In recent years, Western New York has experienced an influx of refugees from war-torn countries. But as they continue to successfully resettle in Buffalo annually, many are too old to enroll in the Buffalo Public School system and receive the remediation necessary to thrive forward with further education.
This was the impetus for the partnership between Erie Community College's Pathways Program and Journey's End Refugee Services that produced "Make a Connection." The program was formed earlier this year to offer these more-mature students an alternative option to achieving their educational, vocational and employment goals.
"ECC is a gateway for many residents into higher education," ECC President Jack Quinn said. "To team with a tremendous organization like Journey's End to educate our region's newest residents is both a tremendous opportunity and the latest example of how this college is helping to move our ever-expanding communities forward."
Taught by New York state-certified teachers who address all areas of content covered in high school and on the TASC exam, the program serves 16- to 24-year-old English as a Second Language students that have resettled in Buffalo; are seeking to obtain their high school-equivalency diploma; and, eventually, would like to matriculate into higher education courses at ECC.
Since September, 150 students have entered the program, which now has a waiting list and is looking to expand in the future.
In addition to servicing these individuals, Journeys End has created a specialized evening program for English language learner students of all ages that need their equivalency diploma for collegiate admission.
"Through our experiences working with English language learners, we quickly realized the traditional education system rarely produces successful outcomes for ELL students," said Donna Pepero, director of education at Journey's End. "They present with unique circumstances and require many levels of support to succeed. Through our partnership with ECC Pathways, we're able to build upon our MAC program and develop an out-of-the-box approach, holistically addressing the needs of our students.
"The success of our program was immediate, transitioning 14 students into college."
The program currently resides in Buffalo's Hellenic Greek Orthodox Church Community Center on Delaware Avenue. Classes run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Tutoring and gym activities are scheduled for Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additionally, the program offers evening on-campus HSE classes at ECC City Campus for students who are working or unable to attend the day program.