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Congressman Higgins Announces Over $1 Million Federal AmeriCorps Grant for Mission:Ignite

Nov 25, 2019
Press Release
“Ignite Your Life” Project Seeks to Provide STEM Training to Over 1,000 Area Youth

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced that Mission:Ignite has been awarded a three-year $1,021,122 federal grant to oversee a program that engages AmeriCorps members in expanding Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) skills among area youth.  Mission:Ignite will match the grant with $449,000, plus an additional $472,000 in AmeriCorps education awards will be available to participating AmeriCorps members, bringing total investment in the program to $1.942 million. 

“Under the leadership of Mission:Ignite, this initiative provides young people with job skills that meet the needs of today’s economy and inspires confidence in the opportunity that these quality STEM jobs can be theirs,” said Congressman Higgins.

“In 2018 Computers For Children did two things: rebranded as Mission:Ignite to match the expansion of our programs; and strategically designed the Foundations for the Future initiative, to support training in career tracks and  vehicle for the sustainability of Mission:Ignite. The partnership with the AmeriCorps will help us invest in graduating high school and college young people to provide jobs where they will receive hands on experiential training to address real world needs such as the technology gaps in schools, nonprofits and education. By training young people in Tech and STEM career tracks they will train others and will become part of the solution as well as expand their own story”, said Christine Carr-Barmasse, Executive Director of Mission:Ignite powered by Computers For Children.

Through the Ignite Your Life (IYL) program, AmeriCorps members will provide technology and STEM training aimed it sparking students’ interest in high potential ‘New Collar’ careers and equip them with the skills necessary to obtain those jobs. 

“Western New York has a fast-growing high-tech business community.  Ensuring that our local students and recent graduates are prepared for the workplace is essential to their future and the future of Western New York.  We're very excited to provide quality apprenticeship and education opportunities for the next generation of western New York leaders in the STEM industry.  The Mission: Ignite Foundations for the Future initiative will help make the critical connection between qualified professionals and this community's need for STEM-related jobs,” Brendan Lillis, President Mission:Ignite powered by Computers For Children.

The goals of Ignite Your Life are to increase the number of underrepresented youth who choose STEM careers, close the digital divide, and educate young people in the benefits of technology proficiency beyond social engagement.  The program, led by Mission:Ignite, seeks to provide over 1,000 youth and young adults with career-focused guidance using community venues throughout Western New York.

“Mission Ignite has led the way in connecting young people from a broad range of backgrounds to technology, both for their use and as potential career paths,” said Paul Hogan, Executive Vice President of The John R. Oishei Foundation. “With this grant, they will be able to expand their reach and provide even more opportunities for STEM and tech careers that will benefit more young people and help to create a skilled workforce for the Buffalo Niagara region.”

“This is very exciting news for our community accelerating STEM and Tech efforts with dedicated technology resources that will provide programming to prepare our students for future “New Collar” careers,” remarked Sam Marrazzo, Chief Innovation Officer for the BNMC.  “With this new injection of resources, Mission-Ignite can expand its valued mission within our community by providing critical access to technology and training programs that will enable students to better prepare for higher education and workplace opportunities.”

Approximately 200 AmeriCorps members are expected to participate in program delivery to guide students in skill development through computer labs, maker spaces, creative tools and other curriculum. The project has the dual benefit of expanding STEM proficiency among youth and providing workforce experience and professional development opportunities to the people who commit to AmeriCorps service.  AmeriCorps members will also receive education awards based on the amount of time served to help with educational expenses including the repayment of student loans.

“KeyBank in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation invests in initiatives that provide access to programs that enhance career readiness and promote life-long learning,” said Elizabeth Gurney, Executive Director of the KeyBank and First Niagara Foundations. “Our donation of equipment and resources for Mission: Ignite will help.”


Mission:Ignite, Powered by Computers For Children, Inc., was established in 1997. It is the first nonprofit agency in New York State, and the second in the nation to have a core mission specifically to address the digital and technology divide in schools, providing upgraded computers and training.

The federal funding was awarded through the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that helps Americans improve the lives of others through service.  To apply for an AmeriCorps service position through Mission:Ignite go to: