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Revitalize Dunkirk hears speakers from P-TECH Academy and Chautauqua County Health Network

Attendees at Revitalize Dunkirk’s Oct. 18 meeting heard presentations about the WNY P-TECH Academy and also received results of a Chautauqua County Health Network walkability study of neighborhood streets around Dunkirk’s middle and high schools.

P-TECH, which stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High School, is “redefining what high school is for students,” according to Janiel Rey, Director of Workforce Development at Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES.

Rey, along with P-TECH principal Stephen Ruszczyk, explained the program’s purpose and its nontraditional curriculum that motivates students through project-based learning, using state-of-the-art technology and equipment. On at least a few occasions, students have even designed real-world solutions for local businesses while earning academic credit, they reported.

The Dunkirk-based academy, located in the former School 6 building on Benton Street, is one of 40 P-TECH campuses in our state where students can earn both a high school diploma and a tuition-free, two-year college degree in six years or less. A total of 95 students from 17 different school districts are currently enrolled.

Students can choose between an AAS degree program in Welding Technology or Mechanical Technology, provided in partnership with Jamestown Community College, and graduate debt-free, with entry-level skills for manufacturing jobs in our county that are going unfilled for lack of a trained workforce.

Despite the economic advantages of the program for students and their families, the Dunkirk-based P-TECH program is currently under-enrolled, with 65 available slots. Choosing P-TECH is a tough decision for many 8th graders to make, especially if it means giving up attending high school with friends in their home districts. So far, though, only 10 percent of those who have entered the program have left.

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After Rey and Ruszczyk finished fielding many interested questions and comments from attendees, Mikayla Certo, Community Project Coordinator with the Chautauqua County Health Network, presented the results of a walkability study completed this spring by community volunteers.

Part of the Complete Streets initiative, the walkability study focused on sidewalk, cut curbs and crosswalk conditions in a several-block area surrounding Dunkirk’s middle and high schools. The report provides evidence for concerned citizens to take to elected officials and city employees when advocating for safety improvements based on street, sidewalk and crosswalk conditions.

In organization business following the guest speakers, President Jim Fisher noted that Revitalize Dunkirk currently has five out of a possible nine board members and continues to seek more.

Reporting for the Marketing Committee, Fisher announced a standard meeting time for its meetings has been set for the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. He also reported on progress toward a logo design for the organization, as well as ideas discussed for several community winter events Revitalize Dunkirk is thinking of participating in or sponsoring.

Secretary Nicole Waite announced results of a survey of members at the October meeting regarding their top three concerns for Revitalize Dunkirk projects in 2019. These were: increase membership; increase and coordinate communication with the City; and pursue dialogue with the City regarding ideas for a park at Battery Point.

Treasurer Steve Rees noted that annual memberships run from Nov. 1 through Oct. 31, and renewal and application forms will be mailed to members in good standing and prospective new members towards the end of this month.

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Beautification Chair Mary Rees noted that this committee will focus on community trash reduction efforts in 2019 and has invited Matt Bourke from the Dunkirk Development Office to its next meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 10 a.m., to discuss a variety of ideas it has to collaborate with city officials.

Transportation Committee Chair Paul Somerfeldt reported on a number of contacts he has had with Department of Public Works Director Randy Woodbury regarding concerns about the Robin Street pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks, as well as suggestions for improving various streets and sidewalk areas of the city.

Revitalize Dunkirk, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing ideas for improved urban living to community members and elected officials. It meets the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 in the Fredonia Technology Incubator, 214 Central Ave., Dunkirk. Everyone interested in sharing community improvement ideas is welcome.

The next meeting is Nov.15, and the invited guest speaker will be Jane Babinsky, Dunkirk Historical Museum Director.

For more information on Revitalize Dunkirk’s community projects and activities, visit or


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