Formal Announcement of Villa Maria College Partnership


3-month pilot to culminate in $15K in Support & Awards Celebration on June 2nd  

BUFFALO, NEW YORK — Arbol Community Inc., a platform that helps underprivileged college students persist to graduation through financial and community support, and Villa Maria College, today announced that the launch of the Arbol Seed Fund. The fund gives college students a $1,000 recurring grant to alleviate the burden of rising living costs while attending, financial guidance and a network of mentors and leaders to support them.

College affordability is a growing problem in higher education. College costs continue to rise faster than inflation and its pricing students out a degree – especially students from underprivileged backgrounds. Typically, students and families might think of college costs as tuition, fees, and room and board, when it incorporates many additional factors: textbooks and course materials, transportation, food beyond the meal plan, housing for students living off campus, and more. Non-tuition expenses make up more than half the cost of college and they increase.

Students and families are often unaware of these additional costs beyond their bill until they set foot on campus. Many students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, lack the financial resources to cover them—even with financial aid.  

Earlier this year, Villa Maria College agreed to pilot the Arbol Seed Fund with 15 students. Arbol helped those students build detailed financial plans and connected them to resources that include a microgrant designed to supplement outside income to help pay for in-semester expenses like transportation, food, and housing and access to a network of mentors and leaders to support them.

Ahead of each semester, the students will each receive $1,000 to spend against their budget for expenses such as transportation to and from campus or food beyond their meal plan. Students will receive a debit card which will have expense controls and will have continued access to an Arbol advisor who will help them track their expenses and manage their budget throughout the semester.

“The funds that they are giving me will help me finish college without having to worry about finances like I do now, they are giving me peace of mind in that aspect,” said Bre Marchewka, a junior at Villa Maria College and a recipient of the first round of Arbol micro-grants.

Arbol is one of several innovations that Dr. Giordano and team has brought to higher ed. Villa Maria College recently announced that the full cost of books and supplies will be included in the price of Villa Maria College’s tuition. This unprecedented announcement removes a major barrier to student success – the hidden cost of textbooks, art supplies, medical supplies, and more. 

“Villa Maria College is the leader among local private colleges in making higher education accessible and achievable, providing unparalleled levels of student support and programming,” said Dr. Matthew Giordano. We are thrilled to partner with Arbol to extend our student-centered services even farther. By providing students additional financial support and, just as importantly, mentorship and financial coaching, Arbol is filling a major need that will produce real gains in college access, equity, and degree attainment, particularly for first-generation students.”

Laura Pietak, Director of the Achieve Program and team lead for the Arbol implementation agrees. 

“The collaboration between Arbol and the Achieve Program for students with learning differences at Villa Maria College has been impactful for students by helping to dimmish the anxiety of wondering how they will afford everyday expenses while working toward their degrees. Students can prioritize their education, focus on their assignments, and prepare themselves for their future careers.” 

Arbol and Villa Maria will issue the $1,000 Arbol Grant Award to the first cohort of at Arbol’s first annual fundraiser on June 2nd. The fundraiser will serve as an opportunity for potential funders to help expand the Arbol Seed Fund to support more students in the Upstate NY region.

 “When you find talented students whose careers and dreams are threatened by the limited resources they have, we ought to come together and support them. We are thrilled to kickstart this partnership with Villa Maria College. This is an important step for both Arbol and Villa – our students, when financially empowered and guided, can make terrific contributions to society and uplift us all.” Said Favio Osorio, co-founder of Arbol. 

Here are the details for the June 2nd fundraiser:

Arbol Fundraiser: Graduating the Financially Ungraduated 

Thursday, June 2nd – 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. EST 

Location: Soho Buffalo, 64 W Chippewa Street 

The #1 reason students do not enroll or complete their degree is financial. Our community aims to alleviate that burden for our local college students.  

The Financially Ungraduated are those who could not make it to graduation due to financial challenges. Many have to juggle a job while being in college because they need income to pay for college and living expenses.  

The event is our first annual fundraiser to help financially challenged college students complete their degree. All proceeds of this event will be disbursed directly to local college students to help them pay for their living expenses this coming Fall semester.  

About Arbol 

Arbol is a platform that helps underprivileged college students persist to graduation through financial and community support. Arbol finds students who need financial help, provide them with financial intelligence, issue them micro-grants and connect them with a community of supporters who provide their time, network, and treasure. 

For more information about the Arbol Seed Fund, contact us at

About Villa Maria College 

Villa Maria College is a private, Catholic college, founded in 1960 by the Felician Sisters. Located in Buffalo, NY, Villa Maria is the premiere student-centered college in Western New York characterized by an unyielding commitment to student success.  

Offering Bachelors and Associates degrees in 19 different academic programs, Villa Maria’s strength lies in studio-based education, a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, and educators who bring their real-world experience into the classroom. Students learn and grow with a culturally diverse population that lives its core values instilled by the Felician Sisters. Students participate in intercollegiate athletics in eight sports as the Villa Vikings and are involved in nearly 20 clubs and organizations on campus. Villa Maria is home to the Achieve Program for Students with Learning Differences, and an academic success center, which provides robust academic support for all students.  

For more information on the college, call 716-896-0700 or visit    

Bre Marchewka, a junior at Villa Maria College and a recipient of the first round of grants from the Arbol Seed Fund.

Arbol Contact: David Gonzalez | 716.816.9961 |

Villa Maria Contact: Laura Pietak | 716.961.2869 | 

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