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Buffalo State neighbors up

The site of the college's new Community Academic Center, on Grant St.

blog by The Buffalo State Record  • 

Buffalo State is taking another step toward strengthening the bonds the school has with the West Side community by opening up the Community Academic Center on Grant Street.

The center will provide the community with several services, said John Siskar, interim director for the Center for Excellence in Urban Education. The key to helping troubled youth in the neighborhood is connecting the services available, and making sure everyone is on the same page.

“One of the things we hope is that the CAC will allow us to help those in the area collaborate and coordinate activities better,” he said. “We hope to support groups that might need training or support for the good work they’re already doing.”

Siskar identifies three needs the center will meet in the community. The first is direct service, which includes students connected with the CAC working directly with neighborhood youth. The second is support services, helping organizations already providing direct services. The third component is growing the network of collaboration between service providers already active in the neighborhood.

The CAC has opened for business, and plans are in the works for collaborations with neighborhood community groups, said Volunteer and Service Learning Center coordinator Laura Hill Rao.

“We have some programming that will probably start next week in partnership with the Grant Street Neighborhood Center,” she said.

The center came about through a $500,000 gift from Eleanor and Vaughn Beals, longtime supporters of Buffalo State College. Eleanor is an alumna who graduated in 1950. The donation was made to the Center for Excellence in Urban Education, Siskar said.

The Bealses made the donation with the request that the money be used to fund programs developed to provide better learning opportunities for children, Rao said.

“Their ultimate goal is to support youth education and academic achievement,” she said.

Opening the center on Grant Street provides a unique opportunity for Buffalo State students, said Gary Welborn, chair of the sociology department.

“We have a global community right here in our own backyard,” he said, referring to the ethnic diversity of the Grant Street area. “If we can get Buff State students down there, it’s a real win – win, if it’s done right.”

Students will have opportunities to be involved with the center, Rao said, through classes that require service learning. Ideas on creating new service learning opportunities based on use of the site are being considered.

“We’ll be having conversations with faculty members about developing programs for the space and engaging students in that way,” she said.

Volunteering for the center is a possibility, and student input on what can be done to help kids using the center is always being sought, Rao said.

“We would definitely welcome students who want to contact us and talk about ideas they have either as individuals or student group involvement,” she said. “The space can be pretty flexible, so if students are really enthusiastic about an idea that would support youth academics and enrichment, we’d love to talk with them about it.”

So far, the space has been welcomed by the surrounding neighborhood, Rao said.

“I went to the used bookstore across the street (from the center), and the owner is thrilled,” she said. “One, to have someone as a tenant in the building, and two, because it’s Buff State.”

Michael Canfield can be reached by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

TAGGED: buffalo state college, buffalo state record, community outreach, students, west side

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