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The Achieve Program

Imagine. Believe. Achieve.

Program History

Achieve’s mission is to provide specialized services to students with learning differences. We address students’ needs individually and develop a plan to help make their transition easier into college. The Achieve Program helps students develop the skills necessary to be successful both academically and socially in college, and builds their confidence along the way with a focus on preparing students for life after College.

In 2015, the College’s director of disability services noticed that some students with learning differences, who were capable of succeeding, were struggling to adjust to college life. These students were not succeeding because their support level dropped dramatically compared to what they received in high school. There was a clear need for ongoing support that addressed the challenges that arose in every class. From this notion, Villa Maria College developed its Achieve Program for Students with Learning Differences.


2018 AchieveStudents


Students withGPA 2.0+


Students withGPA 3.0+


New Studentsin 2018


Returning Studentsin 2018

The Achieve Difference

All colleges and universities are required by law to provide accommodations to students with disabilities, including learning disabilities. Villa Maria College’s Achieve Program goes above and beyond what’s required by law to help students with learning differences succeed. The program combines one-on-one tutoring, group sessions, technological resources, exclusive facilities, experienced faculty and a slew of additional on-campus resources to ensure that students with learning differences are prepared to succeed. Our faculty helps students address common challenges as well as challenges that may be more specific to them.

Click here for more information on the Achieve Difference.

Achieve’s leadership team is comprised of College employees who understand the challenges students with learning differences face, as well as the support they may need. Their knowledge of College curriculum combined with their experience in working with people with learning differences allow them to to be successful in preparing Achieve students to thrive, both at Villa and in life after graduation.

  • Dr. Ann Rivera, Provost
  • Laura Pietak, Director of the Achieve Program
  • Aryanna Denk, Assistant Director of the Achieve Program
  • Jill Manka, Career Readiness Specialist

Students interested in enrolling in the Achieve Program at Villa Maria College must be admitted to both the College and the Program.

If you’re interested in learning more about the admissions process at Villa Maria College, please contact any one of our admissions team members. Not only does this group has a strong understanding of the Achieve Programs, they understand all of the College’s academic programs, student life and general atmosphere. You may also work with admissions to schedule a personal tour of the campus and the Achieve Center.

For more information on College admissions, visit

After submitting an application to the College, students must also submit an application for admission to the Achieve Program, which can be found here. Upon acceptance to the College, students should schedule an interview with Laura Pietak, the director for the Achieve Program. Students will receive an acceptance decision after their meeting with Ms. Pietak.

Achieve’s advisory council is comprised of experts in the field of learning differences and transitioning students with learning differences from high school to college. The council meets twice annually to support the recruitment, community building, and fundraising goals of the Achieve Program at Villa Maria College.

  • Charles Brown: Director of College Counseling, The GOW School
  • Melisse Machnica: Transition Coordinator, Clarence & Lancaster School Districts
  • Dr. Brittany Merrill: Research Assistant Professor, Florida International University
  • Jana Mertz: Program Coordinator, Children’s Guild Foundation Autism Spectrum Disorder Center
  • Clara Moran: Executive Director, The BISON Children’s Scholarship Fund
  • Kristen Schober: Director of Communications, Villa Maria College
  • Azure Showers: CEO, Accessible Academics
  • Tonia Wiechmann: Transition Coordinator, Parent Network of WNY

The Achieve Team

Laura Pietak

Director of the Achieve Program

[email protected] • 716.961.2869

Aryanna Denk

Assistant Director of the Achieve Program

[email protected] • 716.436.5587

Jill Manka

Career Readiness Specialist

[email protected] • 716.961.1833

There is no other program like this in Buffalo that would provide this kind of robust, carefully planned support for college students with learning disabilities. One of the real strengths of Achieve is the possibility for parental involvement. I think one of the reasons that Achieve is so unique here in Buffalo and elsewhere, is that we open the doors to let the parents get involved as part of the learning team. And I think that while we’re trying to develop independence in our students, we also really benefit from the long-term perspective that parents can bring.

Dr. Will MeyerFaculty Member

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