Mayor William A. Johnson, Jr.


Rochester was designated an All-America City in 1998 by the National Civic League largely because of its youth-related initiatives. Local programs to reduce youth violence and provide after-school activities function within a context of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, comprehensiveness, and mutually-supportive efforts on a regional basis.

Greater Rochester struggles mightily to address the needs of youth. In 1997, 55% of local United Way allocations were dedicated to youth. All nonprofits must meet outcome measures to quality for United Way funding. To avoid redundant service delivery and benefit from economies of scale, nonprofit agencies established regional cooperative networks such as the Child Care Collaborative, the Early Education Initiative, and the CHANGE collaborative which brings together health care providers, youth agencies, and mental health professionals in school-based Family Wellness Centers. Regionally, volunteerism is at an all-time high, according to a 1997 study by the State University of New York.

The following violence-reduction and after-school programs function within this collaborative network of initiatives designed to nurture the positive potential of our youth.

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

The provision of consistent, well-supervised opportunities for the constructive use of leisure time is universally recognized as one of the most potent strategies for reducing youth violence, both in and out of school. Accordingly, the City of Rochesterís Bureau of Parks and Recreation provides a full range of special-event, social, cultural, aquatic, and athletic activities for youth 6 through 18. Services are offered through a combination of direct and contracted services with emphasis on collaborative liaisons with community groups and other service providers. Programming includes both open and structured recreation activities such as: arts, crafts, dance, double-dutch, gardening, environmental education, reading, writing, softball, basketball, hockey, soccer, and swimming. Programs are delivered via a network of 12 full-time multi-purpose recreation centers and 30 to 35 satellite operations. Facilities include 2 full-time and approximately 20 seasonal swimming programs and 3 artificial ice rinks.

Recreation facilities are now also used by other human service agencies and the City School District for the delivery of their services. Over the past four years, the Bureau of Parks and Recreation has made a concerted effort to maximize utilization of its facilities and to remove barriers to community use. Strategies include: offering a full-range of programs between the hours of 2 and 8 pm; expansion of recreation center hours of operation to 7 days a week; aggressively seeking community collaborations; and, lowering or eliminating facility use fees, thus allowing other related service providers greater access to facilities and programs. Over the past four years, the Bureau has supplemented traditional recreation programming with the addition of licensed child care in the form of summer day camps and school year latch key programs. These provide parents a low-cost, easily-accessible source of more intense supervision for their children. Programs are conducted in schools and in the larger recreation centers.

While the Bureauís primary mission is to provide recreation opportunities, the activities themselves are often employed as vehicles for developing a variety of life skills, many of which are better "taught" in the less-structured recreation setting (i.e., cooking and nutrition, self reliance, anger management).

2. When was the program created and why

Historically, the City of Rochester was one of the first municipalities in the country to commit resources to community recreation. The framework for current youth programming was the 1982 adoption of a "Resolution Regarding Neighborhood Recreation Services." The Resolution outlines the Cityís commitment to recreation programming.

3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness

Activities are evaluated against predetermined targets such as attendance and parental involvement. There has been no attempt to measure effectiveness in the form of reduced violence.

4. How is the program financed

The program is financed primarily through city revenues. There is a limited expense offset from miscellaneous grants and program revenue.

5. How is the community involved in the programHow has the community responded to the program?

The community is involved in a number of ways including individual and group volunteerism, program development, and activity selection. Recreation centers are not just well-received by the community, they are an intricate part of the neighborhood fabric.

6. What are the major lessons learned from this program?

(a.) The use of a well-developed network of community centers that operate 7 days a week year round and offer a full-range of assist-building activities; (b.) Maximum utilization of public facilities via collaboration with as many community partners as possible; (c.) The utilization of recreation centersí drawing power and open environment as vehicles for conveying life skill messages.

7. Contact person:

Linda Palmeri, Department of Parks, Recreation & Human Services, 716-428-7023.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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