Unfortunately, for many young Rochester residents, the chance to pursue a college education is nothing more than a dream. With graduation rates for the Rochester City School District hovering below 50 percent — with just half of those graduates pursuing college degrees — the odds are stacked against many of UR’s neighbors in the city of Rochester.

One crucial key to educational success comes from role models. With the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, the fate of 20 young kids from the Southwest Area Neighborhood Association may have changed. The Rochester Center for Community Leadership and the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization are teaming up to provide 20 young kids the opportunity to have their very own big brother or big sister — a UR student. 

“A lot of students have participated in Big-Brothers Big-Sisters in the past,” Assistant Director at RCCL Christie Tourella said. “We didn’t offer that type of mentoring before and we’re really excited to offer it now.”

One of the exciting things about this program, Tourella said, was that the college students would be given free reign to take their “littles” to club meetings and events and athletic contests. 

Tourella is also planning on having matching shirts for the kids, so the River Campus is aware of their presence. 

The partnership kicked off Wednesday with an icebreaker event in Gavett Hall. Several UR students were excited about the program. 

“I love having role models and friends that I can count on, and I want to be that person for that child,” freshman Arwa Elbeshbishi said. 

Other students were curious about what the future would hold. “I’m honestly not sure what to expect,” senior Tim Smith said. “I just expect to make a new friend and have a lot of fun. I’m excited to see how it plays out.” 

UR was approached by the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization of Greater Rochester over the summer. The program has been proven to improve educational outcomes for kids while reducing the likelihood that kids will resort to drugs or alcohol.

Although the program is just starting, Tourella already has an optimistic outlook for the future. “Ideally, we would love to have 50 students,” she said. “I don’t think that will be an issue.”

“I am hoping to develop a long term relationship with a younger child, and be a mentor to them,” freshman Katharine Howe said. “I am also hoping that my little can teach me things too.”

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