Story By Emma Fox, ’22 | Photos by Liam McGurl, ’17, ’19
“In the jungle, the mighty jungle / The lion sleeps tonight…”
Cue a group of fifth-graders in their middle school’s chorus room passing time between classes, belting out this classic by Solomon Linda like nobody was listening.
That is, until they were.
The group of friends were asked to perform the song during the North Collins Jr./Sr. High School talent show their seventh-grade year.
Practicing intensely until the day of the show, their performance earned a standing ovation and from then on, the school’s first acapella group was formed.
Group member and now St. Bonaventure University freshman Nate Nicotera has fond memories of that day, and many others following it. He was also able to claim the title of first tenor in chorus and eventually tenor section leader. He landed major roles in school productions such as “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Footloose,” all while maintaining A’s and taking advanced placement courses.
Yet the small school in North Collins, New York, with a graduating class of 70 students, was not without its challenges.
Throughout his life, Nicotera felt something about him was not quite like others in his town, which offered less in the way of diversity than a larger city. While he still values the close-knit feeling of connection he found within that community, the need he felt to fit in caused him to repress a key part of his identity — his sexuality.
His senior year of high school, Nicotera found the courage to break outside the mold.
“When I told my best friend that I was gay, it was extremely stressful, but relieving at the same time,” he said. “It took a lock off something I’d been hiding for a while.”
He explained that after realizing his own sexuality, it helped him to see and accept the differences in other people he did not before.
Today, he is a member of Spectrum, a campus club dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ community and promoting a supportive, inclusive environment.
“My biggest fear was not being able to make friends in college, but I met them very quickly,” he said.
He has also landed the role of Dwight in Bona’s upcoming theater production of “Dead Man’s Cellphone,” and has enjoyed focusing on his major, biochemistry.
“I’ve always loved the sciences,” he said, noting that biochemistry is a perfect fit for him.
His hope is to one day earn a Ph.D. and work in the field of oncology research. He’s known too many people who have suffered with cancer. “I want to keep others from going through that,” he said.
He credits Dr. Xiaoning Zhang, director of the biochemistry program, for lighting a fire in him.
A personal goal for Nicotera is to earn a summer fellowship of field research. “Only four students are selected to work with Dr. Zhang each summer,” he said. He hopes to one day be among that select group.
“Nate is dedicated and has good work ethics,” said Dr. Zhang. “He has a desire to learn and grow academically. He has settled in and seems to really embrace what the campus has to offer. I hope he continues to strengthen himself in the biochemistry program and becomes an inspiration for future students.”
For now, Nicotera is focused on exploring the challenges and opportunities of his major and the many clubs and activities the campus has to offer.
“Whenever I talk to alumni, it’s always an overwhelmingly positive conversation,” he said. “Multiple people so far have come up to me and said, ‘Listen, you’re not going to regret Bona’s,’ and so far, I don’t see how I could.”
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #1 regional university value in New York and #2 in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition.
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