Whose Renaissance Is It? A Closer Look at Rochester's Renewal

Barriers - They hold us back from doing our best as individuals and as a community.
The Inner Loop was part of a "renewal" project that literally cut neighborhoods off from center city.
BRIDGES - They help our community come together to break down the barriers.
The historic Erie Canal aqueduct connected Rochester to the world.

Our 6th grade class has spent the entire year focusing on some of the obstacles that Rochester has faced -- poverty, racism, affordable housing -- and exploring ways to help our city be more inclusive and to have all voices heard. As Rochester works towards its 2034 Comprehensive Plan, our goal is to add a strong youth voice in 2018 to help our city flourish.

Some of our research was outside the classroom. Locally, we kicked off our year with a walking tour of Rochester, noticing some murals that reflected their neighborhoods and offered inspiring messages. This past spring, our class went on the Four Cities trip visiting Detroit, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans to learn how their communities are striving to provide equity for all of their residents. We are sharing that information to help make our city a better place.

In the classroom, we first focused on how actual physical barriers across time and place, such as Hadrian’s Wall in the Roman Era and the Inner Loop right here in our city, separated people. We then looked at the “Rochester 2010: The Renaissance Plan.” There were some great plans and ideas, but many of them never happened, so we asked the question “Whose Renaissance is it?” We paid attention to the barriers in our own city, which sparked conversation about how to build bridges instead. In the winter, we did some self-reflection and made connections to our own identity through poems and monologues. By better understanding our own identities, we developed a stronger connection to Rochester’s identity.

The whole idea of this year has been to break down barriers, build bridges, and to help make Rochester a more welcoming environment for all of our residents.

Looking to the past to understand the present

Rochester is a place for experiments, and one experiment was the 2010 Renaissance Plan. With this plan, created in 1999, city leaders hoped to make a better Rochester so that the downtown would be perceived as the region’s center city and a driving force for change. This would include a mix of housing, retail, services, cultural venues, and entertainment and would be recognized as safe, vital, and exciting. When we looked around the city we wondered, what happened? Clearly, the plan did not fully come in to play.

Some successes Rochester had from this plan included giving neighborhoods stronger identities. Some neighborhoods, like the ABC neighborhood, Highland Park, Corn Hill, Beechwood, 19th Ward and Marketview Heights, are areas that have strong identities. However, Rochester faced a challenge in sustaining big businesses, although some of this was beyond the city’s control. Eastman Kodak Company, Xerox Company, Chase Bank, and Bausch and Lomb do not have the high profile they used to. The High Falls Entertainment District, the Fast Ferry, and Renaissance Square were ideas that failed, and may have led many people to become suspicious of big projects.

The ferry from Rochester, NY to Toronto, ON, was an idea that never made a profit and the ferry was later sold to a company in Europe.

Even though the 2010 plan was not completely successful, the city tried some new ideas. It enhanced the Public Market by adding an outdoor covered vending shed and four stand-alone food structures, and we did get a new transit center and train station.

Rochester is in the process of creating a new comprehensive plan for 2034 (which will be Rochester’s 200th birthday). The idea is to get the public’s feedback to make Rochester’s future development more equitable for everyone. But if you don’t share your ideas, how will they city know what you want? You can add your ideas at this link: ROC 2034.

rochester's downtown renaissance

The revitalization of Rochester will depend on affordable housing development. There are 21 existing housing projects, with 7,200 new living spaces and 3,000 more planned for Rochester by 2020. This new market of apartments, ranging from $800-$4,000 for rent, is bringing in young professionals from diverse backgrounds into our city center. This development is making it easier for some families, seniors, and people with special needs to get homes - but there are simply not enough affordable housing options downtown. Organizations like Home Leasing believe in helping people and that homes are a fundamental human right for all. With their development plans, they are helping "create long term strategies that make safe and affordable housing for all people in our community." However, more must be done to make sure people in existing homes and apartments can continue to afford and stay in them.

