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Female volleyball team exercising indoors on volleyball court

November 21, 2019

The SUNY Niagara Foundation announces that they are the recipient of a $400,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.  This three-year grant supports a youth sport/leadership program between SUNY Niagara and the Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda School Districts. The Wilson Foundation is currently driving the “Project Play: Western New York” initiative aimed at getting and keeping more youth in sports. The initiative is rooted in the knowledge that sports can not only seed lifelong healthy habits in kids but also build character, social skills and improve educational outcomes.

Girls from each of the eight Niagara Falls elementary schools along with girls from the North Tonawanda intermediate school will participate in a series of youth volleyball training programs that will include leadership instruction that support the principles outlined in the “State of Play: Western New York” report.  Participants will culminate their training programs with a “friendship tournament” that will be held at the SUNY Niagara Sanborn campus. By adhering to the principles outlined in the report, this project will introduce the sport of volleyball to youth participants, striving to instill an appreciation for free play. In addition, the collaboration planned with local agencies that include the local Recreation Departments, Boys and Girls Club, Athletic Departments, and local volleyball clubs, will allow the opportunity for continued participation throughout their developmental years.

Students from the SUNY Niagara Physical Education Teacher Preparation, Childhood Education, Recreation Studies, and Sports Management program will receive training to serve as the on-site coaches for this program.   This will provide the SUNY Niagara students with applied learning that supports and enhances their college educational experience.  The Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda varsity players will also serve as coaches to facilitate a seamless transition for the youth participants to eventually transition into mentor coaches.

“This youth volleyball program is a great example of creative collaboration in a community that will not only introduce more girls to a new sports experience but will also help to grow the next generation of female coaches in the region,” said Jim Boyle, vice president of programs & communications, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “We hope this type of model can be replicated with other sports and programs across our communities.”

Information on registering for the program can be found on the Girl Power website:
A press conference will be held at the friendship tournament on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, at 3:30 p.m. in the Main Gym at SUNY Niagara, 3111 Saunders Settlement Road, Sanborn, NY.


About the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation:

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grantmaking organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two areas reflect Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s devotion to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his Buffalo Bills franchise. Prior to his passing in 2014, Mr. Wilson requested that a significant share of his estate be used to continue a life-long generosity of spirit by funding the Foundation that bears his name. The Foundation has a grantmaking capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires January 8, 2035. This structure is consistent with Mr. Wilson’s desire for the Foundation’s impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable and overseen by those who knew him best. For more information visit

About SUNY Niagara:

SUNY Niagarais one of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York, the largest public university system in the country. The College provides more than 50 academic programs to over 5,000 students and is funded by the Niagara County Legislature, the State University of New York, and student tuition. For more information visit