Effecting change, one Urban Fellow at a time

July 25, 2014
Joel Seligman standing near students at a banquetUniversity of Rochester President Joel Seligman leads a panel discussion with Urban Fellows at Staybridge Suites June 25, 2014.

Seventeen college students will be honored for their efforts to improve the Rochester community on Wednesday, Aug. 30 at City Hall. Mayor Lovely Warren will recognize the Urban Fellows for their work in a variety of service projects, from marketing health programs and planning events for youth to fostering community and connecting businesses with vacant storefronts.

Throughout the summer, students not only worked at their host agencies within Rochester, but they also attended weekly seminars about the history, politics, and sociology of urban communities, and participated in cultural events and activities around the city.

people at a market

Fellow Ashley Mackey (seated) at the Westside Farmers Market

“The program gave me a deeper knowledge of the challenges Rochester is facing,” said Micah Villanueva, a student at the University of Rochester. Villanueva developed a marketing strategy for Sector IV Community Development Corporation (CDC), a non-profit focused on economic revitalization through community building. He also organized “Open for Business,” a free event to connect entrepreneurs with community agencies and recruit new businesses for vacant neighborhood spaces. The event attracted 25 entrepreneurs and 14 representatives from nine agencies in Rochester. It was such a success that the CDC will run “Open for Business” again in six months.

“You have to go into the program with an open mind and have a desire to learn about the city that you go to school in,” said Villanueva, who wants to continue working in an urban setting after college. “Once you get out of the bubble of the University, you find there’s so much more, but you have to want that exposure.”

group listening to woman speak

The Urban Fellows learn about urban design and historic preservation from Cynthia Howk of the Landmark Society of Western NY.

The Urban Fellows Program, now in its 13th year, is coordinated by the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL) at the University. The 2014 program benefits from sponsorship by the Rochester Community Foundation, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and the U.S. Corporation for National and Community Service.

“The Urban Fellows make significant contributions during the relatively short span of the program,” said Glenn Cerosaletti, assistant dean of students and director of RCCL. “Due to its longstanding record of accomplishment, the program is widely recognized and embraced by the Rochester community. We view our community partners, which host the Urban Fellows and supervise their projects, as our partners in achieving the educational aims of the program, as well as the vehicle through which community needs are articulated and addressed.”

Urban Fellows must attend a Rochester-area college or be a Rochester resident attending college elsewhere. This year’s fellows come from eight schools, including the University of Rochester, Vassar College, Swarthmore College, Roberts Wesleyan, Skidmore College, St. John Fisher, SUNY Geneseo, and Morgan State University.

“It’s nice to share a community with others who not only have a tie to Rochester, but are working together to make it better,” said Wesline Manuelpillai, a rising junior at the University of Rochester. Manuelpillai worked with the Southeast Neighborhood Service Center to foster community among area residents. She coordinated the kickoff event for Voice of the Citizen (VOC), a city outreach program that helps neighborhood associations develop block clubs, enhance safety, and implement beautification projects.

“This is one of the unique opportunities that university students have to work first-hand with people in the Rochester community,” said Manuelpillai. “It has been a great way, especially as a political science major, to apply my knowledge to the Rochester community.”

The Fellows will present on their service learning experiences on Monday, July 28 on the University of Rochester River Campus. A closing ceremony combined with Rochester Youth Year Fellows is scheduled for Wednesday, July 30, in City Hall at 5:20 p.m. following poster presentations on their service projects.

2014 Urban Fellows:

Mikayla Brennan-Burke, Vassar College

Marissa Cooper, University of Rochester

Madeline Feldman, Swarthmore College

Tina Goldswer, Roberts Wesleyan College

Crystal Hans, University of Rochester

Ashley Mackey, University of Rochester

Wesline Manuelpillai, University of Rochester

Jacob Marling, University of Rochester

Emma X. Marshall, Skidmore College

Chenisvel Nunez, St. John Fisher College

Shamara Saffore, University of Rochester

Elise Silverstein, SUNY Geneseo

Kevin Scantlen, University of Rochester

Jaynell Scott, Morgan State University

Megan Suter, University of Rochester

Micah Villanueva, University of Rochester

Christian Wooddell, University of Rochester

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Category: Student Life

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