One very important part of Rochester's redevelopment is small business creation. Small businesses help more people get employed and make money. One small business is Ugly Duck Coffee, which was created by Rory and Cris Van Grol. It is located downtown by the former Inner Loop highway. Filling in the highway will provide more space for housing and commercial uses like local small businesses. The Ugly Duck has many murals on its walls, which make it a nice place to stop for everyone.

One program that the City of Rochester is using to kick start small businesses is the Kiva microloan program. Kiva offers interest free loans of up to $10,000 to small businesses so they can get started. Small businesses can help change people’s lives. Imagine if we lifted people out of poverty by helping them create their own businesses. There could be a ripple effect in their neighborhoods!

Parcel 5 is perhaps the most coveted piece of land in Rochester, the former home to a shopping mall. The city is in the middle of a heated debate concerning what to do with the land. Some citizens would prefer a green space, a park, or a shared space for community events; Mayor Warren and the city government envision a performing arts center. The mayor has said, “We have listened to the people -- people who want more than just a performing arts center. They want entertainment. They want vibrancy.” Some of Rochester’s arts professionals say the theater will hurt the arts industry. Does Rochester really want this “vibrancy”? We have learned about past efforts to create entertainment areas in our city, mostly with negative results. Parcel 5 is a popular space for outdoor entertainment that will require careful planning to meet the needs of our city’s citizens.

Parcel 5 has the potential to be our city's next big thing.

what about the rest of rochester?


Throughout our region, there are substantial disparities in childhood poverty, overall poverty, academic achievement, earnings and homeownership rates between African Americans and Latinos and White populations. This is true in Rochester’s Northwest Quadrant, where the median household income is $27,439 annually, the lowest in the city. This median income (the middle of all incomes in the area) is even below the federal poverty rate of $28,290 for a family of four! Poverty is a fact of life in many neighborhoods in the Northwest Quadrant, but there are organizations ready to help.

Cameron Community Ministries is a non-profit organization that provides food and clothing to those in need. They also provide after-school programs and homework help for children. They serve a free hot meal to the public six days a week, but they are more than a soup kitchen. They provide free books, emergency food assistance, and, most importantly, a place for people to feel safe and welcome.

Our work with Cameron Community Ministries helped us make personal connections with people whose lives are impacted by poverty.

Neighborhoods in the Northwest quadrant are very diverse and have their own identities. Charlotte and Maplewood are two of the most well-known neighborhoods. Charlotte is our city’s access to Lake Ontario and was an important part of our commercial past. Some recent improvements to Charlotte include a marina at the Port of Rochester. The port building is home to a few restaurants, and the beaches at Ontario Beach Park are a popular stop for families around the area.

Maplewood is another well-known neighborhood in the Northwest quadrant. It is home to the popular Maplewood Rose Festival and is located near the Lower Falls of the Genesee River. Recently, more immigrants are calling the Northwest quadrant home. Refugees from Bhutan and Nepal have begun to open their own businesses and settle into our city. Maplewood is also home to Foodlink, our region’s food bank. Did you know that more than a third of the people it helps are children? It distributed over 17 million pounds of food last year, including food for its backpack program for kids at schools. Our class was able to help sort food and health care items for its clients. You can help, too. Click here to find out more about Foodlink.

northeast quadrant

During our research, we noticed that the poverty in the Northeast Quadrant is a giant barrier to success. The poverty rate for adults in the Northeast quadrant is 46.8%, and for youth it is 62.2%, which is the highest in the city. We have also noticed that the unemployment rate is very high for African Americans and Latinos. In Monroe County, the unemployment rate is 5.4%, but in the Northeast quadrant the unemployment rate is a disappointing 22%. Home ownership is also lowest here - fewer than 1 in 3 people own a home, yet there are dozens of abandoned homes that could be renovated to provide people with shelter and a chance to gain some economic hope.

