So tell us the abridged version of the John DeSantis story. (A little bit on your background, how old you are, where you work, college?, previous employment?)
I grew up in DeWitt, went to J-D and then Syracuse University. I graduated with a Bachelors degree in 2008. After getting some good work experience in other parts of the country, I decided I wanted to bring my experience back home to Syracuse. I built a stable career here until in 2012, I was asked twice by my employer to move and eventually lost my job because Syracuse was not important enough. By that time, most of my friends I went to J-D and SU with had left Syracuse for other parts of the country. I decided Syracuse needed an advocate. While I was unemployed I got very involved in the community and saw some incredible people working hard making Syracuse a better place. I also saw Syracuse make some incredible progress. Downtown has risen from the dead and that energy is spreading to our neighborhoods. Early in 2013 I was hired by the Alzheimer's Association, Central New York chapter and founded Believe in Syracuse.
Would you describe yourself as a positive person?
Not always. When the Syracuse University basketball team loses I can be quite a downer.
What is Believe in Syracuse and what prompted you to found it?
Believe in Syracuse is a grassroots organization with the mission of spreading the word about the great things happening here. Our message is that Syracuse is a city on the rise. We communicate that message through social media, traditional media and by organizing events. We're open to everyone and folks can learn more and get involved by visiting BelieveInSyracuse.org.
I founded Believe in Syracuse because of my friends from high school and SU moving away, because all too often Syracuseans are cynical and negative about their community, and because of my love for Syracuse. I love Syracuse because it has the culture and excitement of a big city and yet has wonderful neighborhoods that feel like home.
What is its goal?
Our goal is to get more people to believe in Syracuse. What can result from that are a growth in Syracuse's population, a better civic dialogue, more personal ambition and happiness, elevating Syracuse on the national stage and getting our local institutions to think bigger. If we believe in our community and work together, there's nothing we can't accomplish.
Tell us about the Dear Syracuse with Love billboards
Dear Syracuse With Love is a project of the Connective Corridor and the Syracuse New Times. People can submit a love letter to Syracuse through the project and could be selected to be on a billboard at the corner of Fayette and West streets in Downtown Syracuse. Believe in Syracuse has worked hard to promote the project and has collected many love letter submissions. Personally I submitted a love letter and it was featured on the billboard for the month of October.
How many members does Believe in Syracuse have? What kind of events have members been involved in?
As a grassroots organization anyone who shares our mission is a member. The number is hard to quantify but between our social media sites we have over 4,000 followers. Hundreds of people have showed up to our events. We have had neighborhood events and networking nights to celebrate the progress Syracuse has made. We have also been part of that progress by volunteering in neighborhood cleanups and by serving breakfast to the homeless and hungry of Syracuse. Folks can find out about our future events and join them by visiting BelieveInSyracuse.org.
What are three reasons to believe in Syracuse?
- Syracuse has a perfect balance. It has a booming downtown, exciting culture in its neighborhoods and yet it is a great place to live and raise a family. It's the perfect sized city.
- In contrast to downstate, Syracuse is one of the most affordable places to live in the country. CNN Money ranked it #1 for affordability in 2010.
- Syracuse is on the rise. We got knocked down in the late 1900's but our people are resilient and we're getting back up. There are so many inspiring people working hard to make Syracuse better.
Is there any reason not to believe in Syracuse?
I understand where the cynicism about Syracuse comes from. We had 5 decades of steep population and job losses. Today however, there is no reason not to believe in Syracuse. We have our share of problems but we are moving forward. If we believe in our community and work together, there's nothing we can't accomplish in Syracuse.
If you Believe in Syracuse, chip in $10 or whatever you can to help us get our message out there. Click Here or go to http://www.believeinsyracuse.org/contribute.html