First Niagara Donates $100,000 in Support of NECA

First Niagara Donates $100,000 in Support of NECA
Posted on 08/20/2014
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Program gives Norwalk students opportunity to earn free Associate’s Degree at Norwalk Community College


The First Niagara Foundation, the charitable entity of First Niagara Bank, today announced it has provided a partnership grant of $100,000 to the Norwalk Education Foundation ($50,000) and Norwalk Community College Foundation ($50,000) in support of a joint initiative to establish the Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) at Norwalk High School.


NECA is a collaboration between Norwalk Public Schools, Norwalk Community College (NCC) and IBM Corporation, which follows a P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) model created by IBM. Designed around a grade 9-14 model, NECA combines elements of high school and college classes along with career mentoring and student internship opportunities, both provided by IBM. Students who successfully graduate from NECA, graduate with their college degree, and are career-ready, will be placed first in line for available jobs at IBM. 


The first year of NECA is scheduled to begin August 27, with approximately 100 ninth-grade students from throughout the city enrolled in the program, which will be housed at Norwalk High School. Each student will be jointly enrolled at the high school and NCC, and will graduate with both a high school diploma and a no-cost Associate’s Degree in Applied Science from NCC. Approximately 100 new students will be added each successive year, with the program reaching a full complement of six cohorts and 600 students by 2019 (grades 9 through 14). 


“First Niagara is proud to support the NECA students and this unique program that offers them a college degree and strong pathway to a successful career,” said First Niagara Tri-State Regional President, Cathie Schaffer. “We see a lot of value in this innovative model, which is skills-based and offers a curriculum designed in conjunction with the needs of future employers.”


NECA will be the first Early College Academy established in Connecticut and one of 27 P-TECH model schools nationwide. First Niagara’s combined grant provides funding to Norwalk Public Schools to help launch the “school in a school” program at Norwalk High School, and covers the cost for Norwalk Community College to offer a for-credit web design class to the incoming NECA freshman class. 


“Norwalk Early College Academy is not only an exciting, new opportunity for Connecticut and for Norwalk, but also for other P-TECH model schools across the country,” said NCC President David L. Levinson, Ph.D. “First Niagara’s generous support will help prepare students for success in the global economy and give them a distinct competitive advantage in the workplace.”


While first-year NECA students will attend the majority of their classes at the high school, with a limited schedule of classroom work at the NCC campus, they will have access to all of the college’s facilities, including the library, gym and resource centers.


“We are committed to making sure that all Norwalk students are prepared to reach their highest potential for college and career, and NECA fits in perfectly with that goal,” said Dr. Manuel J. Rivera, superintendent, Norwalk Public School “We’re extremely grateful for the support of corporate partners like First Niagara on this very important initiative.”


For more information on NECA, please visit:


About The First Niagara Foundation

The First Niagara Foundation is a not-for-profit charitable entity. Founded in 1998, the First Niagara Foundation is committed to supporting organizations in the communities in which we live and work, with specific focus on Youth and Education, Community Development and Neighborhood Revitalization. In 2013 First Niagara contributed more than $9.0 million in charitable grants to community partners across the bank’s four-state footprint. First Niagara Bank NA is a multi-state community-oriented bank with approximately 410 branches, $39 billion in assets, $27 billion in deposits, and approximately 5,900 employees providing financial services to individuals, families and businesses across New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. For more information, visit


About Norwalk Community College

Norwalk Community College (, based in Norwalk, was the first two-year college established in Connecticut. Enrolling nearly 15,000 students, the college offers more than 45 Associate degrees, 26 Certificate programs and continuing education programs in many fields. NCC is an Achieving the Dream Leader College, a national honor recognizing outstanding student success initiatives. NCC been named three times to the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal distinction a college can achieve for its commitment to civic engagement and community service. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded NCC a $12.1 million grant to lead the Connecticut Health and Life Sciences Career Initiative to prepare workers for careers in the growing health and life sciences occupations. The college is leading a consortium of seven Connecticut colleges in establishing new degree programs and industry credentials. In 2014, NCC was selected to lead a statewide STEM Regional Collaborative to develop stronger college and career pathways in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

About Norwalk Education Foundation

The Norwalk Education Foundation (NEF) is a strategic partner of the Norwalk Public Schools and a key player in all conversations about public education in Norwalk, CT.  With a committed Board of Directors and a lean staff, NEF has been working on behalf of the students and teachers in the Norwalk Public Schools since 1998.  Like scores of local education funds throughout the United States, NEF is both an independent voice and a trusted partner of our local school system. We work for accountability and achievement of high standards by all involved with public education, and advocate for significant improvements in public schools. NEF focuses on three impact areas: Teacher Effectiveness, Advocacy and Public Outreach and Initiatives for Student success. NEF is working with private funding partners to supplement public financing of the Norwalk Early College Academy initiative.