BUFFALO, N.Y., Sept. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- One hundred and fifty kids from one of Buffalo's poorest neighborhoods will be educated at the new $3.5 million Buffalo Promise Neighborhood (BPN) Children's Academy which opened today on Bailey Avenue.
The 12,000-square-foot academy – operated by Bethel Head Start to provide the academic and social service support needed to prepare children for kindergarten – is the latest addition in a $31 million, public-private partnership led by M&T Bank to provide a life-changing continuum of "cradle-to-career" services to neighborhood children.
"The BPN Children's Academy will serve as the foundation for academic success for children in the Promise Neighborhood," said M&T Bank Chairman and CEO Robert G. Wilmers. "Transforming an economically-challenged neighborhood into one that can prosper begins by providing children with the opportunity to be successful in school."Neighborhood leaders celebrated the academy grand opening Friday with M&T Bank Chairman and CEO Wilmers, other business leaders, and local, state and federal government representatives. The academy is located across the street from the Westminster Community Charter School, which was adopted by M&T almost 20 years ago. The Promise Neighborhood also includes Highgate Heights Elementary School and Bennett High School. Buffalo Selected From 339 Communities Nationally M&T's involvement in the neighborhood began in the early 1990s when the Buffalo-based bank adopted one of the city's lowest performing schools. Over the last 20 years, the Westminster Community Charter School has transformed from an underperforming school into a school of choice for hundreds of families. Looking to build upon the success at Westminster, M&T led an effort to bring the national Promise Neighborhood model to Buffalo in collaboration with a team of leaders in education, community services, philanthropy, health care and government. Buffalo Promise Neighborhood was one of only five communities (out of 339 total community applicants) receiving an implementation award in 2011 from the U.S. Department of Education. That $6 million federal grant was matched by M&T Bank. "The grand opening of the Children's Academy shows just how much can be accomplished when the community gets behind a project and works together to make a positive difference," said Senator Charles Schumer. "I was a strong advocate on behalf of the application for a federal Promise Neighborhoods grant to the tune of $6 million which in turn has now leveraged over $30 million in additional support. I congratulate M&T Bank and so many in the community who collaboratively worked to make this day possible and most of all for bringing 'promise' back to the neighborhood." "The Buffalo Promise Neighborhood has become an anchor in the community," Senator Kirstin Gillibrand said. "Not only will this new building help to physically transform the neighborhood, it will offer children a solid foundation for a successful academic career, serving as an asset for generations to come." "Federal Promise Neighborhoods were established with the goal of transforming communities through partnerships that lead to better opportunities for our children," said Congressman Brian Higgins. "Education holds the best promise for a successful future and we are thrilled to open the Children's Academy, a new center for learning in the City of Buffalo." Buffalo Promise Neighborhood has used these investments to leverage over $31 million in additional resources. This includes a group of 15 M&T employees who work full-time managing the BPN's daily operations. The Buffalo Promise Neighborhood initiative has partnered with a wide array of national and local organizations to fill the gap for services and programs to help children and families struggling to break the grip of poverty. This includes a $6 million grant from the prestigious Annie E. Casey Foundation, which will be used to provide family counseling and job training services to adults in the neighborhood. Neighborhood Improvements Beginning to Multiply The many ongoing improvements in the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood already include:
- A partnership with Belmont Housing Resources for WNY to purchase and restore up to 10 neglected properties, which will provide neighborhood families the opportunity to own a home.
- A new playground was constructed at Highgate Heights Elementary School, and a new teaching garden installed at the Westminster Community Charter School.
- Every Person Influences Children (EPIC) is providing hospital-based services and community workshops for parents of infants and toddlers.
- Read to Succeed is providing literacy services within the Children's Academy, and through home-care provider programs.
- The Community Health Center of Buffalo is ensuring that neighborhood families have access to preventative health care services and other medical care, regardless of their ability to pay.
- The University at Buffalo's College Success Center (CSC) helping students at Bennett High School prepare for college.
- As many as 80 high school students are participating in the Hillside Work Scholarship Connection, where they are tutored and prepared for employment at area grocery stores and other locations.
- Johns Hopkins University's nationally recognized school turnaround organization is running staff development programs at the neighborhood schools.