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Preparing students for higher ed and beyond includes real-world skills, experiences

Adam Jay, a woodworking teacher at Hope Hall School, teaches a student the safe and proper way to use a sliding power miter saw.
Adam Jay, a woodworking teacher at Hope Hall School, teaches a student the safe and proper way to use a sliding power miter saw. (Photo provided)

The greater Rochester region is home to 55 diverse private schools ranging from parochial to non-sectarian and independent. With the 2022-23 school year up and running, the Rochester Business Journal reached out to three of them to see how their schools work with the greater Rochester community to ensure their students gain the skills they need when they graduate.

The Aquinas Institute: College prep and multiple capstones

At the Aquinas Institute, the next chapter for graduates is typically college. In the first few weeks of this school year, admissions counselors from over forty colleges have visited Aquinas already.

The school, which was founded in 1902 and is affiliated with the Rochester Roman Catholic Diocese, typically has a graduating class size of around 125 and about 99% are college-bound (the vast majority to four-year schools). Those who do not attend college immediately are usually international students or students who enter the armed forces.

Ted Mancini

“College prep is our mission,” said Theodore N. Mancini, principal of the Aquinas Institute and a member of the Class of 1988. “We work really hard to make sure our students graduate with the skills they’ll need in college. College readiness is certainly about academics, but also about skills like networking, being responsible, and having good decision making.”

The school, which serves students in grades six to twelve, collaborates with Rochester’s local colleges and universities to ensure their curriculum and testing is in-line with what postsecondary institutions expect of incoming students.

For example, all final exams at Aquinas are vetted by college professors to make sure what they’re requiring from students aligns with what higher education is expecting. Mancini gave the example of last year’s final English exams going to the English department at Nazareth College of Rochester for feedback before being administered. Active or retired higher education professionals from the area also sit on Aquinas’ Academic Mission Committee.

The school also works with alumni from a variety of disciplines within Rochester’s business community to conduct mock interviews for sophomores and to serve as field experts for students’ comprehensive capstone projects, which are completed every year as part of the sixth through 12th grade curriculum.

“The capstone project is designed for students to create smart goals and to measure their progress,” Mancini said. “They do lots of creative, innovative, and diverse projects, like exploring the impact of concussions on athletes who continue to play, looking at what kinds of mechanisms exist in cars that were created because of motorsports, and examining the scoring in films and how it relates to the emotional response of the viewer.”

Hope Hall School: Woodworking and American Sign Language

A private, non-sectarian school for grades three through 12, Hope Hall School was founded in 1994 and specializes in the Dolce Method for Learning, which was written and copyrighted by Sister Diana Dolce, S.S.J., the school’s founder and executive director.

This method was designed for students who learn differently, often due to central auditory processing delays and/or mild anxiety disorders, and teaches academic, organizational, and social skills in a non-traditional way. The school also teaches college and career readiness in creative ways, like a required woodworking program for students in grades ten through twelve.

Samantha Standing

“Students learn woodworking, but they also learn a lot of other skills, like how to plan out a project, how to collaborate, how to use machinery safely, how to work with team members, and how to receive feedback constructively,” said Samantha Standing, the school’s director of advancement, who noted some Hope Hall graduates go on to careers in fine-woodworking with Rochester-based businesses.

The Gates-based school has a total student population of 140 with four full-time staff members teaching career development (including its two woodworking). Hope Hall typically graduates 15 to18 seniors a year, of whom about 40% go immediately on to college and about 60% enter the workforce, though those numbers can fluctuate from year to year.

Companies the school partners with and/or who regularly hire Hope Hall students include Bill Gray’s, Seabreeze, McDonalds, ISquare, Hammer Packaging and Wegmans. The school also offers students instruction on tangible matters like how to fill out a financial aid application if they are college-bound, how to check their credit scores, and how to utilize public transportation for school or work.

Additionally, Hope Hall School requires students in grades seven to nine to take American Sign Language.

“With the high population of people who are deaf in Rochester the skills students learn in ASL are not just skills they use in the classroom, but that they can utilize in the community,” Standing said. “They may have a co-worker or customer who is deaf and they will have the basic conversational skills to communicate with them.”

The Harley School: Hospice and advocacy

Founded in 1917, the Harley School is a student-centered, college preparatory, independent day school in Brighton for about 500 students in grades from nursery to 12. Part of the school’s mission is to show students how to care for the world and other people and that carries into the school’s civic-engagement approach to preparing students for life beyond the classroom.

