Strengthening Our Community One Relationship at a Time
The YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County has been, and is, on the frontlines of issues of race and ethnicity, and their impact on all of us. There is no question that there has been much progress in reducing prejudice, embracing differences, and offering opportunities to every American; yet, there’s more work to do. A year ago, the YWCA asked itself: What can we uniquely offer that would contribute to a strengthened community? Our answer is Person2Person.
The reality is that many of us know only a few people of a different color; many of us do not have deep friendships or intimate understandings of someone of a different race or ethnicity. Where there are gaps of this magnitude, the best in each of us cannot be shared and focused for the benefit of our community.
Person2Person will provide an experience designed for people of different races and ethnicities to come together in ways that are engaging, enlightening, energizing, and, ultimately, sustainable. In researching paths we might undertake to develop our community-based program, we looked at several national and regional programs, including a past presidential initiative from 1998 called One America, and Partnerships in Pluralism, a diversity-networking program based at Rochester Institute of Technology since 2004. These programs resonated with us because they are based on the assumption that dialogue invites discovery; discovery invites fresh thinking and new initiatives.
The program we have designed will create several “partner pairs” – each pair to link people of different races or ethnicities with a person who is unlike themselves. Over the course of 9-months, these partner pairs will meet every two to three weeks to explore each other’s perspectives, challenges, interests, and insights. At times during this interval, the partner pairs will meet in clusters of five pairs to exchange experiences and enhance relationship building. The full group of an estimated 60 participants will meet at least twice during this inaugural year of 2014-2015. Our aim is to make Person2Person a long-term, sustainable program that brings people together. We believe connection is powerful.
Why Do This?
Rochester is a divided community. Poverty is distributed unevenly by race and ethnicity, as is access to housing, health care, education, justice, and employment. Surprising to so many, is the news that we are the fifth poorest city in the country, and our area’s poor are more heavily concentrated than almost any other metropolitan area in the country. We can do better.
The Rochester Area Community Foundation, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Rochester Business Alliance are our committed partners in this new endeavor. They believe, as we do, that starting conversations across racial and ethnic lines among community leaders can help create the interaction needed to forge a more promising future. We believe in our motto: Together. A Stronger Community.