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First Niagara's $50,000 Grant Saves Pathways to Success Program

First Niagara's $50,000 Grant Saves Pathways to Success Program

Posted: November 19, 2015

The First Niagara Foundation is partnering with Buffalo State to ensure first-generation, low-income students, and students with disabilities are able to get the support they need to achieve academic success. First Niagara’s much-needed $50,000 grant to Buffalo State’s Student Support Services (SSS)/Pathways to Success program helps meet a funding gap, ensuring the important initiative will continue for another year.

Since its inception in 1989, the grant-funded program has enjoyed the success its title implies. Every year, the program accepts approximately 50 students who are living in poverty and face other barriers to college. The retention rate for these students has typically exceeded the campus as a whole, and at least 85 percent remain in good academic standing, said Florence Johnson, the Buffalo State SSS program director.

An integral piece of that success can be attributed to the SSS/Pathways to Success advisers and tutors, who help students strengthen their studying, reading, and writing skills.

Until this year, a federal grant paid for those tutors, along with other program costs. In August, Buffalo State learned that the funding wouldn’t be made available this year, and the college could only cover a portion of the costs. To bridge the gap, Gary Crosby, president and CEO of First Niagara, committed $50,000 to the program for the 2015-2016 academic year through the First Niagara Foundation.

“We are immensely grateful to First Niagara for stepping up and ensuring that students who need the tutoring help provided through Pathways to Success will receive it,” said Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner. “From his background in public education, Mr. Crosby recognizes the obstacles many students must overcome in order to obtain a college education.”

Junior forensic psychology major Edwin Delvalle is one such student. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Delvalle graduated valedictorian of his high school class and received some scholarships for college. However, his mother, who planned to help him with additional expenses, was injured in a Pitbull attack and lost her job around the time Delvalle was heading to Buffalo State.

He couldn’t pay for books or supplies, for instance, and he also needed help dealing with his conflicting emotions of leaving his recovering mother back in Brooklyn. This is where Pathways for Success stepped in.

“They didn’t just help me monetarily, but emotionally as well,” said Delvalle. “They were very nurturing. The first couple of years were tough. I’m so glad I stayed because it’s opening a lot of doors for me.”

He said he has gained confidence and grown since his freshman year, part of which he attributes to the staff at SSSP. He is now serving as an academic mentor to students enrolled in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at Buffalo State.

“First Niagara embraces initiatives that empower our young people and provide them with the skill set they need to succeed and achieve their goals,” Crosby said. “The success of the Pathways to Success program is remarkable. Our support of this good work reflects our deep commitment to connecting more students to resources and opportunities that will help them reach their full potential and strengthen our community.”

Johnson also expressed her gratitude for the grant.

“I can’t tell you how much this means,” she said. “It’s like a miracle. Mr. Crosby and First Niagara Charitable Foundation Director Elizabeth Gurney have been so gracious and empathic to our situation.”

This funding allows the program to continue for this year, but for the future of the program, Buffalo State will need to continue to seek outside funding.

“It is our hope that First Niagara’s contribution this year will encourage other businesses and organizations to give to this worthwhile program in the future,” Johnson said.

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