“Our program is pretty explicitly college preparatory, but we’re trying to get our students ready not only for that world but the world,” said Larry Frye, the Harley School’s head of school. “A core part of our mission for generations has been not to be a bubble or an island onto ourselves.”

An example of this is the Harley School’s multifaceted and often transformative hospice program, where twelfth-grade students are intimately involved in providing end-of-life care for people in the community. Students take a class where they learn about the history of hospice and are taught the physical, mental, and emotional skills needed to work with patients, families, and staff in a hospice care home.

Then students also have the opportunity to volunteer in one of six local hospice homes in the Rochester region, where they build relationships, provide hands-on care, and also learn to take care of their emotional health while being part of a community where loss and death happen regularly.

Students at the Harley School can also complete a capstone project senior year that is a culmination of their time at the school. Often these projects include working with professionals in the community and have benefits for others.

Examples of capstone projects include multilingual instructional videos for the Rochester non-profit refugee outreach Mary’s Place to use to show refugees how to use common appliances and an interactive exhibit to teach community members how a solar chimney functions.

Other civic engagement initiatives at the Harley School include MLK Day On! – a day of community service and solidarity; Beyond Soup – a student group that cooks meals at St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality in Rochester; and events with the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.

“Part of our expectation is that pur kids will have an experience with advocacy and dissent while they’re here,” Frye said. “We want them to answer, ‘What do I care about in our community?’ ‘What do I want to make a stand about?’ ‘How do I advocate for change?’ We think this is a key part of being an educated person.”

Caurie Putnam is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

Harley School raises $16 million in three-year campaign

The Harley School on Friday marked the close of the largest donor campaign in the school’s history.

The Lives of Great Purpose Campaign raised more than $16 million for enhancements to benefit students and staff, officials said. Since the campaign launched three years ago, funds have been distributed as they come in between three key pillars focused on academic excellence, environments for learning and financial sustainability.

The campaign grew out of the school’s most recent strategic plan which placed an emphasis on increasing engagement with the community, parents and alumni, as well as increasing philanthropy. The campaign’s original goal was $12 million.

“The success of the Lives of Great Purpose campaign would not be possible without the overwhelming support of Harley’s community members, alumni and families,” said Harley’s Head of School Larry Frye in a statement. “Thanks to the generosity of all who participated in this campaign over the last few years we are able to continue to offer our students and staff an elevated learning experience that celebrates Harley’s passion and purpose.”

The largest portion of the fund was raised through the Sands challenge for Faculty Compensation. Long-time supporters of the school, the Sands family donated a $3 million base gift and match of $1 million to the more than $1 million the school raised independently. Some $5.3 million was raised for the endowment, officials noted.

The fund also benefited the development of new, unique environments for immersive learning. In the last three years, Harley has dedicated nearly $3 million toward infrastructure updates to benefit holistic education.

Finally, $3.8 million benefitted student scholarships and faculty professional development, while $4.5 million was added to the Harley Fund, which benefits the most immediate needs of the current school year.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Cuomo, lawmakers reach deal on $212 billion budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers reached a deal on the state’s budget this week.

The final, $212 billion budget includes a number of measures to aid industries and sectors that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Additionally, the enacted budget closes the state’s deficit and invests in the ongoing response to the pandemic and recovery efforts.

Highlights of the budget include:
• A record $29.5 billion in aid to schools;
• $29 billion in public and private green economy investments;
• $2.4 billion for rent and homeowner relief;
• $2.4 billion for child care;
• $2.1 billion for excluded workers;
• 1 billion for small business recovery;
• A first-in-the-nation plan to make broadband internet affordable;
• Legalizing mobile sports betting; and
• Implementing comprehensive nursing home reforms.

“New York was ambushed early and hit hardest by COVID, devastating our economy and requiring urgent and unprecedented emergency spending to manage the pandemic,” Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday. “Thanks to the state’s strong fiscal management and relentless pursuit to secure the federal support that the pandemic demanded, we not only balanced our budget, we are also making historic investments to reimagine, rebuild and renew New York in the aftermath of the worst health and economic crisis in a century.

“This budget continues funding for the largest-in-the-nation $311 billion infrastructure plan, establishes a groundbreaking program to provide affordable internet for low-income families and enhances public safety through police reforms, all while continuing to provide relief to New Yorkers and small businesses as we recover from the pandemic,” Cuomo added. “I thank the legislative leaders — Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie — for their partnership in helping make this critical budget a reality and delivering results for the people of this state.”

