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The Riviera Theatre gives area students opportunities for advancement

BY: Kori Sciandra | February 20, 2013

NORTH TONAWANDA - When students from area high schools and local colleges were given the opportunity to sit of the Junior Board of Directors for the Riviera Theatre, North Tonawanda, they jumped at the idea.

When the board was first created, about a year and a half ago, Bennett High School senior Ryan Montgomery was approached by one of his teachers and asked if he might be interested in pursuing this opportunity.

As someone who had already been volunteering during shows by helping out with concessions and miscellaneous needs at the theatre - this move made sense for Montgomery.

“I am pretty involved in other things at my school, so I thought ‘Why not help out with other things in Western New York?” said Montgomery. “The biggest thing I have learned is just working with so many endeavorous people from different areas. This is one of the things we lack in Buffalo public schools. Here, we are being exposed to different people and different cultures,” said Montegomery.

As the board president, Montgomery believes his experience with the Junior Board of Directors is an “eye opener.”

“I would recommend this for anyone. Before this, I wasn’t a big fan of theatre. But, you have to remember that you don’t have to be a fan of art or theatre to be on this board or in to bring something to the North Tonawanda area.”

Junior Board Member Allison VanSchoonhoven, of Tonawanda, was introduced to the board by her aunt, Evelyn Zupo, who sits on the Riviera Board of Directors.

She expressed her experience sitting on the board and why it’s so important to become part of this.

“Being a member of the Junior Board of Directors has helped me realize there is more to life than just worrying about what I am doing. People need to get involved in the community to make sure historical places like this [the Riviera Theatre] are able to stay around,” said VanSchoonhoven. “This is a good opportunity for people to get involved. The Riviera needs as much help as possible. When you hear your parents say they came here when they were kids, it makes you want to be able to bring your kids here. But, if you don’t get on the community, or do enough to keep it here - it might not be here.”

Vice President of the junior board, Shawna Bentz, who attends Niagara University for English Education, and is a North Tonawanda High School graduate believes

“Not only are we able to work in a parliamentary structure, but we gain marketing skills and fulfill community service obligations as a member of the board,” said Bentz. “Being a member of this board looks good on a college application for high school students.”

She added, “We are bringing programs to a different demographic than this usually caters to. We are trying to bring young adults to a higher adolescents.”

Members of the board meet at 7 p.m. the second Monday of each month to discuss fund-raisers, current events, plans for the future of the Riviera and other hot topics.

The junior board is currently working on putting together a fund-raiser, slated for April, which will be called “Rockin’ at the Riv.”

The event will consist of compiling local bands from all over WNY for an exciting, musical event in order to promote and raise funds for the Riviera Theatre.

For more information about the Junior Board of Directors for the Riviera Theatre, contact Joyce Santiago at The Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas at 692-5120.

Pictured above are members of the Junior Board of Directors for The Riviera Theatre:

President Ryan Montgomery, Bennett High School; vice president Shawna Bentz, Niagara University; treasurer Jason Kastelan, North Tonawanda High School; secretary Kenedie Cutler, North Tonawanda High School; Keelan Erchard, Grand Island High School; Nathan Gambino, Niagara Falls High School; Michael Giambra, Grand Island High School; Allison VanSchoonhoven, Tonawanda High School; Leland Allen IV, Kenmore West High School; Nathan Englander, Niagara Falls High School; Chris Stawiasz, Kenmore West High School; Selina Barone, NCCC; Marisa Jo Zakes, North Tonawanda High School; Aubrey Bolam, North Tonawanda High School; Violacea Yin Hui, North Tonawanda High School; and Caroline Schmidt, Williamsville East High School.

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