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Statler Foundation funding tuition program

A local foundation will announce today that it is committing $1 million over 10 years to support the Say Yes to Education program, which is making free college tuition available to all Buffalo students.

The Statler Foundation will give $100,000 per year, with the funds going to help students pursue training and education in the hospitality industry. Statler Hotel chain founder Ellsworth Statler's 1934 will stipulated that the foundation provide training and education in the hospitality industry.

"When we first discussed this as a foundation in March, we thought this was a natural fit for us," said Robert M. Bennett, a foundation trustee.

"We have high-quality hospitality programs around here, and we wanted to make sure the Buffalo city school kids interested in that career had the opportunity to benefit from this scholarship program."

Assistance also will be provided to help students stay on track to graduate from high school on time. It initially will be concentrated at the Emerson School of Hospitality.

"It opens doors for our students to attend post-secondary hospitality institutions, whether the Culinary Institute or Niagara University's hospitality program, that they would not otherwise have had," said James Weimer, Emerson's principal.

The Statler Foundation provides $1.6 million in scholarship grants to colleges and universities annually throughout the United States, including Buffalo State, Niagara University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Trocaire, Niagara County Community College, the Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.

Bennett, also a member of the state Board of Regents, praised Emerson -- the city's oldest vocational high school -- for its career preparation in the hospitality industry. Since moving in 1999 from Sycamore Street to its current location on Chippewa Street, Emerson has gone from one of the lowest ranked academic schools in the city to being in the top five.

"Career high schools should be very quickly expanded, and we're thinking of that on the Regents level. Kids who attend them are the most successful students in the State of New York," Bennett said.