One organization that is making a difference in the NE Quadrant is Community Place. Community Place connects people with opportunities to improve the lives of individuals, revitalize neighborhoods, and strengthen the fabric of our community. During our visit to Community Place, we learned about their programs with youth, the elderly, and people with disabilities. They help families in crisis in the NE with housing referrals, a food and personal hygiene pantry, and financial literacy classes, and bus pass help.

We had the opportunity to visit several neighborhoods and speak with advocates about the challenges in the Northeast. We also heard what makes the Northeast quadrant special and unique.

An recent example of redevelopment in the NE quadrant is the Rochester Public Market. In 2017, an expanded and renovated public market opened. This included a new indoor shed and new food stalls. The entire neighborhood of Marketview Heights and Railroad Street is seeing a mini-renaissance with new businesses and housing coming in. Don’t forget to check out all of the amazing murals when you visit!

southeast quadrant

The Southeast quadrant is the most wealthy quadrant in the city, but the median household income for the southeast quadrant is still only $46,445. The southeast quadrant of the city was not impacted as much by the redlining that affected the rest of our city. You can look at the maps and see why this part of the city is wealthy today. It has the highest value of homes in the city ($106,621), the highest average level of college educated people in the city (18.1%) and the lowest poverty and unemployment rates in the city. It also has the highest percentage of white people of all four quadrants in Rochester.

Barriers are an opportunity to make bridges. One of the things the city is doing to make bridges is filling in the Inner Loop to connect one side of the city with the other. This will help tie the Southeast quadrant with Center City. One of this quadrant’s best known neighborhoods is NOTA, the Neighborhood of the Arts. This is a neighborhood with galleries, museums, and one-of-kind small businesses. GCCS is located in the SE quadrant of Rochester, too.

One organization that is trying to support all kids is The Center for Youth. It is located on Monroe Avenue and they offer many different programs that help kids be the best they can be. This can be in school, at a crisis nursery, or with job training and the food pantry.

southwest quadrant

Rochester’s Southwest (SW) quadrant has a rich African-American heritage and is home to the 19th Ward, the city’s largest neighborhood. Corn Hill is another diverse neighborhood in the SW quadrant and is known for its annual Corn Hill Arts Festival each summer. According to the City of Rochester website, “The diverse population began in its inception and continues today to reflect the very best urban living. Its residents include young families, gay partners and empty nesters in a rainbow of colors.”

It is a diverse part of the city but still feels the effects of poverty. In the southwest quadrant, there is a poverty level of 35.8%, but even worse is the fact that 52.6% of children are living in poverty. That means half of the kids are dealing with the effects of extreme poverty - which can include poor educational and health outcomes. The unemployment rate is 18.8%. That is a high percentage for people who are just in the Southwest quadrant (this means nearly 1 in 5 people cannot find a job). Fortunately, 31% of people who live in the southwest quadrant graduated from high school but only 13.4% of people here have a Bachelor’s degree.

Meeting with Teen Empowerment helped us grapple with the realities of racism in our community - and why all of us need to find our voice to stop it.

Organizing Against Racism helped fight to take down a racist panel from the city's famous carousel. We learned that pickaninny art is offensive and promotes racist stereotypes.

There is an organization called Teen Empowerment. They improve kids' lives in the S.W. quadrant by creating jobs to organize the quadrant. Teen Empowerment youth organizers work on policy initiatives that engage public officials, bring youth voice to decision making, and work to create institutional and systemic change. We were lucky enough to meet with them and learn more about the needs of youth in our city.

challenges we need to address

We read several reports that discussed our challenges as a community. The real question is what will we do to solve them?

Our class met with ACT Rochester, a local agency that uses data that can be used to reshape how we solve problems in our community. We talked with them about poverty, housing, education, transportation, health, and living wage. All of these connect or contribute to poverty in our community.

