Project Excel Promotes Student Service Initiatives and Academic Excellence

Students from the University at Albany’s TRiO Student Support Services Program known as Project Excel engaged in several community service initiatives during the 2015-2016 academic year. Both student and staff volunteered their time with several organizations within the Albany community. “We are extremely grateful for the support that the University has shown our students and our program. Due to their unwavering support, our students continue to benefit from the services Project Excel provides. We will encourage our students to engage in future service projects that will allow them to give back to the community” says Mayra E. Santiago the Interim Director.

The program volunteered at Albany’s homeless community at the Capital City Rescue Mission by serving dinner and sending letters to donors in December 2015. “Through community service, students gain a better connection to the Capital Region and become better equipped members of society,” says Makisha Brown, Program Coordinator for Project Excel.
Project Excel also participated in a project with Schenectady Habitat for Humanity. “Schenectady Habitat has a long-standing reputation of working to eradicate poverty housing and to help provide low-income, working-class families with safe, decent and affordable homes in our community.” The students assisted with putting up doors, cleaning and other general construction duties on North Broadway.

In addition, many of the students donated their time to the children in the Albany community during the Spring 2016 semester.  They volunteered for two organizations Jazzy Sun Birthday and the South End Children’s Café. Jazzy Sun Birthdays is an organization that provides birthday parties for children living in shelters in the Albany area. Students contributed by setting up the birthday party, decorating the room, arranging gifts, and running stations in face painting, art activities, and music and movement for approximately 10-15 children under the age of 10. The South End Children’s Café is a non-profit organization located in the South End of Albany. This organization provides free, healthy dinners along with homework help, academic enrichment, mentoring, exercise and participation in the arts. The goal is to impact food insecurity, address food equality and food justice, enhance academic success, and positively influence the physical and mental health of children. “Doing community service has given me the ability to be able to talk to people of different cultures and backgrounds and gain a better understanding of diversity. It has helped me with my ability to converse and relate to other people” said Alex Pinto, a junior at UAlbany.

Project Excel continues to make a difference in the lives of first generation college students, students who hail from low income households, and students with disabilities seen or unseen. This year, we have had a few of our graduates making a difference both on campus and in the Albany community. 

Nelia Quezada is promoting change with the Women for Government & Civil Society as a 2016 fellow.  Her life’s purpose is to serve as a catalyst to improve the lives of underrepresented and disadvantaged communities.

Our motivational speaker, Jon Gilroy, a student with disabilities is an inspiration and advocate for those who feel that they do not have a voice. Jon graduated with a BS in Social Welfare and aspires to share his story with others to encourage them to achieve their goals despite their adversities.

Although the odds were against her, Michele Andre overcame financial and family struggles and graduated with her BS in Criminal Justice. She developed her public service background through her internship at the NYS Senate.

Project Excel attributes their ability to impact both the University and Albany community to its staff and students. In the Spring 2016, Project Excel honored 51 graduates at the Annual Graduation reception at Angel’s Café. Thirty-four of our students achieved Dean’s list and another 61 students earned a 3.0 or higher GPA.

Through its Diverse Advising to Navigate Education (DANE) initiative, Project Excel will continue to assist students in adjusting to college life and successfully pursuing an undergraduate degree by providing academic counseling, peer mentoring and tutoring services, study skills and financial literacy workshops, career exploration, and social and cultural activities, to build a solid foundation for success. We will continue to connect students to other university programs and support services that refer students to educational opportunities, as well as cultural involvement, to promote a well-rounded college experience.

For more information about Project Excel contact:

Interim Director - Mayra E. Santiago: (518) 442-5175
Program Coordinator - Makisha Brown: (518) 442-5196


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