What a difference a year makes. March 12 last year was the first ‘paused’ LR program day. We were set to meet at the United Way of Greater Rochester to discuss upcoming service projects, followed by Justice for All Day at the Public Safety Building the next day. Little did we know it would be an entire year, to the date, before our classes would be meeting in-person again.

But, here we are. One year later and our LR2021 class was able to meet, in-person, for Education Day at the Eisenhart Auditorium on the campus of the Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC). With masks and socially distant accommodations, we’re thrilled to have had the opportunity to connect with the group on a more impactful level. 

Veronica Dasher, CEO of Dasher and LR alum, kicked things off as our Education Day sponsor and shared a bit about her new education-minded company, which helps takes the frustration out of distance learning – for students and parents.  From there, Lesli Myers-Small, Superintendent of the RCSD, presented her report on the state of education in the city schools and described their path forward with students as the focal point for every decision the district makes.

Shaun Nelms, Superintendent of East High, then joined the group to share the curriculum changes and culture shift they’ve curated at East through the school’s Educational Partnership Program, ultimately leading to the rise in student confidence and graduation rates.  

Eamonn Scanlon, Education Policy Director for the Children’s Agenda, shed light on the city school district’s budget crisis. He broke down the inequities of the education system, shared how systemic racism plays a lead role, and how overspending went unnoticed for so long before sharing solutions on how to create a more structurally-sound path forward. 

Before breaking for lunch, the class ventured out to their site visits for the day. They met with Wanda Cooper from Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, Elaine Spaull from the Center for Youth, Daniele Lyman-Torres from the Department of Youth & Recreation and Jen Muniga from Cameron Community Ministries. 

Dr. Shelley Jallow, State Monitor for the RCSD, opened up the afternoon with a discussion on her report’s findings. She addressed the district’s shortcomings and laid out the recommendations she presented to them to move the district forward in both an academically and fiscally-responsible manner.

The conversation shifted to the collegiate level for a panel discussion with Dr. Nicole Boulais,  Associate Vice President Student Affairs at RIT and Dr. Kimberly McKinsey-Mabry, Acting Vice President of Student Services at MCC. Moderated by Dr. Heath Boice-Pardee, the group discussed how local colleges shifted gears amidst Covid. They talked about what changed and how they envision things will be as students make their way back to campus. 

The final panel for the day was the highlight for many as student leaders from Teen Empowerment and the RCSD Student Congress took the stage for an open discussion with the class. The group of six students were well-poised and candid about the effects this last year had on them. They shared their desire for a more inclusive community that allows their voices to be heard and appreciated and how, we, as adults, can help them make an impact. 

Prior to the program day, the class also had two bonus, leader-to-leader Zoom conversations with RCSD Board Commissioner, Beatriz LeBron, and Adam Urbanski, President of the Rochester Teachers Association.