one.”
One of the easiest ways to succeed in high school, according to another member of the group of alumni, is to find a mentor.
It doesn’t matter who the mentor might be, whether an older student, teacher or coach, only that they’re worthy of guiding a student through a tough time when a wiser voice is needed, said Patrick Roemer, a member of Lew-Port’s class of 1981.
“Find a mentor, somebody who can help you,” he told the students. “Find the people like that and hold on to their coattails. Because a lot of times they’ve been there themselves.”
Roemer, who serves in the 107th Airlift Wing unit out of the Niagara Air Reserve Station, served tours of duty in Somalia during Operation: Enduring Freedom and in Iraq during Operation: Iraqi Freedom.
Flashing back to a different time, Thomas Pryce, a member of the class of 1972, said he remembered a time when it was unclear whether the villages of Youngstown and Lewiston could actually coexist in the same school district.
Pryce, who currently serves as the chairman of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, which manages both the Lewiston-Queenston and Rainbow bridge crossings, said the two distinct communities came together to become one and now thrives in the education setting.
But the community he grew up in was a reflection of the world around him, a world he said may sound familiar to the crowd gathered to hear him speak Thursday.
“When I was a student, I was the student council president,” he said. “We were engaged as students. There was a war going on, the country was in economic distress. That sounds familiar. But there was a small group of us who’d attend the district’s school board meetings.”
Pryce eventually ended up serving more than a decade on the Lew-Port School Board, before turning his attentions away from running for public office and towards trying to influence decisions in the lobbying field. He’s also a retired member of Iron Workers Local No. 9, out of Niagara Falls, where he’s served as business manager and financial secretary.
While Pryce had an engaging student life, Claudia Tower Andres, a member of the class of 1976, had a bit of a different high school experience.
“I was thrown a curveball in life while in high school,” the music teacher in Wilson Central Schools said. “I was a terrible student, I wasn’t going to go to college.”
But she ended up leaving the area to get her degree, attending Arizona State University and the Crane School of Music. In her educational pursuits, she came to a quick realization: even though she was going for her teaching certification, she really didn’t like children.
She said she did her student teaching and came to enjoy children in the classroom through repetition, rather than immediately falling in love with her duties.
She’s changed her mind entirely, she said.
“I love high school,” she said. “You guys are great.”Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.