There are people who are filled with love and passion for their home town, then there’s Emily Mielcarek, who lives and breathes Buffalo, New York.
She loves hot dogs, but of course, they have to be Sahlen’s, because if they’re not Sahlen’s, are they really even hot dogs? Her chicken wings need to be crispy and hot but not too saucy, and for the love of all things holy, please do not say anything that could be construed as negative towards the Buffalo Bills. Needless to say, she has every intention of returning to her home.
While it was tough to leave Buffalo and come to Waynesburg University, Mielcarek saw an opportunity at the school that few others offered: the ability to get involved in the theatre program right away. That was part of her criteria while choosing schools. She looked for a school that would offer an international studies major with a minor in theatre, and Waynesburg fit the mold.
“Before I came to Waynesburg, and I was looking at schools, I kind of always held the idea of musical theatre in the back of my brain,” said Mielcarek. “I didn’t think it was plausible because I wouldn’t necessarily get a job, but I’ve always loved theatre, so when I came to Waynesburg and realized they had a small, hands-on theatre department that would allow me to get involved backstage, onstage and taking theatre classes, it definitely sparked my interest.”
Now a graduating senior, Mielcarek just finished her 13th theatre production at Waynesburg, but it only represents a small fraction of the 43 productions she has been a part of throughout her musical career – a career in which she has no intentions of walking away from any time in the near future.
“Buffalo has a thriving theatre community, so I have the opportunity to get involved in professional, semi-professional, regional and community theatre,” said Mielcarek. “I intend to audition for the “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Niagara Falls Regional Theatre for the summer.”
Beyond, theatre, however, Mielcarek has developed a soft spot for helping people, and specifically, refugees. Buffalo is home to a large refugee population and Mielcarek wants to be a part of that process in some capacity.
While working with an organization called Love Buffalo, Mielcarek learned of her passion and desire to work with these types of people. She recalled working with a Nigerian man who bought a Buffalo house for $1 and how much the experience working in his house – especially with how hospitable the family was toward them, made her see how much she would love to continue doing it.
She also viewed her 2016 Spring Semester experience in Ireland as a turning point in what she saw herself doing in the future. For a while, she was stuck on the idea of attending law school and concentrating on human rights litigation. However, just before she flew to Ireland, she cancelled her LSAT’s exam, and her experience overseas reaffirmed her decision to become an educator.
“Buffalo has such a large immigrant population, and I can look at experiences with Love Buffalo and working downtown for five summers and working with refugees for five summers,” she said. “All those experiences that I’ve had have been these little, tiny minor moments that I look back and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.’ I definitely think that teaching and helping in the resurgence of Buffalo is where I’m supposed to be. Buffalo is the greatest place in the world, and go Bills!”