ESL, Bank of America assist low-income students

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Through gifts to area colleges, ESL Federal Credit Union and Bank of America hope to assist low-income students pursue an education and close workforce gaps.

ESL has gifted $1.107 million to the Brockport Foundation to help incoming students at SUNY Brockport with scholarship funds. Bank of America’s $100,000 grant to the Monroe Community College Foundation will enable low-income Finger Lakes region residents with financial support to start and complete MCC’s certified nurse assistant training and development program.

At SUNY Brockport, the Fannie Barrier Williams Scholars program will offer four-year scholarships to high-potential students from low-income families in Monroe, Orleans, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario and Wayne counties. Roughly 30 students will receive these awards each year. 

“The Fannie Barrier Williams Scholars program will allow these students to focus on their studies without having to worry about paying their bills. Importantly, through the generosity of ESL, these students will be able to graduate with limited debt and contribute back to the Greater Rochester community,” SUNY Brockport President Heidi Macpherson says. 

Eligible students include accepted incoming freshman students enrolled in a degree program at the college and identified as low-income and not receiving a traditional merit/academic scholarship from the institution. These students also should be considered most at risk of not persisting to graduation. Priority will be given to students of color. 

“Scholarships are critical investments we make in the education of our community’s future leaders,” says Faheem Masood, president and CEO of ESL. “We sincerely thank SUNY Brockport for the opportunity to partner on the Fannie Barrier Williams Scholars program, as we know that a quality education can open the door to numerous opportunities. Together, we can help ensure students are supported and nurtured in a way that allows them to complete their studies, graduate, and jumpstart their successful careers.”

The first woman of color to graduate from the Brockport Normal & Training School (SUNY Brockport’s predecessor) in 1870, Williams was a public speaker and a reform and labor activist who kept company with other prominent leaders such as Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells, and Frederick Douglass.

Bank of America’s grant to MCC will pay for education and training of aspiring certified nurse assistants across the Finger Lakes region as employers experience staffing shortages. Roughly 96 percent of students in MCC’s CNA program come from low-income households. Typically, some of these students work multiple jobs and don’t quality for funding and other financial assistance.

“The Finger Lakes region is experiencing a great demand to fill health care positions. By joining forces with Monroe Community College, we are not only closing workforce gaps but also providing opportunities to individuals who traditionally face barriers to entering CNA programs,” says Colleen Matteson, president of Bank of America Rochester. “At Bank of America, we recognize that initiatives like MCC’s CNA Training and Development Program are integral to driving economic progress in our communities. We look forward to seeing how this program supports success among the students.”

The grant will allow an additional 40 residents to go through the CNA training program in 2021-22 over a period of 11 months. Funds will cover tuition, books and supplies.

“Now more than ever, we need well-trained and dedicated certified nurse assistants to serve the needs of the Finger Lakes region,” says Kristin Sine-Kinz, acting vice president for economic development, workforce and career technical education at MCC. 

As the elderly population continues to grow and the demand for health care services increases, the Finger Lakes region has a high need for CNAs, MCC says. Some 647 annual job openings for CNAs are projected for the region, with an estimated 211 positions likely to go unfilled because of a talent shortage and workers approaching retirement age, according to MCC’s analysis of the labor market

“This significant financial commitment by the Bank of America Foundation comes at the right time to help satisfy growing employer demand for skilled certified nurse assistants,” says Gretchen Wood, vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the MCC Foundation. “This investment creates life-changing opportunities that will empower future MCC students to pursue the education they need to start rewarding careers, fulfill their potential and make a difference in the lives of residents and families throughout the Finger Lakes region.”

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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