Call to Arms: FREE Support for Rochester Students

by Friends of Educational Excellence Partnerships (aka FREE Partnerships)
Bruce Pollock with O
Bruce Pollock with O'Naiya and Emmanuel

Happy Holidays to you and your family from all of us at Friends of Educational Excellence (FREE) Partnerships!

Our support for Rochester city schools is strong and growing this year.  We are supporting 10 Rochester elementary schools with 300 volunteer.  We just formed a new community partnership between St. Monica Church and School 4.

It's been very gratifying to receive recognition in the Rochester community for our work.  Please check out my Speaking Out essay that was published on November 6 in the Democrat & Chronicle online.

On November 13, Rev. Dr. Marvin McMickle, President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, spoke at a FREE Partnerships event.  If you weren't there to hear him, you can be inspired by his pressentation by watching him here.

We are very grateful for the ongoing support you have provided to our organization.  During this holiday season, I'm so thankful for all the blessings we have received.  I'm grateful that so many people in the greater Rochester area are so generous with their time and money to support underprivileged children in Rochester.

If you'd like to make a year-end donation via GlobalGiving, we will use the funding to recruit and train more volunteers to tutor more Rochester students in 2013.

Happy Holidays!

Bruce Pollock

Executive Director, Friends of Educational Excellence Partnerships



2012 FREE School Rankings - State English Exam
2012 FREE School Rankings - State English Exam
August 2012 Newsletter
Have Friends of Educational Excellence (FREE) Partnerships been successful in helping Rochester city students succeed in school?
In a word:  Yes!
In the 2011 - 2012 school year, FREE Partnerships supported 10 Rochester city elementary schools that had over 500 volunteers who tutored students during the school day under the guidance of classroom teachers.
Let's look at the recent 2012 New York State English and math test results to see how these 10 schools performed. 

2012 English Language Arts (ELA) Test Results
  • Six of 10 FREE schools improved their ranking versus the 38 Rochester elementary schools.  School 52 held its #2 ranking so 7 of 10 FREE schools held or improve their ranking.
  • Three schools had significant improvements in their rankings:  School 7, School 10, and School 20
  • Only 4 Rochester elementary schools increased the percentage of students that passed the ELA test.  FREE schools were 3 of those 4 schools:  School 7, School 10, and School 52.
  • School 52 maintained its #2 ranking!
  • The School 52 third grade had the best ELA performance of any public elementary school in Rochester. 
2012 Math Test Results
Eight of 10 FREE schools improved their ranking versus the 38 Rochester elementary schools
  • Three schools had significant improvements in their rankings:  School 10, School 22, and School 34
  • Seven FREE schools improved the percentage of students that passed the math test:  Schools 10, 12, 20, 22, 34, 39, and 52
  • School 52 improved its ranking to #3!
  • The School 20 and School 52 sixth grades had the 2nd and 3rd best math performance in Rochester public elementary schools
2012 School 52 Rankings
The FREE Partnerships model works!
Using this model, the School 52 rankings for English (ELA) and math have improved dramatically since 2006.  School 52 is now #2 in ELA and #3 in math out of 38 Rochester city elementary schools.  The School 52 volunteers are an integral part of the student learning environment.  Students there are on a positive path!
So here are a few requests:
  • If you are not already volunteering in a Rochester city school and you have time each week to help a Rochester student succeed in school, please become a volunteer or contact others that can volunteer.  Contact us at:
  • FREE Partnerships survives by the grace of your financial support.  Please make a donation to help us continue this good work.   
  • There's an exciting social media / documentary project underway that shows how urban youth across America are persevering through the challenges of their lifes to be successful in school.  These students are "undroppable".  Check out their stories and stay tuned for the intriguing movie about their lives:
Thanks so much for your support,

Bruce Pollock
Executive Director
Friends of Educational Excellence Partnerships
2012 FREE School Rankings - State Math Exam
2012 FREE School Rankings - State Math Exam
School 52 Rankings - ELA and Math Exams
School 52 Rankings - ELA and Math Exams


2012 FREE Annual Meeting Awards
2012 FREE Annual Meeting Awards

The FREE Partnerships Annual Meeting held on April 24 was a wonderful event.  Over 80 people attended the meeting in the Kate Gleason Auditorium in the Rochester Central Library.  The program began with a welcome from Board Member, Kevin Loughran.  Executive Director, Bruce Pollock, provided a review of the prior year.  Here are the highlights of that review:

Who are the Friends of Educational Excellence?