Living WAge

A living wage is the minimum income necessary for a person to meet their basic needs. Minimum wage is just the minimum amount of money people can be legally paid for labor (and it’s not enough to live on if you need to support a family). Currently the minimum wage for people working in Rochester is $10.40/ hour, but the living wage is $11.36 (and that’s for a single person). One adult and one child would require a living wage of $26.11 to be secure, but that won’t happen on a minimum wage. Too many service jobs in our region pay minimum wage, and it is almost impossible for people to get out of poverty on that. One thing we heard is that “it’s expensive to be poor.” This means poorer people are spending a greater percentage of their earnings on rent and food and transportation than wealthier people. They have little money left for things like savings or repairs to their car or sometimes they can’t pay the electricity bill.


A huge issue with housing is affordability. Rochester, compared to much of the country, has very affordable housing. However, racism and discrimination by banks (called redlining) means not everyone is able to get a loan to buy a home. Redlining started in the 1930s when neighborhoods were separated based on the risk the U.S. government felt banks could afford. These risks included people who were immigrants or black. Today “redlining 2.0” (predatory lending or giving people loans who cannot really afford to pay it back) and “redlining 3.0" (gentrification or forced displacement of people in a neighborhood) means that certain groups are still being discriminated against.

The solution to this is greenlining, or restoring equity to neighborhoods that have been affected by redlining, but there are not enough organizations that fight against it. According to a recent article from Democrat and Chronicle (posted 5/13/18), 7 percent of renters in Rochester were evicted last year. Many evictions result in homelessness. We must fix this. One way is to create a land trust. The City Roots Community Land Trust was created in 2016 and is a “community-driven organization which works to establish and promote permanently-affordable, quality housing” in our city. Its mission is to permanently preserve housing affordability in Rochester. The City of Rochester also has programs in place to support affordable housing development and prevent homelessness and the Rochester Housing Authority manages many affordable housing units, but we still need to do more as a city to help people own their own homes.


Not everyone can afford a car to travel around to the places in the city as they might need to, like going to the grocery store or to work. They might rely on public transportation, bikes, or even expensive taxi rides. We learned that people who live in the poorest parts of our city have some of the longest commutes. There is no subway in Rochester so people need to take the bus. Bus routes are not always convenient, and for some jobs in the suburbs, people need to spend over an hour sometimes taking three busses!

Reconnect Rochester is a group that advocates for better and more equitable transportation in our city. They worked with RTS to reimagine bus service and make it better for riders. Reconnect Rochester also advocates for bike-friendly and walkable neighborhoods. The Pace Bike Share in our city has been very successful and as we noticed during our research in the city’s four quadrants, there are a lot of people who rely on bikes to get around. Creating safer bike paths in the city and locating jobs along busy bus routes could help the people of Rochester.


In our city schools, just 19% of Latinos are proficient in 3rd grade ELA. African Americans are even less proficient, just 13%! This is a huge problem because it means kids who aren’t doing well on basic exams might not graduate from high school. But what are the reasons for this? Some things we learned from talking to students is that hunger, homelessness, gun violence and crime mean kids don’t eat well, sleep well, or feel well. This stress and trauma can make it harder to concentrate on schoolwork. Schools in our region are highly segregated. According to the New York State Education Department, some schools in the city are over 90% free and reduced lunch and only 1% white. Some suburban schools are only 1% black and 4% economically disadvantaged. This is not how it’s supposed to be.

One organization trying to make this better is Great Schools For All. They want to see new schools around Rochester that better integrate students from across the region so there is no one school with so much poverty. According to their website, “...the evidence shows that economic and racial diversity can dramatically change the equation - and represents the most effective and least costly way to improve the odds for the kids most as risk for not graduating.” Sometimes the quality of schools depends on where you live, but this is not equitable. All students should be able to have a high quality education no matter where they live.


There is a direct connection between poverty and health. African American men have higher blood pressure - 41% blacks have high blood pressure but only 27% for white people. African American men have complications with high blood pressure like stroke, kidney disease, blindness, dementia, and heart disease. African American women have a higher risk for premature births, too, 2 ½ times higher than white women. African Americans have a lot of stress, which causes health problems and emotional problems. Some doctors are even looking at racism as a cause of additional stress that can impact people’s health.

