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Andrew Lunetta ’12

Like many recent college graduates, Andrew Lunetta ’12 was intent on seeing the world.

It’s safe to say that he is well on his way to achieving that goal.

Just one day after receving his degree from Le Moyne, Lunetta and his girlfriend, Anna Kozachuk, set out on a cross-country bike ride from Syracuse to San Francisco, Calif., in order to raise funds for the Brady Faith Center, an organization committed to meeting the spiritual, educational and social needs of individuals and families in southwest Syracuse. Over 60 days, the duo traveled a total of 3,899 miles, 3,794 of those by bike and the remainder by train, ferry or car. They endured two punctured tires, read seven books and consumed 19 jars of peanut butter. And perhaps most importantly, they raised approximately $5,000 for the Brady Faith Center.

Traveling across country by bike has long been a dream of Lunetta’s. His grandparents took a similar trip, riding from Syracuse to Sandy, Ore., nearly 30 years ago. And connecting the trip to an organization that he cares deeply about was a natural fit. A peace and global studies major, Lunetta became involved in the Syracuse community shortly after arriving at Le Moyne in the fall of 2008. He founded the Le Moyne College Sandwich Makers, an organization that provides a bag lunches to the guests of a local soup kitchen; established a drop-in center for the residents of a Syracuse men’s shelter; and participated in several service trips sponsored by Campus Ministry.

Along with former Syracuse University women’s basketball coach Keith Cieplicki, Lunetta also established Pedal to Possibilities, an organization dedicated to providing homeless men and women in Syracuse with exercise and companionship through regular bike rides. The concept is simple. After completing 10 rides, participants are given a bicycle, along with a lock and helmet. The outcome, however, has been remarkable. To date, the participants have traveled more than 20,000 miles together. These rides begin at the Brady Faith Center, so Lunetta and Kozachuk  decided to begin their cross-country journey there as well, and to use their adventure as a way to help the center.

“It really is where I feel most comfortable,” Lunetta said of the center. “It is such a loving space for the residents or anyone else who wants to spend time there.”

Several participants of Pedal to Possibilities joined them on the first 22-mile leg of their journey from Syracuse to Jordan, N.Y., and friends and family followed the rest of their journey through a blog they kept detailing the highs and lows of their trip – from pedaling through 30- to 45-mile-per-hour winds in Kearney, Neb., to spending a few days relaxing with friends when they finally made it to their final destination in San Francisco.

Now that have returned from their trip, Kozachuk is completing her senior year at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, while Lunetta is continuing to lead the Pedal to Possibilities program at the Brady Faith Center. He recently signed a lease on a five-bedroom house on Syracuse’s Midland Avenue, not far from the Brady Faith Center, which is being called Possibilities House. It offers several graduates of Pedal to Possibilities “a safe, sober place to live.”

As for whether there is another cross-country trek in his future, Lunetta says that is a definite possibility.

“Absolutely. I loved being out on the road.”
 

Juan Francisco Villa ’99

Actors are first and foremost storytellers. It is rare, however, for the story they are telling to be their own.

Juan Francisco Villa ’99 is breaking with that convention and sharing stories from his life growing up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side during the 1980s and early1990s in a one-man show he wrote titled Empanada for a Dream. While Villa has been acting for years, this is in many ways the most challenging role he has undertaken. It has required him to reveal deeply personal details about his life and moments that have helped shape him into the person he is today. And he wasn’t sure how his family and friends – who figure prominently in the show – would react to it. That made the project a risk, but one he was willing to take.

Villa doesn’t mind taking chances. As a child, he loved to read aloud. When he was in fourth grade and rain kept him and his classmates from going outside for recess, he made the most of it by reading The Emperor’s New Clothes aloud to the fourth, fifth and six graders. It isn’t clear if he knew that he was acting, but he certainly knew that he was having fun. Then as a junior at LaSalle Academy, the Jesuit high school he attended, he was cast in a production of Pippin. Villa was hooked. It was a respite from his neighborhood he said where his friends “were no longer about creating things like we did when we were kids, but were more and more about destroying things, causing trouble and telling jokes that were becoming rougher and rougher.” Villa remained involved in theater as a senior at LaSalle, delving into Shakespeare and Voltaire, and continuing to find his voice.

