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Francis Center receives Niagara Area Foundation grant


Tue, Jan 30th 2024 07:00 am

The Francis Center children’s program was awarded a grant of $10,000 by the Niagara Area Foundation, a division of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

Francis Center offers both academic and social-emotional support to elementary school-aged children who reside in struggling neighborhoods in the City of Niagara Falls. Its goal is to help the children build strong foundational reading and math skills while teaching them habits and behaviors that will help them to be successful in school. The Francis Center does this through a full-time after-school program, as well as a summer booster camp.

“Ours is a unique after-school experience because of the academic component,” Director Mary Beth Smith said. “We hire qualified teachers so that we can help them strengthen core skills, and we collaborate with the students’ classroom teachers and administration at Niagara Falls schools to ensure that we’re supporting them in the most effective ways.

Francis Center aims to follow its students from kindergarten through second grade, at which point the aspiration is for these children to be performing at grade-level standards.

“In third grade, the focus shifts from learning to read to reading to learn, so it is crucial that children have necessary reading skills by that time,” Smith said. “I believe it’s also crucial that they have learned to love to read, so we spend lots of time at Francis Center sharing and enjoying what we read.”

The teachers at Francis Center understand that continued learning after-school needs to be presented in special ways so that the children’s attention and interest are kept. Teachers use hands-on activities, learning games and creative expression. They also rely on adult volunteers to help provide individual attention to the kids. The children are given a variety of experiences to help expand their breadth of knowledge and their vocabularies. Dance teachers, artists, an ecologist, storytellers and yoga instructors are some of the special guests who have visited the after-school program.

Moreover, “We are able to offer our programs at no cost to the families thanks to generous donations from people in the community and through help from organizations like Niagara Area Foundation,” Smith said.

Those who would like to help support the Francis Center children’s program can visit www.franciscenter.com; check out the Francis Center page on Facebook; or mail to: Francis Center, 335 24th St., Niagara Falls, NY 14303. Those interested in volunteering can call 716-284-2050.


The Niagara Area Foundation was established in 2000 and is a division of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. The Niagara Area Foundation is committed to strengthening the Niagara Region by addressing critical needs to improve lives.

For more than a century, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has enhanced and encouraged long-term philanthropy in the Western New York community. A 501 (c)(3) organization, the Community Foundation's mission is: Connecting people, ideas and resources to improve lives in Western New York.

Established in 1919, the Community Foundation has made the most of the generosity of individuals, families, foundations and organizations who entrust charitable assets to the Community Foundation's care. Learn more at https://www.cfgb.org/.

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