Skip Navigation
Regional News
I thought about raising a kid where we were... and I realized how hard it was going to be.

Brain Drain 4: a young person who came back

Listen to this story
All week we've been examining the exodus of young people in upstate New York. In our final story, Innovation Trail's Ryan Morden visits with the exception, not the rule: a person who left upstate New York for life in a nearby big city, but ultimately moved back.

Support for the Innovation Trail comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Hear this

Download audio

Share this

Explore this


When Vanessa Rose left Syracuse for college on Long Island in the early 90s, she never saw herself doing what she's doing now: teaching fourth graders at an elementary school in Manlius, just outside of Syracuse.

At 38 years old, married, and a mother of three (you'll hear from one of the little ones in a second). Rose was raised in Syracuse and left after graduating Nottingham High School.

ROSE: "I wanted to have the experience of living in a big city. I like to go out a lot, I like to be very active, keep myself busy."

There was a lot NYC could offer that Syracuse couldn't. Rose was part of a robust theater community, worked as a waitress, and did:.

ROSE: "...event planning, and things like that. And it really seemed, again, that the metropolitan area was the place—you couldn't come to Syracuse to become an event planner, because what events are going on in Syracuse."

And there's a way bigger dating pool. After striking out several times in the dating scene, she met who would eventually become her husband...but it was in an atypical way: In front of an audience at a theater.

ROSE: "A friend of mine is a producer, and she was producing a theatrical version of the dating game and he was bachelor number 2."

KEECH: "I was doing shows there on Friday nights."

That's Rose's husband, Ken Keech, who was working as a stand-up comedian at the time, and got pulled into the dating game. They developed a rapport right on stage. Later on, Keech called her up and asked her out on a date.

KEECH: "Fell in love on that first date I'd say, then the rest is history."

Keech was heavily involved with the group Improve Everywhere. They're the god father of group pranks on unsuspecting crowds, like flash mobs. He and Rose was instrumental in once such event where approximately two dozen people did synchronized swimming in a fountain in New York City.

Rose helped choreograph the stunt, that's her husband Ken on the megaphone. But a life of viral internet glitz and glamour had its tipping point.

ROSE: "New York had exhausted me."

Being financially and emotionally exhausted, plus a major life change caused Rose to reconsider big city life.

ROSE: "I got pregnant. I thought about raising a kid where we were, and where we were living (which is what we could afford). It didn't have the appeal to me. Then we had the kid, and I realized how hard it was going to be and I needed some family support."

The idealistic dreams that brought Rose to New York did not include living in a dingy basement apartment in Queens with a new baby on the way. For all the draw of New York City, Rose says there are some things that only Syracuse can offer.

ROSE: "I want a better quality life for myself. I want to own a house. I want to be able to have some square money, I want to have full support from my family."

And deep down, Rose knew that big city lifestyle wasn't going to be permanent.

ROSE: "I think it was fun for me to play out some dreams and do that, but I think there was also a part of me always knew was—all I really wanted to do was find somebody I loved, have children, and have a house. There was such a part of me that wanted that too."

Rose says she has a fulfilling life now, she's involved with local arts and young professionals groups. But people always ask her if she misses New York City, her answer: just my friends and the food.

Visitor comments


NCPR is supported by:

This is a Visitor-Supported website.