Poverty is another reason health outcomes are so different between people. People who are poorer often lack access to health care and healthier food options. We saw many corner stores filled mostly with junk food and they sell beer and tobacco products. Food access is important, and Foodlink works with nonprofits across the city to bring healthy food with their mobile pantries.

lessons from four cities


Pittsburgh is a city that is much like Rochester, only Pittsburgh started its revitalization long before Rochester. We need to follow Pittsburgh's lead and spark a change. In Pittsburgh we learned a lot but the most important quote we heard was, “You can't see the the benefit of a vision before you sign on.” That means when we set a big goal we cannot see what the whole effect will be until we fully commit to that goal! I hope we can use that advice in Rochester's revitalization. Pittsburgh has a lot of nonprofit organizations - one that is important is Circles.

Circles is an organization that helps people get out tough financial situations. Their goal is to lower the poverty rate in Pittsburgh. People in Circles meet once every week and share how their week went, both good things and bad things. They talk about posing issues and problems. When the adults talk the kids meet and learn things that will help them in the long run of life. People in Circles make financial goals and then work towards their goal. We saw the power of people talking about how their lives were when they first arrived and how they improved after Circles. They said they made a lot of progress and were closer to their goal. They help people raise out of poverty by giving them a network of friends and skills to use. If we added Circles in Rochester, we could help lot of people and encourage more people to come and change their lives. Circles really could make a more equitable ROC by giving people friends and the support they need.

Another organization that could be a model for Rochester is Pittsburgh Youth Leadership (PYL). PYL is a non-profit organization who takes low-income, at-risk youth on biking adventures across the United States. PYL was founded in 2006 by Mark Rubenstein, a Pittsburgh-based lawyer. Young participants gain a greater sense of leadership and are able to accomplish something they didn’t think was possible. PYL helps support youth by teaching them they can do more than they think they can. PYL has helped youth to stay out of trouble and jail by giving different choices. By having the youth go on the bike adventures, they were able to see different parts of the United States.

Rochester can learn from PYL to help youth by offering different choices to help keep them out of trouble. One of the reasons PYL began was because generations of men were committing the same crimes. Some of the crimes were selling drugs and stealing. Rochester could learn from this by looking at the crimes youth are committing to see if there is a pattern.


The Empowerment Plan kick-starts the process to help people get out of poverty and homelessness. They offer everyday necessities that people need, but also have things that are beyond what people might give to someone that faces homelessness. The most important thing they do is offer jobs and job training. That's very important to a person who faces homelessness.The first contribution of the Empowerment Plan is hiring people in poverty to work in their factory to make coats. The coats are special and turn into sleeping bags and duffel bags. The second is that they are making coats for the homeless in Detroit, and have also distributed EMPWR coats across the nation. The Empowerment Plan also partners with local agencies to help its workers with financial help, literacy skills, and education.

Rochester can learn from this organization to help the homeless in Rochester and hire them to help the other homeless people. One business that has a focus on helping women is Healthy Sisters Soup and Bean Works. They help women who “come from backgrounds of chronic unemployment, poverty or displacement.” They package soup mixes, dips, and coffee that are sold in local stores. There are a few places in Rochester that help the homeless get jobs and offer job training. Some of them are Homeless Connect, Rochomeless and Raihn.

Another organization we met in Detroit was Quicken Loans. Although they are primarily a mortgage lender (they give people money to buy homes), they have a great entrepreneurship program that is called Detroit Demo Day. Detroit Demo Day is like Shark Tank because people pitch their ideas to Quicken and the winners split $1,000,000 funded by Quicken Loans. Rochester could benefit from Detroit’s Demo Day because there are lots of new businesses in Rochester worth investing in, too. So if once a year one gets funded there would be more successful businesses in our city.

