If you really want to know Allen Conti, follow him around for a week, he advises.
You can find him in the classroom, and shelving books at the campus library. He’s dishing up lunch at the Hospitality Club’s weekly soup sale, and probably doing the set-up and breakdown, too. If there is a campus event of any note – the Hunger Banquet, Spring Fling, you name it – he is there, both pitching in and sharing his indomitable school spirit.
Both on campus and off, you’ll see him riding his bike — and he’s not deterred by the pouring rain.
“Give me a challenge. I love challenge!” he said with a smile.
Once you know Allen a little bit, you learn a little bit why he keeps so busy and pushes himself so hard.
He started his life in poverty, with his mother, brother and half-sister in California. Wanting a better life for her sons, his biological mom relinquished custody to their father and step-mother in Upstate New York when Allen was around 7.
“Since I’ve known what poor is, I’ve grown up to be a humble person,” he said.
Doctors told Allen’s family early on that he would never be able to ride a bike because of his disability. His family knew better and so did he, mastering his two-wheeled form of transportation.
He made sure he finished his diploma through Broome-Tioga BOCES, staying for an extra half-semester. When he was living in a group home, he decided he wanted to further his education and go to college.
Some doubted his ability to succeed, he remembered.
“That turned into motivation for me to go to college. Once I was accepted, I came here almost every day in the summer,” he said. “As I was progressing, people who doubted me were surprised. If I set my mind to do something and people say I can’t do it, I will do it. It may take some time, but I will do it and show them up.”
Allen lives independently now. After finishing his first degree – in Business Information Management – in May 2017, he’s now working on his second in Event Management.
After he graduates, he will look for a job in his chosen field.
“I love to be around people, helping people,” he said of his interest in Hospitality. “I don’t see myself at a desk for 8 hours a day. I like to stay active and not do the same thing every day.”
In the meantime, his life is centered on campus. He currently works in the library and also participates in the Hospitality Club, which puts on multiple events, including the weekly soup sales. As a BIM major, he joined Alpha Beta Gamma, the business honors society, which gave him the opportunity to travel to conferences through the East Coast.
“With each conference and trip, I meet new people and old friends, and I also learn a few things,” he said.
Allen does have one request for his fellow Hornets: Step up and become a part of campus life. Above all, honor your commitments. You’ll not only learn some useful life skills, but you’ll make plenty of new friends along the way – and find skills and strengths in yourself that you may have never imagined.