The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties announces the launch of SHINE, a collaboration with Johnson Park Center and Notre Dame Schools made possible by an anonymous donor’s endowed designated fund at the Foundation. SHINE offers opportunities for academic and personal growth to children of low-income households at Notre Dame Schools at no-cost. Eligible students are identified through Johnson Park Center programs.

Upon the fund’s creation and launch of SHINE, four students – ranging from 5 to 10 years of age – enrolled at Notre Dame Schools and will continue to attend for the remainder of their academic careers. In addition to tuition being covered, SHINE students are eligible to receive essentials to help them thrive, including clothing/uniforms, hygiene products, school supplies and meals.

Notre Dame Schools is a private, faith-based institution that is home to over 600 students. While tuition costs range depending on the number of children attending per household and their grade level, the support of local parishes, alumni and other donors subsidizes the remaining costs attributed to receiving an education there.

“To welcome these children and have them become part of our Notre Dame family is a true gift,” said Mary Rossi, principal of Notre Dame Elementary School. “Each student brings their own unique talents that contribute in a positive way to our school community. We truly value this collaboration with Johnson Park Center and the Community Foundation.”

Johnson Park Center is a faith-based nonprofit organization that promotes positive change, revitalization and community development in Cornhill in Utica. They provide emergency and supportive housing for women, children and families, as well as a range of community-based support services in the areas of nutrition, recreation, mentoring and advocacy. The Johnson Park Center team assists SHINE families to ensure students have the materials they need to succeed, including school supplies and transportation.

“The benefits that the SHINE Fund will have on students and their families are simply priceless,” said Rev. Dr. Maria A. Scates, D.D., president/CEO of Johnson Park Center. “This fund will not only give youths the ability to attend one of the best private schools in the area, but it also gives them the opportunity to build their character and learn skills necessary to be successful in all aspects of life.”

The anonymous donor who kickstarted this fund is a faith-focused, community-minded individual who believes that children from all circumstances deserve equitable and quality educational opportunities.

“I wanted to help create this fund because no one else was doing something like this,” said the donor. “I have been watching the hard work that Johnson Park Center has put into the community, and I wanted to help out. The goal of this fund is to provide lower-income students with the same opportunities that middle and higher-income families have, while instilling faith-based values through Notre Dame Schools.”

Students who face economic hardships are more likely to drop out of school. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26% of students who were not reading proficiently in 3rd grade and who lived in poverty for at least one year between 2nd and 11th grades did not finish high school on time or at all, compared to 9% of students with basic reading levels and who did not live in poverty.

In 2022, 9,605 students dropped out of high schools across the state, according to the New York State Education Department. Of this number, 6,974 students were reported to be economically disadvantaged.

By donating to the SHINE Fund, more children from low-income families will be given the opportunity to attend one of Central New York’s most reputable institutions without financial concern. Visit to learn more about the fund and how to donate.