BUFFALO, N.Y. — This year we are celebrating the women behind Buffalo's resurgence in our City Shapers reports. This week 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik shows us how with just a two-person staff, our City Shaper is improving the lives of thousands of children.
Amy Popadick is the executive director of the BISON Children's Scholarship Fund. She was born and raised in Kenmore, New York.
We didn’t have to go far to find her. Popadick’s office is right across the street from Channel 2.
Popadick started leading the BISON Children's Scholarship Fund six years ago.
"I got into it because my prior work experience was in schools, in administration, specifically admissions, so I knew what it took to get quality candidates," Popadick said.
But through that experience, Popadick also saw how many students weren't able to go private schools because they couldn't afford tuition. That's how she knew about the BISON Fund.
It's a tuition assistance program that provides scholarships for students who meet income eligibility guidelines in grades K through 12. This year the BISON Fund is helping 1,900 kids in 85 schools across Western New York.
"Buffalo is going through great resurgence, we all know that, but our childhood poverty rate is still the fourth worst in the country. So the key way to coming out of the cycle of poverty, to breaking that cycle, is through a quality education, and we see it every day in thank-you notes, in phone calls where parents are crying to us, in school tours where they have the opportunity to meet donors and tell them their favorite parts about school, and why they love their school, and what they want to be when they grow up," Popadick said.
The BISON Fund is 100 percent privately funded. In its 24-year history, it's awarded more than 31,000 scholarships. Popadick says one of the reasons she loves her job is that it's never boring.
"We're a staff of two, so I do everything from stuffing letters to doing donor reports, to school tours, to meeting with donors. So, no day is never the same, and that's why I love it," she says.
"The BISON Fund board of directors took a chance on me when I was young and new in my career, so if I could give advice to younger women, it would be to take those risks, throw your hat in the ring, even if you don't think you're necessarily qualified, and also to surround yourself with a good support group. I also have a few key women who I consider my career mentors, and they've been invaluable to me and I still rely on them."
But the best part of what she does is celebrating the achievements of all the students.
"One we just learned is in Notre Dame law school and medical school, it's just really exciting and makes us proud of the little part that we were able to play in that child's life," Popadick said.
The BISON Fund holds a fundraising luncheon every fall. Next school year, it'll be the group's 25th anniversary.
And to nominate a Western New York woman to be a City Shaper, just send Kelly Dudzik an email.
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