The Bristol County Savings Charitable Foundation announced today a three-year $30,000 grant to UMass Dartmouth to expand a program that matches university students with New Bedford public school students to encourage leadership, educational attainment and community service.
With this grant, the LEADS (Leadership For Educational Attainment Developed through Service) program, already underway in New Bedford's Normandin and Keith middle schools, will be expanded to the Roosevelt Middle School and New Bedford High School.
"Bristol County Savings Bank is pleased to support UMass Dartmouth in this important project,'' said President Dennis Kelly. "The university is a powerful engine of social and economic development in our region, and we believe this partnership will have a transformative impact on children in New Bedford by encouraging them to work hard at their education and serve their community.''
UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack said, "Bristol County Savings is a true community bank that understands that smart and strategic investments in our young people create great value for all of us. We are honored that the bank is showing such confidence in the ability of our students to affect the lives of children in New Bedford."
The announcement was made at the Bristol County Savings Bank North Dartmouth branch, just up the street from the university's main campus.
The goals of the LEADS program are to: increase the civic engagement of New Bedford public school students, increase the leadership skills of both the grade school and University students, increase the engagement of grade school students in their schools to prevent future dropouts, and to increase the younger students' awareness of and aspiration to college level studies.
The program is designed to confront the region's educational attainment challenges, which education, government and business leaders believe is critical to building the regional economy. Almost a third (32.4 percent) of South Coast residents 25 years of age and older do not have a high school diploma, compared to 15.2 percent statewide.
UMass Dartmouth, which was recently named to the President's Community Service Honor Roll, is training a group of its students who will intervene in the New Bedford schools. The University students will serve both as service coordinators and models of educational attainment for the school children.
The university will track the service activities of the grade school students involved in the program over the course of the grant period to gauge the number of hours of service performed.
The New Bedford students will also be required to prepare a polished presentation outlining their community service projects. This presentation will be given on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus as part of the year-end LEADS celebration/graduation ceremony with family, friends, community, school and university administrators all invited.