Valley Youth Services

The Valley Community Association’s “Striving For Excellence” Youth Program meets the needs of the “at risk” and impoverished youth in the Buffalo River Community. The activities and programs that comprise the VCA’s program improve student achievement and learning by offering a comprehensive, structured, schedule based program that includes not only academic remediation but also academic enrichment activities; a broad array of additional services, programs and activities; and family services. The program meets the diverse needs of all students by offering a variety of hands-on, project based, high quality, fun activities that meet student’s different learning styles. The program helps youth improve academically, increases their exposure to academically enriching activities such as science and art, and offers a positive alternative to going home to an empty house or hanging on a street corner. Youth are exposed to new experiences and knowledge that they otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience.

“Striving For Excellence” is a highly structured, non-drop-in program that focuses on academic assistance as well as academic enrichment and has been in existence for over 15 years. Youth arrive at the Center around 3pm and receive a full meal. At 3:30pm each day, youth are broken down by grade groups & rotate with their group every 45 minutes to different activities. There are three blocks per day and youth are scheduled in different activities each day, with the exception of homework help which is scheduled daily.


Targeted Homework Help is provided daily for all grades by NYS Certified Teachers, college graduates, and college education majors. A successful after school program needs to maintain a connection to the school day to create a comprehensive circle of academic oversight. The VCA has a dedicated staff member – the Academic Coordinator – who maintains regular communication with school day teachers regarding participants homework, areas that students needs to improve upon, etc.
Physical Education classes are taught by a NYS Certified Physical Education and activities are designed based upon the NYS Physical Education Standards and include age and developmentally appropriate activities.
Art Class is taught by a NYS Certified Art Teacher who explores various artistic styles, artists, media, and concepts, incorporating NYS Art Standards. It is not “arts & crafts” but rather educational lessons that also incorporate Math, ELA, Science, and Social Studies.
Explore More provides fun, hands on STEM and nature classes that correlate with the NYS Standards in Science, Math, ELA, and Social Studies and often utilizes the Valley Nature Park & Habitat Trail, which is located immediately behind the VCA, as an “outdoor living classroom”.
Small Group STEM Classes are led by a Science Manager, who is trained in inquiry based teaching/learning, and conducts small group (3-5 students) sessions where explore STEM topics.
Computer Instruction is provided in a full size computer lab that contains 24 computers, all of which are Internet accessible. Class topics include proper research techniques, Microsoft Office Suite programs, etc.
“Reading Rocks” incorporates fun activities with reading and is taught by Literacy Specialists. The focus is on ELA skill building and comprehension.
“Team Play” is an opportunity for youth to socialize as they play board games, read, or put together puzzles. Teamwork, conflict resolution, and social skill building are promoted by staff.

More “Striving For Excellence” Activities

“Science In Bloom” is an extremely unique program brings together the VCA, the Buffalo Museum of Science, and Medaille College in a partnership. The program is based upon Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning which focuses on the cognitive level which includes knowledge, comprehension, and critical thinking. The program seeks to foster a life-long interest in science by exposing students to scientific practices throughout their elementary school years in a fun, hands on, project based way. The program allows students to develop a contextual understanding of science using a continuum of learning experiences that engage students in scientific inquiry. For program participants in grades K-4, the Buffalo Museum of Science provides an immersion and sensory learning environment where participants will be able to explore everyday science and practice their science skills such as observing their environment, hypothesizing why things happen, testing their logical thinking skills, journaling their experiences, and reflecting on observations. The Middle School (grades 5-8) component of the program takes place at Medaille College and exposes students to the content topics of Biology, General Chemistry, Botany, and Molecular Biology. Students spend one year in each activity, with 2 eight week sessions throughout the school year. The program provides an opportunity to develop skills of analysis, inquiry, and design through active laboratory work and exposes youth to college life.
“In Our Backyard” is a STEM program that combines community gardening and recycling. The community garden is facilitated by VCA staff and is youth driven, with youth planting, tending, and harvesting what is grown in the garden. The second part of the program is building wide recycling which is managed by the youth.
ELA Small Group Tutoring takes place after the regular after school program has concluded and is aimed towards youth who were not proficient the previous year on the NYS ELA Assessment. Youth are pre-tested into small groups, given goals, and assigned to a tutor who designs fun and interactive lesson plans to help youth reach their goals. Youth are post-tested to measure program results.
Night Programs are scheduled throughout the week and include recreation leagues, Girls Club, Boy Scouts, etc.

Family Events are held once per month and include Family Thanksgiving Dinner, Family Bingo Night, Youth Talent Show, and an End of the Year Picnic as well as family literacy nights and events.
Field Trips are scheduled on a regular basis. The destinations vary from cultural and educational destinations to fun and recreational destinations. Family Field Trips are also scheduled throughout the year.

Parent Workshops & Trainings are held throughout the year and are for parents.

The “First In The Family” Program is a unique program that offers assistance to 7th and 8th grade students and their parents in learning about scholarships for private high schools or assistance with the selection of BPS high schools. Dr. Julia Hall, who is a PhD education professional who coordinates the program, also assists 11th and 12th graders and their parents receive counseling on higher education options, including college and vocational schools and assistance completing forms and applications. Dr. Hall has established extensive ties with local private high schools and both public and private community, two year, and four year colleges and trade schools and has helped over 85 youth receive over $5 million scholarships in the past twelve years.
Partnerships and Collaborations exist with organizations to bring in additional programming, which further enhances what is offered in the “Striving For Excellence” Youth Program. The Enlightenment Literary Arts Center provides literacy programming for grades 5th-8th as well as family programming. The Buffalo Museum of Science provides STEM programming for youth in grades K-4 and Medaille College offers their unique program where 5th-8th grade students participate in college level labs and provide the trained staff and students, lab space, equipment, and materials. The Buffalo History Museum provides interactive history programming that focuses on the area where youth live – the Buffalo River Community. Partnerships exist with the University of Buffalo, Buffalo State College, and Trocaire College who provide college student volunteers; CEPA Gallery that provides photography programming; Empower Girls Buffalo who provides programming specifically for girls; the Boy Scouts who provide troop materials; and the Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation who provide music programming and instruction. The VCA also collaborates with the University of Buffalo Dental School who provides oral health educational programs for youth and families. Modern Charm School provides youth programming for young girls as well as boys such as lessons on the “Golden Rule” and soft skills like how to shake hands, restaurant manners, etc. Fashion Lab NY provides career information about roles in the fashion industry as well as teaching hard skills such as sewing. Grassroots Gardens provide materials and plants for the community garden and Nancy J Parisi Photography conducts photography lessons and activities. New partnerships and collaborations are added each program year.


Please consider donating to the Valley's Youth Services

Support The Valley Community Association effort to care for our youth!

“Striving For Excellence” Funders Include: