Connecting Pittsford Community with Rochester Students

by Deb Bishop

Student writing award recipients, teacher, and tutors

(front row) Four of the student writing award recipients with (back row) Ann VanBork, tutor, Kimberly Brown, teacher and Jeanne Whitney, tutor

I love watching a connection bloom into life-changing possibilities! It happens more than we might think at Third Church’s tutor program.

Tutor Ann VanBork made such a connection during this school year at Nathaniel Rochester Community School #3 (NRCS). In addition to tutoring Ann is a member of the Women’s Club of Pittsford (WCOP). WCOP serves the community in many ways including educational programs. For several years WCOP worked with Pittsford schools to conduct a writing contest where students are awarded cash prices for top choices in poetry and storytelling. Wanting to branch out this year, Ann suggested that WCOP bring the program to NRCS.

There were some bumps along the way, but Ann was able to connect with middle school teacher Kimberly Brown. Ms. Brown, a NRCS alumni herself, was very motivated to bring this program to students. She remembered a similar program when she was in middle school. Then 7th grade student Kimberly Brown won 1st prize in a writing contest and it made a significant impact on her experience, and she feels led her to be a teacher today.

Ms. Brown worked with other NRCS teachers and students to enlist students for the WCOP writing contest. In the end, 11 students submitted their pieces and six students were awarded prizes – 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes both in storytelling and poetry.

Students were invited to the WCOP April meeting in Pittsford where they read their winning submission. The topics were varied and all were impressive; students were poised and presented their pieces with confidence. At the end of the readings WCOP members greeted students to congratulate them and share how moved they were. You could see the pride in the students’ faces as they talked with women from the group. Some were retired teachers; one a retired principal. Each and every one gave such wonderful feedback to students.

The writing contest connected two very different communities and both groups benefited from it. This connection also provided a platform for students to have their voice heard. Students were given creative freedom in what they wrote about. One student wrote about a personal hero, another about the realities of race relations, another was a fictional story about a haunted house – the stories and poetry were well written and inspired.

This connection continues to bloom!

Students submissions were sent on to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs New York State writing competition. One of the students, MyQyng, won 2nd prize for his poem, “Pain.” He was given a cash award and certificate for his accomplishment!

Articles were published in the D&C and Messenger Post in April. After reading about the project, a member of the Rochester Area Literacy Council reached out to Kimberly Brown and invited the students to participate in their Celebration of Publishing Project in June at the Seneca Park Zoo. The students will be recognized for their work and presented a book, “Beyond Your Horizons” which will include their poems and stories as well as other students’ pieces from the area.

At the end of the school year each student who submitted a piece will receive an honor at NRCS’s end of year assembly and will read their story or poem, recognizing their accomplishment in front of their peers and maybe inspiring a writer in a future contest.

And finally, the WCOP has committed to working with School #3 again next year; Ms. Brown couldn’t be happier!

Third Church tutors make one on one connections every day. In addition to supporting student’s education, they provide social emotional support that is so important for children as they grow. Connections made through tutoring start as a seed and can grow into a love of reading, understanding math, or even participating in a writing contest. Watching a child’s heart and mind bloom from these connections is truly a blessing.

Are you looking for ways to connect and make a difference in a child’s life? Check out Third Church’s website

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