The UR Community Service Network sponsored a panel discussion titled “Building Bridges: Making a Difference in Rochester Schools,” in order to inform UR students and faculty about the Rochester City School District’s current situation of poor educational records compared to suburban towns and what UR can offer to RCSD, on Oct. 27.

“I think the school district underperforms because we have a distressed student population that needs more and different help than conventional suburban district schools,” CSN advisor John Borek said. “Poverty, the special needs of the working poor, gangs and mental and physical health challenges are all issues that have to be addressed before the seeds of education can take root.”

According to the New York State District Report Cards of 2002-2003, 57 percent of Brighton high school students scored over 85 on the Standardized Regents English exam. Meanwhile, only 8 percent of RCSD high school students scored over 85.

Furthermore, about 16.6 percent of RCSD students dropped out from high school compare to only 1.6 percent of Brighton students.

According to Borek, the District of Rochester City has excellent facilities for education, but if these facilities are not fully used, no progress can be made.

“The lack of performance of Rochester schools is tied to social ills that suburban schools do not have to address as intensively and desperately,” Borek said.

City schools suffer from social issues that mostly originate from poverty, and it is vital to let those kids living in poverty know that the community of Rochester is willing to assist and promote better environment for the necessary education, according to Borek.

CSN encourages UR students to support and volunteer those RCSD students with whatever help they can offer. Senior and President of CSN Meghan Ochal feels that it is important for these kids to have consistent and committed role models in their community.

“It’s as important to be a mentor to them as it is to tutor them in their [kids’] studies,” Ochal said. “Just having a college student as a role model who gives attention and encouragement can really help a kid.”

Ochal added that UR students, especially large numbers of freshmen and sophomores, contribute to various service programs like Partners in Reading, which goes to an elementary school once a week to tutor students, and the Literacy Program, which offers tutoring at a private school several times a week.

According to Ochal, Dean of Students Jody Asbury attended the panel discussion and illustrated her interest in possibly holding similar events focusing on urban education next semester.

Moreover, to get involved with CSN, Ochal said that you do not need any special talents. You must be eager to tutor kids, but more importantly, you have to be committed to whatever you will be doing. “As long as you’re enthusiastic and can commit, CSN will help you find a volunteer opportunity,” he said.

Students who are interested in participating should either contact Ochal or senior and executive-board member for CSN Katie Wolak.

“Overall, we got a lot of good ideas for future programs and ways to get involve the campus more in Rochester,” Ochal said. “We’re planning to hold similar panel discussions on other issues throughout the year.”

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