On Feb. 6, a group of 11- and 12-year-old inner-city Rochester students participated in a Winter Walk at Nazareth College to benefit Golisano Children's Hospital as part of the Rochester Young Scholars Academy at Geneseo program.
RYSAG is a tutoring and mentoring program that serves as an interdisciplinary course through the cooperation of Geneseo's Xerox Center for Multicultural Teacher Education and the Rochester City School District. With the overall aim being making college attainable to inner city students, part of the program's agenda focuses on a service-learning project to give back to the community.
The program is divided into four age groups; the youngest group of students independently chose to focus their project on helping those in need at the Golisano Children's Hospital. After researching how they could help benefit these patients, they decided to attend the Winter Walk, which also had a purpose to benefit patients.
"We were the youngest group who put on an activity table there [at the walk] working among college groups," said Rachel Derwin, junior and co-team leader of the 11- and 12-year-old group. The table focused on making Valentine's Day cards for the patients, which were later delivered. The students also did face-painting and made slushies.
The students were successful in obtaining sponsors, thus holding their own in their money-raising efforts, eventually raising $400. Overall, the Winter Walk made $3,000 to benefit Golisano Children's Hospital.
According to Susan Norman, director of the Xerox Center in the School of Education and founder of the RYSAG program, the purpose of service learning is for the entities to learn about targeted issues while at the same time providing a needed service.
"In our case, our students are learning about the Golisano's Children's Hospital as well as building their skills around the fundraising process which include teamwork, improving verbal communications, writing letters, making posters and asking for donations," Norman said. "The needed service in our case was to raise money and awareness. All the parties benefit whether it be imprinting the culture of college on our middle school students, helping pre-service teachers learn about teaching in urban areas or giving back to the community."
Kelly Torbitt, junior and co-team leader, said she is extremely proud of the Rochester students. "It was something they really wanted to do and they did it," she said. Torbitt also noted that the students organized everything themselves. "All of the ideas were theirs and they got to give back and make a difference," she said.
Derwin said she also proud of how much work the Rochester students put into the event and of the difference they made. "I think it is so important for these kids especially since they're young to learn to give back to others in the community," she said.
"It was really nice seeing how genuine their interest in [Golisano] Children's Hospital was and it was very important that we gave them the freedom to do this," said Lok Yam, junior and co-team leader. "I think if we were to impose and tell them what to do, it wouldn't have been the same."
Derwin said she hopes that through doing projects such as these, the kids will learn to help and support other people in need. "I think that is a life lesson that is so important," she said. "You hear about so much troubled youth in inner-city Rochester and I really think that is program is just showing that these children have all of the potential in the world."