Villa Maria College was named the winner of the 2022 Community Impact Award from the Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce.
One of the Chamber’s Community Excellence Awards, the Community Impact Award recognizes a local company, organization, or individual whose outstanding and ongoing contributions have made a lasting and positive impact on the community.
“Villa Maria provides students with a holistic education that prepares them to take on the challenges and seize the opportunities of a changing world, and takes an innovative approach to ensure our students can be successful,” said Mary Robinson, Villa Maria’s vice president for development.
Academically speaking, Villa Maria is one-of-a-kind. The College is the only institute of higher education in this region that offers programs in Game Design and Motion Design. New programs are being developed to meet the employment needs of the Western New York area and beyond. The College’s certificate programs and partnership with Buffalo Filmworks train individuals to work in the region’s growing film industry.
Villa Maria’s Achieve Program for students with learning differences is the only program of its kind in this area. It supports students on an individual basis and goes above-and-beyond what is required by law. Villa’s Student Success Program served as a model for other colleges and universities.
The Vikings Athletics Program draws teams from colleges and universities throughout the northeast to Western New York. These athletes and their fans stay in local hotels, dine in local restaurants, and shop in local stores during their stay. Likewise, many graduates stay in Western New York after graduation, contributing to the region’s economy by owning businesses and employing others or owning homes and paying taxes.
Other specific initiatives that contribute to the College’s impact on the WNY community include:
- Free Books Program – In 2021, Villa Maria College became the first local college to provide textbooks and supplies to all students at no additional cost.
- Viking Ride Program – The College partnered with Lyft to provide students with a new resource for improved, reliable transportation to and from campus. Current students will receive $40 per month that can only be used to get to or from campus.
- Vikings One Stop – The Admissions, Financial Aid, Registrar, and Student Accounts offices were all moved to the first floor of Felician Hall to help provide students with the best service possible for all enrollment, registration, and student account needs.
- Campus NFTA Bus Stop – In conjunction with Senator Tim Kennedy’s office, College leadership worked to bring Metro Bus service to campus, a benefit to the College community and residents of the neighborhood.
- The Commons – The new Russell J. Salvatore Commons opened this fall, bringing a 21st Century experience to a space that serves as a dining spot and student union.
- The After School Program – The After School program is housed on campus and serves 3rd and 4th grade students from the Cheektowaga School District.
- Sister Mary Josette Food Pantry – Located on campus, the food pantry helps to address food insecurity in Cheektowaga and the surrounding neighborhoods.
- CARE Partnership – Cleveland Playhouse’s CARE (Compassionate Arts Remaking Education) program, also based on campus, uses theater to help children.
- Community Involvement – Provost Dr. Ryan Hartnett has been involved with the Cheektowaga Hub, from its inception.
- Commitment to Combating Racism & Violence – This October, the College co-sponsored and hosted a panel discussion as the first in a series of events titled: Listen, Learn, Act: Education’s Role in Combating Racism and Violence. This event was held in collaboration with Say Yes to Education and Senator Tim Kennedy’s office. It was highly attended.
Since Villa Maria College was founded by the Felician Sisters in 1961, it has offered education and training programs that have transformed thousands of lives. Today, Villa Maria has evolved to be the most diverse, private college in Western New York that offers an array of in-demand programs, and continuously puts forth new initiatives that make education accessible to everyone.
The Chamber also recognized the Motion Project Foundation with the Innovation Award. The Motion Project Foundation is headed by Natalie Marie Barnhard, PTA, LMT. Barnhard, a 2002 graduate of Villa Maria’s Physical Therapist Assistant program, suffered a spinal cord injury resulting in her paralysis. She launched the Motion Project Foundation to help people with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI’s) and raise awareness in Buffalo and surrounding areas.