Western New York’s so-called “brain drain” has been widely discussed and lamented for many years around here.

It relates to the idea that while this area, Niagara County included, has its share of talented, educated and bright young people, too many of them leave for greener pastures as soon as they graduate from college.

We’re happy to report that there’s still a robust representation of highly talented, motivated, energetic and smart individuals on the younger side of 40 who are living and working here while contributing much to local businesses, non-profit organizations and causes of importance to the community.

On Tuesday, the Union-Sun & Journal and the Niagara Gazette hosted a breakfast at Antonio’s Banquet and Conference Center in Niagara Falls to celebrate the contributions of 12 residents as part of the third annual Niagara’s 12 Under 40 recognition program.

As in past years, the 12 individuals were nominated by community members for displaying leadership qualities in their daily lives. The program is meant to embolden young leaders in the county to build up the community and help new leaders emerge.

From all nominations, the 12 Under 40 panel selected the up-and-comers for recognition this year.

The management and staff at both newspapers would like to thank the community for its participation — and the 12 honorees for their hard work and dedication when it comes to making Niagara County a better place.

This year’s 12 Under 40 honorees are:

• Adam Bartoszek, volunteer center program manager, The Service Collaborative of Western New York;

• Kevin Bittner, farmer and fruit specialist at Bittner Singer Orchards;

• Brooke Burrows, program officer at the Grigg Lewis Foundation;

• Michael Daloia, agency services manager, Food Bank of WNY;

• Jason Goldstein, founder and CEO of Service Bridges;

• Dan Keating, jurisdictional manager with National Grid;

• Ashley Pascuzzi, law clerk with Gross Polowy LLC;

• Heather Peck, vice president of Greater Lockport Development Corp.;

• Pat Proctor, vice president of marketing and sales for Rainbow Air;

• Rachel Rossi, adult literacy teacher at Orleans/Niagara BOCES and adjunct professor at Niagara University;

• Bryan Rotella, school psychologist with the Niagara Falls School District; and

• Ally Spongr, director and curator of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center and the program coordinator for Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.

Please join us in congratulating these individuals. All of them have displayed exemplary leadership qualities while helping to strengthen our community and the local economy. And, all of them demonstrate that, despite the community having lost its fair share of “young blood” over the years, there are still plenty of talented, hard-working and successful people under the age of 40 who are doing great things in Lockport, Niagara Falls and all across the Niagara region.

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