Mercyhurst Education Department receives $1.5 million grant

Mercyhurst University received a $1.5 million grant in mid-January from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to begin the Carpe Diem Academy, a program to help children in the Erie area.

The program was created to help students grades K-2 in the Erie School District at seven schools to meet state and local academic standards.

At the end of October, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers’ grant proposal was submitted and received total approval months later. The grant must comply with the requirements of its approval; otherwise, it will be forfeited during the three-year program.

“We absolutely had to do it,” said Leanne Roberts, Ph.D., associate professor of education and behavioral sciences, chair of the education department and author of the grant.

The idea for the proposal was devised after viewing a webinar, and the program then sounded like a good idea for the department.

Director of External Affairs and Government Relations Sheila Coon then developed the request for approval for the grant.

“I’m extremely excited to hear about the grant for the Carpe Diem Academy. I’m so excited that the education department has the opportunity to work with students in the community and really make a difference,” said education major and sophomore Angela Staszak. “I’m thankful to get the chance to get into the classroom and strengthen both the students’ education and my own.”

A need for the grant was determined after research showed that the City of Erie has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the state. The research uncovered that 42 percent of students in the third grade were scoring below proficient in reading.

The seven schools that will be in the program are Irving, Burton, Pfeiffer-Burleigh, Perry, Wayne, Lincoln and Edison.

“We’re hoping to build a model that can sustain itself by developing a master’s program in reading and using this as a clinical site,” Roberts said.

The Carpe Diem Academy will help students at failing schools in Erie who seem to be at risk of failure in their own education. It will provide the children with dinner, a healthy snack, arts and the opportunity to build good habits at a young age four nights a week from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Seven teachers who are certified graduate students will serve as clinical support teachers in the program as well as 18 education majors of high standing. The education majors will be paid by the hour at an above-minimum wage.

Education majors may apply by emailing Roberts at The application will be ready in two weeks for students to begin applying. Qualifications for the program include a 3.0 grade point average and being an education major of high standing.

“I’m thrilled with the opportunity to work with the Erie School District and most excited that the children will benefit from it,” Roberts said.

The Carpe Diem Academy is a three-year program that will begin this spring term, and training will begin in a few schools.

“I think that the Carpe Diem Academy is a great opportunity for education majors to get involved in a hands-on way. I look forward to possibly being a part of this new adventure,” junior and education major Megan O’Polka said.

The program started Monday, Feb. 6, when project manager of the education department Amy Bauschard began overseeing data organization, enrollment forms and the curriculum.