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Remembering the first day of kindergarten

   Everybody remembers their first day of kindergarten, right?

   My teacher's name was Mrs. Yates. We had nap time, which I thought was silly because I wasn't tired.

   And my family had moved the day before. When I walked home the first day, I couldn't find our new home in the new neighborhood. I wandered up and down the streets, and the houses all looked the same to me. I was an inch shy of panic, and then I found a boy from my class who was lost too, so we walked together.

   Finally, a car pulled up next to me. I don't think I was ever so glad to see my mother, and she probably was just as glad to see me.

   The next day, my older sister (who was going to a different school) met me at the door, and we counted the streets until we got to Yarmouth Road, our new street, picking out the mailbox on the corner as the landmark for where to turn.

   Feel free to tell us about your first day.

-- Barbara O'Brien

Gaffney is last casualty of Studio Arena's collapse

   Studio Arena Theatre announced late Tuesday afternoon that Artistic Director Kathleen A. Gaffney has been terminated.

   The theater veteran and Niagara Falls native returned to Western New York in early 2006 with high hopes of reviving the regional playhouse. But she was undone after less than two full seasons by suffocating debt, which forced Studio to cancel the last two productions of the 2007-08 season and seek protection from creditors under the Bankruptcy Act.

   The organization will move forward as Studio Arena in name only, with Shea's Performing Arts Center expected to take over management of the Main Street stage.

   "Our primary mission is to preserve the building as a theater," said Daniel A. Dintino, Studio Arena board president.

   Gaffney and managing director Iain Campbell, who has accepted a theater position elsewhere  according to Dintino, were Studio's last two paid employees.

   Did Gaffney get a fair shake in her struggle to bring Studio Arena back? Let us  know what you think.

   --Tom Buckham

Gang offers opportunity for troubled youths

   Gays and gamblers are not welcome.

   Users of hard drugs are not welcome, but it is all right to sell hard drugs.

   If you belong to the organization, that membership is more important than friends, family and even God.

   It's all part of the written code of the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation, a nationwide gang whose West Side chapter is under investigation by the FBI, State Police, Buffalo Police and other law enforcement agencies.

   According to the feds, the Latin Kings have more than 50 members in Buffalo and are actively recruiting young people to join up and sell drugs.

   The big problem is this: some young people on the West Side believe joining a street gang is about the best opportunity available to them.

   Several organizations, including Hispanics United of Buffalo, are trying to provide better, safer alternatives for young people. That organization's executive director, Lourdes Iglesias, said education -- and not crime -- is the best route for young people to fight their way out of poverty.

   But more opportunities are needed, said Jacob Corchado, a West Side electrician.

   "There's more gang opportunity for these kids right now than there is job opportunity," Corchado said. "So you do the math."

   Do readers have any thoughts on how to put young people on a better, safer path in their lives?

  -- Dan Herbeck


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