Niagara University has received three grants totaling more than $1 million to support a number of initiatives that will impact both the campus and the Western New York region.
The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation awarded Niagara a $400,000 grant to support the critical profession of nursing and advance public health in the city of Niagara Falls, in Niagara County, and throughout Western New York. Funding will be used to enhance technology in the university’s simulation and skills labs; develop expanded certifications to create new pathways to the nursing and allied health professions; and facilitate high-impact training for community health instructors.
“This grant will enable Niagara University’s College of Nursing to enhance our educational programs and make them available to a greater number of students, as well as optimize the use of our Nursing Simulation Center and our collaborations within the community,” said Dr. Christine Verni, dean of the college. “These initiatives will advance our ongoing efforts to improve health outcomes regionally and beyond.”
The initiative, “Practice Innovations to Support a Resilient, Inclusive & Equitable Nurse Workforce,” will enrich the academic preparation of students through innovative and cutting-edge practice work in the college’s simulation and skills labs, especially in respect to caring for individuals with a primary language other than English, LGBTQIA persons with medical conditions that conflict with their preferred gender identity, and cultural sensitivity surrounding end-of-life. In addition, the initiative seeks to reduce disparities and increase equitable health outcomes within the community by integrating a greater focus on public health needs and the social determinants of health into the nursing curriculum. It will also facilitate train-the-trainer opportunities and expanded educational pathways to allied health careers through strategic partnerships with local healthcare organizations.
The project also includes on-campus training for mental health first aid instructors, with a focus on nursing students, faculty, and clinical partners. This component builds on the work the university has done over the past two years to substantially expand the capacity and knowledge of human service professionals to meet the rising need for mental health services for children and families, as well as for university students.
A $569,100 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr., Foundation will support Niagara University’s efforts to establish a qualified cadre of coaches to serve all youth populations throughout the region’s eight counties, with a special focus on marginalized communities historically not able to participate in youth sport programs.
The award will be used to launch and sustain the Project Play Western New York Cornerstone Program, a coaches training program that uses in-person, online, and mobile Social Emotional Learning platforms to engage and educate coaches and youth sport leaders on the importance of emphasizing youth development alongside the athletic development of children. The training will be offered to more than 5,000 coaches of youth between 4 and 13 years of age across all communities, sports, and abilities in Western New York.
“Youth sports participation should be a fun experience, a shared family memory, and a valuable part of a child’s athletic and emotional development,” said Bridget Niland, dean of Niagara University’s College of Hospitality, Sport and Tourism Management, who will oversee the program in partnership with PPWNY. “Through participation in sports, children get better at making friends and develop greater self-esteem, confidence, and social skills. The Cornerstone Program supports organizations, coaches, and families recognize and promote the lifetime value sport provides to children.”
Niland, former director of PPWNY, was involved in the development of the Cornerstone Program. She and the college’s educational leaders and faculty will manage the program and oversee the planning of in-person training sessions, building on the work already accomplished by PPWNY. The SEL training will emphasize the importance of creating a fun and safe environment for young athletes and establishing a clear purpose and organization for leagues. Students in the college will also have an opportunity to develop skills and gain experience in event and sport management.
The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation also awarded a $150,000 grant to Niagara to support the development of customized training and individualized coaching for Niagara County Probation Department personnel that will enhance their ability to address the service needs of their probationers with disabilities and substance use disorder. This training will build the knowledge and understanding of the individuals who directly serve and interact with these populations, improving probationer healthcare and healthcare-related services and potentially reducing their recidivism.
“Everyone needs disability awareness training,” said David V. Whalen, project director of Niagara University’s First Responder Disability Awareness Training. “This grant will enable NU FRDAT to customize its program for NCPD personnel to better prepare them to recognize, identify, approach, interact, and respond to their probationers with disabilities and substance use disorder.”
NU FRDAT, in partnership with the NCPD, will develop and provide training grounded in the NU Recognize-Identify-Approach-Interact-Respond (RIAIR) model for all NCPD personnel in the Niagara Falls, Lockport, and North Tonawanda offices. The training will educate the staff on recognizing disability indicators/characteristics; equip them with the knowledge needed to identify specific disabilities; and provide guidance on appropriate responses, such as utilizing community resources and support services.
This new program will expand NU FRDAT’s current offerings, which include customized training to law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, and 911 telecommunicators, as well as training for emergency management personnel, both on site and in virtual formats.