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Future East Side early childhood school receives $1M gift

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

An early childhood education center expected to open this fall received a million-dollar boost Thursday. The Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, an initiative formed to breathe new life into one of the city's underserved neighborhoods, announced that Delaware North Comnpanies and the Jacobs family are providing one million dollars to support the school through the next five years. 

The Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Children's Academy at Gerard Place, off Bailey Avenue near East Delevan on the city's east side, is set to open in September. Construction continued as officials announced Delaware North's gift but Glenn Jackson, chief operating officer of Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, said completion is anticipated within the next couple of months.

Enrollment in the early childhood school, he said, is nearly 100 students.

"Right now we're at 98 and I think we're pretty much locked in as far as enrollment is concerned," stated Jackson, who added that 475 families are on a waiting list. "We filled it pretty quickly and we're really excited to get running, as are the families."

Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, launched in 2010 and one of the original recipients of a Promise Neighborhood grant from the US Department of Education, is designed to end a cycle of generational poverty. M&T Bank leads Buffalo Promise Neighborhood locally. Its late longtime leader, Robert Wilmers, was honored by several speakers including Delaware North chairman Jeremy Jacobs.

"He was a persuasive champion for Buffalo who influenced Delaware North's corporate giving, including our partnership with the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood," Jacobs said. "Bob is no longer with us but he is still convincing us to invest in his projects."

M&T Bank announced a $1.6 million investment last year to renovate the first floor of a building at Gerard Place. Although the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood initiative began eight years ago, the bank's involvement in this east side neighborhood began years before, when it "adopted" an underperforming Buffalo school. Buffalo Promise Neighborhood now supports its original Children's Academy at 3149 Bailey Avenue, the  Westminster Community Charter School and Highgate Heights Elementary School.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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