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Buffalo Prep is moving on up.

After 15 years in a "cubbyhole" at Diefendorf Annex on the University at Buffalo's South Campus, the high school and college preparatory program for minority children will formally graduate today to more spacious accommodations in Acheson Annex.

The move will help boost interest and enrollment in the after-school and summer educational curriculum, predicted Executive Director Marcia O'Neil-White.

"Before, we were always limited to a fixed space. There was no room to move," she said. "It will be so much better for everyone to be together -- for younger students to see older ones preparing for college," she said.

The switch was "like coming out of the Dark Ages," said board member Niscah Koessler.

Founded in 1989 by the Buffalo business community and modeled after a successful New York City program, Buffalo Prep has helped hundreds of economically disadvantaged African-American, Hispanic and Native American children improve their educational and career prospects.

Each year, interested fifth- and sixth-grade pupils and their parents are invited to information sessions about the program. "Parents want good choices for their kids, and if you don't have the economic means, those choices are limited," O'Neil-White said.

Applicants are tested and interviewed to determine whether they can handle the challenges ahead. During the summer, 100 of them are chosen for Primary Prep, which requires attending intensive classes five hours a day, five days a week for six weeks.

"These are bright kids who are eager to learn, even though it means extra hours of homework," O'Neil-White said. "They are very motivated -- very confident and competent."

Students who complete the first two summers may apply to Secondary Prep. It starts the summer after seventh grade and continues after school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and on Saturdays during eighth grade and through the following summer. Secondary Prep offers the opportunity to visit any of 13 private high schools that provide financial aid to Buffalo Prep students.

The final step, Graduate Prep, matches students with internships and summer college preparatory programs. Visits with college admissions officers and campus tours are arranged, and classes are offered on essay-writing and preparing for Scholastic Aptitude Tests. Help in applying for financial aid is offered to college-bound juniors and seniors.

Ninety-seven percent of Buffalo Prep students who completed high school have attended colleges and universities, including Cornell, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Juilliard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale.

For information on the program, call 829-3605.


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