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By Marcia O’Neil-White

It is certainly an exciting time to be a Western New Yorker; critical civic projects are coming to life and spirits are at an all-time high. The resurgence in our community is in full swing. But, if we are to achieve a complete renaissance, education has to be a top priority.

Enhancing education is beneficial not only for us here in Western New York, but throughout the world. As a lifelong educator, I am passionate about this subject. This is why we at Buffalo Prep for more than 25 years have worked so hard to challenge our students and help improve the local educational landscape. We identify and meet the academic, social and cultural needs of thousands of talented under-represented students who thrive when challenged academically.

The result is that 100 percent of Buffalo Prep scholars graduate from high school and pursue higher education.

Education is one of the most important investments a community can make in its people and is key to reducing poverty and inequality:

• Education gives people critical skills and tools to help them better provide for themselves and their children.

• Education helps people work better and can create opportunities for sustainable and viable economic growth now and into the future.

Education results in rising income, improving health, promoting equality and reducing poverty. Here are some eye-opening statistics of how education can transform people’s lives:

• If all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. This is equal to a 12 percent cut in global poverty.

• An extra year of schooling increases individual earnings up to 10 percent.

• Each additional year of schooling raises average annual gross domestic product growth by 0.37 percent.

• An increase of one standard deviation in student scores on international assessments of literacy and mathematics is associated with a 2 percent increase in annual GDP per-capita growth.

Here in Western New York, Buffalo Prep continues to work hard to enhance the quality of life for more than 400 underserved students and their families each year. We partner with area private and public college preparatory high schools who offer nearly $400,000 in financial aid to our students each year. Buffalo Prep provides these schools with the opportunity to have a more diverse student body, which helps all students, families and staff members forge relationships that transcend racial, ethnic and economic differences.

I encourage all Western New Yorkers to find ways to support initiatives in our community that help students achieve educational success. We all have to do our part to pave the way to a bright future for the next generation.

Marcia O’Neil-White is executive director of Buffalo Prep.