High Road Revitalization

July 16, 2014
Damian O’Sullivan

With only two weeks remaining in the High Roads program, and without any Friday programming to discuss due to the 4th of July holiday, this blog post is well suited to a reflection on the experience thus far rather than merely the past week. The overriding theme of the program has been economic development in the city of Buffalo, or more generally its “revitalization”. In addition to the primary means by which we contribute to this lofty objective, through our individual placements at various local non-profits, a great deal of effort is devoted to teaching us about such development on a broader scale. Our Friday programming, comprised of various speakers and tours, has been the primary means by which we are exposed to these efforts.

These experiences have been both interesting and informative. Some recurring perspectives articulated by these speakers are that Buffalo is moving in the right direction and that positive outcomes lie ahead. One of the most valuable aspects of the insights they offer is their diversity of ideas perpetuated by the selection of individuals from a broad range of industries, ranging from champions of the arts, to business developers, to politicians. Commonalities are still readily apparent among the speakers, as passion and enthusiasm about Buffalo tends to characterize nearly all of them. Their passion for certain perspectives or initiatives can raise the question of whether or not the promotion of their individual causes or ideological inclinations masquerading as economic development are ends in and of themselves. However, people willing to dedicate such great effort to revitalizing the city are necessary for progress, and it has been a good learning experience to hear from these people about specifically how they plan to reach their goals for Buffalo.

My work at the International Institute of Buffalo has been the second major reinforcement of my education that this program has facilitated. I am working on completing an economic impact study on refugees in the Buffalo area. Doing this project has taught me many skills necessary for any further research I may undertake, and thus is conducive to my achievement of both academic and career aspirations. Finally, working with the refugees has been a poignant and valuable element of my highroad experience. These individuals come from an array of troubled circumstances and have had to overcome tremendous adversity before coming to this country, only to start from scratch often at the bottom of the labor market here. Despite these considerable difficulties, they are very grateful for the opportunity they received and whatever help they are offered. Interacting with these people has been a great experience and a reminder of the importance of the work of the International Institute.

The High Road Fellowship is a program well suited to an ILR education and provides us with opportunity to contribute to a nonprofit organization that we select because it has meaning to us. The exposure to the economic development efforts of the city too has proven to be a positive experience. The six weeks have been enjoyable, because of both the program itself and the various things the city and other nearby areas, including Niagara Falls and Toronto, have to offer for our free time, and I look forward to the time that remains.