NEXT GENERATION: Maria Panuccio knows importance of faith

Maria Panuccio embarked on a new chapter in her life this fall. She’s a college student. Maria’s enjoying the freedom her new life gives her but remains grounded in the lessons she learned from her family and church.

You graduated from Proctor High School in June and have just started your freshman year at SUNY Cortland. How is the transition going?

The transition is actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. It’s a huge adjustment because your life is completely changing and everything is different from what you’re used to. I love it so far though.

I know it’s been only a short time, but what do you like about college and what’s your least-favorite part?

College is great. It is really nice to be on my own and to be able to do my own thing. It’s also fun meeting new people. My least favorite part is the definitely the workload.

You were selected one of 30 Observer-Dispatch Teen All-Stars this year. What does that honor mean to you?

I was really shocked when I was nominated, let alone selected. It was exciting knowing that out of so many kids in the area, I was selected.

You worked part time at Nicky Doodle’s to help pay for college. Do you think all young people should work part time while in school?

It really just depends on the individual. Everyone is different and is under different financial circumstances. I do think that a job is important because it teaches responsibility.

Dancing also is an important part of your life. What has that activity meant to you?

Being away at college and not dancing has made me realize that dance means a lot more than I thought. I never thought I would say this, but I miss dancing at least four days a week. Dance has taught me that even though you may not be the best, to never give up and to push yourself to be the best you can be.

You grew up at Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament. What place does the parish have in your heart?

Whenever I walk into the church, I feel at home. Everyone and everything here is so familiar to me, especially since my family is so active in the church.

Your family is deeply rooted in faith. Tell me a bit how that upbringing and your faith has guided your life.

In my house, God comes first. We say prayers before meals, have to attend Mass every week and there is hardly ever a conversation where God isn’t mentioned. While I was growing up, I used to get annoyed with that, but now that I am older and more mature, I realize how important that is. My faith has helped me to get through hard times, and I know that there is always something I can turn to when things don’t work out the way I plan.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave to you?

When I was a little girl, my grandma used to always sing the song, “Que Sera Sera,” which means “what will be will be.” That is the best advice because you cannot control what fate has in store for you.

What’s the best advice you can offer to people your age?

There is a lot of pressure and stress put on people my age. I would probably just say to be yourself no matter what, and that everything happens for a reason, even though it may not be the outcome you want.

What do you hope the future holds for Maria?

I hope to finish college with a good GPA and get a good job in the field of speech pathology/audiology or deaf education. I hope to travel the world and one day fall in love and get married. But for now, I’ll just enjoy every moment.

MARIA PANUCCIO

Age: 18.

Family: Mom Terri, Dad Nick, older sister Nicole and younger brother Vinny.

Education: 2013 graduate of Thomas R. Proctor High School and current freshman at SUNY Cortland.

Favorite TV shows: “Glee” and “Pretty Little Liars.”

Favorite movie: “Bride Wars.”

Favorite book: “The Outsiders.”

Things you like to do: Bake, hang out with family and friends, eat ice cream.