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Foundation proves FAITH in education

NCCS to receive $25,000

First grade students at Northern Chautauqua Catholic School in Dunkirk enjoy their time in the school’s computer lab. The school will receive a $25,000 grant from the Tramuto Foundation to assist families with student tuition.

Special to the OBSERVER

The Tramuto Foundation, founded in 2001 by Donato J. Tramuto, global healthcare activist, chairman and founder of Health eVillages, and CEO of Tivity Health, a leading provider of health and wellness programs, has awarded its third annual Tramuto Foundation Bulldozer Award to Northern Chautauqua Catholic School to help struggling families meet the cost of student tuitions.

The Foundation will award the $25,000 grant to Principal Andrew Ludwig and Canonical Administrator Fr. Daniel Walsh in June at the Foundation’s Board of Trustees’ annual retreat.

Tramuto created the Tramuto Foundation in honor of his two close friends and their young son who died when their plane struck the second World Trade Tower in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Almost 20 years later, the Foundation continues to provide annual scholarships for students in need and grants to non-profit organizations whose mission is focused on improving the lives of others.

Four years ago, Tramuto published his first book, Life’s Bulldozer Moments: How Adversity Can Lead to Success in Life and Business. Now in its 7th printing and recently issued in Italy, the book recounts several tragedies and hardships that Tramuto endured while illustrating how he overcame what he describes as ‘life’s bulldozer moments’ to become a successful and compassionate corporate leader and philanthropist who is focused on making life better for others.

“Through our Bulldozer Moments Award, the Foundation seeks to honor the inspirational mission of organizations like the Northern Chautauqua Catholic School, “Tramuto said. “I grew up in Dunkirk and many members of my extended family still live in the area, so I am keenly aware that many families continue to struggle financially. It is my hope that this partnership of the Tramuto Foundation and NCCS will further empower the school to promote diversity and encourage inclusion regardless of one’s ethnicity, socio-economic status, physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Everyone deserves a fair chance in pursuit of their dreams and aspirations.”

NCCS is the only Catholic school remaining in all of Chautauqua County. According to Ludwig, the school is committed to balancing the physical, spiritual, intellectual and social growth for students as they mature into responsible, self-disciplined citizens. The Foundation grant, Ludwig explained, “will be used to expand enrollment in our school to more families in the Chautauqua County communities, many of whom are impoverished, as well as assist current NCCS families in need.”

Under the direction of Ludwig and Fr. Walsh, a fund is being developed for students who need financial or emergency assistance in order to attend NCCS. While the school is struggling to keep the rate as low as possible, Ludwig noted that the $3,500 annual tuition might seem like an insurmountable financial burden for many families in Chautauqua County.

Ludwig, who retired in 2018 as principal of Fredonia Middle School, was asked by Fr. Walsh to consider the position of principal at NCCS. Once Ludwig agreed to visit NCCS and meet with the students, he felt compelled to suspend his retirement and accept the position. “I thought about all the things a great Catholic education can do to support these kids throughout their lifetime, and I said yes,” he recalled.

According to the principal, the initial outreach to the Tramuto Foundation came from NCCS parent and trustee Megan Zaffalon Mackowiak. “Megan works at SUNY Fredonia, where Donato gave the commencement speech in 2017 in which he referenced his book, ‘Life’s Bulldozer Moments’, Ludwig said. “We eagerly read the book and were amazed by all that Donato has accomplished in his life. Megan was truly responsible for planting the seed when she reached out to Donato and arranged for a call with me, Father Dan and Jennifer Askar, our school board president. He was so gracious on that call and encouraged us to apply for the grant.

“My goal now is to build upon the Tramuto Foundation grant and increase funding for tuition assistance for more families who stop me on the street and tell me that they would love to send their kids to NCCS, but they can’t afford the tuition. Also, I would love to pay my wonderful, hard-working teachers what they are truly worth, and create an endowment for programs that will build upon the innovative STREAM classes (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) that we currently offer our students.

“NCCS is also blessed to have the generous support of the Diocese of Buffalo,” Ludwig added, noting that in addition to annual tuition assistance, the Diocese has provided a grant this year to upgrade technology used by students in the STREAM classrooms.

With a total of 110 students, NCCS currently offers pre-school for three and four year-olds, and classes for grades K-8. As a Catholic school, NCCS students are taught to care for those in the community who may be living alone or without basic necessities. Through their religion or health class, or the school’s Mission Club, students regularly visit seniors and retired clergy at area retirement homes and volunteer at the food pantry established at NCCS by the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish and at Rural Ministries across the street from the school. These outreach programs are a part of their religion classes where students are encouraged to be active participants in the guiding principles of their faith, Ludwig said.

For more information about NCCS, visit: nccschool.us or call 716-366-0630.

Since 2001, the Tramuto Foundation has helped tens of thousands of people realize the mission of creating a brighter future through student scholarships, as well as financial grants to organizations worldwide whose vision is to help right the wrong and make this world a better place for all. The Foundation has served as a voice in creating partnerships that have a sustainable and measureable impact in making the world more just and fair.

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