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Daemen Launches New Program to Help West Side

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Daemen College is teaming up with the West Side Community Collaborative in an effort to promote civic responsiblity. The school's Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement recently opened an office on Connecticut Street.

"There is no other place that is more diverse then the West Side right now," said Jolene Baller, the West Side Coordinator of Daemen's latest civic program.

Daemen will provide education majors who will tutor children grades Kindergarten through 12. She says the West Side is so diverse, that the many immigrants need to learn English. In fact, at Grover Cleveland High School, 46 different languages are spoken. Baller says children will even learn how to grow herb gardens and sell items to local businesses.

"The business students at Daemen will help the kids put together a business plan so that they can take it to a local restaurant and say, 'we'd like for you to buy our herbs, our basil, for your restaurant,'" Baller said.

The Massachusetts Avenue Project, another West Side revitalization effort, is also joining the collaborative. Diane Pickard, outreach program director, says they will offer a "Growing Green" program teaching teens to redevelop their neighborhood.

"They'll be cleaning up a couple of vacant lots across from our outreach center and turning them into garden space," Pickard explained.

Picard says 25 West Side children are signed up for the program this summer. Jason Donati, an Americorps volunteer, will work with the children as they clean up the neighborhoods. He says he's looking forward to mentoring the kids during the project.

"It's very important, even if it is just one child, if you can build a relationship," Donati said.

Josh Gallagher is another intern at the Connecticut Street resource center. Gallagher says he's dedicated to the cause of assisting West Side residents as he compiles a service providers directory offering information from housing to transportation assistance.

"it's nice to be able to put forth what I've learned at school so far towards helping out a whole community," Gallagher said.

Daemen is already conducting a similar program in the City with the Seneca Babcock neighborhood. The goal, officials say, is to provide expertise from its students to help residents create strong, healthy and safe neighborhoods.