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Alvernia receives $600,000 grant to support inner-city program

Date: 12/7/2009

Alvernia receives $600,000 federal grant to support growing inner-city program

(READING) – Alvernia University held a news conference on Monday, Dec. 7, 2009, at 10 a.m., as U.S. Congressman Jim Gerlach announced a special $600,000 grant from the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to support expansion of the South Reading Youth Initiative (SRYI).

The SRYI is an innovative youth program for Reading’s inner-city students ages 7 -14, and is funded completely by grants and the support of Alvernia’s Holleran Center for Community Engagement.

The initiative began in 2006 when a group of community leaders expressed mutual concern regarding the attrition rates in the Reading School District and the correspondingly disappointing rates of college attendance (specifically among the Hispanic and Latino populations). Reading Mayor Thomas McMahon, Senator Michael O’Pake, and Jonathan Encarnacion of the Reading’s Hispanic Center joined together with Alvernia President Thomas F. Flynn, and representatives from the Jesuit Center in Wernersville to discuss a solution.

“The group also recognized that no after-school programs existed in the South Reading area that provided a ‘safe haven’ for children in the after-school hours, allowing them to stay committed to their education and make healthy choices during their critical decision-making years,” said Dr. Flynn. “The linkage between these two points led us to make some obvious conclusions, and to form the South Reading Youth Initiative.”

Initial funding for the SRYI program came in the form of a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, secured with the support of Sen. O’Pake. Within a month, the Holleran Center for Community Engagement held its first Creativity Camp with a week’s worth of activities for 27 inner-city students in grades 2 - 8. Now in its fourth year, the SRYI has touched the lives of hundreds of children and their parents, with programming designed to guide area students to personal achievement, social responsibility, and moral integrity through mentoring, the arts, and educational activities.

“The program currently has more than 25 community partners, and has received funds from still many others, including Jerry and Carolyn Holleran, for whom the Holleran Center is now named,” said Ginny Hand, Director of the Holleran Center.

  • History: Established as a private four-year liberal arts college in 1958, Alvernia celebrated its 50th year by being awarded university status in 2008.
  • Heritage: Founded by the Bernardine Sisters, a Catholic religious order, the university embraces the Franciscan core values of service, humility, collegiality, contemplation and peacemaking.
  • Motto: “To Learn, To Love, To Serve”
  • Campus: The main campus in Reading is 121 acres, with two satellite campuses in Philadelphia and Pottsville (Schuylkill County).
  • Location: Our residential campus is situated three miles from center-city Reading, in the scenic Blue Mountain area of Eastern Pennsylvania.
  • Enrollment: 3,000 students attend Alvernia including 1,500 traditional undergraduates, 600 continuing education students, and 780 graduate students. Over 77% of first-year students live on campus.
  • Faculty: Our professors are accomplished scholars, experts in their fields, and supportive mentors. The student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1. Most classes are 20 students or fewer.
  • Athletics: NCAA Division III, member of the Commonwealth Conference of the Middle Atlantic States Athletic Corporation and member of Eastern College Athletic Conference, 8 men’s and 10 women’s intercollegiate sports.