A local agency that assists families of young people with disabilities is receiving a grant from the U.S. Education Department to further its work to increase support and outcomes for eligible students within Buffalo Public Schools.
The Parent Network of Western New York is receiving the money, which was announced Thursday morning by Congressman Brian Higgins announced the grant inside the Buffalo Public School 42 Occupational Training Center, located within the Tri-Main Building.
Higgins explained that the grant will help the Parent Network, in partnership with Buffalo Public Schools, assist families of students with disabilities through workshops, one-on-one support and other interactions that help those families understand and navigate the system and programs available to them.
"This grant is one of only 30 awarded nationwide," Higgins said. "I can't begin to tell you how competitive they are and I think it's another indication underscoring the effectiveness of this program, not only in terms of the quality of the program but the efficiency and professionalism of its administration."
Parent Network of WNY executive director Susan Barlow says last year alone, her organization hosted more than 140 workshops to assist families of students with disabilities.
"Specifically about this project, there are over 9,000 who are classified for special education services, just in Buffalo alone," Barlow said. "Our goal, with this grant, is to reach (the families of) all 9,000 with the hope to empower them with information so they can be a better advocate for their children and a better partner with their school district."
Among those welcoming news of the grant was Dr. David Mauricio, Chief of Strategic Alignment and Innovation for Buffalo Public Schools. He is also a member of the Parent Network's board but he says his appreciation for its services comes not as a board member but as the parent of a student with disabilities.
"It was a great opportunity for me to take part in the workshops at Parent Network," he said. "It was a great opportunity for me to see the role of a parent of a student with a disability differently from the role of a Board of Education employee. It's very overwhelming and can be very intimidating."
But Dr. Mauricio says it is through the support of Parent Network and its Community Parent Resource Center that his child is now enrolled in Trocaire College.