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Rochester Tour

I was very grateful for the Rochester tour on orientation. Being from a small town and never really being to Rochester either, I was unfamiliar with city. It amazed me how many things there are to do in Rochester, I don’t know about other schools but maybe since Geneseo is farther away we don’t appreciate everything Rochester has to offer. At school, people talk poorly of Rochester in terms of fun and entertainment but I’m slowly learning of all the different opportunities that exist to do something new and meet people. 

Something else I have noticed through the tour and with different visits with my supervisor is how severe the segregation is between the city and surrounding suburbs. Being a sociology major, I’ve read about this issue before but its still shocking to see it firsthand. It amazes me how people can see the racial differences between the city and suburbs and not understand the problems that will come along with it such as inequality and discrimination. 

I’m excited to not only learn more about Rochester but hopefully educate others as well. 


Why can they see what I see?

Growing up in Rochester has definitely been an experience. It was the first city my family explored when we moved to the states and it became the place the majority of us called home. I love these streets they’ve been my playground for so long; i found my freedom ripping and running through them, they’ve taught me how to survive and thrive. To me Rochester has always been much more than a city, its ahh well i can’t really explain it but if i could i would say that Rochester is like the rose that grew out of the concrete. I started exploring the city on my own when i was 14 years old and what bothered me then about this city bothered me even more during our tour. The city is filled with run down and abandon houses, there are multiple abandon houses on almost ever block. Homeownership is rare amongst the city and i think that thats what makes it hard for people to love Rochester the way that I do. They don’t own a piece of it so why take care of it, why put in the effort to up keep the community. I know thats it probably going to take more than just one person on their soap box but i’ve seen the community come together, I’ve seen them discuss the issues that are slowly destroying Rochester i guess its just going to take time. 

It is my hope that Youth Year will allow me to get to know my community and bond with them. There aren’t a lot of jobs that will allow you to witness first hand what happening in the community but this does and thats the most exciting part. 


Tour of Rochester

I’m so grateful that RYY made the tour part of our orientation. It still blows my mind how little I know about the city that I have called home for the past fourteen years. To finally get the chance to drive around Rochester and hear some if it’s history was very enlightening. I feel like so many people, myself included, take this city for granted. This tour really opened my eyes and made me realize that Rochester comes from a very rich history and it has so much to offer those who are open and willing to take advantage.

I went on the housing tour and it amazes me how much public housing Rochester actually has. However, what stood out to me the most, was the quality of some if the housing buildings. Granted there were a number of places that need to be taken care of , there were a number of places that looked amazing. From the outside looking in you wouldn’t know it was public housing unless you were actually told.

After my tour I found myself taking any opportunity to tell my friends about all that I learned because I was just still really shocked at how little I’ve learned about this city and I just wanted to share my new gained knowledge.

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.” 

PTSD and Poverty

“There was no understanding that post-traumatic stress disorder can be passed on for generations—that it travels with the family and community.” – Jessica Bartholow (

Working at Mary’s Place, I and my co-workers are highly exposed to survivors of extreme situations. While humans hold a great capacity for compassion, they also can inflict an equal amount of pain. Some of our clients, many being Burmese, come in with blindness, missing limbs, and chronic pains that were usually caused by land mines. We hear stories from adults and children about running from soldiers and dogs, being beaten, or desperately looking for food and medicine. One of our workers, a Burmese refugee that raised ten children in the Thai camps, had to bury his daughters to hide them from soldiers so that they would not be taken advantage of. These are the harsh realities of good people, people no different from you and me, other than where they were born. Many shy away from these stories, taking refuge in their Western comforts, but to do that is an injustice.

So what happens to these people when they finally get out of that situation? What do they imagine their new homes will be like when they finally are approved by UNHCR to leave the camps? What ghosts do they bring with them? PTSD has most likely always existed, but only in recent years come to light. It, like many other non-physical disorders, does not get the public attention it deserves. It is far too easy to place the blame on the victim when the aliment is not seen by the eye. So here we have these refugees, war veterans, Holocaust victims, etc, who have seen things and lived through things we are all too young to know, and their ghosts follow them. I don’t think PTSD only hurts the victim, but also the relatives and children. I think it transcends generations, and studies have proven it even on a genetic level.

