Tour of Downtown Rochester

As we drove through downtown Rochester, it was shocking to see the number of abandoned factories, small stores, and homes. As we drove through the neighborhoods, I first tried to imagine what it was like 40 or 50 years ago, when the wealthier people of Rochester lived in the inner city, and when prosperous businesses of that time were booming. I recently went to the Sibley Building with my supervisor to check out a summer learning program for rising kindergarteners, and my supervisor was telling me what Sibley’s was like back when it was a high class shopping center. Now, the Sibley Building is primarily the downtown MCC campus with a few other stores and offices, and I cannot imagine that building being anything like Sacks on 5th Avenue or Macy’s on 34th Street in NYC as it is portrayed to have been. I have met so many older adults who once worked at Kodak back when it was the number one employer of Rochester, and it was so strange driving by the large abandoned building. Rochester was once a great city, and to many, it still is. I think that Rochester has the potential to thrive again, and I honestly think that it starts with reviving the Rochester City School District.  From the few weeks of working with the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association, it is clear that there is a huge gap in the educational success in the Rochester area, where we have some of the nation’s best schools in the suburbs and some of the nations worst schools in the inner city. Why would people from the suburbs want to move to the inner city and put their children in a school that is known to under-perform. Better yet, why would anyone from outside the city want to move here and put their children in that school system. There is certainly potential for the RCSD, as anyone who has or is working for the district would know, but there is not enough people who are aware of the potential. The students and the school system just need a little help, and for some of us VISTAs, that starts with us. My goal for this year is to help some of the young students perform better throughout the school year by offering more inner-city students the opportunity for a high-quality summer enrichment program. I am currently working on rebooting the Horizons summer program at Naz, and with this program, we will give 30 more students the opportunity to avoid the “summer slide.” 


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