Skip to content
Society & Culture

RCCL allows students to engage, learn outside the classroom

Students from the Class of 2021 helped with grounds maintenance at the Strong Museum of Play in downtown Rochester during Wilson Day 2017. Wilson Day, the oldest college community service project in the country, is just one of many community-oriented programs under the direction of the Rochester Center for Community Leadership. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

The Rochester Center for Community Leadership was created in 2005 to put University student community engagement programs under one umbrella. In 12 years, it’s become a pretty big umbrella.

The center has grown from just two programs to several that give undergraduates and graduate students an opportunity to engage and learn outside the classroom.

They include:

  • LEAP, which enlists undergraduates in tutoring kindergarten through third grade students to develop the language, literacy, math, and social skills;
  • Rochester Youth Year, which places recent graduates of Rochester-area colleges in community-based organizations, where they help create or expand initiatives that address various challenges facing local youth and families;
  • Transition Opportunities at the University of Rochester (TOUR), partnership between the RCCL, the University’s Institute for Innovative Transition and the regional organization Monroe One BOCES that provides access to a college experience for adults 18 to 21 with intellectual and developmental disabilities;
  • Urban Fellows, a 10-week summer program for University students and Rochester natives who attend college elsewhere to immerse themselves in an outreach project.
young woman helping child with a map
Mahima Joshi ’19 tutors Nhariyel Fuqua, a student at Paul Road School in Gates, as part of the RCCL’s LEAP program.

There are several others.

“Programs like these are important to students’ education,” says Glenn Cerosaletti ’91, ’03 (MA), director of the center. “They gain leadership and career skills, obtain an appreciation of diversity, and, hopefully, learn to be involved and engaged members of their community.”

RCCL also oversees Wilson Day, established in 1988 as an annual day of community service for first-year students to perform tasks in the city of Rochester such as painting, landscaping, and classroom preparation. It’s the oldest community service day among colleges in the country.

In addition, the center runs leadership development programs including Medallion Leadership Society and the Rising Leader Class as initiatives to promote research in the community, such as the Citation in Community-Engaged Scholarship.

“We’re seeking to integrate students’ academic pursuits with community-based experiences to contextualize their learning and benefit the community,” Cerosaletti says.

Located in Lattimore Hall within the Office of the Dean of Students, the RCCL was established by former dean of students Jody Asbury, who also was a driving force behind the creation of Wilson Day. Hundreds of students have been engaged, educated—and affected—by their participation in RCCL programs.

One of those students is Ori Yehezkely ’18, a psychology major from Miami who is president of the Inter-Class Living Community and served as Wilson Day coordinator in August 2017. It’s a 180-degree turn from her freshman year, when she was “overwhelmed” by her adjustments to college life.

“I wasn’t ready to engage with the community,” she says.

Community Connections: A Newscenter series highlighting the ties between the University and its communities.In her sophomore year, however, she joined Urban Fellows, working at a city farmers market while attending community events and learning about urban education, crime prevention, health, housing, and jobs.

“I got to meet incredible change-makers in the community and was inspired by their love of their community,” she says. “I now see Rochester through a different lens.”

It’s helped her recognize and develop her leadership skills. “The RCCL provided me with the push and support I needed to really put myself out there in the community,” she says. “I’ve become more service-minded and fully intend to pursue service after I graduate, and stay active in whatever community I end up at.”

Jeffrey Runner, dean of the College, says students involved in RCCL programs receive an education outside of the classroom—and often, away from campus.

“That’s a really good thing, and something we can really take advantage of with our open curriculum,” he says. “It’s not just about us giving. We can learn a lot. It’s an opportunity for students to get out there and learn alongside people in the community. That’s a really important part of what students get here.”

Return to the top of the page