Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A program begun at Lockport’s Christ Community Church earned a grand-prize Magna Award for the Orleans-Niagara BOCES school district.
The Magna Award program, sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s American School Board Journal, recognizes school boards for taking bold and innovative steps to advance public education. Districts across the country are honored for programs that advance learning and encourage community involvement in schools.
Orleans-Niagara BOCES received the award for a veterans outreach project that was started at its adult Literacy Zone Welcome Center at Christ Community Church, Genesee and Pine streets.
Literacy Zone Welcome centers are sited in impoverished neighborhoods in cities with high rates of unemployment, underemployment and illiteracy. BOCES staff partner with agencies and community-based organizations to help individuals obtain high school equivalency, remediation, computer skills, job readiness and career preparation.
One of its partners, Jennifer D’Andrea Terreri, is the founder of two charitable organizations, the Kids Breaking Free Foundation for at-risk youths and families and SERV Niagara for disabled and homeless veterans.
D’Andrea-Terreri and Kids Breaking Free offered some workshops at the Welcome Center, including a men’s cooking class. Participants in the class, now called Cooking For A Cause, catered a July 2013 fundraiser for SERV Niagara’s transitional/homeless veterans housing project. Literacy Zone staff and the Kids Breaking Free Foundation helped run the event.
“What started as a simple lunch developed into a partnership with many groups and individuals, resulting in a community project that would raise money and awareness to address the needs of thousands of veterans in our community,” Chuck Diemert, Literacy Zone coordinator, said.
“A community worked together to provide the awareness needed to help those less fortunate. This project made a difference in the lives of all that were involved,” Orleans Niagara BOCES literacy specialist Susan Diemert said. “(Our) adult literacy program is more than just an academic program. Our goal is to help people to recognize what challenges they have and how to develop a plan to overcome the barriers to create a brighter life for themselves and their families.”