The Telegram
  • Community Foundation initiative paying off

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  • UTICA — It’s been only six months since the announcement of the 25/25 initiative, but the Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer Counties already is making strides to increase the percentage of adults who have bachelor’s degrees.
    “It’s a very exciting time and I think it’s going to have a lot of good consequences for our area,” said Barbara Henderson, foundation vice president for programs and community initiatives. “There’s so much going on right now.”
    Currently in Herkimer County, 19 percent of adults have a four-year degree or higher and only 22 percent in Oneida County do, compared to 32 percent statewide, according to the foundation’s community indicators.
    The goal is 25 percent by 2025.
    Communities with higher education levels have higher incomes, lower poverty rates and health costs,and less reliance on state and federal services, according to the foundation.
    To date, the foundation has made numerous education connections for all age levels and has strengthened programs already in place.
    One of those initiatives is the Young Scholars Liberty Partnerships, which aims to help students — who are at risk of dropping out or are failing due to various economic and social factors — stay in school, earn an advanced Regents diploma and go on to post-secondary education.
    About $150,000 in funding from the Utica City School District to the program was cut in 2012. The result: staffing cuts and a bleak outlook for the future — that is until the Community Foundation and its donor, the Mele Family Fund, helped to pay for a financial consultant and donated $67,689 toward operational costs.
    “It’s too strong a program, it’s too good a program not to find some other ways to support the program,” said Young Scholars Director Flossie Mitchell.
    Through mentoring, tutoring, college visits and filling in where parents can’t, the program has sent 97 percent of its students to college since 2005.
    The foundation also is helping residents who haven’t graduated high school and are looking for a better future with On Point for College. On Point focuses on 17- to 29-year-olds with low incomes, who either have a high school diploma or are in a program to get their diploma or GED.
    “We’re kind of at the line getting ones who are high school graduates and an even larger number of ones who have fallen off the conveyor-belt system,” said On Point Utica Program Director Kevin Marken.
    The Community Foundation gave $100,000 to support the 2014-2015 academic year as well as an additional $25,000 from the Mele Family Fund to help pay for expenses that often hold students back such as housing deposits and travel costs associated with college visits.
    And there still is more than a decade to go for 25/25.
    “I think it’s only going to get stronger in the future as we learn about more programs, as we make those connections with local organizations and all begin to figure out together what really works for our community and what’s really going to make this successful,” Henderson said.
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