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Buffalo Prep raises more than $1 million since March, as community steps up to support racial & educational equity

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Fri, Aug 14th 2020 03:55 pm

Buffalo Prep, a local nonprofit organization, has been awarded more than $1.26 million from local foundations and organizations since March. The largest one-time gift in the history of Buffalo Prep’s 31-year existence was given by KeyBank, in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation, in the amount of $750,000.

“KeyBank is proud of our commitment to empowering young people by helping them realize their dreams and create brighter futures for themselves,” said Elizabeth Gurney, executive director of the KeyBank and First Niagara foundations. “Buffalo Prep is making a significant difference in children’s lives by providing exemplary services and opportunities to help underrepresented youth succeed in all levels of education.”

$250,000 from KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation will support the nonprofit’s unique pipeline of academic enrichment programming over the next three years. The remaining $500,000 will be invested into the “Prep Honors Circle” endowment fund, housed at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, providing vital resources to sustain the longevity of Buffalo Prep and ultimately creating a high school scholarship fund.

Additionally, $300,000 was awarded to Buffalo Prep by The John R. Oishei Foundation to sustain Buffalo Prep’s college prep and “Rising to Distinction” programs, both of which support prep’s high school scholars.

"There is no greater time to support an organization like Buffalo Prep that has proven itself to be vital to the academic success of so many local students. As we face both the educational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial equity issues that the crisis has uncovered, we know that Buffalo Prep will be a critical lifeline for many students and their families,” said Blythe T. Merrill, senior vice president of programs for The John R. Oishei Foundation. "We are also delighted to see additional support from our fellow funders and the private sector who also understand the importance of this program."

Patti Stephen, Buffalo Prep’s executive director, said she is grateful for the foundations’ commitment to access and opportunity for underrepresented youth: “We are incredibly grateful for our longtime partnership with KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation. Our unique pipeline of programing has been able to evolve over the years in both size and scope with great thanks to their integral generosity. Additionally, we are indebted to the steadfast support of The John R. Oishei Foundation. Our partnership with the foundation has been vital to the success of thousands of our scholars. Day after day, our supporters are true partners in the fight for educational equity.”

Further major gifts received were granted by M&T Bank Charitable Foundation, Cullen Foundation, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, National Fuel, The Vogt Family Foundation, Bank of America, Red Top Foundation, and The Children’s Foundation of Erie County – all steadfast supporters of Buffalo Prep’s mission of promoting racial and educational equity within Western New York. An additional $270,000 was raised through Buffalo Prep’s “Virtual Celebration of Achievement” led by match sponsors the Benderson family/Delta Sonic and Unifrax. Many of these funding opportunities were being cultivated this year; however, with the uncertain impact COVID-19 will have on philanthropic giving paired with the additional resources required to transition to a distance learning model, Buffalo Prep has been overwhelmed by the generosity that has continued through these unprecedented times.

A press release said, “In March, when all schools in New York state were ordered to shift to distance learning, low-income communities of color immediately experienced the greatest disadvantage in their education. The widening systemic and historic inequities in the American education system were amplified. The addition of the Black Lives Matter protests and civil unrest created a ‘double pandemic’ in a sense, making the work of educational equity and the mission of Buffalo Prep more relevant and urgent than ever.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic persisted, Buffalo Prep reinvented its summer programming, which is designed to mitigate the “summer slump.” Rather than replicating the six-week curriculum to an online format, the faculty and staff created an innovative, research-informed distance learning program based on proven best-practices. The problem- and project-based curriculum for summer programming, which recently took place through daily Zoom sessions, required students to actively engage with their surroundings and community.

The press release continued, “With plenty of breaks built into the schedule and initiatives such as ‘backyard science,’ scholars didn’t need to spend their entire summer in front of a computer screen to keep learning and exploring. Students from fifth through eighth grade studied math, science, history and literacy, as well as participated in social-emotional workshops, providing a rich and holistic educational experience and giving scholars an advantage as they return to school in the fall. Additional programs were offered to scholars in ninth through 12th grade, including credit recovery to fill in the gaps caused by the learning loss of the last several weeks of the 19-20 school year, college counseling, mentoring groups, and a social justice book club.”

Buffalo Prep is 100% privately funded and relies on corporate and individual contributions, local foundations, unrestricted annual gifts, and the income from special events. Buffalo Prep receives no government funding and is responsible for raising its entire budget each year. To learn more about Buffalo Prep’s programming, read about its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, or to make a contribution to Buffalo Prep, visit www.buffaloprep.com.

Since its founding in 1989, Buffalo Prep has worked with thousands of underrepresented students to provide academic and social support in a rigorous and nurturing environment.

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