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City Skills brings STEM experiences to city youth

Mayor Lovely Warren constructs a paper and wood windmill with Douglass student Smiley Samuel. (Gino Fanelli)

Mayor Lovely Warren constructs a paper and wood windmill with Douglass student Smiley Samuel. (Gino Fanelli)

Amid a small crowd of city school youth at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, Mayor Lovely Warren stands close to Douglass student Smiley Samuel, the pair carefully manipulating construction paper into a makeshift windmill. Eventually settling on the right blade positions, the pair place their creation in front of a set of billowing fans. It remains still, the Mayor plucking it back up and moving back to the drawing board.

Samuel and her fellow classmates are part of a pilot program dubbed “Technology and Careers in Rochester Powered by AT&T,” a program aimed at inspiring youth into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Financed heavily by AT&T, the program is a collaboration between the museum, the Rochester City School District, the Finger Lakes STEM Hub and the Seneca Waterways Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Included in the project is the City Living course; a five-week program immersing 12 students who are one science, math or elective credit shy of graduation into STEM-based field trips and hands-on experience.

“What we can do here is build curiosity and interest in STEM fields,” said Director of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Joe Marinelli. “This gives students a chance to gain hands-on experience in construction, manufacturing and energy power in Rochester.”

For New York State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, the program is not just a simple means of engaging students into possible career pathways, but also about planning for our future.

“I was reading a book the other night, and it said that if you were born in the year 1000 and were transported to the year 1500, you would still pretty much feel at home,” Morelle said. “But if you were born in the year 1500 and transported into the present day, you would feel like you were in a different world. Technology has never developed as quickly as it is now, and programs that expose students to STEM are so critically important.”

In a plea to the young attendees in the crowd, Warren urged them to not take lightly the lessons being offered to them.

“Let this be a lesson to you that what you’re being exposed to can take you far,” Warren said. “Your city, your state, your communities are all behind you; we want to see you succeed. Don’t let this just sit on your shoulders.”

Pointing to the long-standing traditions of innovation in the Rochester community, from George Eastman to Frederick Douglass, Warren pointed to the spirit of Rochester as a haven for challenge and ingenuity.

“I couldn’t get that windmill to work in there, but I’m not leaving until I figure it out,” Warren said. “That’s Rochester; we don’t give up.”

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