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Rochester Youth Year making an impact after 10 years

July 26, 2018
Rochester Youth Year participant Sara Peterson with childrenSara Peterson '17, right, is an AmeriCorps VISTA Member and Rochester Youth Year Fellow working with the Girl Scouts of Western New York this summer at Camp Piperwood in Victor, NY. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

For the past decade, more than 100 graduates of Rochester-area colleges have spent their first year out of school working to alleviate poverty in the local community.

They’re part of Rochester Youth Year (RYY), an AmeriCorps VISTA-sponsored fellowship program based at the University’s Rochester Center for Community Leadership. Working in schools, neighborhood associations, nonprofits, and municipal offices, their goal is to create, expand, or sustain initiatives that alleviate poverty among youth and families in Rochester, one of the poorest cities in the United States.

Among their many accomplishments:

  • The Rochester City School District hired 34 additional reading teachers in 2015 based on RYY fellow research and data analysis.
  • The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence secured more than $180,000 in grants and resources to support its School Climate Transformation Initiative.
  • East Upper and Lower Schools created a food pantry for low-income students.
  • The Anthony Jordan Health Center created an internship program for college students to address needs based on a Youth Year report.

“Rochester Youth Year has given us the opportunity to expand our capacity and pursue important opportunities that we would be unable to do otherwise,” says Chad Rieflin, director of programs and grants for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester, a regular Youth Year host site. “The program has also connected us to other initiatives in the community, which has greatly strengthened the work we do.”

By the numbers

A look at how Rochester Youth Year has served the Rochester community since its inception in the 2007–08 academic year:

10 University of Rochester fellows from the Rochester area

38 fellows who graduated from the University of Rochester

51 community sites served by RYY fellows

108 total fellows from area colleges

8,967 volunteers recruited and managed

2.3 million dollars raised to benefit various projects

Rochester Youth Year helps fulfill the University’s mission to “make the world ever better,” and does so in the community where its fellows graduated.

Rochester Youth Year was the brainchild of Jody Asbury, the University’s former dean of students, who was inspired by the RCCL’s Urban Fellows summer program and the collaborative model it’s based on. Asbury envisioned a post-graduate fellowship opportunity that would keep students engaged in the Rochester community.

There were only three fellows when the program began in 2007-08, with Rochester, Roberts Wesleyan and SUNY Geneseo each sponsoring one student. Since the fall of 2008, Rochester Youth Year has been an AmeriCorps VISTA-sponsored program and the program has expanded to include recent graduates from eight local schools.

The fellows receive a modest living allowance stipend of around $12,000, which puts them at the level of the community they’re serving. They’re given basic, emergency health coverage and can choose between an end-of-service cash stipend of $1,800 or an education voucher of $5,920 to help pay for educational debt.

Of the 108 fellows who have served, 38 are University of Rochester graduates, including nine of the 16 who will complete their year of service August 1 with a ceremony at City Hall.

“Being a fellow fosters a love for this community,” says assistant dean and RCCL director Glenn Cerosaletti ’91, ’03 (MA). “We choose host sites and projects that offer an opportunity for connections between the University and the community.”

One of the goals of Rochester Youth Year is to keep graduates of local colleges in the Greater Rochester community. In the past 10 years, 44 fellows have stayed in the area, including 17 of 38 University graduates.

Meet the University fellows

Nine 2017 University of Rochester graduates will compete their year of service with a ceremony at City Hall on Wednesday, August 1. Here’s what they’ve been doing the past year:

Megan Freiburger

Megan Freiburger (epidemiology)

Megan is working for the Rochester City School District in the attendance department, researching chronic absenteeism and its systemic causes and creating a toolkit to reduce chronic absenteeism.

Delia Cruz Nochebuena

Delia Cruz Nochebuena (Spanish)

Delia is working at the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva supporting its development and recruitment for a new program that allows older students to learn career skills and work experiences as junior staff.

Parakh Patel

Parakh Patel (public health)

Parakh worked to create a comprehensive library system at the Rochester Preparatory School to ensure all students are engaged in and committed to their literacy development and growth.


Sara Peterson

Sara Peterson (neuroscience)

Sara developed STEM initiatives at the Girl Scouts of Western New York, conducting research to improve local girls’ interactions and interest in the natural sciences. She’s also overseeing Girl Scout camps at Camp Piperwood.

Angela Rollins

Angela Rollins (economics)

Angela is serving with the City of Rochester’s Kiva microloan program, which provides 0 percent interest, crowd-sourced loans to small business owners.

Jamie Rudd

Jamie Rudd (anthropology and English)

Jamie is serving at the University’s M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, supporting its School Climate Transformation program, a restorative justice program implemented in the city and Rochester-area schools.


Ignacio Sanchez

Ignacio Sanchez (classics)

Ignacio helped implement a new database and data analysis model at Enrico Fermi School 17 to expand and deliver quality support services to students, families, and the Josana neighborhood.

Leah Schwartz

Leah Schwartz (anthropology and English)

Leah is the community engagement coordinator at Genesee Land Trust, a non-profit dedicated to preserving and protecting land and waterways in the Greater Rochester region.

Matt Trombley

Matt Trombley (business)

Matt implemented a community-wide youth financial aid program at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Rochester that drives broad influence and engagement.

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