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Higgins joins Schroeder for Grand Opening of South Buffalo Education Center

Apr 16, 2009
Press Release
Last April, 2234 Seneca Street in South Buffalo was like any other neighborhood bank branch, with a steady flow of customers making deposits and withdrawals. A year later, the massive vault remains, but the people using this building are not investing in CDs or bonds, they are investing in their future.

“Our new building will give our students so many more opportunities to get the education and training they need,” said Stacey Watson, executive director of the South Buffalo Education Center, which today officially opened its new facility, a former HSBC branch a few blocks from its original location.

Since its inception in 2002, nearly 500 students have earned their GED at the South Buffalo Education Center, which also offers computer classes and vocational training – all at no cost to the student. The small school’s success caused it to outgrow its first home. 

“We had the opportunity to offer more programs, but we simply did not have the space that they would require,” said Watson

In act of impeccable timing, HSBC donated their Seneca Street branch to the South Buffalo Education Center after it closed last April. 

“The building is a major step up for the school from its humble beginnings,” said New York State Assemblyman Mark J.F. Schroeder, who founded the school to meet the needs of area residents without a high school diploma. “But there was a lot of work to be done before the school could move in and open their doors.

That is where the Buffalo Building Trades Council stepped in. The alliance of construction unions donated countless man-hours of labor, thousands of dollars worth of materials, and a substantial amount of cash in order to renovate the building.

“The Buffalo Building Trades have completely transformed this building,” said Schroeder. “Carpentry, plumbing, painting, electric work – you name it, they did it.”

The result is a state-of-the-art, high tech learning center designed to be approachable and user-friendly. 

“We have always encouraged people to walk in off the street,” said Watson. “That is why this location is perfect.”

Getting kids off the street and into the classroom was Schroeder’s objective when he started the school seven years ago, while he was a county legislator. 

“Seven years ago Assemblyman Mark Schroeder set out on a mission to provide local residents with the promise of a better future through education,” said Congressman Brian Higgins.  “Through Mark’s vision, the teachers’ instruction and the students’ hard work the South Buffalo Education center has produced record outcomes in its delivery of hundreds of diplomas.  This grand opening will only build on the success already achieved in presenting all who walk through the doors with new opportunities and hope for tomorrow.”

A glaring need in the community, a storefront location, and a unique curriculum crafted by Watson were catalysts behind the school’s tremendous success.

“Results get noticed, and having the highest graduation rate of any GED school in the state, year after year, definitely raised some eyebrows,” said South Buffalo Education Center president David Kelly. “This has led to partnerships with the Erie Community College, the Buffalo Public Schools, the Erie County Department of Social Services, Penn Foster, Buffalo Building Trades, AmeriCorps of WNY, the Buffalo Bills, and many others.”

The school honored the Buffalo Building Trades at today’s grand opening ceremony, in addition to dedicating the student lounge to the memory of a former student, U.S. Army Sergeant Daniel Shaw, who died in the line of duty in Iraq.

Shaw was one of the first GED graduates of the South Buffalo Education Center in 2002. After he failed the military entrance exam for the second time, he returned to the school in 2004 to get some math and reading help from Watson. He passed the exam on his third try and left for Fort Benning, Georgia in July of 2004, eager to start his career in the Army.

That October, Shaw returned to the South Buffalo Education Center for a visit, proudly wearing his uniform after completing Basic Training. In 2005, Dan earned a purple heart after an insurgent rocket propelled grenade attack in Ramadi, Iraq left him with shrapnel in the back of his head.

Shaw made the ultimate sacrifice in 2007 when an explosion in Taji, Iraq took his life at the young age of 23.

“From the moment I met Dan, his goal was to serve his country in the Army,” said Schroeder. “His unyielding determination not only helped him achieve that goal, it made him excel as a soldier and leader. While his career wasn’t as long as we all hoped, his service to our nation was as honorable, brave, and passionate as can be.”