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Honor Roll / Recognizing the accomplishments of Western New Yorkers

The Healthcare Association of New York State board of trustees named Joseph D. McDonald an officer of the board. It's the only statewide hospital and continuing-care association in New York State, representing more than 550 nonprofit and public hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies and other health care organizations.

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Soprano Jena Abati is a division winner in the Music Teachers National Association Senior Voice Eastern Division Competition. She'll travel to Milwaukee, Wis., in March to compete as a national finalist in the MTNA Senior Voice National Competition.

Abati earned this opportunity after winning the Senior Voice Eastern Division Competition. A freshman at Eastman School of Music, Abati has been studying voice for nine years and is currently a student of professor Katherine Ciesinski.

Abati's path in music started when she began singing in a children's choir at age 5 at St. Mary's Elementary School in Lancaster. She has sung for numerous organizations, including the Make A Wish Foundation, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo Bisons and Buffalo Sabres. She is a 2010 graduate of the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, and alumna of the Sacred Heart Chamber Choir and St. Joe's Swing Choir.

The competition will take place March 27 during the association's national conference. The national winner of this competition receives a cash prize and will perform in a Winners Concert during the conference. The three-tiered MTNA competitions begin at the state level. Winners of each state competition advance to the division competition. Division winners then proceed to the national finals.

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The Harmony Polish Folk Ensemble, Western New York's largest Polish-American cultural and dance ensemble, recently elected officers for 2011: Kim Napierala of Cheektowaga, president; Krys Abramo of the City of Tonawanda, vice president; Bill Brauch of Cheektowaga, secretary; Kathleen Pawlak of the Town of Tonawanda, treasurer; and Manya Pawlak-Metzler of the Town of Tonawanda, artistic director.

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John and Margaret Volpe, teachers at St. Joseph Elementary School in Batavia, will be awarded the "Sister Lucille Socciarelli-Father John Sturm Making a Difference Award" at the 2011 Making a Difference Dinner on Jan. 27 in Adam's Mark Hotel.

The award was established by Buffalo native and NBC newsman, the late Tim Russert, as a way of thanking Sister Lucille and Father Sturm for the difference they made in his life. It's given to one Catholic school teacher in the diocese at the Foundation of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo's Making a Difference Dinner. This is the first time two teachers will be recipients.

Margaret Volpe serves on the school's Academic Excellence Committee and has been in Catholic education since 1968. She offers tutoring and stresses the importance of English and writing through the school's newspaper club.

John Volpe serves as assistant principal, when called upon, and provides tutoring for at-risk students as well as conducting review classes for the New York State Social Studies exam. He also moderates the St. Joseph's debate club.

The foundation also will recognize Frank and Rosalie Ciminelli and Monsignor Paul J. E. Burkard, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Basilica Parish, Lackawanna, with the Bishop's Medal for their commitment to Catholic education.

Chris Lowney, author and former Jesuit seminarian, will be the dinner's keynote speaker. After studying for the priesthood for seven years, Downey worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co. in offices throughout the world.

He's written two books, "Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World," and "A Vanished World: Medieval Spain's Golden Age of Enlightenment."

The 2011 Making a Difference Dinner marks the 11th anniversary of the event that was established to raise money for Catholic education. Funds are used for needs-based tuition assistance through the Catholic Elementary School Tuition Assistance Program (CTAP).

e-mail: lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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