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1 Million To Help Erie's Poor & At-Risk Youth (November 12, 2015)

By Emily Matson, WICU-TV

A major donation hopes to make an impact on some of the biggest challenges facing Erie.

Two of Erie's largest founders teamed up to give some major cash towards projects that target education, job training, and access to health care.

The Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority and the Erie Community Foundation doled out 1 million dollars to four local projects Thursday.

The largest amount, $400,000, goes to the Erie school district for the Tech After Hours program. The program will offer job-training and placement to 18 to 24-year olds.

$150,000 goes to All About Character, a character development program taught by Erie and State Police, to at-risk youth. Retired PA State Trooper, Matthew Harris founded the program here, called "Character: Be About It."

It places law enforcement officers inside classrooms, in grades 3 through 8, to teach the children about character, "Character is something that a large part sometimes is lacking at home, and with this captive audience in the classroom we're trying to capture that and get them to understand the importance of it both in school and out of school," said Harris. "It's building student and law enforcement relationships, which is fragmented to say the least, nationally, and the program works. That law enforcement role model component of mentoring, all those things are making a difference," Harris added.

$250,000 goes to Gannon University's GO College program, which helps prepare Strong Vincent and East High School students for college or the military.

They work to guide the students, in grades 9 through 12, to help them have opportunities to get higher education be successful. Since the program's inception about 8 years ago, about 90% of the students in the program have gone to college, "Erie has too few educated high school and college graduates to sustain our economy and sustain our community as a health community, and so the more students we can get going to college, the better our future looks," said Gannon University President, Dr. Keith Taylor.

The theme here is reaching out to at-risk youth, using proven methods and projects, in hopes to make a real impact in their lives, and our community, "We're targeting youth, we're targeting disconnected young people, and we specifically want to give them the skills to move forward with their lives," said Perry Wood, Executive Director of ECGRA "Like character, education, these are the cornerstones we're investing in and we're not doing it lightly, we're putting a million dollars into these projects," said Wood.

And those with ECGRA and The Community Foundation says this joint Million dollars, $500,000 from both groups, is a first of its kind and will go a long way to help the community, "Two funders coming together to put a million dollars into solving some of the most foundational issues that we're dealing with as a city, I think it's an historic moment and we're excited to be a part of it, said Perry Wood, Executive Director of ECGRA." Wood added.

"Instead of trying to do this ourselves, let's work together, let's do a million dollars so that we can bring some projects to scale and try to have a more transformational impact," said Mike Batchelor.

The Primary Health Network also received $200,000 to provide health care to Erie's poor. They plan to use the money to expand health centers with two new facilities.

Erie Community Foundation Grant