Monday, December 5, 2016

Houghton adds program for ‘new Americans’


Houghton College History Professor Steve Strand, left, lecturing to his refugee and immigrant class at the college’s satellite campus for refugees at First Presbyterian Church at 1 Symphony Circle. Dean of Houghton College Buffalo Cameron Airhart announced a new matriculation program that allows refugees to transfer to SUNY Buffalo State after obtaining their associate’s degree. Houghton College Buffalo has a graduation rate of 80 percent and currently enrolls 55 “New American” students into its program. Airhart is confident that this school can hold up to 100. Houghton’s high school recruitment program has been successful is getting refugee and immigrant students a brighter vision for college success. By expanding into Utica, next fall, Houghton hopes to help immigrants and refugees in that region as well. Houghton College is hoping to break down walls for immigrant and refugee students with various programs and partnerships. By Cliff Robinson and Brittany Schmidle

No plans to maintain West Side murals



There was great fanfare when the mural located on Auburn Avenue and Grant Street was unveiled but now three years later, the piece is in disrepair. There are several panels missing and no plan in place to restore the mural. Commissioned by the Olmsted Park System in 2013 to combat concerns about graffiti, former SUNY Buffalo State Fine Arts Department Chair Phillip Ogle was consulted to put the project together. Artist Augustina Droze along with students from International School 45, Lafayette High School and Buffalo State collaborated to create the mural. “It takes a community effort to keep these works of art together,” Ogle said. “The artists can only do so much.” By Tony Callens and Ben Joe

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Maryland St. construction project delayed


Allentown Square, located at 295 Maryland St. at West Avenue, has postponed opening its doors this month. “The problem is funding. My guys work hard but it’s a slow game when it comes to projects like these,” Robert Neagle, construction manager of Allentown Square said. “The project is going up pretty fast but the manpower isn’t there.” In order for the complex to open this month as scheduled, twice the manpower would have been needed, according to Neagle. The 54-apartment, $7 million project will now likely be ready in March 2017. By Franklin Hagler and Matt Neidhart

Monday, November 28, 2016

Music is center of ‘note’-worthy therapy



The Community Music School of Buffalo, 415 Elmwood Ave., doesn’t only teach music; it also uses music to heal as part of its music therapy program. Music therapy is a unique mental health treatment where the participants listen to and play music. The two music therapists on staff, Brianna Miller and Sara Rogers, say they treat a wide variety of people from autistic children to elderly dementia patients. However, Miller and Rogers said that they often feel the profession is not treated seriously. “Music therapy is so much more than just someone playing therapeutic music for someone,” Rogers said. She added that practitioners must be board certified and prospective patients must be evaluated before a treatment plan can be developed. Patients can either be referred or can contact the music school directly to assess whether music therapy can benefit them. For more information visit http://communitymusicbuffalo.org/home/programs/music-therapy/  By Melissa Burrowes

‘Lost Boy’ finds his new life in Buffalo


 

