Nicholas Irion in suit and mortar board

Nicholas Irion '17

From Say Yes to Buffalo State

Nicholas Irion, ’17, was one of the first Buffalo Public Schools students to be involved with the Say Yes to Education initiative. Through the program, Irion landed at Buffalo State, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

Wasting no time, he completed a master’s degree in educational leadership at Michigan State University and started classes at Duke University this past fall toward a master’s degree in divinity.

For Irion, Buffalo State provided the opportunity to flourish and grow as a student. It also gave him the experience to mentor other students from Say Yes.

The Say Yes program provides scholarships, grants, and academic support services for qualifying graduates of Buffalo public and charter schools. The program is privately funded.

“This is Buffalo’s school. This is Buffalo’s campus...We have a lot of students that come here and love it here." 

From Involvement to Mentoring

“I became active right away,” Irion said. “I was involved with different programs—student government, the College Senate, working with different faculty members on projects and running different programs at Buffalo State.”

Irion worked with Say Yes’s Summer Bridge program, where he mentored incoming Say Yes students. He also worked with the Center for Excellence in Urban and Rural Education, running after-school programs. In his role with the center, he had about 25 student assistants working under him.

Irion often found himself mentoring students who had nothing to do with the programs he was working with.

“I was working with primarily minority students who would come seeking help on campus, and they knew of me,” he said. “Different things, whether it was classwork, academics, or they needed help just going to the next level. It was just mentoring, which I’m very big on. I just did it because I felt it was my duty to give back to this campus that had done so much for me.”

Irion also credits Greek life on campus for some of the connections he’s made and successes he’s had. As a member of Omega Psi Phi, he became an advocate for student organizations. He made connections in the Career Development Center focusing on career counseling, and he was able to get mentoring programs started at several neighborhood schools by working with precollegiate programs.

Buffalo's School

“This is Buffalo’s school. This is Buffalo’s campus,” he said. “We have a lot of students that come here and love it here. Part of me working here was trying to make it more enjoyable for students. I had a good time, and it was part of my duty to make sure other students had a good time, whether they were part of my group of students or not. That’s what we do here.”

For incoming students, Irion said, it’s vital that they do more than the bare minimum to get by.

“Education is what you are here for,” he said. “Education is key. Education is the most important thing. With education comes experience, and you make it what it is. If you want to have fun, go and have fun. But make sure you’re putting that education part first.”

Students who immerse themselves on campus learn valuable networking and social skills, Irion said.

“You have to get out, get involved, get to know people,” he said. “You need that camaraderie.”

Irion is a pastor in Buffalo, and he plans to continue his pastoral duties in North Carolina as he completes his degree at Duke. He also plans to continue his mentoring work with Duke students and others he may run into.

“I may start my own mentoring program in the area that I’ll be in,” he said. 


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