The budget comprises New York’s $311 billion infrastructure plan, which includes the governor’s $211 billion 2020-24 plan and his $100 billion 2015-2019 plan. The evolving plan increased by $36 billion in the budget with the inclusion of new development plans in New York City, a $3 billion environmental bond act, transportation programs and additional supportive, affordable and public housing support, as well as incremental increases to existing capital programs.

The budget includes legislation requiring internet service providers to offer an affordable $15 per month high-speed internet plan to qualifying low-income households. The state also will require providers to advertise the plan to ensure programs reach underserved populations statewide. To further bridge the gap, New York has partnered with Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation to launch ConnectED NY, an emergency fund to provide roughly 50,000 students in economically disadvantaged school districts with free internet access through June 2022.

The enacted budget directs $2.3 billion in federal child care resources to expand the availability, quality and affordability of child care. Child care providers would receive $1.3 billion in stabilization grants to support expenses, as well as additional funds for cleaning and safety. Further investments would be made to increase capacity in child care “deserts” and help parents find the child care provider that’s right for them.

The budget creates a $2.4 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) to ensure residents can make rent and remain stable in their homes. The program will support households in rental arrears that have experienced financial hardship, are at risk of homelessness or housing instability and that earn less than 80 percent of area median income.

The enacted budget includes comprehensive nursing home reform legislation to help ensure facilities are prioritizing patient care over profits, officials said. The reforms establish minimum thresholds for nursing home spending of 70 percent of revenues on direct resident care and 40 percent of revenues on resident-facing staffing, capping profits at five percent, and targeting unscrupulous related party transactions. Excess revenues recouped by the state will be deposited into the existing nursing home quality pool for further investments for nursing homes to meet high-quality standards.

The budget includes a $1 billion small business, arts, entertainment and restaurant relief package to help businesses and other organizations recover from the impacts of the pandemic:
• COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program: Provides $800 million in grant funding for small businesses including for-profit arts and cultural institutions impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
• New York Restaurant Resiliency Grant Program: $25 million in grant funding to support restaurants that provide meals to distressed and under-represented communities.
• Arts and Cultural Organization Recovery Grant Program: $40 million to provide grants through the New York State Council on the Arts to eligible arts and cultural nonprofit organizations to assist in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Restaurant Return-To-Work Tax Credit: Provides up to $35 million in tax credits to support restaurants hard hit by the pandemic through 2021.
• Extend and Enhance the Musical and Theatrical Production Credit for four years: In order to support musical and theatrical productions that occur in the state but outside of New York City, the budget extends the credit for four years through 2025 and increases it by $4 million to $8 million.

The 2022 enacted budget continues to lower personal income tax rates for middle-class New Yorkers. In 2021, the fourth year of the multi-year tax cuts enacted in 2016, income tax rates have been lowered from 6.09 percent to 5.97 percent for taxpayers filing jointly in the $43,000-$161,550 income bracket, and from 6.41 percent to 6.33 percent in the $161,550-$323,200 income bracket. The cuts are expected to save 4.8 million New Yorkers more than $2.2 billion this year, officials said. When the cuts are fully phased in, middle-class taxpayers will have received an income tax rate cut of up to 20 percent, amounting to a projected $4.2 billion in annual savings for six million filers by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the state’s lowest middle-class tax rates in more than 70 years.

The enacted budget includes new revenue resources that provide the revenues needed to make the investments that will support New York’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and New York’s recovery from it, according to the governor’s office, including:
• The budget deploys the first $5.5 billion of the $12.6 billion provided for in the federal American Rescue Plan Act 2021. These funds are integrated throughout the budget in accordance with available federal guidelines.
• The budget includes appropriation authority for local governments to receive federal support. The package of $10.8 billion in federal aid for local will help support essential workers and government employees, assist the vaccination efforts, boost local economies and support the network of local government services that New Yorkers depend on.
• The budget implements a surcharge on high earners through tax year 2027 that sets a top rate of 10.9 percent for all filers earning more than $25 million. The surcharge raises $2.8 billion in FY 2022, rising to $3.3 billion in FY 2023.
• The budget implements a surcharge on corporate tax rate that increases the business income tax rate from 6.5 percent to 7.25 percent for three years through tax year 2023 for taxpayers with business income greater than $5 million. It also increases the capital base method of liability estimation to 0.1875 percent from the 0.025 percent rate in effect last year. The capital base method increase continues to exempt qualified manufacturers, qualified emerging technology companies, and cooperative housing corporations. These changes raise $750 million in FY 2022 and $1 billion in FY 2023.
• The FY 2022 enacted budget authorizes mobile sports wagering. Once fully phased in, legalization will provide more than $500 million in revenue for the state to help rebuild from COVID-19 and grow what could be the largest sports wagering market in the U.S. into a profitable industry long-term. Once fully phased in, the program will provide $5 million annually to youth sports and $6 million to combat problem gambling, doubling the resources currently available. The remainder of this new revenue will be dedicated to education.

