Tonawanda News

Local News

April 7, 2013

City selects first of student loan payback recipients

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — Thoman will begin pursuing a master’s degree in Canadian Studies, a new program run jointly by the University at Buffalo and Brock University in Ontario, Canada, this fall.

Thoman said she is excited to collaborate with fellow participants in the program and has already started to explore the idea of establishing a community garden in the designated area.

“Anything you can do to get involved in the community, it makes you, I feel like, live a fuller life,” Thoman said.

The awardees, chosen from 42 applicants from around the country, are the first of the 20 applicants who will ultimately be picked by the independent review board selected by community development.

Seth Piccirillo, the director of the city’s Community Development department, said that choosing the first awardees is a “major milestone” for the project. The volunteer panel will continue to accept applications as they work to narrow down candidates for the remaining 15 spots. The intention was not to fill all the spots at once.

“We had enough applicants that we could have (filled all the spots at once), but we know what we are looking for,” Piccirillo said.

Community Development will be able to increase the amount of time that the program lasts by announcing awardees in groups over time.

The two-year period starts the same day as the awardees’ lease begins.

“I think it makes sense to stagger too,” Piccirillo said. “That way it’s not a two-year block.”

Since introducing the plan Community Development has been able to leverage a $450,000 grant fro the state to target blight downtown and has begun to build critical mass around the corner of Third Street and Main Street — one of the programs stated goals. Niagara University’s community outreach arm ReNU Niagara established a satellite office in the same building as U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins’ offices on Park Place.

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