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Upstate Foundation receives $150,000 grant from KeyBank Foundation for new community initiative

The Upstate Foundation received a $150,000 seed grant from KeyBank Foundation to fund an educational pipeline and employment advancement programs that will expose participants to desirable health care careers and offer a steady stream of entry-level positions at Upstate, which could subsequently provide further career and educational opportunities to participants. The announcement was made by Eileen Pezzi, vice president for development at Upstate Medical University.

This transformative grant is part of KeyBank’s $40 billion National Community Benefits Plan and is symbolic of the bank’s longstanding commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“With support from the KeyBank Foundation, this new initiative has the potential to have a significant impact on our community,” Pezzi said. “We are deeply appreciative of KeyBank’s commitment to organizations and programs that prepare individuals for thriving futures.”

“The enhanced educational pipeline programs will provide low-income and underrepresented minority students with evidence-based exposures to educational and career opportunities that they will not likely experience otherwise,” added Daryll Dykes, PhD, MD, JD, a native Syracusan and product of Syracuse public schools who is now a professor and chief diversity officer at Upstate Medical University. “Several studies show that well designed and executed pipeline programs encourage minority students not only to excel in their academic endeavors, but also to persist in their chosen career track.”

Additionally, Upstate will collaborate with established and trusted community partners to provide comprehensive job readiness, employment, and career development programs, leveraging KeyBank Foundation’s generous support and other philanthropic resources to build skills of participants who will obtain and retain gainful employment at Upstate, thereby moving them from poverty to sustainability.

“KeyBank is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization and in the communities we serve,” said KeyBank Central New York Market President Stephen Fournier.  “This innovative new program with Upstate will help provide our region’s workforce with education, training and tools they need to have sustainable careers in the medical field. We look forward to hearing the many stories of success and bright futures that will continue to emerge from Upstate as this program grows.”  

Central New York has suffered from wealth and income disparities for generations. Syracuse, the largest city in the region, had a poverty rate of 31.8 percent in 2020 – over three times the national average of approximately 10 percent. Economic disparities have created inequities in housing, transportation, employment, education, financial services and accessibility to essential resources, including health care. This is particularly problematic in Syracuse’s African American community where poverty and unemployment rates top 39 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

“Our enhanced pipeline programs recognize the importance of a diverse health care pipeline to realize the goal of reducing health disparities in minority and other underrepresented populations,” Dykes said. “As the region’s largest employer, the only tertiary hospital system and the only academic medical center, Upstate Medical University is uniquely positioned to substantially close these gaps. We expect that this initial investment by KeyBank Foundation will stimulate broader support for these vital initiatives.”


Caption: From left: Key Bank Central New York Market President  Stephen Fournier, Upstate Vice President for Development Eileen Pezzi and Upstate Professor and Chief Diversity Officer Daryll Dykes, PhD, MD, JD.