When the Corporation for National and Community Service named Niagara University to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the 10th straight year, it also recognized NU for its commitment to improving educational outcomes for children and youth in pre-kindergarten through college.
The honor roll recognizes performance in four categories: economic opportunity, education, general community service, and interfaith community service.
In addition to being chosen for the general community service category, Niagara was one of only 14 institutions from New York state to be lauded for its innovative programs that help communities and students achieve educational goals.
"Service is at the foundation of our Catholic and Vincentian mission, which our students, faculty and staff embody as they embark upon life-changing outreach experiences in local schools and child care centers," said Dr. Chandra Foote, dean of Niagara University's College of Education. "Our faculty put academic learning into action through service-learning courses, and our students harness their powerful talents and passions to help developing learners, often in low-income, urban settings."
Niagara University's Family Literacy Center and its Niagara County Early Childcare Quality Improvement Project were among the programs highlighted by CNCS.
The university established its Family Literacy Center in 2012 in response to a pronounced need for literacy services in Niagara County. Featuring SMART boards and tables, iPads, literacy apps and online books, and nearly 7,000 level-appropriate books, the center is an on-campus educational opportunity for graduate students to demonstrate teaching while enhancing the literacy performance of at-risk readers and their families.
Participation in the Family Literacy Center's programs has grown by 72 percent since piloting in 2012, and the center now offers four programs geared toward enhancing youth literacy: primary reading, intermediate reading, an enrichment book club and writer's studio. There are also opportunities for parents and guardians to learn how they can support literacy development, and professional development courses for teachers and educational professionals.
The Niagara County Early Childcare Quality Improvement Project was created in 2010 under the premise that high-quality early childhood settings will provide preschool-aged children with developmentally appropriate activities, thus introducing them to basic learning skills that will better prepare them for success when they enter school. A second three-year grant, which runs through December, places a focus on the learning environments of infants and toddlers.
The initiative represents an unprecedented partnership across the county - a collaboration that involves Niagara University, the United Way of Greater Niagara, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the Niagara Area Foundation and several local business leaders. Funding for the program has been provided by the United Way of Greater Niagara, the Grigg-Lewis Foundation and The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation.
To date, the program has worked with 30 child care centers in 44 preschool classrooms serving 715 preschool children during the first three-year cohort. Since the second phase of the program began, 679 infants and toddlers in 60 classrooms have received elevated quality of care thanks to the QIP.
Additionally, the QIP provided 86 child care directors and teachers with 45-hour professional development training, and 43 have successfully completed coursework for college-bearing credit toward NU's bachelor's degree program in early childhood development and cognition.
The President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community challenges and, as a result, more students are likely to pursue a lifelong path of civic engagement that achieves meaningful and measurable outcomes in the communities they serve.
CNCS has administered the award since 2006 in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the American Council on Education, Campus Compact, and the Interfaith Youth Core.
Niagara is the only college or university from Western New York to have been named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll every year since it was launched in 2006.
To see which institutions were chosen for the 2015 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, visit www.nationalservice.gov/special-initiatives/honor-roll. To view the list of awardees within the education category, click here.
Additional information about Niagara University can be found at www.niagara.edu.