“Theater woke me up,” he said. “I felt good.”

When he arrived at Le Moyne in the fall of 1995, it didn’t take Villa long to find his way to the Firehouse, then epicenter of theater on campus, where he says he “wasn’t just welcomed, but embraced.” He spent much of the next four years working on shows for Major Arcana and Boot and Buskin. Former Director of Theater Bill Morris and Associate Professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures Orlando Ocampo introduced him to plays written by Latino and Latina writers. It was, he recalled, “a whole new world.  No more cramped apartment. No more cramped neighborhood. No more cramped city.”

It wasn’t clear that acting was to become his vocation, though. After graduation, Villa found a job working for Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) as the youngest manager ever hired off of the street. For two-and-a-half years, he says, he was “living the American dream.” Then he saw two films that helped him to realize what he truly wanted to do and helped him to set a new course for his life. The first was the HBO documentary Freak starring Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor John Leguizamo, based on his own life growing up in New York City. The second was a PBS documentary highlighting the rich history of theater in Chicago. He suddenly knew what he wanted to do, and where he felt he had to go to do it.

At 25, without knowing anyone in Chicago, Villa moved there. He began to auditioning and working as a teaching artist, training children in acting and encouraging them to write their stories. During this time, though, Villa began to notice that many of the parts he was earning were for characters who were dark, or battling something, and began wonder why. He realized that a lot of things about his childhood – issues of violence, in particular – were tugging at him. That eventually led him back to New York City, and to a training program where students are taught to create stories that are inspired by their lives. Villa began to think seriously about he felt about his family, his neighborhood and his country. He began to write in a journal every day, and that became the basis for Empanada.

The chance Villa took on Empanada has paid off. His family and friends came to see the show on its opening night and were ultimately very supportive, and it has earned great critical acclaim. After performances this spring in New York City at the Solo Nova Arts Festival and a sold-out run with Ballybeg at the Barrow Group Theater, it moved to the Yo Solo Festival in Chicago this summer.This fall, Empanada was staged at the Los Angeles Theater Center, where it was produced by the Latino Theater Company.

As for the future, it has been suggested that Empanada could become a feature film of television series. Villa also hopes to return to Le Moyne to perform and to work with some of the College’s theater students – to have the opportunity to give back. He recalled what Bill Morris used to say when he was a student in his class: “I’m not interested in creating actors. I’m more interested in creating humanitarians.”

“I am so grateful to my teachers for their persistence,” Villa said. “They never caved in and they never gave up on me, and that is a testament to Le Moyne.” 

 

 

Andy Parrino ’09

Andrew Lunetta

Parrino crouches to field a ball during a game as a San Diego Padre (left) and he enters the field before a game (right).

Le Moyne College alumnus Andy Parrino ’09 became the latest former Dolphin to reach the Major Leagues when he made his debut with the San Diego Padres on Aug. 26, 2011 as they took on the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks won, 5-0.

In November 2012, Parrino was traded from the Padres to the Oakland Athletics. He's expected to be in the mix to become the A's starting shortstop for the 2013 season.

Parrino started each of his three years as a Dolphin before being drafted by the Padres in the 26th round of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft, after his junior year. He became just the seventh player in the program’s history to reach the Major Leagues and just the second infielder to do so.

In 150 games as a Dolphin, Parrino hit .350, the seventh-highest record in the program’s Division I-era, with a .434 on-base percentage (6th), 201 hits (tied for 8th), 122 runs scored (10th), 98 runs batted in, 41 doubles (tied for 9th) and 15 home runs. As a junior, he was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year, a third team All-America selection by ABCA/Rawlings and Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and led the Dolphins to the MAAC Championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. That same year Parrino hit .402 (7th on the program’s single-season charts) with 80 hits (2nd), 128 total bases (4th), 46 runs scored, 44 runs batted in, 17 doubles (T7th) and nine home runs.