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Higgins: $1 million-plus federal AmeriCorps grant for Mission:Ignite

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Tue, Nov 26th 2019 12:00 pm

‘Ignite Your Life’ project seeks to provide STEM training to over 1,000 area youth

Congressman Brian Higgins on Monday announced Mission:Ignite was awarded a three-year $1,021,122 federal grant to oversee a program that engages AmeriCorps members in expanding science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills among area youth. Mission:Ignite will match the grant with $449,000, while an additional $472,000 in AmeriCorps education awards will be available to participating AmeriCorps members, bringing total investment in the program to $1.942 million.

“Under the leadership of Mission:Ignite, this initiative provides young people with job skills that meet the needs of today’s economy and inspires confidence in the opportunity that these quality STEM jobs can be theirs,” Higgins said.

Mission:Ignite powered by Computers For Children Executive Director Christine Carr-Barmasse said, “In 2018, Computers For Children did two things: rebranded as Mission:Ignite to match the expansion of our programs; and strategically designed the ‘Foundations for the Future’ initiative, to support training in career tracks and vehicle for the sustainability of Mission:Ignite. The partnership with the AmeriCorps will help us invest in graduating high school and college young people to provide jobs where they will receive hands-on experiential training to address real-world needs such as the technology gaps in schools, nonprofits and education. By training young people in tech and STEM career tracks, they will train others and will become part of the solution, as well as expand their own story.”

Through the “Ignite Your Life” program, AmeriCorps members will provide technology and STEM training aimed it sparking students’ interest in high potential “new collar” careers, and equip them with the skills necessary to obtain those jobs. 

“Western New York has a fast-growing high-tech business community,” Mission:Ignite President Brendan Lillis said. “Ensuring that our local students and recent graduates are prepared for the workplace is essential to their future and the future of Western New York. We're very excited to provide quality apprenticeship and education opportunities for the next generation of Western New York leaders in the STEM industry. The Mission: Ignite ‘Foundations for the Future’ initiative will help make the critical connection between qualified professionals and this community's need for STEM-related jobs.”

The goals of “Ignite Your Life” are to increase the number of underrepresented youth who choose STEM careers, close the digital divide, and educate young people in the benefits of technology proficiency beyond social engagement. The program seeks to provide more than 1,000 youth and young adults with career-focused guidance using community venues throughout Western New York.

“Mission Ignite has led the way in connecting young people from a broad range of backgrounds to technology, both for their use and as potential career paths,” said Paul Hogan, executive vice president of The John R. Oishei Foundation. “With this grant, they will be able to expand their reach and provide even more opportunities for STEM and tech careers that will benefit more young people and help to create a skilled workforce for the Buffalo Niagara Region.”

“This is very exciting news for our community accelerating STEM and tech efforts with dedicated technology resources that will provide programming to prepare our students for future ‘new collar’ careers,” said Sam Marazza, director of Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and chairman, Infotech WNY. “With this new injection of resources, Mission:Ignite can expand its valued mission within our community by providing critical access to technology and training programs that will enable students to better prepare for higher education and workplace opportunities.”

Approximately 200 AmeriCorps members are expected to participate in program delivery to guide students in skill development through computer labs, maker spaces, creative tools and other curriculum. The project has the dual benefit of expanding STEM proficiency among youth and providing workforce experience and professional development opportunities to the people who commit to AmeriCorps service. AmeriCorps members will also receive education awards based on the amount of time served to help with educational expenses, including the repayment of student loans.

“KeyBank, in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation, invests in initiatives that provide access to programs that enhance career readiness and promote life-long learning,” said Elizabeth Gurney, executive director of the KeyBank and First Niagara Foundations. “Our donation of equipment and resources for Mission: Ignite will help.”

Mission:Ignite was established in 1997. It is the first nonprofit agency in New York – and the second in the nation – to have a core mission specifically to address the digital and technology divide in schools, providing upgraded computers and training.

The federal funding was awarded through the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that helps Americans improve the lives of others through service. To apply for an AmeriCorps service position through Mission:Ignite, go to: https://www.missionignite.org/iylamericorps.

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