How can one stay involved, network and have fun after college? The Rochester Area-20-Somethings formed to answer that very question.

R.A.T.S. offers people in their 20s the opportunity to meet their peers in a variety of settings. The group has three main branches, social events, networking and professional events and community service. Past projects have included mini-golf, nights at Jillian’s, improv comedy nights at the Montage Grill, the Job Fair held at R.I.T., building with Habitat for Humanity and sorting food with the Southwest Ecumenical Society.

R.A.T.S. is the brainchild of two ideas formed at the same time by founders Laura Allen, Chris Bourne, Christopher Burns and Matt Hammond. Burns graduated from UR in 1997 with a dual degree in political science and philosophy, and Bourne plans to transfer to UR from Monroe Community College.

“The four of us put together the Rochester Area-20-Somethings as a way to get people in their 20s who are fun and ambitious together to meet people they might not know otherwise,” Burns said.

“Our goal is to eliminate the stigma that in Rochester there is a lack of things to do, a lack of opportunity to meet young people in their 20s, and a lack of opportunity in the job market,” Bourne said.

R.A.T.S.’s largest event so far has been a Late Summer Picnic which attracted 85 people. By offering different sorts of events for people in their 20s to participate in, R.A.T.S. hopes to appeal to a broad and diverse base.

Burns and Bourne originally thought about creating a destination for 20-year-olds than bars and clubs. When they realized they had no capital to start such a place, they thought about creating a networking group for those in their 20s. Allen had been frustrated in her initial attempts to form a group to introduce and create social activities for 20-somethings. Burns’ father introduced them, and together with Allen’s fianc, Hammond, and Burns’ friend, Bourne, they formed R.A.T.S. In the last five months, the group has gained 350 members.

Starting up the group consisted of sending out letters to the local newspapers and the Chamber of Commerce hoping for sponsorship, according to Allen. Two members volunteered to design their Web site, www.rochester20somethings .org, and the group put up posters around the East End and Park Avenue area. Since then, over 350 people have joined the email list and the Web page receives about 15 hits a day, according to Hammond.

“I never thought we would get this far,” said Allen. “Having more than 300 people in four months is just awesome.”

Future goals for the founders include getting discounts for members at local movie theaters, museums and bars as a continued “student” discount.

“Our ultimate goals are to become viewed as “the source” for what’s going on in Rochester? and to stop the exodus of 20-somethings from the area. We’d like to build a cohesive enough contingent of 20-somethings that Rochester actually becomes seen as an attractive destination for people in their 20s,” said Burns.

Joining the group is free, and all events range from free to a maximum of $20, with the majority under $10. The only requirement for membership is being between the ages of 20-29.

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