University of Rochester

EVENT: Conference on Student Leadership, Urban Education Launches 'UR Here' Initiative, Honors Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 5, 2005

To signal the launch of the University of Rochester's "UR Here" initiative, members of the campus and greater Rochester communities are invited to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day conference, "Critical Issues in Leadership: Urban Education." The conference is open to anyone interested in urban education and in instructional, volunteer, and community initiatives and resources that can strengthen public schools.

The conference is the first of many events the College will be holding as part of UR Here to provide students and community members with opportunities to examine important issues and learn from each other.

"Many UR students volunteer to work with children in city schools because they want to interact with today's youth in a full and meaningful way," says John Borek, advisor to the Community Service Network and executive director of the Sector 4 Community Development Corporation. "It made sense to devote this year's conference program to urban education as a way of exploring the issues faced locally and nationally and engaging our students in a discussion that will lead to action on their part. The presenters are people who are determined to make a difference and who have done so early in their lives."

The issues facing city school districts, and some existing programs that take on those challenges, will be the focus of the daylong conference at the University of Rochester marking Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. The conference opens with registration at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 17, in the Bridge Lounge in Wilson Commons and concludes with a service at 5 p.m. in the Interfaith Chapel. All sessions will be on the River Campus.

Among the workshops is a session on the Green Street Arts Center in Middletown, Conn., considered a model of "town and gown" collaboration. Wesleyan University worked with city officials and community organizations to convert a former school into a cultural and educational center offering arts and performance classes and programs for low-and moderate-income families. The guest speaker is center director Ricardo Morris.

In the afternoon, Allison Rouse, director of outreach, and other representatives from the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), will discuss the philosophy, curriculum, and teacher training of the national network of charter schools. Started in 1994 by two Yale University graduates and former Teach for America teachers, KIPP has received acclaim for improving student performance and preparing underserved students for college.

Other sessions include a student-led discussion on popular culture's seeming endorsement of negative stereotypes about minorities and a discussion of successful education programs in Rochester run by local college students.

Malik Evans, Rochester City School Board member and a 2002 graduate of the University of Rochester, is the keynote speaker at lunch and will discuss "Keeping the King Legacy Alive: Reaffirming our Commitment to Community."

In addition, representatives from educational and service organizations both at the College and in the Rochester community will be available to discuss volunteer and career opportunities in urban education during the "Engage in Community: Information Expo" from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Wilson Commons.

Admission to the conference, which includes lunch and all panels, is free for University of Rochester undergraduate students; $10 for all other students; and $20 for faculty, staff, alumni, and the general public. For more information and to register, contact the Wilson Commons Information Center at (585) 275-5911 or visit

The conference on urban education is sponsored by the College at the University of Rochester and by Leadership Rochester, a nonprofit leadership development program.

UR Here is a model for community leadership that has been developing over the past six years. It combines existing civic engagement and service learning models and draws on the strengths of the unique Rochester Curriculum to provide undergraduates with opportunities to gain leadership skills and experience in the community while pursuing their academic and extracurricular interests.

"Our students have always been community-minded, not only taking charge of their campus community but participating in off-campus volunteer programs," says Jody Asbury, dean of students in the College. "More than 3,500 students spend close to 10,000 hours each year involved in the Rochester community. We are excited to take this experience to the next level by combining the ways we teach service and leadership with opportunities for further experience in the community through study and research, volunteerism, and the numerous social, cultural, internship, and career opportunities that Rochester has to offer."