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Meet the Team: Persistence Preparatory Academy

The School Where We Serve

Returning for a third year with City Year Buffalo is Persistence Preparatory Academy Charter School (PPA). Persistence Prep Academy was founded in 2018 with the mission “through rigorous academics, high-quality instruction, and leadership development, Persistence Preparatory Academy Charter School ensures that all Kindergarten through 8-grade scholars are firmly on the path to succeed within a four-year college and create positive change within their communities.”

Through the leadership of Joelle Formato, Founder & Head of School, Persistence Preparatory Academy has just officially opened their new “forever home” in fall 2020. This newly renovated three-story building has expanded space for community and family programming, state-of-the-art classroom technology, open concept libraries, dance and art studios, a family resource center, a mindfulness room, and a dedicated space for the City Year Team. The new school building solidifies Persistence Prep’s physical location in the community for years to come and sets aside classrooms for future growth. We are thrilled to grow alongside PPA proud to say that 100% of school administrators agreed or strongly agreed that City Year has been flexible in responding to their school’s needs.


About Our StudentsCity year americorps member and a student with a backpack sitting at a table in a school courtyard in the sunshine

Persistence Preparatory Academy is currently a K-5 school, which will grow one grade each year until they are K-8. Of their 321 scholars, 96% are Black, 3% are Hispanic/Latino, and 1% are White. 55% are female, and 45% are male. In addition, 100% of students at Persistence Preparatory Academy receive free or reduced lunch.

The five AmeriCorps Members at PPA support four classrooms, of which 95% of partner teachers agreed or strongly agreed their City Year AmeriCorps Members provide valuable support to their classroom and students. In addition to supporting classrooms through whole-class instruction, student attendance, and social-emotional learning, the team also has 45 focus list students who have been selected in partnership with the educators at Persistence Prep and receive intensive academic support.


Meet the PPA Team

The team serving at The Buffalo Collegiate Charter School is led by Impact Manager Hannah Dickson, a two-time City Year Alumni, and Service Leader Jose Chavez.

Jose Chavez

Service Leader & Third Year AmeriCorps Member, He/Him/His 

Jose Chavez is in his 3rd year of City Year and is from NYC. He is the PPA team leader and serving with Partner Teacher Ms. Glaser in 4th grade math. He serves because he wants to help students who cannot make it on their own. His own parents could not help out with schoolwork because of the language barrier. Jose is inspired by a former City Year member from his own school. This City Year member made school engaging and fun. His favorite part of service so far has been understanding things from the kid’s perspective. A fun fact about Jose is that he was a mathlete.

Cecelia Bushway

AmeriCorps Member, She/Her/Hers 

Cecelia Bushway is in her 1st year of City Year and the only team member originally from Buffalo, NY. Before City Year, Cecelia attended the University of Villanova and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Humanities. She serves with Partner Teacher Ms. Chapple in 4th grade ELA. She serves because she believes in equitable education for all. So far Cecelia’s favorite part of service has been developing authentic relationships with students across the school. Following City Year, Cecelia plans on continuing her education. A fun fact about Cecelia is that she created props and painted sets as a job in college.  

Sophia Cobb

AmeriCorps Member, She/Her/Hers 

Sophia Cobb is in her 1st year of City Year and is from Hiram, Ohio, a small town just outside of Cleveland. Before City Year, Sophia attended Ohio University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Family Studies. She serves with Partner Teacher Ms. Swann in 5th grade ELA. Sophia serves because she wants to help children have a supportive and caring adult in their lives. Her favorite part of service so far has been having impactful conversations with students. Following City Year, Sophia wants to teach comprehensive health education to students middle school and up. A fun fact about Sophia is that she is a poet.  

Joshua Dean

AmeriCorps Member, He/Him/His

Joshua Dean is in his 1st year of City Year and is from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Before City Year, Joshua attended the University of Southern Mississippi and graduated with a degree in marketing and business. He works across the 5th grade with two partner teachers, Ms. Swann and Ms. Montgomery.  Joshua serves to be the one person students can count on in a classroom. So far his favorite part of service has been the relationships with kids and staff. After City Year, Joshua plans on becoming a teacher. In preschool Joshua played the Cat in the Hat in a musical. 

Tiara Johnson

AmeriCorps Member, She/Her/Hers 

Tiara Johnson is in her 1st year of City Year and is from Brooklyn, New York. Before City Year, Tiara attended Canisius College and graduated with a degree in Computer Science and Women and Gender studies. She works in 5th grade math with Partner Teacher, Ms. Montgomery. Tiara serves because she came from and underserved community herself. She wants to let kids know they belong in the building and that college is an option. So far her favorite part of service has been her students. Following City Year, Tiara would like to get back into tech and work with kids. Tiara has a cat name Journey.   


Thank you so much for taking the time to find out more about the team serving at the Charter Middle School for Applied Technologies. If you would like to learn more or meet the team, please reach out to Lizz Spangenthal, Development Manager, at

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