But there is an entrepreneurship program in Rochester, and that is called Entrepreneurship Network. It is for small businesses who can "scale up" by "tapping new markets or expanding their product portfolios." Our city has always been big on innovation. We have some innovation sites in our city that offer co-working and networking, too. We should make sure that these are accessible for all sorts of ideas for all sorts of people.

new orleans

Propeller is a non-profit organization in New Orleans that helps other non-profit organizations and small businesses.They help people to get started with their business that might be stuck with financial or marketing and need a little help getting back on track and to know what to do if it happens again. This is why they have free workshops/ training for these people who are stuck in these hard situations. In 2017, they began to focus on inequality. They work towards “understanding and dismantling disparities in entrepreneurship and its issue areas of food, water, health, and education.” They provide co-working space for people trying to get a business started and offer social venture capital (money!) to help support new ideas. They are trying to support a network of entrepreneurs of color along South Broad Street in New Orleans.

Rochester’s Downtown Innovation Zone is one organization that is also trying to help encourage new businesses. They help people find funding and locations to start businesses downtown. Another group is the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, which helps grow small businesses and teach young people about starting a business from an idea.

STRIVE is a organization in New Orleans that gives black males a chance in business and overall employment. They hire black males and have them hire more black males so they can make money. STRIVE has taken a percentage that is “27% of African Americans own a businesses and only 2% of the black males get the sales.” STRIVE takes many percentages and tracks their huge change and the city, giving lots of people chances to have a job and recording the problems they need to tackle.

Although we don’t have a STRIVE program in Rochester, we do have an organization called the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK). This is a national program started by President Obama in 2014. It helps prepare young people for a work. Rochester Works is another local agency that helps prepare people for work.


We went to Oakland, California and met with nonprofits, city government, and local organizations. One visit that left an impact on us and could benefit Rochester is a Department of Race & Equity. Although they don't work in the community directly, they do work to end structural racism within the city’s own departments who interact with the public. According to The Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change, structural racism is “a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity.” Oakland is committed to creating a city “where our diversity is maintained, racial disparities have been eliminated and racial equity has been achieved.” Ms. Flynn, the director of this department, explained to us why equity matters and how cities need to help their citizens and support racial equity.

Rochester does not have a Race and Equity Department, but it could help address or end some of the problems Rochesterians face every day like poverty, homelessness, and under-funded city schools. There are organizations that address race and equity in our community, like Facing Race Embracing Equity, but a city office or even a county office could help people who make decisions see how structural racism impacts people’s lives.

Oakland has faced and continues to face a variety of issues, but they have learned to address some of them head on. For example, when we visited Oakland we interviewed residents about some problems that Oakland faces. Many residents shared that one problem the city faces is a lack of affordable housing. According to Oakland’s Greenlining Institute, a lack of affordable and equitable housing isn’t a new problem. It all started with redlining (when banks would refuse loans to people because they live in an “at risk” neighborhood). Most of the people that live in a redlined community are people of color, and although redlining is illegal, there are ways that people of color are still impacted. Predatory lending (redlining 2.0) and gentrification (redling 3.0) still affect black and Latino home buyers and renters. The Greenlining institute works with communities in the Bay Area to help people become homeowners and build intergenerational wealth.

Rochester could really benefit from a non-for-profit like the Greenlining institute. Rochester is fortunate enough to have organizations like Metro Justice and The Empire Justice Center that fight for fair housing, but we also do not have enough affordable housing outside of the city. Many suburban communities limit the number of affordable places people can rent. This helps to concentrate poverty in the city and let’s face it, poverty and race are closely linked. Affordable housing and discrimination, as we have learned, are a problem for our region, not just our city.

so, whose renaissance is it?

There are so many challenges that Rochester faces that it might not feel like we’re having any success. During our expedition, we learned about the “Hard Facts” report and spoke with people from across our city to learn about the successes and challenges, from child poverty to the effects of racism and discrimination to transportation equity and many other topics. The successes we have seen seem few, but there are some ways that our community is doing well, and there are youth voice organizations but not many. We must work as a community to make Rochester a better place for all of us.

