be_ixf;ym_202405 d_27; ct_100 YES! I want to make a difference TODAY!

Where Service Happens: Persistence Preparatory Academy

The School Where We Serve

City Year Staff and Champions Standing Outside of PPAs new buildingReturning for a second year with City Year Buffalo is Persistence Preparatory Academy Charter School (PPA). Persistence Prep Academy  was founded in 2018 with the mission “through rigorous academics, high-quality instruction, and leadership development, Persistence Preparatory Academy Charter School ensures that all Kindergarten through 8-grade scholars are firmly on the path to succeed within a four-year college and create positive change within their communities.”

Through the leadership of Joelle Formato, Founder & Head of School, Persistence Preparatory Academy, after years of sharing space, has just officially opened their new “forever home” this past fall. This newly renovated three-story building has expanded space for community and family programming, state-of-the-art classroom technology, open concept libraries, dance and art studios, a family resource center, a mindfulness room, and a dedicated space for the City Year Team. The new school building solidifies Persistence Prep’s physical location in the community for years to come and sets aside classrooms for future growth. We are thrilled to grow alongside PPA proud to say that the teachers and staff at PPA are no exception to the 88% of partner teachers who were satisfied or highly satisfied with the experience of having City Year Buffalo in their school.

About Our Students

PPA Student working on a smart boardPersistence Preparatory Academy is currently a Kindergarten through 4th-grade school with 280 Scholars, which will grow a grade each year until they are a K-8 and just shy of 500 scholars. The student demographics are 85% Black, 7% Hispanic/Latino, 6% Two or More Races, 2% White, 59% female, and 41% male. In addition, 82% of students at Persistence Preparatory Academy are economically disadvantaged.

The KeyBank Team, named in honor of the sponsor that supports our service at PPA, supports twelve classrooms, of which 94% of partner teachers agreed or strongly agreed their City Year AmeriCorps Members provide valuable support to their classroom and students, and all grades besides 2nd. In addition to supporting twelve classrooms through whole-class instruction, student attendance, and social-emotional learning, the KeyBank Team also has 60 Focus List students who have been selected in partnership with the educators at Persistence Prep and receive intensive academic support.

Meet the KeyBank Team KeyBank Team at Opening Day

The KeyBank Team serving at Persistence Preparatory Academy Charter School is led by Impact Manager Susannah Throop, a two-time alumnus of City Year Buffalo, and Service Leader Ashleigh Stitley. 100% of City Year Buffalo Partner Teachers agree or strongly agree that City Year’s Priorities are aligned with the priorities of their school/classroom and we believe this is a direct result of the leadership that our Impact Managers and Service Leaders provide for our AmeriCorps Members on a daily basis. The team consists of six AmeriCorps Members, including Service Leader Ashleigh, who are all from out of state and in their early 20s.

Ashleigh Stitley
Service Leader & Second Year AmeriCorps Member, she/her/hers

Ashleigh serves in a 3rd-grade classroom with her partner teachers Madeline Aronica and Kasey Poloncarz. She is from Frederick, Maryland, and is interested in becoming a teacher in the future. She serves because she believes that the students of today make up the greatness of tomorrow. She serves because she wants to make sure these students have the opportunity to make a better tomorrow.

Elsie Villanueva
AmeriCorps Member, she/her/hers

Elsie works with 4th grade teachers Jacob Weiland, Michael Zeiser, and Amanda Doster. She is from Long Beach, California, and enjoys running in her downtime. She is interested in a career in education and serves because she wants students of all backgrounds to receive a genuine and quality education without compromising a part of their culture or identity.

Connie Bodemer
AmeriCorps Member, she/her/hers

Connie works in kindergarten with her partner teachers Gretchen Kraak and Elizabeth Giovino. She is from Colchester, Vermont, and worked in a school for deaf children prior to joining City Year. Connie serves because she believes in educating the generations of tomorrow and wants to help change the perspective on how to teach children. After she completes her City Year, Connie is interested in becoming a special education teacher.

Neisha Freeman
AmeriCorps Member, she/her/hers

Neisha supports the 4th grade alongside her Partner Teachers Kimberly Glasser and Jacob Weiland. She is from Chesterfield, South Carolina, and graduated from Coker University. She serves because she experienced firsthand the difference having a caring adult who is willing to help a child reach their potential can make. After she completes her City Year she is interested in becoming a teacher.

AJ Davis
AmeriCorps Member, she/her/hers

AJ serves in the 1st-grade classroom of Nina Schaefer and Erin White. She is from Miami Gardens, Florida, and attended Florida Atlantic University. She is into digital art in her free time and was a French tutor in college. She decided to join City Year because she is taking a gap year before she attends CUNY Brooklyn Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema and by serving in New York State she can gain the one year of residency needed to qualify for in-state tuition.​

Justin Lowery
AmeriCorps Member, he/him/his

Justin serves the 3rd-grade classroom of Taylor Miller. He is from Washington D.C. and graduated from Lycoming College prior to joining City Year. He serves because he believes everyone deserves a quality education. He serves because of the injustices in our society and wants to make a difference in this world. After completing his City Year he is interested in Teaching or becoming a Data Analyst.

Thank you for reading about our partnership with Persistence Preparatory Academy Charter School and the AmeriCorps Members serving on the KeyBank Team. If you’re interested in hearing more about our service at Persistence Preparatory Academy Charter School and the KeyBank team please reach out to Brock Monroe, Development & Communication Manager, at

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