The City of Rochester
There is no place better to live than the Rochester metropolitan area, unless you live in parts of the city of Rochester. In general, there is a stark contrast between the lives of those who live in the city and those who live in the suburbs. And the situation in the city is getting worse. According to a 2014 report from the Rochester Area Community Foundation and ACT Rochester more than 32% of city residents are impoverished. Rochester has more people living at less than half the federal poverty line than any other similarly sized city in the US. Roughly half of Rochester’s children live in poverty. This is worst than any comparable midsized city in the nation. Rochester has an 85% free and reduced lunch rate in grades K-6; and the highest teenage pregnancy rate (84/1000 15-19 year olds) in the Western world. Rochester has a 46% high school graduation rate; only 9 out of 100 African American males who enter high school graduate.
Rochester Kids aims to make a difference in the lives of Rochester youth by lending a hand to youth who have demonstrated the potential to succeed, providing other youth with increased opportunities to do so, and growing opportunities for kids in the city and suburbs to meet, learn from and play with one another. Since its inception, Rochester Kids has touched the lives of 6,500 kids.
Rochester Kids, also known as the Jeff-Milano Johnson Fund, was established in memory of Jeff Milano-Johnson, a 14 year old boy who died suddenly in 2007. Jeff died of a ruptured brain aneurysm while warming up for a lacrosse game. The goal of the fund is to improve the lives and future of youth in the Rochester area.
Several minutes after Jeff collapsed on the lacrosse field, another young man, Shamar Patterson, 16, was killed in a drive by shooting in Rochester. Shamar was a junior at Gates-Chili High School and was visiting his grandmother and some childhood friends the day he died. Shamar’s family had moved to the suburbs because they were safer than the city. Similar to Jeff, Shamar was “a very outgoing, energetic class clown.”
Jeff and Shamar’s mothers met on the 4th floor of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit the day both of their sons died. Subsequently, the families became friends.
Jeff and Shamar’s lives and deaths were different from one another. Yet both families share similar pain and hurt. They also share common dreams for their children. It is the image of Jeff and Shamar together leaving this world and entering the next that has sharpened the focus of Rochester Kids. It continues to motivate us to work tiredlessly towards bridging the gap between the city of Rochester and Pittsford and other suburbs.
Rochester, NY has the 2nd worse child poverty rate in the country. It has a 85% free and reduced lunch rate and a 46% high school graduation rate. There are two “community health” markers looked at worldwide to determine the need of a community. One is the infant mortality rate and the other the teenage pregnancy rate. Rochester’s infant mortality rate is three times the rate in New York City and almost twice the rate of central Harlem. Its teenage pregnancy rate rivals that of Third World countries.
Rochester Kids is making a difference in the lives of Rochester youth by lending a hand to youth who have demonstrated the potential to succeed and providing those who have not, the right opportunities to put them in a better position to do so. Organized around the Parable of the Starfish, the Fund extends Jeff and Shamar’s, love, joy and kindness well into the future.