The two-story, blue house on 14th Street that was scheduled for demolition has been given a new start – just like the Buffalo Public Schools students who helped rehab it.
Take Allegra Malone, for instance. The 16-year-old Bennett High School junior was having behavioral and attitude problems, and was performing poorly in school.
Then she signed up with the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection and started focusing on turning her life around. Allegra got mentoring and tutoring from the youth advocates in the program. She got some work experience, and adult role models worked with her to improve her behavior.
These days, Allegra is waiting to hear back about a job, her grades have improved, and she’s giving back to the community.
“I wanted to change my behavior. It wasn’t good,” said Allegra, one of nine students from Bennett and South Park high schools who were putting some last-minute touches Thursday on 307 14th St. as part of Hillside’s summer education academy.
The volunteers painted, removed plaster to make room for drywall and cleaned up the exterior of the property.
Over the past five weeks, the students had been working on the building, which was a duplex originally but was transformed into a single-family home with five bedrooms and two bathrooms.
It will serve as housing for AmeriCorps volunteers working in Buffalo.
Abdi Osman, an incoming senior at South Park High, also participated in the summer academy – his second time around.
Last year, the group built a boat and launched it at Canalside. Everyone in the group had the opportunity to take a ride in it. “I never thought I would have the chance to do something like this,” Abdi said. “It was awesome.
He decided to volunteer again this year because he had heard it was a chance to help other volunteers – from AmeriCorps, in this case.
“I came back to help out other people,” he said.
Owned by Westside Ministries, the 14th Street property was about to be demolished before the Hillside volunteers stepped in.
Alongside adult volunteers and professionals, the students performed a variety of tasks over the summer, including cleaning up the property on the outside, painting the porch and fence, tearing down the chimney and tearing off plaster in most of the rooms in the house.
“It was a great hands-on learning opportunity for our students,” said Andrew G. Riley, Buffalo region team manager for the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection.
Launched in 2010 at South Park and expanded last school year to Bennett, Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection is a youth development program that helps students stay in school and graduate. It combines long-term mentoring with job training and part-time work experience. There’s also a school-based academic support component provided by youth advocates during the school year.
For the summer academy, “the goal is to maximize their down time and keep them engaged during the summer,” said Riley. The summer academy also takes the youths on college tours. This year they visited the University at Buffalo, St. Bonaventure University and SUNY Buffalo State. They also got to do “fun stuff” like taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist, roller-skating and going on a trip to Splash Lagoon in Erie, Pa.
“We do a combination of things that allow us to build a relationship outside of the school walls but still have the academic component,” Riley said.
Last year, 31 students who were enrolled in the program at South Park got jobs at Wegmans and other corporate supporters after 25 hours of training.
Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection is an affiliate of the Hillside Family of Agencies. The program serves about 4,000 youth at risk of failing to graduate from high school in Buffalo as well as Rochester, Syracuse and Prince George’s County, Md.