Buffalo Game Changers: Joseph Hanna



Joseph Hanna is one of Buffalo Spree's 2012 Game Changers

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“We need to bring leaders and mentors into the schools and show students what they do with their lives. Because if the next generation is able to tackle school subjects, advance their own causes, and have a better understanding of what’s happening in the world, they’ll certainly make a difference.”

For Buffalo attorney Joseph Hanna, positive change for WNY begins with the simple fundamentals of inclusion and outreach. His community work is focused on promoting diversity and supporting active members and veterans of the US military—all of which, he believes, adds up to a stronger future. “It’s all about making connections with those who might otherwise be forgotten or overlooked,” Hanna says.

Hanna, a thirty-two-year-old partner at Goldberg Segalla LLP and the immediate past president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (MBAWNY), initiated an annual diversity networking event called Success in the City that now draws over 500 students, business and community leaders, politicians, and others from all walks of life with a goal of sparking mentoring relationships, job placements, and business partnerships. He is a frequent speaker and mentor to high school and college students, and last year, he began a diversity-focused clerkship program year in partnership with the University at Buffalo Law School and the MBAWNY. Hanna’s nonprofit Bunkers in Baghdad (which was profiled in the March 2012 issue of Spree) collects donated golf equipment to aid injured US soldiers across the world and here in Erie County with their rehabilitation. Hanna has been lauded nationally and regionally for these efforts.

Game changing starts with education, especially in the city, Hanna says. “Implementing a mentoring program with the Buffalo schools would be a step in the right direction. I think there has to be more of an effort from the members of our business community—actually, from all sectors, and all walks of life,” he explains.  “We need to bring leaders and mentors into the schools and show students what they do with their lives. Because if the next generation is able to tackle school subjects, advance their own causes, and have a better understanding of what’s happening in the world, they’ll certainly make a difference.”

Next, he says, breaking down the city/suburbs divide is crucial: “Buffalo is one of the most segregated cities in our country. A lot of people come into this city to work and they immediately go home. Programs geared toward changing that will create a better community. Success in the City is that basic concept—we need to find more ways to introduce people to one another. As basic as that sounds, I think it’s that simple. It doesn’t have to be some overwhelming, down-your-throat way of doing it. Social interaction will make the community a better place.”

He also points to capitalizing on the power of the area’s strong veteran population, with their critical leadership experience and skill sets, as a potential game changer: “If we do that—if we build more programs like WNYHeroes, the Center for Veterans and Veteran Family Services at Daemen College, and the other great programs that are out there—these efforts will make Western New York a better place.”

Speculating on what he might be doing if he weren’t an attorney in Buffalo, Hanna says, “In another life, there are three things I would do: I would be a third-string quarterback in a warm-weather city; I’d be golfing on the PGA Tour; and, once I reach the requisite age, I would be president of the United States.”

 

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