Take advantage of opportunities around you.
That’s what Chris Vaccaro has done, time after time, in his Long Island community of Sachem. That’s what he tries to instill in his journalism students at Hofstra University. That’s the living example he has displayed since age 15 at Sachem High School, where he began his sports journalism career and love of all things Sachem.
“I am fortunate to grow up and still live in today a community that just has a lot of pride in the opportunity that it provides its students, and I am a product of that,” Vaccaro said.
The product he’s referring to has taken him from the Southampton Press in the Hamptons on Long Island to the New York Daily News; from AOL’s Patch.com to his current jobs as Topps Digital’s editor-in-chief and an adjunct journalism professor at Hofstra, his alma mater. Regardless of his accomplishments and awards that could fit an entire article in themselves, Vaccaro chooses to stay grounded.
He was born, raised, educated and married and started a family all within the confines of his Sachem community. When asked if he would ever leave Sachem he replies, “That’s blasphemous. Not only would I never leave Long Island, I will never leave the walls of my Sachem community. I grew up here, lived here and I’ll die here. I feel very strongly about Sachem; it’s everything to me.”
Vaccaro’s community pride has spilled over to the outside of his house, which is covered in the local high school’s colors, and to his wedding, which was on the 50-yard-line of the Sachem High School football field. But his passions for his town don’t end with his personal life.
He makes sure his community continues to thrive in journalism education, honors and networking through his involvement with SPJ. A member since 2005 while he was still a college student, Vaccaro now proudly sports the title of president at SPJ’s Press Club of Long Island. He even helped resurrect Hofstra’s SPJ student chapter last year, which had been dormant since before he attended the school. If it involves his community and journalism, Vaccaro is probably a part of it.
Carol Fletcher, chairwoman of Hofstra’s journalism, media studies and public relations department, has known Vaccaro since she taught him. She thinks he is the perfect example of how to start local, respect local and grow from there — something she stresses to her students.
“He is published all over the world, but it really started with an interest in core local reporting and paying attention to what is happening in (his) own community,” she said.
Though Vaccaro has traveled all over the nation and world in the name of sports journalism (collecting 250-plus bobble heads during his travels), he makes sure to now and always honor his roots in all he does, writes about and researches.