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Home comes calling For some, lure of family outweighs other opportunities for advancement

Consider the budding entrepreneur from Nichols, the class president from Cleveland Hill, the small-town boy from Barker, the aspiring physical therapist from Lancaster, and the valedictorian from Frontier.

The future was wide open for each of them 20 years ago when they graduated from high school -- but the ailing local economy hung like a specter in the background.

Despite the odds, each ended up in Western New York.

Two never left the area; one of the two lives 13 houses from her parents, on the same street.

One left to go to college in the Adirondacks, but after a year, decided it was too far from home.

Another went to school in Chicago and fell in love with the city, but returned home -- get this -- because he couldn't find a job there.

And one started his own business in Cleveland after dropping out of Case Western Reserve University, but soon headed back home to work in the family business.

Regardless of how they ended up in Western New York -- by choice or by chance -- all five say they savor the benefits.

"We could have gone elsewhere for a job that paid more money," said Kelly Lubey, who was vice president of her class at Lancaster High School 20 years ago. "But I think that, ultimately, family is more important than more money."

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>The series

SUNDAY: "It was 20 years ago ..."

They were high school high-achievers when they graduated in 1987, at a time the region's slow, steady decline was under way. Some made a life in Western New York, but many more built their lives far from home.

TODAY: Five who stayed

Family and familiarity were the reasons they decided not to find out whether the grass was greener somewhere else, even if that meant not moving any farther than down the street.

TUESDAY: Five who left

The decision to move away did not come easily for any of them, and they all maintain connections to the area. Home for them is nowhere near their hometown. But it's hard to argue with success.

ON THE WEB: www.buffalonews.com/best

Blog: Why do some people stay in Western New York -- or return after being away? Are family ties more important than career opportunities? Share your own story.

Then and now: They were fresh-faced teenagers in their yearbook photos 20 years ago. A lot has changed for all of them since then.

Slide shows: Daily life includes everything from officiating at a floor hockey game to brokering international business deals. See pictures of the five who stayed and hear them talk about their decisions.

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