What does PTSD have to do with poverty? Everything. War veterans disproportionately represent the poor in this country, and I believe it is because of two things; the high rates of PTSD among them, and the lack of assistance to help soldiers transition back to civilian life. It’s clear enough in Jessica Bartholow’s story. So then I look at our refugee clients, and I wonder. They already have to struggle with language and cultural barriers, but then physiological trauma on top of it? How do you work all day when you are plagued by nightmares? How do you brave the bus system, travel to DSS, talking to strangers in a foreign language when you had to leave all you know and love behind? This can only be amplified by those who self-medicate to avoid their pain, which makes holding down a job even more difficult. Then there is the residual effects on their children, who very often have ghosts of their own.

I am forever awestruck by the tenacity of our refugees.  


Being A Refugee

Two days ago, I went to a workshop help at Nazareth College about refugees. There were two guest speakers, one from Church World Services and the other was Jim Morris, Director of Catholic Family Center. I went to the workshop to try and learn more about the population that I am working with and to gain any valuable information that might be helpful. 

They explained what a refugee is and gave step by step information on everything that a refugee has to do and go through to come the United States. You may think that it shouldn’t have been news to me because I am a refugee, it was. When I came to the US I was 10 years old. All I remember was being in a refugee camp and then showing up here at the airport. All the steps that they explained are things that my dad had to fulfill. As I was sitting there, I kept thinking “Why was it so easy for my family?” and “Why do the refugees that I work with have a more difficult time acclimating here?” 

While I see some similarities between my experience as a refugee to those I work with, there are definitely many differences. I believe that the biggest difference is in the spectrum of differences between mine and the refugees’ culture to that of the United States’.My family had an easier transition because our culture was closer to that of America’s. One thing that I still can’t fathom is that many of the refugees I help have spend their lifetime in a camp where many of the things we take for granted they didn’t have. Housing was different. They didn’t have to worry about bills and and other things like appliances. In my country, we had these things. I lived in a house, we paid bills, and we had appliances. It was because of this that made it easier for my family.

Going back to the workshop, it was interesting to see all the things that my family had to do to be able to come here. At the age of 10, I didn’t have to worry about anything. I was too young to understand what was going in regards to being a refugee. One thing I do know is that everyday I am thankful to be here, as I believe are the other refugees that have been given the opportunity to start life anew.



Bringing the outdoors…urban! Students begin their school beautification project at East

 Over the past month there has been so much going on at East High School! The February break trips to the RACE exhibit, Nazareth College, the University of Rochester and the University at Buffalo were successful and served to spark a serious interest in college for our students. While spring break is coming up in just a few weeks, bringing with it another series of college excursions, the promise of warmer weather has been shifting my attention to a major project East Takes Action will be working on from now until the end of the school year; school beautification.  

     In November, I presented the members of East Takes Action with information about the Youth as Resources grant from the Monroe County Youth Bureau. The purpose of this grant was to fund service learning projects created by youth in Rochester and the surrounding areas. After having done some yard work with the North Winton Village Association, the students were inspired to plan a service learning project in which they would create their very own garden at East High School. In December, East Takes Action was awarded $1,000 from Youth as Resources to aid in the completion of this gardening project. With great enthusiasm, the students and members of the North Winton Village Association set right to work making detailed plans for what needed to be done in order to create a successful final product. Yet amidst all of the excitement about this new endeavor, there was a slight tone of confusion from the student volunteers. It was becoming apparent that the majority of them had little to no knowledge of the processes involved in planting a garden.     
     For the first 18 years of my life, I lived in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains, a.k.a “The Great Outdoors.” From a young age, I loved doing anything and everything outside (including creating my very first vegetable garden with my mom at just three years old). I always understood that people in urban areas did not have access to the amount of green space that I did growing up. However, the magnitude of this difference did not truly sink in until I began my work at East. Unfortunately, many of the neighborhoods these youth come from either do not have a space where they can go outside to play, or if there is a space the questionable safety in the surrounding area will leave it abandoned. Such factors limit the opportunities these youth have to spend an adequate amount of time outside and certainly to engage in gardening. Therefore, the fact that the students in East Takes Action brought with them such a limited knowledge of this outdoor activity was to be expected. 

     In the beginning, the primary goal I had for the students involved in the gardening project was simply to improve the appearance of their school. However, now that I understand more about their neighborhoods and their experience with the “The Great Outdoors” I truly hope that this project inspires them to engage in beautification efforts elsewhere. Perhaps they will want to create a community vegetable garden in their neighborhood, or even clean up an underused playground to make it more inviting. Thus, the adults involved in this project with East Takes Action are placing a strong focus on education and reflection in order to inspire life-long gardeners A gardening word wall has been erected in the school featuring relevant terminology and students have been encouraged to blog about their experiences on the East Takes Action website. I am so excited to see what these students will be able to accomplish and how much they will learn in the next few months!