West Side Community Leaders Honored

Six west side Buffalo leaders to be recognized for their contributions.

West Side Community Services (WSCS) will honor six community leaders, three adults and three teenagers, at the second annual REMARKABLE West Siders Awards on Sunday, April 15, 2018 at Resurgence Brewery, 1250 Niagara Street, Buffalo. The event is 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. with the awards presentation beginning at 1:30.

The 2018 honorees are:

  • John F. Siskar, PhD, Buffalo State College
    At Buffalo State College, Dr. Siskar supports initiatives that have the potential to create systemic change in our schools and community. He oversees three centers: The Center for Excellence in Urban and Rural Education, the Community Academic Center, and the Pre-collegiate Academic Success Center. Dr. Siskar oversaw the creation of the Community Academic Center which opened in a storefront on Buffalo’s west side in 2011. The center has served 12,350 residents in concert with 32 faculty and 3,364 Buffalo State students in the delivery of programs and support.  He also developed a network founded on the principles of the Promise Neighborhood initiative that includes over 50 partner organizations committed to working together to help children succeed.

  • Rubens Mukunzi, CEO and publisher of Karibu News
    Rubens Mukunzi grew up in Rwanda where he aspired to be an activist for change in the 1990s as the country healed from genocide. In 2000 at the age of 18 and still in high school, Mr. Mukunzi started a handwritten newsletter focusing on issues impacting youth. He then worked as a journalist for a radio station before starting a newspaper in 2009 targeting education in Rwanda. The government though did not approve of his critique of the education system and tried to intimidate him. Mr. Mukunzi obtained a visa to come to the U.S. in 2013 and settled in Buffalo where in 2015  he started Karibu News with a loan from the Westminster Economic Development Initiative. Karibu News not only gives refugees and immigrants a voice, but also bridges a gap between English-speaking and non-English speaking populations by publishing in many different languages, including English. Rubens believes Karibu News is the first and only multilingual paper in the state to focus on refugee and immigrant populations.

  • Sister Kathleen Dougherty, Sisters of St. Mary of Namur
    Sister Kathleen Dougherty grew up in Kenmore and joined the sisterhood at age 18. A special education teacher for her entire career, Sister Kathleen has a strong interest in helping young people facing challenges. For 20 years, Sister lived in South Carolina, teaching kids with profound learning disabilities. She later transferred to Lockport, where she continued to teach for another 10 years. Sister returned to Buffalo and moved into St. Mary’s of Namur in 2015. At that time, a leader at the Somali-Bantu Youth Association on Forest Avenue contacted Canisius College asking for tutoring help. Sister Kathleen volunteered and learned quickly that the need for tutoring in English language, writing and reading among the newly arrived refugees was considerable, and she acquired space and additional volunteers to work with the youth. Through community connections, Sister Kathleen also helped to link the Youth Association with farming resources. The result of this outreach has been the creation of Providence Farm, 10-acres of land in East Aurora where Somali-Bantu families cultivate crops to feed their families. Sister Kathleen has one primary goal for the youth she tutors: “I want them to be able to compete in school.”


The 2018 teen honorees:


  • Issa Abdulkadir – Nominated by Keith Kristich of PUSH Buffalo

Issa is involved with social justice meetings and rallies in Buffalo and around the country. He has fought for increased school funding and advocated for public transit improvements. Issa was instrumental in starting the Youth Action Team, a program for youth looking to make positive changes in their communities. The group meets weekly and teaches other young people about justice issues, political education and community organizing.


  • Ingabire Adam – Nominated by Diane Picard, MAP Executive Director

Ingabire has been with the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) for almost three years and has become an outstanding leader among her peers and in the community. She not only understands issues of food and climate justice but dedicates her time and energy towards making change in the community. In the last year, she facilitated the Next Generation & Climate Change workshop for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) Conference in Baltimore and the World On Your Plate Conference in Buffalo. As a Muslim woman she advocated to get more non-pork options at her school, Emerson School of Hospitality. She also wrote an article titled “How I Got Involved in my Community and How Other young People Can too!” which was published in the Karibu News last summer.


  • Abdikadir Farah – Nominated by Bobby Calvaneso of West Side Community Services

Abdikadir Farah “Abdi K” has shown leadership qualities since his first day at West Side Community Services in October 2017. Abdi is always quick to volunteer with events and projects and has played peace-keeper among his peers. A few months ago, Abdi’s phone was stolen by a peer while he was playing basketball at WSCS. When the thief was identified, Abdi was asked what he thought should happen to the person. Instead of wanting to prosecute, Abdi chose a different approach. He replied, “We should give him another chance, because everybody makes mistakes. Sometimes people do things they shouldn’t but they aren’t bad kids, they just made a mistake.” Abdi is also a member of the PUSH Youth Action Team, where he advocates for social justice.


West Side Community Services is located at 161 Vermont Street, Buffalo. WSCS improves education, financial capability, health & wellness, and prevention across the lifespan for a diverse membership through activities and programs that identify and build on the strength in the community.


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