The Greater Rochester After-School Alliance (GRASA) on Thursday will partner with the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, Healthi Kids, the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association (GRSLA), United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. and the Children’s Agenda to host a “Lights On Afterschool” event.
The goal of the event is to showcase the value, impact and necessity of after-school programming on the community and youth.
During the afternoon event, children will participate in the Play Walk Ribbon Cutting, the Play Walk being a new downtown trail that connects the Strong National Museum of Play to Central Library and ROC the Riverway projects. The new space gives youth and families a place to play and have fun before traveling to the library.
The celebration will continue at the library with hands-on activities and demonstrations made by kids and volunteers to show what they’re learning at after-school experiences. GRASA will also join with the Monroe County Industrial Development Corporation, the Monroe County Youth Bureau, Rochester Museum & Science Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester to announce a six-month STEM education partnership, called Rochester Kids Engaging in Technology and Science (ROCKETS).
The initiative is designed to expose children to fields of study they can build a career on and build capacity for afterschool programs all over the city.
“Lights On Afterschool” is a nationwide celebration Oct. 24, expected to attract more than 300 youth and their families.
KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that works to ensure every kid and community have access to quality playspaces, has selected ROC the Future to lead a playground project here.
ROC the Future, in partnership with Common Ground Health’s Healthi Kids Initiative, is one of the three StriveTogether communities that will work with KaBOOM! to design a community playground that will help close racial and socioeconomic gaps in kids’ access to great places to play. The partnership will build the civic infrastructure through a project model that brings diverse residents and organizations together for youth.
“Every kid deserves a safe, amazing place to play. ROC the Future believes in the value and importance of play to support cognitive and social building skills for children,” said Jackie Campbell, ROC the Future Alliance director. “We are more than thrilled to be selected for this playground project to support children and look forward to breaking ground at a future site in the city of Rochester.”
Increasing access to safe places to play in Rochester is the cornerstone of the PlayROCs campaign at Common Ground Health, officials said, and the KaBOOM! grant will further the collective mission to make Rochester a “playful city.”
“We can all agree that play is an essential part of childhood, and all kids should have opportunities to play as a matter of their human right,” said Lysa Ratliff, vice president of partnership development at KaBOOM! “Research shows—what many parents know—that children learn through play. The more time they have to play outside with their peers, the more likely they are able to grow essential social, physical and cognitive skills that are so important for their future success. We are proud to partner with StriveTogether to bring this vision to life.”
ROC the Future and Common Ground Health will work together to recruit 200 volunteers in the community to join staff and partners in the design, planning and installation of the playground before September 2020. The process will kick off with “design day,” where kids and families will meet to create the design specifications for an innovative, custom play space.
The process will culminate with a day where hundreds of volunteers will build the playground. In between, partners and volunteers will work on a grassroots campaign to raise local matching funds and engage with elected officials and community leaders.
“StriveTogether shares the belief with KaBOOM! that the well-being of communities starts with the well-being of kids,” StriveTogether President and CEO Jennifer Blatz said. “Creating shared spaces fosters community pride and helps close the racial and socioeconomic gaps that deny many children great places to play. Local change is possible when the community unites around a common vision for families and kids.”
KaBOOM! is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.
Fewer than 15 percent of kids in Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes are active an hour or more a day, the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So for the second consecutive summer, local organizations teamed to provide a space for children and families to play, contribute to children’s physical and social-emotional development and support community development.
Play Streets is a community-driven program that emphasizes the importance of play. The event was hosted by Healthi Kids Coalition and Ibero-American Development Corp., and was coordinated by FLRT Block Club and Beechwood Neighbors Association.
Residents at Treyer Street and Greeley Street hosted Play Streets throughout August. Both neighborhoods were shut down for a few hours a day and featured active games, dancing, art, summer meals, skateboarding demonstrations, playful sidewalk painting and more.
“One of the biggest obstacles Rochester children face when playing is safety hazards, whether it be from traffic, distracted drivers or other unsafe activities,” said Joe DiFiore of the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition. “Thanks to the Healthi Kids Coalition and its amazing collaboration with city residents, we’re able to overcome these obstacles and give our kids the chance to get outside and play. To see these kids smile and have fun is all the proof we need to know we’re making a difference.”
A 2017 report from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and Rochester Area Community Foundation noted that interviews with neighbors have indicated that a lack of neighborhood and traffic safety are key barriers to play. Healthi Kids’ early studies on playability indicated that 97 percent of play spaces do not have traffic calming features such as speed bumps, traffic lights or signage.
“A lot still needs to happen here in Rochester to give our children access to safe play spaces, but if our work in the community has taught us anything, it’s that residents are ready to work together and make it happen,” said Dina Faticone, director of community health and engagement at Common Ground Health. “Because of the efforts of the FLRT Block Club and Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition, we are currently working alongside the City of Rochester to expand this Play Streets pilot across the city to ensure all kids have opportunities to play right in their own neighborhood.”
Funding for the Play Streets pilot was made possible by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and the Wilson Foundation “El Camino Plays” grant.
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