“While this year’s state budget includes some positive measures, such as support for struggling small businesses, tax relief for middle-class residents and significant funding for local roads and bridges, the inclusion of massive tax hikes and costly mandates poses a serious risk,” said Justin Wilcox, executive director of Upstate United, a nonpartisan, pro-taxpayer education and advocacy coalition. “Imposing $4 billion in new taxes will ultimately hurt New York’s recovery efforts. This immense tax burden will drive more New Yorkers out of the state; joining the 1.4 million former residents who have fled to other states over the last decade. Embracing a massive tax-and-spend approach over a responsible pro-growth plan is the wrong choice at the wrong time.”

The budget provides $6.2 billion for the second year of a record $12.3 billion, two-year Department of Transportation capital plan that will facilitate the improvement of highways, bridges, rail, aviation infrastructure, non-MTA transit and DOT facilities, a 38 percent increase from the final two years of the last DOT capital plan.

“This year’s state budget includes an extraordinary investment in transportation infrastructure. With the unwavering efforts of our partners in the Senate and Assembly, and the support of Gov. Cuomo, local road and bridge programs will receive more than $1 billion in the coming fiscal year,” said Joe Wisinski, president of the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association. “This essential funding will help keep millions of motorists safe and create tens of thousands of jobs.”

Funding for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and the Marchiselli program will increase by $100 million to $577.8 million and funding for Extreme Winter Recovery is $100 million. The budget also provides $100 million of new funding to localities responsible for State Touring Routes, increases highway aid through the PAVE NY program by $50 million to $150 million and maintains funding of local bridge projects through the BRIDGE NY program at $100 million. This represents an overall year-to-year increase of $285 million and brings funding for local highway and bridge projects to more than $1 billion.

“Due to the incredibly strong advocacy efforts of our partners and advocates, the overall NYSDOT capital program is the largest ever at $6.168 billion,” said Mike Elmendorf, president and CEO of Rebuild New York Now. “Within the NYSDOT capital program, state and local construction also hit a record level for the 2021-2022 budget at $4.8 billion. This significant increase in funding will allow for localities and municipalities across the state to repair decaying infrastructure and create more jobs to help our economy fully recover. New York families deserve this investment in their local communities.”

The budget provides more than $7.7 billion in state support for higher education in New York, an increase of $283 million, or 3.8 percent, from FY 2021. New York has increased funding for higher education by more than $1.7 billion, or 29 percent, since FY 2012. In addition, the enacted budget provides more than $1 billion in new capital funding to SUNY and CUNY.

“The pandemic-induced economic crisis has hit our most vulnerable students the hardest. Financial challenges, including food and housing insecurities, have disrupted their pursuit of a degree or certificate — and ultimately a rewarding, family-sustaining career in high-demand industries,” said Katherine Douglas, Monroe Community College interim president. “I’m grateful to Gov. Cuomo and our state legislators for their bold vision, leadership and support of our students. Federal and state support will eliminate hurdles to college access and completion, paving the way for more equitable, brighter futures for our students. It will also enable MCC to keep its tuition affordable. Together, we will help transform the lives of our students and the local community and revitalize our region’s economy.”

New York’s colleges and universities are expected to receive an estimated $5.4 billion in direct federal stimulus aid, including more than $3.4 billion for public colleges and close to $2 billion for private colleges. SUNY and CUNY have nearly $3 billion in remaining stimulus funds to spend over the next 2-3 years. A substantial portion of this funding will be used to provide financial aid grants to students with exceptional needs, such as students who receive Pell grants.

The FY 2022 enacted budget enacts a COVID-19 Recovery Workforce Initiative, which invests $50 million for training in high-growth industries, employer-driven training for low-income workers and funding for small businesses to re-train and hire furloughed, laid-off or new employees.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Department of Labor has paid out more than $75 billion in benefits to more than 4 million New Yorkers — more than 30 typical years’ worth of benefits. The budget supports reforms to the unemployment system, including upgrades to modernize technology, among other things.

