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Niagara Honor Roll

Danielle Smith, Niagara Catholic social studies teacher, and Gabriella Simoneit, high school senior, received awards for their service in youth ministry at the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry’s event, “Witness the Spirit.” This event honored several award recipients from the Buffalo area, and was held at Nardin Academy on Dec. 13.

Smith was honored with the Companions on the Journey Award. She was nominated by her parish, St. Philip’s in Cheektowaga. This award is given to an individual who demonstrates excellence in youth ministry, commitment to ongoing education and formation, longevity in ministry, commitment to young people, and outstanding leadership at the local and/or diocesan level.

Smith has been teaching religion to seventh- through tenth-graders for twelve years. The past three years, she has also become involved with the youth ministry program at St. Philip’s.

Simoneit is a member of St. John de LaSalle Parish. She received the Discipleship Award. This award is given to current high school students who are enthusiastic supporters of youth ministry at their parish.


Dr. Meaghan M. Aalto, chief resident of the University at Buffalo’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program, is joining the medical staff at Niagara Falls Memorial’s OB/GYN Center next summer. An experienced teacher and researcher, she also has been honored for clinical excellence.

Aalto is a graduate of McGill University, Montreal, and Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica, West Indies, where she received highest honors. She has been a primary investigator at the University at Buffalo, a research assistant at Rotman Research Institute, Toronto, and a study coordinator at Montreal General Hospital, Montreal.

Her research has been published in several peer-reviewed journals, including Surgical Science and Journal of Robotic Surgery.

Aalto is a recipient of Mauricio’s Young Professional Award and the Buffalo Gynecologic and Obstetric Society Award for academic and clinical excellence. She is a member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, which works with health care professionals to instill a culture of respect, dignity and compassion for patients and professionals.


Niagara Hospice was recently honored at the Western New York Paralegal Association’s holiday luncheon hosted at Pearl Street Grill & Brewery on Dec. 9. Selected as one of the two recipients of the association’s annual award, Niagara Hospice was recognized as a charity close to the hearts of the association because of its care of patients and families throughout Niagara County.

WNY Paralegal Association member and Niagara Hospice supporter Carol Hromowyk nominated Niagara Hospice after they helped care for her father at his home in North Tonawanda. She said, “Not only did Niagara Hospice help make my dad’s wish to stay at home come true, they helped support both me and my sister as we cared for him. We couldn’t have done it without Hospice.”


Air Force Master Sgt. Carol A. Bright has retired from the U.S. Air Force after 30 years of service on July 31, 2014. She distinguished herself in the performance of outstanding service to the U.S. military as a member of the U.S. Navy from June 5, 1983, to June 2, 1992, and the New York Air National Guard from Nov. 7, 1992, until July 31, 2014.

She served in a variety of positions, culminating as a supervisory supply specialist for the 107th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, with the Materiel Management Flight, where she was the head of the Mission Support Liaison and Customer Support Sections of the organization.

Bright is a 1983 graduate of Niagara Falls High School, Niagara Falls, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Keuka College, Keuka Park, in 1998.


Several military personnel have graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C.

Army Pvt. Shawn M. Chafin, son of Jaime and Shawn Chafin of Niagara Falls, is a 2014 graduate of Niagara Falls High School.

Army Pvt. Alicia D. Daniels, daughter of Erica Pope and granddaughter of Thomas Iona of Lockport, is a 2014 graduate of Lockport High School.

During the nine weeks of training, the soldier studied the Army mission, history, tradition and core values, and received instruction and practice in basic combat skills, military weapons, chemical warfare and bayonet training, drill and ceremony, marching, rifle marksmanship, armed and unarmed combat, map reading, field tactics, military courtesy, military justice system, basic first aid, foot marches and field training exercises.


Two Niagara County Community College fellows attended the State University of New York’s fourth annual Critical Issues in Higher Education Conference in October in New York City.

Sean Reilley will graduate from Niagara County Community College in December with an associate degree in humanities and social science. He is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society as well as a standing member of the Dean’s List. After graduation, he plans to transfer to a four-year school, focusing on education and educational psychology.

John Strong is a tenured physical education teacher, education assistant professor and personal training certificate coordinator at Niagara County Community College. He is the NCCC 2013 recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and is a member of the executive council of the New York State Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Both Reilley and Strong were chosen based on their interest in collective impact and an established desire to contribute to their campuses and communities. Their participation in the conference was to foster interest and leadership while providing new tools, clearer vision and a broader, stronger network of connections in their fields.