First Niagara Saluted

Thomas MacMillan PhotoThe people who filled the lobby of First Niagara bank Friday morning weren’t looking to deposit money. They came to crown a “champion.”

In a brief ceremony, the bank was named 2012’s “Corporate Community Champion” by United Way.

United Way recognized the bank for its “leadership as a corporate sponsor, its engaged and generous workforce, and its strategic grant-making in New Haven.” First Niagara has given a three-year $3 million grant to support New Haven’s school reform initiative. It’s invested in “Boost!” a program that helps connects students to social and emotional supports.

Mayor John DeStefano and Reggie Mayo, superintendent of schools, expressed their gratitude for First Niagara’s support.

DeStefano (pictured) said the school system and the bank are in the same line of work: wealth creation and “giving people an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.”

He said he’s in a “moment of optimism” after Tuesday’s election, hoping that the national results are a sign that Democrats and Republicans can work together and compromise. On the city level, the best results come from working together, which is what United Way’s “champion” award acknowledges, DeStefano said.

Mayo (pictured) said the Board of Ed is grateful for First Niagara’s donation. He called it “money well spent.”

Jack Healy (pictured), head of United Way, praised the city’s school reform initiative as “a turnaround effort that’s working.”

First Niagara’s New England president, David Ring (pictured), accepted a plaque from United Way and then praised DeStefano and Mayo for their vision, which he said convinced the bank to “participate in a renaissance” in New Haven public schools.

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