BPG, RCSD Students Take Center Stage

By Marissa Abbott ’14
Ballet Performance Group

On Friday, Nov. 16, students from the Dare to Dance outreach program lit up the stage at “Shake It Out,” the Ballet Performance Group’s annual fall show. Opening after intermission, the children, second and third grade students at Francis Parker School No. 23, performed a simple routine to “Good Time” by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen. The children’s energy radiated to the audience, resulting in an enthusiastic round of applause.

“The kids were just so cute.  Everyone in the audience loved their performance. I kept hearing rave reviews. The audience members couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful they were,” said junior Alyson Manning.

The Dare to Dance outreach program began in fall 2011, when BPG was looking to branch out and get involved within the Rochester community. The purpose of the program is to provide after school instruction in dance and creative movement. The program met weekly on Friday afternoons for eight weeks of instruction. This year, students were exposed to a variety of dance styles including ballet, jazz, contemporary, and creative movement. With 20 students participating in the program, things could get a little hectic sometimes, according to junior Lauren Sava.

“As much as I enjoyed working with the children, there were definitely challenges. Second and third graders can be very rambunctious, so finding constructive ways for the students to release their energy requires a lot of creative thinking,” said Sava.

Despite these challenges, the program was extremely rewarding for students. According to junior Marissa Abbott, students greeted her with bountiful energy and bubbling smiles every Friday afternoon. Abbott, who is a member of the executive board for BPG and serves as the Outreach Coordinator, is in charge of coordinating the Dare to Dance program. Along with a committee of five to six members, Abbott prepared lesson plans for each week, coordinated with the school staff and parents, and choreographed a routine for the students to perform in BPG’s fall show.

“I am so proud of these kids. They exceeded my expectations, bringing bright smiles and incredible energy to the stage, while remembering their routine very well,” said Abbott.  “This was an incredible experience, from which I learned a lot. To see the kids up on stage having a good time, that’s all that really matters to me. I’m glad that BPG is able to provide this program and that we can share our love for dance with the Rochester community. I can’t wait until next semester.”

Event Brings RCSD Students to Rochester’s Campus

Univ. Communications – Last week, University of Rochester students who volunteer Partners in Reading (PiR) hosted nearly 50 sixth graders from John James Audubon Elementary School No. 33 and Dr. Charles T. Lunsford School No. 19 on campus during the 3rd annual College Counts program.

Through the group’s two main branches, Project REACH and Project CARE, undergraduates involved in PiR spend the academic year visiting School No. 33 and No. 19 on a weekly basis, tutoring and mentoring students in kindergarten through sixth grade,.

Project REACH volunteers head to School No. 33 and are assigned and committed to one classroom each semester. During the year, PiR members offer assistance to teachers, provide individual tutoring, or facilitate group activities for the kids. Project CARE, the newest addition of PiR, has a partnership with School No. 19 and focuses on children grades K-2 and 5-7. PiR members provide individual tutoring for students two hours a week, often on multiple subjects. Through both branches, the end result is the same: students build long-term relationships with teachers and children and work to establish themselves as positive role models for the kids in their classroom.

Each spring, as the year comes to a close, members of PiR invite the school’s sixth graders to the River Campus for the College Counts program, which aims to give students a taste of college life.

Beginning with a tour of the River Campus, students spent the day meeting with undergraduates and professors. The sixth graders met with Thomas R. Krugh, professor of chemistry, who conducted a variety of demonstrations that explained different science concepts. Activities also included lunch at Danforth Dining Hall and performances by a cappella group the Midnight Ramblers and dance group UR Bhangra.

The event was sponsored by Partners in Reading, the Community Service Network, and the Rochester Center for Community Leadership.

Article written by Melissa Greco Lopes, editor of The Buzz and student life publicist in University Communications.

Photo courtesy of Maya Dukmasova.

Undergrad’s Thesis Looks to Evaluate RCSD’s School Meal Program

Univ. Communications – Dan Cohn’s honors thesis is going to help change lunchtime around Rochester city schools.  Cohn, a senior majoring in health, behavior, and society, was invited to the honors program this summer and accepted because he wanted to give back to the community.  His interests in childhood obesity and community organizing led him to the Healthi Kids Coalition, a part of the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, and the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Center for Community Health.  It was here that he developed the aim of his honor’s thesis, “to evaluate the new school meal program in Rochester City School District” implemented in 2009.

“Elementary school students worked with faculty, staff, parents, and Healthi Kids to implement the “Lunch is Gross” campaign,” explained Cohn.  The campaign, which launched in 2007, involved writing letters, petitions, and finally students appearing before the Board of Education to discuss the poor quality of lunchroom food in Rochester city schools.  This campaign “facilitated the school board shifting nearly $2 million toward new school food.”

Using research, Healthi Kids established 13 criteria for healthy meals and began a search for a new food management service.  This position was taken by ARAMARK in 2009.  “Since ARAMARK has entered the system, no formal evaluation has been executed,” according to Cohn, an issue his honor’s thesis aims to correct.

Cohn, working with Healthi Kids, is serving, in his words, as a “neutral evaluatory body.”  His job is to evaluate how well Healthi Kids 13 criteria for healthy meals are being kept and how this impacts the staff, faculty, and students.

Cohn is providing his evaluation based upon 3 main criteria.  The first is multiplicity, support, and context which gauges socially, culturally, and physically what choices students are making regarding food.  The second is accountability, which examines how the choices are perceived.  Lastly is satisfaction, which looks at how happy individuals are with both the food as well as the programs surrounding the food.

The data for these evaluations will be done primarily through qualitative not quantitative analysis.  Cohn begins his field research next Friday, November 18th, by conducting interviews with staff and students, participation in lunchroom activities such as eating with the children, observing how the food is prepared, and even looking into garbage cans to see what kids are throwing away.

“My work will be complete by March, at which point my data and analysis will be presented to the Board of Education,” said Cohn.  “By April, the recommendations I submit to the school board will be deliberated and by May will be voted on if necessary to implement for next school year.”

Working with his adviser, Nancy Chin, an associate professor of Community and  Preventive Medicine at the Medical Center, and Healthi Kids, Cohn’s evaluation will help make sure that Rochester city students are receiving both quality food and encouragement to make healthy life decisions regarding food.  This is important according to Cohn because, while the national childhood obesity rate is around 32 percent, Rochester lingers, considerably higher, around 40 percent.  A disturbing figure according to Cohn, who says current research shows that “80 percent of obese children stay so for their whole life.”

Article written by Daniel Baroff, a senior at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications.  He is majoring in religion with a minor in Jewish studies.  His main area of study is the involvement of Jews in the American comic book industry, for which he keeps an infrequently updated blog (http://theamazingspiderdan.wordpress.com).