Until Thursday, Silvana C. D'Ettorre had never given a public speech.
That changed in a big way as the University at Buffalo sophomore and Grand Island native stood before thousands of people in Alumni Arena and welcomed President Barack H. Obama to Western New York.
"I never imagined myself doing this," D'Ettorre, an exercise science major who plans to enroll in UB's School of Dental Medicine, said prior to her speech.
D'Ettorre, 19, spoke after UB President Satish K. Tripathi kicked off the historic occasion by noting that the university has been praised for its innovative efforts to provide students with an affordable yet world-class education.
With Obama ready to speak about issues important to America's middle class, such as the rising cost of higher education, Tripathi noted that UB is an ideal venue for such a discussion.
With roughly 29,000 students spread over three campuses, UB is New York's largest public research university. D'Ettorre said her initial concerns about being "lost in the crowd" were quickly allayed after joining UB's undergraduate academies, which places together like-minded students with faculty and staff to enhance their academic, civil and personal growth.
"I never envisioned myself being so involved here," she said. "It's been a great experience."