BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – It’s no secret that Buffalo Public Schools are struggling and graduation rates are down. But there is help for students who need a hand to guide them in the right direction.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters is celebrating the end of the school year and a lot of positive progress. Officials say it’s all about partnerships, parental involvement and instilling a drive to succeed.
Whether sailing on the Western New York waters, or meeting Luna the polar bear cub at the Buffalo Zoo, Quinnshona Douglas has formed a bond with her ‘Big Sister,’ News 4 Digital Producer Emily Lenihan.
“She tells me never to stop trying and always try, do your hardest,” Quinnshona said.
Emily added, “Big Sisters in the program get just as much out of it as the little sisters. You learn a lot about each other, about yourself and it’s just amazing.”
Emily and Quinnshona were linked through Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Erie County, which aims to guide “at risk” children toward success.
“You sort of have an extra person checking in on you and we can talk about school,” Quinnshona said. “And sometimes it’s different talking to a parent about school than talking to a friend.”
With Emily’s help, Quinnshona’s grades have risen significantly.
In fact, while the graduation rate among Buffalo Public School seniors has dramatically dropped, city school students who are mentored by a Big Brother or Big Sister see much different results. In 2012, 100 percent of mentored students graduated. This year, four of five graduated.
While the program’s goal is to help at risk children, the truth is the national organization is itself, at risk. The Justice Department has suspended nearly $20 million in taxpayer money because it can’t verify the money went toward programming.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Erie County CEO Tom Guagliardo said, “Cash flow is a little tight. But we’re committed to the children that we serve and it has not impacted us doing that.”
Quinnshona is keeping a positive attitude for the future.
“No matter how hard it gets, just keep going,” she said.