Tonawanda News — A ritual dating back nearly a half century continued on Wednesday evening as dozens of students were recognized for excellence during the annual Quality Students banquet held at Banchetti by Rizzo’s banquet facility in Amherst.
North Tonawanda, Tonawanda and Cardinal O’Hara honored 63 local high school students, each with their own criteria used to determine the selection process, including academic and athletic accomplishments, among others.
It was the 48th year the Quality Students program took place, after being launched in 1966 by Tonawanda business owners who wanted to recognize students from various schools. This year included 38 students from North Tonawanda, 20 from Tonawanda and five from Cardinal O’Hara. Many businesses and organizations now sponsor the event.
Staying in line with another of the program’s traditions, the event featured keynote speaker Richard Silvestri, former Quality Student and 1975 Tonawanda High School graduate.
Silvestri, who owns Great Lakes Minerals out of Kentucky, told the hundreds in attendance that after living in New York City and launching the company, he eventually moved back to Western New York with his wife and three children, while maintaining a second downstate home. He also began a second mineral exploration company out of Brazil, which he called a “major calculated risk.”
“Don’t be afraid to start your own business,” he said. “When you take a risk make sure it’s a calculated risk.”
He added: “When you’re in school, network and then try to make your way back to Western New York.”