Niagara Gazette — Leadership Niagara held the first graduation ceremony of its kind at St. Peter’s School in Lewiston on Friday. Never before has the program come into a school to mentor middle school adolescents but many are happy for the change of pace.
“This is our target audience,” said Captain Kristen Neubauer of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, who was one of the two volunteer leaders who taught the St. Peter’s students this school year. “We are trying to reach them at this age, particularly.”
Neubauer’s mentoring partner, Major Andrea Pitruzzella, with the 914th Airlift Wing, agrees, “This is the type of demographic that we are hoping to reach out to, and we are hopeful that they will continue to pay forward what they’ve learned this year.”
Both Neubauer and Pitruzzella are 2010 graduates of Leadership Niagara and said they enjoyed sharing what they learned through the program with the young community.
Also present, and a graduate of Leadership Niagara (’07) was Chief Deputy Steven C. Preisch with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office. Preisch, a 25-year sheriff’s office veteran, said he still makes time to support the program that he believes is crucial for character development. “Making decisions becomes more difficult for kids as daily pressures increase, and this program gives them the courage to speak up and do what they know is the right thing.”
One by one in the school gymnasium, 36 students were awarded for participation and completion of the eight sessions as they shook hands with their mentors: Tasha Villani, (the assistant director of Leadership Niagara), Preisch, the school’s principal Maureen Ingham and its pastor, Msgr. David LiPuma.
Speaking on behalf of the students was eighth-grader and Student Council President Caitlyn Dyster. Dyster, 14, said that she enjoyed the way leadership strengthening activities were disguised as games for them and how the program has bettered them.