Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go on a ride-along with a police officer in the city of Rochester? Have you ever wondered what life is like for people who live across the footbridge? This summer, through the Urban Fellows program, I was able to experience working in the 19th Ward, attend seminars on urban issues and learn about the history of Rochester.

Urban Fellows is a 10-week paid internship in which students work four days a week at an organization in the city and attend seminars and day trips once a week. Some of the seminars this past summer included topics such as urban education, healthcare, origins of the urban crisis and creation of residential segregation, while some of the day trips included visits to the SouthWest Area Neighborhood Association, City Hall, the Brooks Landing Project and volunteering at the annual Square Fair in the 19th Ward. This is not a monotonous “day in, day out” internship – you’re always doing something new.

The student interns are not simply thrown into organizations at random, but are placed at agencies depending on their personal interests. Some of my peers worked at health practices, homeless shelters and community development organizations. The variety of job placements led to an interesting summer symposia, where select students gave Power Point presentations and read from personal essays about their experiences in an end-of-summer program that included such dignitaries as Rochester’s mayor, Robert Duffy.

In my case, by working at the 19th Ward Community Development Association, I was able to photograph houses in the area, sell ads to local businesses for the upcoming 19th Ward house tour booklet, compile a database of all the houses that had been on the tour since the late 1960s, brainstorm ideas for a community Web site and sharpen my customer service skills.

Some of the highlights of the internship for me were the conversations my peers and I engaged in during car rides, while eating lunch at Julius Caf or simply while standing at the end of the footbridge contemplating plans for the upcoming residence hall and hotel that are scheduled to be built. Visiting Cameron Community Ministries, which provide outreach services to the local community, with President Seligman was also an eye-opening and profound experience.

During one of the last days of the internship, I was also able to experience a ropes course with a few of my peers at East High School. Even though I was shaking, and quite certain my life was about to end, I was able to climb up a 35-foot ladder, make my way across a log in mid-air and walk around another person who was perched in the middle – definitely a fitting end to a great summer.

One of the most important things I learned is that urban areas such as Rochester have an endless amount of critical needs and that it’s easy to become frustrated about the many things you can’t always accomplish, but at least taking a stab at lending a hand can make a difference. The Urban Fellows program is a great opportunity for students attending Rochester colleges, or for students from the Rochester area who attend non-local colleges, to get involved in the community, learn about urban issues, live with other students in a collegial campus community, expand your resume and, if you’re lucky, experience sweet potato fries from Unkl Moe’s BBQ and Catering.

Kraus is a member of the class of 2009.

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