NIAGARA FALLS —
— Curtis Cheeley is one of the older participants. At age 50, the father of one, remembers a time when jobs were plentiful in Niagara Falls. He was laid off a couple years ago from his manufacturing job. He feels grateful for the chance to improve his life.
“It’s more than over the top in being a positive influence in people’s lives,” said Cheeley about the program. “It’s providing the skills to help find and maintain a job for pretty much the rest of your life.”
— John Rossman, also a father of three, is hoping to become a property owner once he’s completed the program, taking advantage of the program’s connection to a first time homebuyer program at First Niagara Bank.
The skills he’s learning have fostered greater ambitions than just property ownership. He looked around at his classmates and noted that “with all the things we’re learning, we could start our own construction company. ”
-- Alioune Sow came to the Falls from Senegal, Africa, to work in his younger brother’s now-closed Africa shop. The father of two works as a cook for Delaware North, at a restaurant in the state park, but wants something more. It was his certainty that skills cannot be lost, that inspired his fellow student, Jason. Sow says simply, “I’m looking to get a better paying job.”
Their teacher, Dennis Luzak of Orleans Niagara BOCES, feels a certain camaraderie with his students. “When I got out of high school I had no direction. I wouldn’t have gone to college no matter what people said,” he said.
Life changed his mind. A carpenter by trade, at age 45 he finally decided to get his teaching certificate to better care for his family, and found himself at Buffalo State, alongside his oldest daughter.
He delights in being able to teach, which he says is “so much more than I expected.” The attitudes of his students impress him the most. “Ninety-five percent of them have told me, ‘I’ve got kids. I want to make my life better.’ How can I not respect them for that?”
Contact Features Editor Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.