The city of Syracuse and its outlying suburbs are doing everything they can to keep young people. If you can believe everything you read, professionals under 35 are leaving the area in droves — heading to warmer climes, higher pay and better jobs.
It’s called the brain drain, the exodus of young professionals from the Syracuse area to other cities. According to a study done by consultant Catalytix Inc. for the Syracuse Metropolitan Development Association’s Essential New York Initiative, Syracuse’s suburbs have been steadily losing a greater percentage of their under-35 population than any of the other top 102 metropolitan areas in the country.
But it seems that more and more Liverpool graduates are bucking the trend. Recent Liverpool High School grads are deciding to stay in the area and taking positions that help the community. Liverpool alums are employed as teachers in the district, accountants and businesspeople and communications professionals. The editor of The Review is herself a Liverpool grad.
While some stay after graduation, immediately entering the workforce or going to college nearby, others leave for greener pastures and find they miss home and return. So what keeps them (or brings them back)? Four recent grads presented a number of reasons that they still call Liverpool home.
Those who stayed
Rick Roberts, a 2000 graduate, is the afternoon disc jockey for 93Q, owned by Citadel Broadcasting. He attended Onondaga Community College after graduation and has worked for 93Q since his high school days.
“I worked here during high school — full-time as a senior,” Roberts said. “The school was very accommodating to me during that time.”
Andrew Casamento, now a second-grade teacher at Wetzel Road Elementary School, graduated in 1998. He went to the State University of New York College at Cortland, mastering in education. Upon his graduation when he began seeking a teaching job, he found few districts could compare to Liverpool.
“I almost took a job in Virginia,” Casamento said. “But the cost of living was too high — the pay would barely cover rent. I turned it down.”
Casamento started looking closer to home and ended up at Liverpool, where he has been for the last five years.
“The cost of living is very good here,” he said. “It just makes financial sense to stay. Liverpool is one of the top-paying districts in the area. It’s very competitive.”
Both Roberts and Casamento also said they stayed to be close to their families — and to raise children of their own.
“It’s a great area to raise kids,” Roberts said. “I got married in Liverpool. I want to raise a family here.”
Both are involved in serving their communities; Roberts donates his time to speak at schools about careers in radio, and Casamento coaches Liverpool’s seventh-grade modified football team. And they plan to stick around.
“I love it here,” Roberts said.
Those who came back
Other recent graduates found that the grass wasn’t greener elsewhere and decided to return to Liverpool to build their lives. Jason Rookey, a French teacher at Chestnut Hill Middle School and ’95 grad, and Korey O’Malley, who graduated in 1997 and teaches math at the high school, both returned after a few years away.
“I went to Geneseo and stayed in the Rochester area for a while after graduation,” Rookey said. “I wanted to see what was out there, but I knew I’d be much happier here.”
After marrying and having children, Rookey and his wife decided to move back to Liverpool. “We wanted free babysitters,” he said with a laugh. “Plus, being away, I would think about the stuff I was missing. Everything I grew up with was here. I wanted to pass all of that along to my kids.”
Like Casamento, Rookey was lucky enough to find a job teaching in Liverpool. “I had my heart set on Liverpool, but I was willing to take what was available,” he said. “I was offered a job at Fayetteville-Manlius. But when Liverpool called, there was no doubt in my mind where I’d end up.”
O’Malley had a similar experience. She attended Hamilton College in Clinton and spent some time in the village of Hamilton in Madison County.
“All of the colleges that I looked at were within four hours of home,” O’Malley said. “I wanted to be close to my family.”
Looking for a change, O’Malley enrolled in graduate school at the University of Massachusetts’ Amherst campus as part of their doctoral program in math. “It was four and a half hours away,” she said. “I was a little miserable. I had a feeling I wanted to come home. If grad school was going to be this hard, I was going to need my family around me.”
O’Malley transferred to Syracuse University and finished her degree. She then took a job at Liverpool, where she was able to get back into her other love: sports.
“They didn’t really have sports for grad students at Amherst,” she said. “I was glad to come back and get back into sports here.”
Like Rookey, Casamento and Roberts, O’Malley plans to stay. “I don’t ever plan to move very far away,” she said. “I see a future for myself in this area”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.