When Joseph Sleap, ’08, attended Kenmore West High School, he impressed his teachers with his positive attitude, athletic involvement, community service, and academic achievements despite the challenges of dyslexia. He didn’t realize the impression he had made, however, until he was presented with the Robert J. Lamendola Scholarship during an awards ceremony in his senior year, a scholarship that resulted from teacher nominations.
“I was blown away,” he said.
The $5,000 renewable scholarship would cover Sleap’s tuition throughout his time at Buffalo State, provided that he maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average, which he did. In fact, the scholarship motivated him to study so hard that he rarely went out at night.
“I didn’t party as much as my friends, but it was worth it,” he said.
He graduated without any debt and was able to purchase his first home at age 23. Sleap also landed a full-time job in customer service and sales at NOCO, a family-owned fuel distribution company, where he had interned as a student. He credits the staff in Buffalo State’s Disability Services Office and the accommodations he received with his success in school.
“There is no way I would have survived otherwise,” he said.
Highlights of his time at Buffalo State include studying for seven months in Amsterdam and participating in a choreographed dance performance. A longtime gymnast, Sleap prepared for an entire year for the performance. “It is something I always wanted to do,” he said.
Insurance consultant Robert Lamendola, ’72, created the Lamendola Scholarship in 2001 for one graduate each year from the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District. The scholarship alternates between Kenmore East and Kenmore West high schools. To be eligible, students must prove themselves academically and show a commitment to community service.
“I had a good measure of success in my business career,” Lamendola said, and he felt compelled to give back to the working-class neighborhood in which he grew up. His parents couldn’t afford to send him to college, so he joined the military and then enrolled in school on the GI Bill. He knows how increasingly difficult it is for families to afford college, noting that Buffalo State is still one of the best values around. And he remembers his Buffalo State years fondly.
“It was such a great experience,” he said. “I dreamt about doing something for Buffalo State.”