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M&T Bank Grant Provides Sustained Support for Fisher’s Annual College Bound Program

July 12, 2021

A $350,000 grant from M&T Bank will provide multi-year support for a St. John Fisher College program that helps highly motivated high school students become first-generation college students. The newly named M&T Charitable Foundation College Bound Program provides students with access to the information and resources they need to navigate the college admissions process and discover potential career paths.

The 2019 cohort of College Bound students.

The program was launched by President Gerard J. Rooney in 2007 when he served as vice president for enrollment at the College. Since its inception, it has served more than 450 students, of which approximately 90 percent planned to attend college. A first-generation student himself, Rooney remains committed to ensuring college access for this population of students.

“Through the generosity of M&T Bank, we are making it possible for young people who are interested in pursuing a college education to do so,” said President Rooney. “For students who want to become the first in their family to go to college, the admissions process can be overwhelming. In some cases, their families may have never been exposed to the paperwork, deadlines, and campus processes typically involved during the college search. The M&T Charitable Foundation College Bound Program makes the process accessible to these families and removes many potential barriers for their students. We are grateful to M&T Bank for the continuing support and for ensuring that we are able to extend that support to college bound students in our community.”

The weeklong residential program, held this year from Sunday, July 11 through Thursday, July 15, provides students with guidance, as well as motivation and encouragement, from college admissions professionals who work at several area colleges. Students learn how to successfully search for colleges, navigate the application process, and choose the right school for them. Designed to serve students between their junior and senior years of high school, the program also introduces students to what to expect once they get to college and provides ongoing assistance to students and their families throughout their senior year.

To be considered for the College Bound Program, students must first be nominated by a school official after meeting certain criteria. Students are then asked to submit their own application. When the application process is completed, 36 students are selected to join the program. There is no fee to participate in the program.

M&T Bank will provide $250,000 in grant funding over five years that will establish a $125,000 permanent endowment that will sustain the program for years to come and provide $125,000 in operating support over the next five years. This new commitment follows the $100,000 in funding M&T awarded to the College Bound program over two years in 2019 and 2020. The funds support transportation and meals, lodging in a Fisher residence hall, support for admissions professionals from Fisher, and several other Rochester-area colleges and other program staff.

“At M&T Bank, we are committed to making a difference in people’s lives, and many times it starts in the classroom. We believe every student deserves access to educational opportunities that empower them to pursue their career goals, no matter their background,” said Dan Burns, M&T Bank regional president for Rochester, who also serves as a member of the College’s Board of Trustees. “We’re grateful for everyone involved in the M&T Charitable Foundation College Bound Program – their work to help young people understand how to find, apply, and select the right college paves the way to bright futures and big opportunities. We’re proud to be a part of this life-changing effort.”

Phoukham “George” Vongkhily

For Irondequoit native, Phoukham “George” Vongkhily, the program offered just that life-changing moment. In summer 2019, Vongkhily was among 40 students who lived on campus for five days of workshops, campus tours, and team-building activities. Because of the program, Vongkhily knew right away that Fisher was his number one choice for his undergraduate degree. Now a rising sophomore pursuing a degree in nursing, Vongkhily loves every minute of his time at the College.

“My academic experience at Fisher has been amazing so far,” he said. “Professors at Fisher care a lot about your success as a student. As a nursing major in Fisher’s amazing nursing program, I know for a fact I’ll be able to succeed and become a registered nurse.”