Niagara Gazette

August 22, 2013

'A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' for UB student

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It was the thrill of a lifetime. Some would say "once-in-a-lifetime."

Growing up in Grand Island, Silvana D'Ettorre never considered the possibility she'd be able to see the president of the United States live and in person. So when she stepped to the stage in University at Buffalo's Alumni Arena Thursday and began her address to the gathered crowd waiting to hear the words of President Barack Obama, she was living a dream.

Sure, the 19-year-old sophomore was cool, calm and composed introducing the chief executive's during his first stop on an anticipated two-day, four city speaking tour. But she was definitely excited.

"I was so excited, especially when they said my name up there, to introduce me," she said. "I couldn't tell anyone, not even my friends. I had to be confidential. So they were not expecting this whatsoever."

Not everyone in her life was off limits. She was able to inform her parents and her two siblings the honor she was about to receive. "They had to get tickets to come," she added.

"I enjoyed it so much because everyone was so excited," she said. "The fact that I got to meet him and talk to him was (amazing)."

Obama was in town to discuss higher education affordability. But for D'Ettore, he was there to discuss her – and her family's – future. As a sophomore at UB, she is already watching her student loan debt increase. Her brother is a college student, as well, in the same boat. Her sister is about to join her at the UB campus.

She said what the president addressed, about making sure students can afford a college education and not be stuck forever trying to pay it back, really spoke to her.

Of course, having a chance to meet the man and talk with him was also important. She told him she was thinking about going to dental school, which got her a ringing endorsement, she said.

"Backstage, he asked me how I was doing, how my family was," she said. "He said I should be a dentist based on my smile. I told him 'I never imagined this would ever happen to me.' It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."



Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.