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Mini Grants for Buffalo Teachers

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – With the Buffalo School District in the midst of a fiscal crisis, and so few resources available classroom projects, city school teachers are being encouraged to apply for 2004 mini grants. The Community Foundation has opened up the application process for the "Aiding Buffalo's Children" Fund.

The concept of the ABC Fund started in 2002 by Buffalo singer Ani DiFranco who provided concert proceeds as seed money to begin the mini grants. The funding ranges from a few hundred dollars to $1,000.

Retired Buffalo school teacher Suzanne Diffine was among the first group of winners. At the time, she was teaching eighth graders at Olmsted School 56. The English Language arts teacher had her heart set on a poetry-fashion project that is a compilation of clothing and words. But she needed money to pay for poetry workshops, supplies and recordings.

"The ABC Fund was gracious enough to given me $1,000 which paid for the writing workshop as well as some of the supplies we needed for the actual poetry workshop and clothing," Diffine said.

The mini grants are awarded based on cultural enrichment -- such as musical instruments -- or early intervention support for Pre-K through fourth grade that includes learning aids and special textbooks. Diffine says her year-long project made a difference in the lives of her students.

"I just can't tell you the kind of reaction from these children who were so thrilled that people actually cared about what they said," Diffine said. "The poetry is so real, so touching and meaningful. It was from the depth of their soles. They really bared their soles in order to relate to the public."

Diffine says the project validated the students as individuals.

Proposal deadlines for the ABC grants is December 1st. Winners will be notified in January.

Diffine says it is really worth the effort to apply and is a "great gift" from the ABC Fund.