History

Two decades of helping children thrive.

Francis Center started in 1997 when several Sisters of St. Francis saw a need for educational and emotional support for neighborhood children. They opened the doors of their home in Niagara Falls to nine inner city children, so they could help them improve their academic skills and explore the creative arts in a safe and loving environment.

As the program became more popular, and more children needed the attention the Sisters provided, Francis Center moved to a new home on 24th Street. Today, the after school program that launched the center offers special attention and guidance to up to 30 children in Grades 2 and 3.

Francis Center is directed by one of its original founders, Elizabeth Neumeister, OSF, with the help of staff and volunteers from throughout the local community.

Purpose

Teach wisely.

If you put food and shelter in the inner city, you will reap survival. If you put art and beauty and values there, you will reap soul. To develop fully human beings in this society we must provide more than food and shelter. We must give living skills, group skills, and the civilizing value of the fine arts as well.
Joan B. Chittister, OSB

Research has shown that Grade 3 is a pivot point in academic success, and that if a child is not reading at or above grade level by the end of Grade 3, their future success is in jeopardy.

Even worse, 74% of children who are not reading at grade level by that time will never catch up to graduate with their class.

We realized that many of the children in our low-income community were feeling the affects of family strife. They were not learning at an appropriate pace, and many were cited for aggressive behavior or difficulty relating with peers. Their parents couldn’t afford tutors to help their children, so we established Francis Center to provide the mentoring and discipline needed to get – and keep – these children on track during a particularly critical point in their young lives.

Philosophy

Act Kindly.

Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
From the Prayer of St. Francis

As a program under the sponsorship of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity, we trust in the goodness and providence of God,living the Gospel in our time with gentle courtesy toward all creation.

Our Mission

Francis Center is committed to providing a safe, respectful and welcoming environment and creative programs where low-income children can experience the joy of building community. We serve through our after school and summer enrichment, and fine arts programs for children.

Francis Center offers assistance to our community regardless of religious background. We teach the principles of goodness and kindness that are fundamental to Christian tradition.

Results

Change lives.

We are very proud of the children in our after school program who, with guidance and support, have improved their grades so they have the opportunity for a better future.

The 2012-2013 Northwest Evaluation Association test results provided by the Niagara Falls School District showed that Francis Center students experienced:

  • 100% improvement in Math
  • 89% improvement in Reading
  • 84% improvement in Language Usage

Additionally, our young participants acquired stronger social skills and learned appreciation for fine arts and music.

Whether part of our after school program, our summer day-camp, or any of the other activities we offer throughout the year, the children who attend Francis Center are enriched by a safe, peaceful environment in which they can learn, explore, create, and develop their social skills.

Our Staff

A few dedicated people, committed to changing lives.

Francis Center has three permanent teachers and many volunteers working under the direction of Sister Betty. Every teacher and volunteer who works directly with our children is vigorously interviewed, tested for TB and fingerprinted. We do our utmost to ensure the safety of the youngsters who participate in our programs.

Sister Betty Neumeister, osf, is executive director of Francis Center and a member of the Sisters of St. Francis, Stella Niagara, NY.  She has a Masters degree in Education as well as a Masters degree in Social Work. 
Sister Betty has taught in the primary grades, mostly in the inner city of Buffalo. While at St. Ann’s in Buffalo she was a demonstration teacher for the “Follow Through” Program, a government program for low-income children. She has also taught in Columbus, Ohio, and Greenville, South Carolina.
While in Ohio, Sister Betty worked in a “day hospital” for emotionally disturbed children. There, she worked as a teacher along with a psychologist, a nurse who distributed medications, a speech therapist, and a Montessori teacher. She also served as a “house mother” for emotionally disturbed children.
After obtaining her degree as a social worker, Sister Betty worked at Buffalo Hearing and Speech and People Incorporated.
She has been a teacher and the director of Francis Center for 17 years.