By Dave DeLuca and Patrick Koster
Bengal News West Reporters
            The first time Kang Kerubino Guot shot an AK-47, the recoil was so powerful that it knocked him on his butt.
            He had no choice but to use the weapon when war broke out in his hometown in South Sudan. It was either hide and get killed, or run and fight back.
            It’s 1995 and Guot, a skinny, wide-smiling boy with hopes of someday studying mathematics, has an 11-pound, military-style weapon draped over his shoulder. Gunshots ring through his ears. Women are raped. Some children are abducted. When the mayhem finally ends, dozens of boys like him lie dead in the street.
            Guot, just 6 years old, is trying to survive what would become one of the worst humanitarian disasters in world history.
            “I was a lucky one,” Guot said. “I made it out alive to tell the story.”
            Twenty-one years later, the now 28-year-old Guot is a college graduate with a degree in economics from SUNY Buffalo State.
            He lives on the West Side and works at Rich Marine Sales, but his life began in Sudan, the same year a civil war broke out between Arab Muslims in the north, and black Christians in the south. More than 2 million people died, a half a million fled to other countries. Peace was finally restored in 2011.
            Guot was one of an estimated 20,000 boys, known as the Lost Boys of Sudan, who were separated from their families and fled to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
            By the time the Lost Boys arrived at the camp, their numbers were cut in half. Some died of starvation along the walk, others died of dehydration. Lions and crocodiles killed others. If Guot saw a lion, he said, he avoided eye contact at all costs.
            The boys’ survival tactics are unnerving to hear.
            To avoid dehydration, Guot drank his own urine. He and the other boys ate leaves, berries and dead animals to avoid starvation.
            “I had a lot of friends die along the walk,” Guot said. “Others died when we got to the camp from sickness.”
            For those that made it to the camp, a better life was just beginning. The camp was funded by international aid organizations as well as the United Nations. It provided food and clothes were donated by American churches.
            In 1999, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, working together with the State Department, recommended roughly 3,600 of the Lost Boys for resettlement in the U.S. Nearly 500 of the Lost Boys who were still under the age of 18, including Guot, were supposed to emigrate to the U.S. by the end of 2001. But tragedy struck America on Sept. 11, 2001.
            “All of the flights to the U.S. were blocked,” Guot said. “It took me three years longer to wait for a flight to come. I was so excited to come, but it was taken away.”
            Guot finally got on a flight to America in 2004, and was ecstatic.
            “I knew that I had to make most of the opportunity,” Guot said. “I never thought I’d have the chance.”
            Guot was sent to Syracuse and met Ann Mayes, a volunteer advisor at Onondaga County Catholic Charities. Mayes helped Guot apply to Onondaga Community College and prepared him to take the college placement test.
            It took Guot eight years just to earn his associate's degree from Onondaga Community College. He jumped around from full-time job to full-time job in between taking classes.
            “Even considering how tough it’s been here, I’ve been given an opportunity here that many of friends and family members could only dream of,” Guot said.
            Like many other Lost Boys, Guot faced an uphill battle to get immersed in American education.
            “In Kenya, his education was a small group learning under a tree,” Mayes said. “No paper, no pencils. He never used a computer before coming to America.”
            It took Guot more than a year to figure out how a computer worked.
            Unlike other refugees, Lost Boys came by themselves. Guot’s father, an army officer, died in the war. His mother and six siblings are all in Sudan.
            “They have to provide for themselves,” Mayes said. “They don’t have parents, they didn’t have wives. Kang and many others struggled to balance working full-time and going to school full-time. It was a big, big cultural change.”
            Guot sometimes worked third shift before going to morning classes.
            “The Lost Boys required a lot more maintenance than the normal refugee family that would come,” said Stephen Redding, former director of the International Rescue Committee who helped send the Lost Boys to the U.S. “Some of them had a very hard transition to America. Just doing the basic things like finding a job, going to the supermarket and laundromat were so foreign to them.”
            Guot dropped four of his classes halfway through his first semester because the workload was far too tough. The only class he kept was math, because it required just paper and pencil.
            After graduating from community college in 2012, he moved on to SUNY Buffalo State, where he earned his four-year degree in economics. Now, he’s working on obtaining a second bachelor’s degree in international relations.
            “It’s been a long journey,” Guot said. “I’m just so happy to be here and have to chance to get an education and better myself. Back home, others weren’t that lucky.”

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Allentown holiday home tour set Dec. 11


            Many know the excitement of Allentown, but not the history.
            On Dec. 11, visitors will step inside the private homes of Allentown’s National Historic District for the Secrets of Allentown Holiday Tour of Homes. The self-guided tour will bring visitors into homes from the 1800s that are fully decorated for Christmas.
            Allentown Association President Jonathan White said this is the first time in several years the tour is being held.
            “We thought that it would be a perfect way to integrate the Allentown community and the Western New York community for that shared common bond that people have around their love of family and their love of things for the holiday,” White said.
            White said guests will receive a special booklet with the locations of each home. Without the booklet, guests will not know which houses are part of the tour.
            “The tour booklet will include the wonderful artwork, which is a line drawing of each property, that we’ve specially commissioned for the booklet and then a description of each house,” White said. “You learn a little bit about the house and the home owner before you get there.”
            The tour’s starting point is the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, 641 Delaware Ave., where a Victorian holiday event will be taking place. Guests can tour the first floor, including the library where Roosevelt was sworn into office.
            The tour will run from noon to 4 p.m., with start times at noon and 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 for the general public and can be purchased at allentown.org. By Patrick Koster and Dave DeLuca


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Boxes of Love project seeks gift wrappers


            Every child deserves to feel the magical moment of opening a present early Christmas morning. With the help of Buffalo Dream Center, many children can experience that pure happiness.
            The Buffalo Dream Center’s Boxes of Love project helps out families in need with a wrapped Christmas gift for each child and a bag of nonperishable food. Distribution this year will be on Dec. 10, said Eric Johns, Dream Center pastor.
            Buffalo Dream Center, an outreach Christian ministry in the inner city, is signing up volunteers to wrap gifts at its 318 Breckenridge St. headquarters. More than 1,000 volunteers have signed up in recent years.
             “The week after Thanksgiving, volunteers start to come in and help wrap the gifts for the community,” Johns said.
             Pastor Johns spends the week of Thanksgiving living with the homeless using the opportunity to spread the word among the streets.
            Its Boxes of Love project began in 1999 assisting a few families with Christmas toys and bag of groceries but over the years has assisted 3,000 families and 5,000 children. By Tiera Daughtry and Vincent Nguyen