Rochester's redlined neighborhoods of the 1930s are also some of the poorest in 2018. What will we do to fix this?

Youth voice matters, locally and around the world. Sometimes youth voice is taken seriously, and other times, it’s silenced and ignored. After the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, students rallied to cry out against gun violence and mass school shootings. Youth across the globe organized, and protested to send a message to adults and policy makers that youth have had enough. In Rochester, NY, Teen Empowerment and Youth Voice One Mission are two youth-based organizations striving to bring awareness and make change in our community.

Increasingly, students are realizing that their voices matter, and need to be heard - even in our classroom at GCCS. At our school we went on a trip to four cities and while we were there, we learned about the youth in each city and heard youth voices. We wanted to know what success and challenges they had, and are still having, so we could come back to our city and apply them here to make our youth voices stronger. The power of youth will be much different in the future than it is today. We want there to be an active youth movement that is speaking up about topics all around the world, for the voices not just to be heard, but also for them to be respected and taken seriously.

Rochester is kicking off a $500 million project to make the Genesee River the center piece to the city - the whole idea is to make the waterfront accessible to everyone.

Rochester is planning for the future with its own 2034 comprehensive plan. But before the 2034 plan there was a 1999 plan. The 1999 plan had many of the same goals as the 2034 plan, but sadly few of the goals seemed to be accomplished and it was suspended in 2006. The city hopes the Rochester 2034 plan will end successfully. They envision a Rochester with strong economics, improved transportation, a sustainable environment, and vibrant neighborhoods by the city’s 200th birthday. One way they’re collecting data is through a survey. This online survey provides the public with a voice for their vision of our city. The City of Rochester wants to know your vision for the city, including how the city should invest, what makes us proud, and how the city can support and strengthen companies, businesses, organizations, and individuals. It’s our obligation to participate, use our voices, and shape the future direction of our city.

Our year long focus, bridges and barriers, has taught us a lot about our city, and to do that we met with lots of amazing organizations and people. Even though our class will be splitting up and going to different schools next year, our passion for making our city a better place will always be with us. A challenge for next year’s sixth grade is that they have to make an impact on our city before they leave. Don’t pass up the opportunity to have your voice heard!

acknowledgements & credits

GCCS Class of 2018

We are grateful to the many experts and organizations that have patiently worked with sixth-graders as we tried to understand some of these big ideas. Thanks to our friends at The Community Place, Foodlink, Teen Empowerment, the City of Rochester, and the Take It Down Planning Committee for sharing your expertise and perspectives with us. We are grateful that our community has so many allies.

Thank you to ACT Rochester for sharing the value of data and stories that help us understand our community's needs. The "Hard Facts" report gave us a way to view Rochester we might not have thought of before - and it has empowered us to try and change the way things are.

To our friends at EL Education, Teaching Tolerance and the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, we are so appreciative of the generous funding of our year long expedition around Bridges and Barriers. We took some big risks and were rewarded with outcomes we could not have anticipated.

Thank you, Almeta Whitis and Shawn Dunwoody for infusing the arts into our expedition in ways that allowed our students to discover their own identities and better understand what it means to be a Rochesterian.

To our sixth grade families, thank you for your unwavering support of our year. From moral support to revising and editing workshops to keeping us full with tasty snacks, your support was invaluable!

And to the GCCS Class of 2018 - bravo! Thank you for embracing our city and digging deep to learn what it means to be a citizen and an agent of change. You have stepped outside your comfort zones on multiple occasions and made us so very proud to be your teachers!

Alexis Stubbe, Chris Dolgos, and Melissa Jones

Genesee Community Charter School Sixth Grade Team

Photo Credits

Wikimedia Commons, City of Rochester, Pixabay, Unsplash, Genesee Community Charter School, Tomkinsc at English Wkipedia, Patrick Ashley via Flickr, Isa Srole and Steven C. Berger at Rochester Images (MCLS), Mapping Inequality (HOLC Residential Security maps/ National Archive)


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