Education grant builds school ties

Kristian Biega, Staff writer

Mercyhurst University and the Erie School District are in a partnership that has created the successful Pre-K Counts program for Erie’s youngest citizens. On Aug. 17, the PNC Foundation presented a grant of $15,000 to help these programs continue to thrive. PNC also presented a $5,000 corporate sponsorship to be shared between Mercyhurst Athletics and the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts and Culture.

Mercyhurst and the Education Department have been collaborating on this grant for some time. Sheila Coon, former Mercyhurst University grant writer, discovered this opportunity with PNC for the school.

It was then authored by the dean of the Hafenmaier College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Leanne Roberts, Ph.D.

Amy Bauschard, Education Department program director, oversees the program.

“We are ecstatic about this opportunity,” said Bauschard. “Not only are we able to provide the graduate students with intense professional development in the area of special education, but we are also able to support the youngest children of Erie’s schools.”

The Mercyhurst Education department and Erie’s public schools have had a long-standing relationship, allowing Mercyhurst students to complete clinical hours in the public schools and at Carpe Diem Academy, an after-school extended learning program. This cooperation has been beneficial for both Mercyhurst and Erie public school students.

“This grant confirms the importance of community partnerships,” Bauschard said.

PNC’s generous grant will enable Mercyhurst and the Erie School District to provide eight teachers and many supervisors special education professional development training for the upcoming year. The Mercyhurst Special Education graduate program has been a major force for establishing the autistic support classroom in Erie schools.

The creation of a Pre-K program in each Erie elementary school allows for 40 percent more students to begin their education in Pre-K, versus the previous education model. Altogether, this program serves 160 Pre-K students.

“Four years ago, not one of the Erie School District elementary Schools had a Pre-K classroom,” said Bauschard. “Now every Erie public elementary school has one and some schools have two.

One-hundred sixty students are receiving a jumpstart on their education and most importantly will be in kindergarten already.”

The Education Department at Mercyhurst always seeks to grow, hoping to continue working with the Erie School District. Some goals for the future include expanding the number of classrooms for the elementary schools.