The budget creates a $2.1 billion program to provide cash payments to workers who have suffered income loss due to COVID but who are ineligible for unemployment insurance or related federal benefits due to their immigration status or other factors.

“For the past few days, we have either been kept waiting on budget bills or working on them until the wee hours of the morning,” said Assemblyman Brian Manktelow, R-Lyons, in a statement Wednesday. “It seems the mindset for the Assembly Majority is that the bigger we grow the budget, the better New York will be. I feel the complete opposite, as I believe we must go to battle against the debt New York has stacked up in order for our state to get anywhere. We must speed up our debt payback. I view a successful budget as to not raise taxes but to reduce them at a rate of a percentage each year. The more money we can leave in the pockets of residents, the better shape our state will be in for future generations.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Education Success Foundation offers clever non-event

Education Success Foundation has a not so foolish April Fool’s Day plan to raise funds and awareness of learning gaps and inequities.

The nonprofit is inviting community members to purchase a ticket to “not” attend an April Fool’s Day Soiree and, instead, will use the event invitation to raise awareness for elevated needs and growing barriers the organization says local students and families are facing.

Education Success Foundation touts the soiree as “the season’s only event sure not to be canceled.”

“Organizations need to be creative when it comes to engaging our community; we will stop at nothing to get students and families the support that they need to be successful,” said Education Success Foundation CEO Joseph Martino.

The event RSVP card offers witty ticket packages and add-ons: A Table for No One to Sit At, Couple’s Ticket to Stay on the Couch, the Tip You Won’t Have to Give the Bartender and the Auction Item You Won’t Bid On. All those interested in “not” attending the fundraising event can RSVP at

Education Success Foundation notes that though the non-event was developed in jest, it is meant to be a serious reminder that students and families are facing growing learning gaps and inequities. All funds raised through the soiree will directly support programming for 2,000 students at EnCompass: Resources for and the Norman Howard School. Supported programs include academic school day and after-school programs, wraparound services (basic needs support and resource connection) and college and career development for teens.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Coalition develops fellowship to address local education

A local coalition of child and family advocates has developed the Rochester Education Fellowship, which will enable a leader to co-create and build a new, community-centered vision for bold, transformation change for Rochester’s public school systems.

The coalition is looking for candidates who are entrepreneurial, have experience in executive-level leadership, deep knowledge of local needs and a focus on equitable outcomes for all Rochester students and families. Applications for the two-year fellowship will be accepted until March 26 and the selected fellow will be announced in July.

“The current challenges facing marginalized students and families are deeply embedded in the design of the systems of our nation and the city of Rochester,” said Jerome Underwood, president and CEO of Action for a Better Community and selection committee co-chair. “However, systems designed to produce inequitable outcomes can be redesigned to produce a greater quality of life for all in our community. The members of the Rochester Education Fellow Selection Committee believe there is great promise for aligned community members and leaders to reimagine Rochester’s public school systems with the needs of Black, Brown and economically marginalized families and students at the center.”

Students in Rochester face a number of obstacles to successful academic and life outcomes, officials noted. Some 44 percent of students under the age of 18 in Rochester are living in poverty and student achievement is among the lowest of any urban district in the country, with just 8 percent of students in grades 3-8 mastering math and reading on grade level.

The arrival of COVID-19 intensified the challenges of educating Rochester’s most vulnerable families, with the digital divide heightening inequities, officials said. The Rochester Education Fellowship Selection Committee believes transformative leadership is needed now to create a movement of bold, systemic change for Rochester students.

“I served in the Rochester school system for many years, and as a longtime educator, I view the challenges facing our children’s education through the lens of a hands-on teacher. With this insight, I believe that the Rochester Education Fellowship is a very thoughtfully designed solution to a complex challenge. Nothing is more important than ensuring our children have access to the best education possible, and I believe this initiative will dramatically improve outcomes for underserved students in Rochester,” said Rita Gaither, retired Rochester educator and founder of Pearl Resources Inc.

The fellow will have access to a wide variety of support from local and national partners, including leadership development, personalized executive coaching and a commitment of support and collaboration from anchor Rochester organizations to ensure they and the organization they launch have a lasting impact.

