15 students enroll in new education program at BTW Center

A partnership between Mercyhurst College and the Booker T. Washington Center to offer college courses to clients of the neighborhood center on site is off to a grand start.

Fifteen students have enrolled in the program, which begins Wednesday, Sept. 1, at the BTW Center, 1720 Holland. The program’s founders were confident that there was a need for this kind of educational opportunity, but were surprised at its swift reception.

“We had felt that starting with eight to 10 students was a realistic expectation; that there are 15 who enrolled within barely a month of our announcing the program is extremely encouraging,” said Dr. Phillip Belfiore, vice president for academic affairs at Mercyhurst.

The new urban education initiative offers opportunity, convenience and an array of in-house services already provided at BTW to an underserved population of the Erie community, said BTW Center Associate Director Shantel Hilliard.

The single mother without childcare will be able to take classes while her children are cared for at BTW’s daycare facility. The young man without a car will be able to walk to class. The high school graduate who isn’t sure college is for her will be able to test the waters here. Many scenarios: one place.

This latest Mercyhurst outreach represents the college’s commitment to the mission of its founders, the Sisters of Mercy, who believe that education should be available to all students. Mercyhurst has consistently responded to the needs of the Erie region, reaching out to underserved populations, like those, for instance, seeking one- and two-year career and opportunity programs, which resulted in the establishment of Mercyhurst North East.

“Part of our goal is to get our clients from welfare to work but the education piece has been missing,” Hilliard said. “Now they can take college classes in a facility that is within their comfort zone, where they have access to babysitters, meals, WIC, taxpayer programs, all of which complement their educational pursuits.”
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