HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Panera Bread Foundation donated $25k to Girls Inc. of the Valley to support the college access mentoring component of their Eureka! program: Strong, Smart, and Bold Science for Girls program.

The greater-Holyoke, Springfield, and Chicopee non-profit, Girls Inc. of the Valley strives to create an equitable society where girls can choose careers that are not limited by their gender. A college access mentorship program, College Access Now (CAN), was created from Eureka! feedback.

According to Chikmedia, several of the participants will be attending college for the first time, and they felt intimidated by the college application process.

In order to simplify the college application process, the Panera Bread Foundation will fund the following initiatives:

  • A Eureka! Saturday: an in-person trip to UMass to do a ‘college application boot camp’ with the Diversity Fellows in the Admissions Department
  • Purchase Chromebooks: to loan to participants who do not have their own computers. Supplies and technology necessary for college success are unaffordable for many participants
  • A graduation celebration: for Girls CAN participants

“We’re thrilled to be able to partner with the Panera Bread Foundation to support and strengthen our communities,” said Girls Inc. of the Valley’s Executive Director, Suzanne Parker. “Our Eureka! program has demonstrated positive outcomes in enabling and empowering participants through college readiness, skill building, leadership development and mentoring. We are so grateful for the Panera Bread Foundation’s investment in this program.”

As of 2021, 100% of the girls who completed Eureka! graduated high school on time, as compared to 82% of girls in Springfield and 76% of girls in Holyoke. While, 89% are attending college this fall, compared to 57% of Springfield girls and 65% of Holyoke girls. Through the combination of long-term mentorship relationships, a pro-girl environment, and evidence-based programming, girls become healthy, educated, and independent while navigating gender and economic boundaries.