Buffalo Prep Celebrates Launch of Prep Scholars Academy at The Belle Center, Announces New Alumni Board President

Luis Rodriguez, Jr. named as first alumni board president

(Buffalo, New York, July 15, 2021) Buffalo Prep, a local non-profit organization dedicated to providing talented underrepresented youth access to and preparation for college preparatory high schools and higher education, hosted a celebration for the opening of its newest program, Prep Scholars Academy, on Wednesday, July 14 at The Belle Center.  Prep Scholars Academy is a community-based summer enrichment program for middle school students seeking to succeed in their academics and pursue a college education

Prep Scholars Academy broadens Buffalo Prep’s reach to communities with barriers to accessing college preparatory and educational equity programs and is designed to set more underrepresented students on the path to higher education by strengthening their academic skills while they are in their crucial middle school years through high school graduation. The achievement gap between white students and their Hispanic/Latino peers is persistent, with only 50 percent of the latter graduating from high school in Buffalo.  Due to transportation and cultural barriers, the Hispanic/Latino demographic has historically been only nine percent of Buffalo Prep’s student population.   

Partnering with a trusted community-based organization in the Hispanic/Latino community, the inaugural site of Prep Scholars Academy is housed at The Belle Center, supporting students with bilingual programming who reside in the West Side neighborhood.  “Partnering with Lucy Candelario and The Belle Center is vital to the success of Prep Scholars Academy,” said Patti Stephen, Robert G. Willmers Endowed Executive Director of Buffalo Prep. “We are excited to reach even more deserving young students in the city of Buffalo with our academic enrichment and support programming.”

 In partnership with Pathfinder, a local market research firm, Buffalo Prep conducted focus groups with The Belle Center parents/guardians and students during the design phase of Prep Scholars Academy.  In addition, an advisory committee was established to assist with recruitment, program implementation, and year-round services with representatives from The Belle Center, Buffalo Public Schools, Hispanic Women’s League, Hispanics Heritage Council of Western New York, Hispanics United of Buffalo, La Ultima Hora Newspaper, Rodriguez Construction Group, SUNY Buffalo State, and the University at Buffalo.

Prep Scholars Academy at The Belle Center launched July 6 and welcomed a cohort of 5th and 6th grade students for five weeks of academic and social enrichment.  Admission into Prep Scholars Academy was selective and limited to a small group of eleven hard-working, motivated students who enjoy being challenged and would benefit from an intensive academic program to attain their goals for high school graduation and beyond.  The program will provide a minimum of four years of academic preparation and comprehensive social-emotional support and help students select and transition into a high school that is right for them, identified via one-on-one counseling.

Major funders of Prep Scholars Academy include Bank of America, Cullen Foundation, Rich Products, Rodriguez Construction Group, and Unifrax. 

Buffalo Prep alumnus Luis Rodriguez, Jr.‘97 grew up on the West Side of Buffalo and entered Buffalo Prep in the 7th grade.  He is now the CEO of Rodriguez Construction Group, a sponsor of Prep Scholars Academy.  Mr. Rodriguez was recently named as the first alumni Buffalo Prep board president after serving on the executive committee.  “I’m excited to help lead an organization that has provided so much opportunity for me,” said Mr. Rodriguez.  “I’m eager with my new board president position to expand and provide opportunities to students in the community I was born and raised in and help shape the future leaders of tomorrow.”  Buffalo Prep alumna and City Court Judge, Honorable JaHarr Pridgen ’94, was named to the executive board and Matthew Becton, ‘01, Senior Manager at Verizon, was voted on as a new board member.

With the addition of the Prep Scholars Academy program, Buffalo Prep now has three sites operating across the city of Buffalo during the summer aimed at supporting talented underrepresented youth: Prep Scholars Academy at The Belle Center, Middle School Prep at Nichols School, and High School Prep at Buffalo Prep’s location on the University at Buffalo South Campus.  

 Its pipeline of programs —which serve over 650 students and alumni each year and are provided free to families—are 100 percent privately funded by donors in the community.  One-hundred percent of Buffalo Prep scholars graduate from high school and are accepted to college.  In the last seven years, 83 percent of Buffalo Prep alumni have graduated with a bachelor’s degree or are currently enrolled to obtain one.

 To learn more, visit buffaloprep.com or facebook.com/buffaloprep.

 About Buffalo Prep

Since its founding in 1989, Buffalo Prep has worked with thousands of underrepresented students to provide academic and social support in a rigorous and nurturing environment. Through this preparatory process, Buffalo Prep students are able to enter and excel in local private and competitive public high schools, colleges and universities.