University of Rochester undergraduate Marissa Balonon-Rosen has had one busy spring.
The rising sophomore, who is a dual degree student at the University of Rochester and the Eastman School of Music, has been working to organize the 2nd Annual River Run for Youth Harmony, which begins at 7 p.m. Friday, June 4. With the help of J. B. Afoh-Manin, the president of the 19th Ward Community Association, the run is a charitable event whose proceeds will benefit Teen Empowerment and the Southwest YMCA, which both run programs that promote nonviolence among neighborhood youth.
"I am deeply proud of Marissa's efforts in organizing this race," said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester. "The University is committed to the greater Rochester area, and Marissa is a model for how students can engage with the community in a positive way."
The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, which is housed at the University, named Balonon-Rosen a Gandhi Service Scholar, and supports her in her efforts to organize the race.
The event was founded last year by Balonon-Rosen during her senior year at Wilson Magnet High School. Her goal was to help youth understand alternatives to violence. She teamed up with Afoh-Manin, who has had a long time interest in promoting better health through exercise. With help from members of Wilson's National Honor Society and support from Jim Dalberth Sporting Goods and other local business leaders, Balonon-Rosen and Afoh-Manin organized the first run, which attracted more than 200 registrants and raised nearly $1,500 to fund nonviolence training for youth-at-risk.
"For our young people to succeed academically, they must also have the skills to succeed socially. That means eliminating violence from their vocabulary," said Rochester Superintendent of Schools Jean-Claude Brizard. "The River Run for Youth Harmony recognizes this and supports the work being done in our community to provide the network of support our young people need. I am especially proud that this event has its roots at Wilson Magnet High School, and I commend the organizers, including Ms. Balonon-Rosen, for their active role in helping meet the needs of Rochester's youth."
"I think the race is a wonderful idea," commented Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy. "Not only to promote nonviolence but also the healthy lifestyle of running. The race brings people together from the community, relationships are created at this event, and these strengthen in the future. I applaud all organizers, volunteers, and participants. Had I not been out of town, I'd be running too."
This year, the Gandhi Institute joined the list of organizers. Sponsors also include Staybridge Suites Hotel, Genesee Corridor, Chili Avenue, and Thurston-Brooks Business Associations, Tops Friendly Market, and the Heart Coalition for a Drug Free Rochester.
Entry fees are $10 for students, and $20 for all others. Register online at www.active.com or at event. The course takes runners along both banks of the Genesee River, through Genesee Valley Park, and finishes by crossing the pedestrian bridge back to the hotel in Brooks Landing. After the race, Staybridge Suites will provide a free cookout and local musicians will perform. Prizes will be awarded to the top finishers in various categories.