The SI Bank & Trust Foundation today announced a $70,000 grant to the College of Staten Island’s Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge (SEEK) Program in expanded support of the Willowbrook college’s successful Strategies for Success program.

Strategies for Success was founded in 2001 to specially train SEEK students at CSI to perform as mentors at the Dreyfus Intermediate School in Stapleton, on the north shore of Staten Island. The goal was to improve the academic performance of the IS 49 students through tutoring, counseling, and general academic skill building sessions.

The result was that the Intermediate School children and the CSI tutors both showed dramatic improvements in their grades.

“The college students learn study skills in the workshops they attend and gain a sense of accomplishment by aiding in the education of the children,” noted Betsy Dubovsky, executive director of the SI Bank & Trust Foundation, during a press conference at the college. “The IS 49 pupils benefit from the increased attention which not only builds confidence but also improves their academic strategies and skills.”

Funded since its inception by the SI Bank & Trust Foundation, this year’s additional funding for the Strategies for Success program will allow the program to include PS 57, giving grammar school students there the same benefits of working with CSI mentors.

“The one-on-one attention that Strategies for Success provides is critical to its success, and we are proud that our funding will expand the programs’ reach into the grammar schools,” Dubovsky noted.

Since the inception of Strategies for Success, 42 CSI students have worked as mentors in IS 49, helping nearly 200 intermediary school students raise their academic performance. This year’s $70,000 grant announcement will fund the program for the 2004-2005 academic, with $40,000 for support of the program at IS 49 and $30,000 to expand the program into PS 57.

Yin Fan Pong Li, a CSI business major who participated in the program as a mentor, noted that “Strategies for Success is a very successful program which brings people of different race, nationalities and characters to work together for academic success. For the tutors, it is a valuable opportunity to gain tutoring experience and caring for the young, while the tutees benefit from getting help, guidance and love from their tutors.”

IS 49 seventh graders all had positive reports on the program. One noted “it has helped me in all my homework and still does. The tutors in this program are very helpful. No matter who you are, they help you to understand all your work;” while another said “the tutors are friendly and smart. The club helped me in math, reading and English.”

During the screening of a video made during the program’s most recent semester, one student told of his grade average jumping from 82 to 89 after a semester with the program, and another proudly displayed his report card which compared a previous semester’s grades of 60 in Science and 65 in Robotics with current grades of 90 and 80 respectively.

The children’s excitement about participation in the program was evident, and all expressed their desire for the program to return again next year.

The SI Bank & Trust Foundation has supported the College of Staten Island’s SEEK Program with $125,000 since 1999, and has supported the college with more than $300,000 in grants since the late 1990s.

“SI Bank & Trust Foundation is crucial to the quality of life on Staten Island, and their generosity makes Staten Island a better place to live,” said Richard Truitt, vice president for college advancement at CSI, “and we are proud to have them as our partner.”

Georgia Landrum, the Strategies for Success program coordinator at CSI, noted that “learning is a social process, and I am very thankful and very excited to be part of a program that helps develop leadership skills in our public school pupils.”

“The SI Bank & Trust Foundation is helping CSI transform the lives of students on Staten Island,” Truitt continued, “and we thank Betsy Dubovsky and the SI Bank & Trust Foundation Board for their continued dedication and commitment.”