The Buzz

Recent Grads Spend Year Working with City Youth

Univ. Communications – It may be easy to forget with all of our schoolwork, social activities, and otherwise cushy college lives, that the University of Rochester is located in city whose poverty rate among children is ranked 11th in the nation. Since 2007, Rochester Youth Year (in partnership with AmeriCorps*VISTA  since 2008) has been a program open to recent graduates of area colleges devoted to helping young people and their families in our community overcome the challenges of poverty.

The RYY Fellows work with local organizations to develop sustainable services and programs to address the self-identified needs of Rochester youth. Moreover, the program aims to empower young people and their families to take initiatives to improve their own neighborhoods. The fellows build lasting connections between the community, their host organization, and their university to promote solidarity and fruitful cooperation between the college communities and the city they inhabit.

This year, 12 RYY fellows are engaging with various organizations and communities to make an impact in the city; two of them are U of R grads.

Andrea Polanski, who earned a bachelor’s of science degree in biochemistry from Rochester, is working with the Rochester City School District’s Youth Development & Family Services Department. She is working to create a program that brings RCSD alumni back to the schools to mentor and tutor current students. Polanski is working on a marketing campaign to recruit volunteers and is building a database of potentially interested alumni that education-related agencies can contact to become involved with students.

Emma Rainwater, who graduated with a history degree from Rochester, is working with Foodlink and Freshwise Farms on their Youth Education Program to promote healthy eating habits in children and their families, as well as educate the community about local and sustainable agriculture. She will also aid in developing a nutrition education curriculum in local school and recruit local youth to come to Freshwise Farms for tours and lessons.

Two fellows hail from Nazareth College. Sara Heron graduated with a bachelor’s of arts in anthropology and history. She is continuing the work of former RYY fellows to expand refugee health promotion projects organized with the Brown Square Health Center. Erin Murphy who holds a bachelor’s of science degree in communication sciences and disorders, is working with the RCSD Health, Physical Education & Athletics Department to implement the Coordinated School Health Program in several local elementary schools. The goal of the program is to improve health and wellness in area schools through programing and mentoring.

Megan Maslach and Oscar Ortiz both graduated from the College at Brockport. Maslach is working with the Leadership Academy for Young Men at the RCSD to recruit and match male mentors from the community with students at the Academy. Ortiz, for his part, will work with the South East Neighborhood Service Center to help youth gain a more significant voice in community decision-making and to help them train the Neighborhood Association and Police Department on the most effective strategies for positive youth development.

Jennifer Moffitt, who holds a bachelor’s of arts in music from Roberts Wesleyan College, is devoting her year to improving the lives of refugees in Rochester through programs and initiatives at the Office of Community Medicine at Rochester General Hospital. She will research how refugees are cared for in the city and will develop a three-year strategic plan to improve refugee interactions with health services providers through language assistance, transportation, prescription guidance, and cultural awareness.

A graduate of St. John Fisher College with a degree in international studies and sociology, Stephanie Claire Moss will work to improve interest and participation in extracurricular activities at East High School, specifically with clubs geared toward civic engagement. She will also work to engage and empower parents of East High students, helping them become more active and productive participants in the young people’s lives.

Three fellows are graduates of SUNY Geneseo.  Anait Tamanian will be working with Writers & Books to develop programming to increase and improve literacy among urban youth.  Amy Ventura will be working to help find new sources of funding and development of the City of Rochester’s Biz Kid$ program, creating an advisory committee, and expanding the curriculum and camps offered to students.  Finally, Leanne Richardson will spend her year assisting the Rochester-Monroe County Youth Bureau’s Youth as Resources program to gain wider community support and become more integrated with other youth-led organizations.

About Rochester Youth Year

The Rochester Youth Year Fellowship is an AmeriCorps*VISTA program designed to afford recent graduates from Rochester-area colleges the opportunity to remain in Rochester and work with selected youth-serving agencies, in order to alleviate poverty and improve opportunities for youth and their families. Rochester Youth Year is coordinated collaboratively by the following area colleges: Nazareth College, Roberts Wesleyan College, SUNY Geneseo, The College at Brockport, St. John Fisher College, and is housed at the University of Rochester’s Rochester Center for Community Leadership. For more information, visit

Article written by Maya Dukmasova, a Take 5 Scholar at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications.  She majored in philosophy and religion and focused her Take 5 year on researching the way American media covers current events in the Muslim world.  An aspiring journalist, Dukmasova has freelanced for Rochester Magazine, the Phoenix New Times, and the Daily News Egypt in Cairo.  She also maintains two blogs, one devoted to culture and society in Russia ( and the other to photography (

Photo Courtesy of Rochester Youth Year.

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