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Gifts Support "“Bridge to College”"

The First Niagara Foundation and the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation have each given $2,500 in support of Hampshire College's Hampshire Youth Connect "bridge to college" initiative.

"First Niagara is proud to support programs like Youth Connect, that have a direct and lasting impact on educational outcomes for young adults," said Hampshire alum Paul McCraven 74F, First Niagara's senior vice president of community development.

Hampshire Youth Connect, begun as a pilot program in the summer of 2011 through the support of community and social justice advocate Joan Hastings, brings together on-campus resources with community partners to create an ongoing learning path to college for at-risk youth. Hampshire students, staff, and faculty work in close collaboration with numerous community organizations including Holyoke's Care Center and Enchanted Circle Theatre and the Treehouse Community in Easthampton.

"We are so excited to be part of this inventive initiative," said Care Center executive director Anne Teschner. "This college experience that has been created for Care Center fits perfectly with our larger goal of exposing teen mothers to the excitement and power of higher education."

Funding through donors like First Niagara and the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation have provided Hampshire with the opportunity to develop a wide range of Youth Connect programming both on the Hampshire College campus and at community partner locations throughout the year.

"This has been an amazing experience for Treehouse teens, offering skill building, valuable employment-related experience, new relationships, and social learning context, leadership, and self-development opportunities," said Treehouse community facilitator Kerry Homestead.

Anchored in the College's Childhood, Youth, and Learning (CYL) program, the Youth Connect offerings tie in to Hampshire courses and student academic projects, utilize programs like the Hampshire's Center for Design and the Farm Center, and provide youth participants in the program a rare opportunity to build core academic skills while gaining knowledge of college expectations. In addition to the impact on Youth Connect participants, Hampshire students involved in mentoring and collaborations with these teens often find themselves learning in new ways.

"My own academic pursuits at Hampshire College and my continued studies in graduate school are all beautifully paralleled to the work of Hampshire Youth Connect," said alumni fellow Miriam Shafer 07F. "As an alumna of the CYL program, I know that the opportunities for youth development and leadership that the program offers will be put to great use and expand the range of projects that undergraduates are able to do."

Through its inclusive, collaborative programming and by encouraging a deep engagement between the College and its community partners, Hampshire Youth Connect establishes partnerships that are unbiased and sustainable, intended to strengthen families and communities on a long-term basis.

First Niagara Foundation is a not for profit corporation founded in 1998. The Foundation is committed to supporting organizations with specific focus on youth and education, community development, and neighborhood revitalization. For more information, visit

The Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation is a family foundation based in Boston. It dedicates a major share of its funding resources to ending family homelessness in the Commonwealth and beyond. For more information, visit

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