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Graduates should keep in mind Buffalo's advantages

With the hope of spring comes the excitement of graduation, and as thousands of young people prepare to graduate, I'd like to suggest something. If I may be so bold, I'd like to suggest that this generation consider Buffalo.

Results of a recent study conducted by CEOs for cities show a 27 percent increase in the number of 20- to 30-year-olds living in the city limits. While the city continues to lose population, young people are flocking to those blocks and neighborhoods that had been emptied out by the previous three generations.

Youth, and this generation in particular, thrive in a creative environment. Our world today demands creativity to reconsider the issues that we face and come up with different solutions.

Buffalo is the place to do that.

Given the state of affairs, the paradigm of escaping Buffalo to find a more prosperous locale is no longer a relevant one. The jobs are not out there for our generation as they have been for the previous few. There is as much, or more, prosperity in Buffalo as in any other place, save for a few. Buffalo is a place, however, with an advantage.

Because of the past 30 years of stagnation and decline in the Buffalo-Niagara region, there are incredible opportunities for a young, creative person to make a difference. Places like New York, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., are overcrowded with people trying to impose their vision.

In short, Buffalo is a dream for the creative mind.

The many layers, dynamics, assets and challenges make Buffalo unique to those who choose to see it that way. Difficulties can, in fact, be leveraged as opportunities for those who choose to seek to better their surroundings.

The heart and soul of any place, however, is the people who call it home. There is a spirit of camaraderie and caring among neighbors in Buffalo that is an oasis to an otherwise weary world. More than anything, Buffalonians wish the best for each other. They want to see their children grow up to be good, honest, hard-working people and to do the right thing. A deeply cynical world aches for a place like Buffalo, a place where people can talk to strangers in the store and play in the street.

So to those in fear of the world they are entering, given the challenges we face in these difficult times, be not afraid of uncertainty. We may never possess the material wealth of our parents, nor be the heroes that our grandparents were, but we can answer history's call in a creative way and renew the earth for the next generation.

Our values must be different from those who have come before, and we can start in Buffalo. We must judge ourselves not on what we have, but on what we do.

Matthew Chavez is a student at the University at Buffalo in Urban and Regional Planning and is an intern at the Center for Urban Studies.

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