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Buffalo Prep: Helping Disadvantaged Students Succeed

Many underprivileged students lack the resources and the support that can be crucial stepping-stones to better opportunities. Buffalo Prep, a nonprofit organization in Buffalo, N.Y., is working to change that.

After witnessing the success of a similar program in New York City, community leaders established Buffalo Prep in 1989. Buffalo Prep focuses on identifying promising but economically disadvantaged minority students throughout Western New York. Buffalo Prep’s programs aim to help students enroll and succeed in local college-preparatory high schools and then go on to successful college careers.

“We look for intelligent and motivated young people who are determined to succeed in school,” says Christine Matuszak, who until recently served as development director for Buffalo Prep, in an email interview. “Many of Buffalo Prep’s applicants are student referrals from teachers and counselors, typically B+ to A+ students. ... We also recruit at local libraries, Boys and Girls Clubs, churches and other community organizations. Applicants must complete an application, meet our qualifications (low-income, [and] African American, Hispanic or Native American), go through two rounds of academic testing, and interview with members of our staff, board of directors and current and former Prep students.”

Buffalo Prep
18 Acheson Annex
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14214
(716) 829-2148
Fiscal Year
June 30, 2004
Total Revenue
Total Expenses
Program Services
71 percent
Management and General
14 percent
15 percent

Matuszak says that since the inception of the original program in 1989, Buffalo Prep has recognized the need for a wider range of programs to serve different age groups in the community. “We’ve expanded greatly over the past five years. We now have three distinct programs based on grade level: Primary Prep, Secondary Prep and Graduate Prep.”

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Prep/Kenya Hall
Buffalo Prep students perform a science lab experiment, using heat and a sodium hydroxide solution to fuse zinc and the copper of a common penny together to form an alloy — brass.

The Primary Prep program can best be described as an “academic summer camp,” and is designed for students in the fifth and sixth grades. These years generally are very important in a child’s social and cognitive development. Primary Prep students participate in classes, field trips and a variety of other enrichment activities, and are prepared to continue in the Secondary Prep program or are encouraged to get involved in other local educational programs.

The Secondary Prep program focuses on preparing students for and placing students in one of several independent Buffalo schools partnering with Buffalo Prep, known as consortium schools. The Secondary Prep program is designed for seventh- and eighthgrade students. Matuszak notes that this program is extremely demanding, as students are often given heavy workloads in addition to their regular schoolwork. “For fourteen months, our Secondary Prep students are coming to classes two evenings a week and every Saturday during the school year and five days per week for two summers.”

Some students have difficulty with the additional workload. However, Buffalo Prep provides a number of services to assist students during the Secondary Prep program. “To help students complete the program, we offer a great deal of support with tutoring, counseling services, peer group sessions, mentoring, and a parents’ support group. Our board and staff have worked extremely hard for our Secondary Prep students to go from a 70% completion rate to an 80% completion/graduation rate,” says Matuszak.

Buffalo Prep’s third program, Graduate Prep, prepares juniors and seniors for the transition from high school to college. Much like Secondary Prep, Graduate Prep focuses not only on enrollment in top colleges, but prepares students to succeed once enrolled. The program provides oneon- one college and career advisement, guidance counseling, internship resources and community leadership preparation. The program provides SAT training, review courses and essay-writing workshops to enhance students’ college applications. It also provides scholarship and financial aid services, which can be crucial to economically disadvantaged students’ success. Buffalo Prep also hosts visits with admissions representatives and arranges tours of colleges and universities such as Cornell University, Skidmore College, University of Rochester and Colgate University.

Buffalo Prep’s statistics tell the story. According to the organization, Secondary Prep students have a 97 percent retention rate at the consortium schools, and 75 percent of Secondary Prep students earn honors grades in high school. Perhaps just as important, 100 percent of Secondary Prep students perform community service work. The Graduate Prep program has attained a 97 percent college placement rate for students and has helped Buffalo Prep graduates receive more than $3.5 million in scholarship assistance.

In a given year, about 300 students participate in Buffalo Prep’s programs, with about 100 students in Primary Prep, 120 students in Secondary Prep and 80 in Graduate Prep. The majority of Buffalo Prep’s support comes from individual donors, local corporations and foundation grants. The organization’s most recent federal Form 990 reported total revenue of about $511,000 and annual spending of $452,000, with 71 percent of the spending devoted to the organization’s programs, 15 percent for fund-raising and the remainder for management and general expenses.