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First Niagara fills funding gap for at-risk college students

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Thu, Nov 19th 2015 03:55 pm

$50,000 grant supports renewal of Buffalo State's Pathways to Success program

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 $50,000 grant to Buffalo State's Student Support Services (SSS)/Pathways to Success program helps meet a funding gap, ensuring the 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, 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. Late this summer, the campus learned the funding would not 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," Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner said. "From his background in public education, Mr. Crosby recognizes the obstacles many students must overcome in order to obtain a college education."

"First Niagara embraces initiatives that empower our young people and provide them with the skillset they need to succeed and achieve their goals," Crosby said. "The success of the Pathways to Success program is remarkable. The graduation rate for students in the program is higher than the campus as a whole. 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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