“I was born and raised in Rochester and know the struggles children here face. I couldn’t be a bigger believer in the importance of ensuring all children have equitable access to a well-rounded education that includes the arts, culture and social justice,” said Avenue Blackbox Theatre Founder Reenah Golden. “I am proud to serve on the selection committee with these established local leaders as we work together to push the needle forward creating opportunities for Rochester’s youth.”

The Rochester Education Fellowship Selection Committee is co-chaired by Underwood and Holli Budd, executive director of the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, two organizations with a strong history of supporting the city’s youth and families.

Additional selection committee members include:

• Angelica Perez-Delgado, the Ibero American Action League
• LaShunda Leslie-Smith, Connected Communities
• Dirk Hightower, the Children’s Institute
• Mellanye Nesmith, ABC’s Policy Council and local parent
• Rick DeJesus-Rueff, community member
• Reenah Golden, Avenue Blackbox Theatre
• Dr. Rita Gaither, retired Rochester educator, founder Pearl Resources Inc.
• Sekou Biddle, UNCF
• David Harris, the City Fund

The committee will lead the search and selection process for the fellow, and will also provide support during the two-year fellowship.

“There are many deep and interconnected challenges in the way of providing equitable and quality education to Rochester’s children, including poverty, segregation and high leadership turnover. There is an urgent and deep need for transformational, systemic change that is in alignment with the community,” Budd said. “We are intensely aware of the challenges Rochester children and families face and are committed to the long-lasting work needed to turn the tide.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Allendale Columbia to offer year-round childcare

Allendale Columbia School plans to launch a year-round educational childcare program this fall.

The Little School will be available to children 18 months through 3 years old, officials said this week. The school will open in September.

The Little School will base its education on a Reggio Emilia-inspired, student-driven approach to learning. Children will be encouraged to follow their natural curiosity and to investigate, explore and experiment in the world around them. Through a combination of curriculum and guided projects, new ideas and topics are introduced to foster a love of learning.

The Little School will feature a new classroom with comfortable and inviting spaces.
The Little School will feature a new classroom with comfortable and inviting spaces.

The school will feature a new, specially designed classroom with comfortable and inviting spaces for children to actively engage and explore, officials said. Allendale Columbia’s 33-acre campus offers kids an outdoor play area and other places to explore outside as well.

“In our community, there is a real need for an educational childcare program for toddlers, and with our Reggio Emilia approach, our new Little School will inspire our youngest students while also providing an option for families wanting full-day childcare,” said Head of School Shannon Baudo. “We are thrilled to now offer childcare and a new student-driven approach to learning for our littlest students and we look forward to welcoming children to our Allendale community in the fall.”

The Little School will be open year-round except for winter and spring breaks, the week of Independence Day and the week before Labor Day. The classroom features a secure keypad entry, cameras and a five-to-one student-to-teacher ratio.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

SUNY Empire State College program to make college more accessible

A new financial aid and educational support program is available in New York that provides more flexibility for incoming or returning college students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Empire Opportunity Program was announced over the weekend by SUNY Empire State College, which will begin with 60 students at its Buffalo campus and online starting in the fall semester. Other campuses will be added later.

Unlike other state educational opportunity programs, this one is available to full-time and part-time students and to students of any age who are either starting college or returning to their studies.

“With the changing demographics of today’s college student, SUNY Empire State College’s new program will provide the same successful opportunities to the growing population of adult student learners and students at all stages of life,” said Guillermo Linares, president of the NY State Higher Education Services Corporation.

SUNY Empire EOP will offer:

–Financial aid, such as stipends for full-time and part-time students;

–Dedicated professional and peer tutors;

–Student success mentors from enrollment through graduation;

–Summer orientation;

–Year-round workshops on topics such as resume writing and self-marketing;

–Early-degree planning.

Education is a critical rung in the ladder of success, building a strong middle class and improving lives,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “This expansion to SUNY Empire will make it easier for New York’s students to get the education and support they need in the manner that best suits their lives — whether that’s on a campus, online or a combination of the two.”

Students must meet financial and academic guidelines to be included in the program. They also must be residents of New York for at least 12 months.  Information is available from Empire State College’s website at

“SUNY Empire’s new EOP initiative will put a college degree within reach for many New Yorkers, especially adults and returning students, who may have thought a higher education was impossible,” Dana Brown, the program’s new director. “This is an important step toward achieving the full promise of higher education as a path to a better life for all, not just some.”

[email protected]/(585) 363-7275.