Rochester, N.Y. –In the Marketview Heights neighborhood of Rochester, there is a group of residents who not only want to see change in their community but actively engage in changing it. Called the Collective Action Project, it consists of three Action Teams: Safety and Security, Housing and Development, and Beautification. For the past six years, the group is responsible for a multitude of improvements in the quality of life in the neighborhood. There have been enhancements in the aesthetics of the neighborhood, namely the addition of several community gardens. Also, the dedication and hard work of the group directly resulted in the building of Fastrac Markets (located on E. Main Street at N. Union Street), which provides fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products, and is a welcome alternative to the unhealthy foods found in corner stores.
However, there has been one shortcoming: a lack of youth voices in the group. With the assistance of Pamela Reese Smith, Community Project Administrator for PathStone Corporation, the group decided that there needed to be an addition: a Youth Action Team. In early 2009, PathStone applied for a Rochester Youth Year Fellow to help in the development of a Youth Action Team for the Collective Action Project. Rochester Youth Year is an AmeriCorps*VISTA sponsored program managed by the Rochester Regional Network, an association of seven local colleges. Highly talented recent graduates are placed in community-based organizations for one year in order to establish or develop programs that address the various challenges facing youth and families in Rochester.
In late August 2009, Rochester Youth Year Fellow Jillian Paris, a recent graduate of Nazareth College, joined PathStone. In mid-October, Pamela and Jillian met with Maurice Haskins, the director of a youth/adult partnership after-school program at the Community Place of Greater Rochester (CPGR). After much discussion, they decided that a partnership between CPGR’s after-school program and PathStone’s new Youth Action Team would be beneficial to the youth in the after-school program; being apart of the team would give these young people an opportunity to be leaders in the community through the implementation of a civic engagement project. In addition to the Collective Action meetings, the youth meet once a week. In these meetings, they have been brainstorming different ideas for possible civic engagement projects and hope to have a project identified by spring. After the youth complete their project, they will be heading to Washington, DC with the goal of presenting their project to Rochester’s federal representatives and lobbying on Capitol Hill for change in their community.
The Youth Action Team is made up of seven responsible, articulate, and intelligent young people. Ranging in age from 15 to 18, these highly motivated young people desperately want to see change in their community. Their unique perspectives will be an asset to the Collective Action Project as well as the community as a whole.