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Outsider to Insider: This Cooperstown transplant is determined to make it back to Buffalo

Whenever the New York Jets play the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo, Jessica Collier, 30, is planted somewhere in the stands with her entire family in tow. Half of them — the good half, she said— wears Bills gear. The other half, especially her father, wears Jets green and white. It’s a tradition that started years ago, when Collier was still living in Buffalo.

“We’re all going to be there for the home opener against the Jets,” she added. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Collier isn’t from Buffalo. Growing up on a farm in Cooperstown, she said, she had never even been to the city before.

“I had no background with Buffalo. But during my senior year in high school, my best friend and her mother took me along on some college visits. We went to Geneseo first. I grew up in a small town, and I had always felt so sheltered. I knew that I wanted a bigger school instead.”

Collier’s best friend’s mom suggested they take a look at the University at Buffalo, since they were already in the Western New York region. As soon as they pulled on campus, Collier said she fell in love. It was just like what she had seen in movies — kids on the field playing Frisbee, students walking around everywhere.

IMG_9684“After chatting with a few people on campus during the visit, I found out I wasn’t the only one from Cooperstown who liked UB,” she said. “A couple of people I knew were already attending or getting ready to apply. I figured the surprise connections were a sign. I didn’t even bother looking at any other schools after that, and applied early decision.”

Collier was accepted by December 2003 and graduated from Cooperstown Central High School in 2004. When she started telling people where she was going to go to school, everyone kept telling her to buy a shovel. She even received a shovel for a graduation gift.

Funny enough, Collier was at UB for the legendary October snowstorm in 2006. But that, she said, was it. Cooperstown actually got more snow than Buffalo by the time she graduated from UB.

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Name: Jessica Collier
Age: 30
Current location: Albany
Previous location: Buffalo
Loves most about Buffalo: The sense of community
Misses most about the Buffalo: There was never a dull moment; there is always something to do.

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With a degree in communication and sociology, Collier set her sights on staying in the city. She applied to AmeriCorps and was placed in Niagara Falls, where she organized a community vegetable garden. A year later, Collier was promoted and managed 25 members of AmeriCorps across the state, then switched to Leadership Buffalo the year after that.

532514_10100865846508608_1690797546_n“Everything was going great,” she said, “but I missed my family. I’m one of five kids and our family is very close. Because of that, I decided to move to Albany to be closer to home.”

While in Albany, Collier met her boyfriend, Lance. They had both attended UB but never met while they were there, even though they lived less than a mile away from each other. Almost immediately, they connected through their love and appreciation of Buffalo, which included a little game they liked to play called, “Who’s more Buffalo?”

“It’s not the foundation of our relationship,” Collier said with a laugh, “but I feel as if it’s a bit part of both of our identities. And it’s something that really brought us together in the beginning.”

Despite working in a job she loves for Parks and Trails New York and living only an hour away from home, Collier feels like she’s missing out on Buffalo’s resurgence — especially in the last few years. But she’s confident that momentum will continue and that she’ll soon be able to be a part of it. Until then, Collier is content singing the Queen City’s praises and more than happy to convince anyone who doubts her that Buffalo is the greatest place on earth.

“Lance and I talk a lot about it. We talk about the rich culture and the art, and the opportunities that are there, and how great of a community environment it has to offer. We will be back. Not just for Bills/Jets games, but permanently.

"It’s only a matter of when.”

If you or anyone you know has a story to tell about moving back or to Buffalo, or about moving away, email LynsD21@gmail.com

Lyndsey D'Arcangelo is a freelance writer and award-winning author. Visit her website at www.lyndseydarcangelo.com or follow her on Twitter @darcangel21.

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