By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA–Cornell University released just two students from its wait list this year. One of them was Niskayuna senior Bianca Viscusi. Though she had previously planned to go to Union College, her path changed in an instant when her phone rang during a technology class. The caller’s area code got her hopes up.
“It said from Ithaca, NY, so I thought oh, maybe I should answer it!” Viscusi said. Once she got the good news that she had been invited to attend the Ivy League institution, she accepted in seconds.
“The were like, ‘Ok, well, why don’t you talk it over with your parents first?” she said with a laugh.
Janice Lindsay, a business teacher and advisor for several clubs Viscusi has participated in, said the offer didn’t surprise her at all.
“Bianca is one of those rare students that literally has the whole package,” Lindsay said. Viscusi has had much academic success, but her teacher is more impressed by the work she does for others.
“Right from the minute she started her freshman year, she came in looking to better the school, looking to contribute, looking to get involved,” Lindsay said.
Viscusi’s lengthy resume of service at Niskayuna High School includes a three-year stint as president of Key Club, the school’s largest service organization, as well as student director of Youth Court, a program that allows high school students to determine the sentencing for juvenile offenders who have already admitted guilt to small crimes like petit larceny and alcohol use.
The Albany Business Review recognized Viscusi as a student to watch in their 2014 “40 Under 40” awards ceremony, and Viscusi even has a patent pending after her team won second place in an RPI contest for young, entrepreneurially-minded engineers. In her spare time, she dances at the Orlando School of Dance in Schenectady.
However, her proudest achievement is connected to a loved one: her aunt, a breast cancer survivor. As a sophomore, Viscusi established a yearly fundraiser during which hairstylists from a local salon visited the school and put in pink hair extensions for students in exchange for donations. During its third year, the event raised $700.
Viscusi hopes the event will continue through the Key Club after her graduation. It has already grown through Lindsay’s daughter, a Scotia student who replicated the fundraiser at her own school.
Inspiring others is a large reason why Viscusi dedicates herself to so much community service; she said she works to teach her peers that helping others can be fun. “You’re not only doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for everyone else,” she said. “That may sound cheesy but it’s actually true.
“I don’t only pass it forward for people in my school,” she continued. “My little sister, she’s coming to high school next year, so hopefully she’ll follow in my footsteps.”
Viscusi’s relationship with her sister is one of the only things that makes her decision to attend Cornell difficult. “We’re really close and I’m definitely going to miss her next year,” she said. “I thought I was only going to be ten minutes away, but I’m going to be three hours away.”
If you had to pick an animal to represent you, what would it be?
A cheetah. They’re really fast. Or a fish, because they just swim and hang out. Maybe I’d be the rainbow fish, the one that has the pretty scales.
What’s your all-time favorite children’s book?
Mine was “Goodnight, Moon.” I didn’t actually read it, because my mom read it to me so many times I could just recite the whole book.
If you were going to compete on the show So You Think You Can Dance, what song would you pick for your big audition?
My recital song was Gypsy by Lady Gaga. I like that song and the dance. I think I would do a jazz piece, because you can get technical but you can also have fun and act it out.
If you could have a vacation home anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Ogunquit, Maine. I’ve been going there forever. I like to walk down the beach and look at the houses. I love it even though the water’s a little cold.
With reality as no object, what’s your dream career?
I’d be a patent lawyer for a big company so I’d have a lot of responsibilities. I want to dress up and wear high shoes in New York City, that kind of thing. But be smart, too!