We are:

  • Friends of Social and Economic Justice
  • Friends of Equality and Opportunity
  • Friends of Independence and Dignity
  • Friends of Family Harmony
  • Friends of Helping the Next Generation Achieve its Full Potential
  • Enemies of Poverty and Ignorance
  • Enemies of Hopelessness and Despair
  • Friends of the Beloved Community
  • Friends of Revitalizing Rochester

The achievements for the last year include:

  • Adding 3 Partnerships to the FREE Partnerships Coalition (at Schools 10, 15, and 39)
  • Volunteer support in all 10 schools:  366 volunteers in April 2012
  • Over 500 volunteers participated in the 2011 - 2012 school year
  • Strong support from SUNY Brockport that provided 89 college students in FREE schools
  • Rochester Police Department (RPD) support where 30 officers signed up to read to students
  • Volunteer training:  4 training webinars have been provided
  • WAVE for Success article was published in the D&C online newspaper
  • FREE Partnerships - PENCIL Partnerships collaboration to support students

Bruce showed a video filmed and produced by filmmaker Mara Ahmed about the Partnership programs in Schools 15 and 50.

The evidence of how well the FREE Partnerships programs can work is demonstrated by the success of the School 52 Partnership where the school's rankings (out of 38 elementary schools) in the NYS English and Math tests have improved dramatically over the last six years (2006 to 2011):

  • The School 52 ranking for English has improved from 8th to 2nd
  • The School 52 ranking for Math has improved from 23rd to 4th

The success of each FREE Partnerships programs is based on the wonderful support the school principals have provided.

Bruce concluded his remarks with recognition of the wonderful financial support that has been provided by all the Friends of Educational Excellence, especially the following Sustaining Donors that contributed $1,000 or more:

  • Ford Motor Company
  • Rochester Area Community Foundation
  • Klein Steel Service
  • Marc Johnson
  • Vivian Pollock

After Bruce's remarks, there was a panel discussion about the new cradle-to-career initiative in Rochester called ROC the Future, which is based on the Strive framework developed in Cinncinati, Ohio.  The panel included:

  • Clayton Jones, Asst to the VP of Academic Services, Monroe Community College
  • Dirk Hightower, Executive Director, Children's Institute

Originally, RCSD Interim Superintendent, Bolgen Vargas, was to be the Keynote Speaker of the Annual Meeting and participate on the ROC the Future panel.  However, he was named the permanent RCSD Superintendent that morning and so he could not attend the Annual Meeting at the start.  Dr. Vargas did arrive later in the meeting and came to the podium amongst a standing ovation to provide some remarks and take questions from the audience.

After Dr. Vargas's remarks, Bruce named the recipients of the FREE Partnerships Leaders Awards at each school.  These leaders came up to the podium and receive their Recognition Award handed to them by Dr. Vargas.  The partnership leaders are:

Partnership Leaders Recognition

School 7 – Teacher:  Beth Cross

First Universalist Church:  Sarah Singal

School 10 – Teacher:  Alva Vives

Community Christian Church:  Lisa November

School 12 – Teachers:  Susan Snyder, Laurie Murty

Highland Park Association:  Vicki Robertson, Lori Bryce

School 15 – Teachers:  Jennifer Benton, Jayne Alba

First Unitarian Church:  Ann Bayley, Chris Farnum

School 20 – Volunteer Coordinator:  Paula Hansen

Mt Olivet Baptist Church:  Valerie Medley

School 22 – Teacher:  Kim Mendelson

First Unitarian Church:  Ann Bayley, Chris Farnum

School 34 – Teacher:  Cindi Shear

St. Catherine of Siena Church:  Terry Riordan

School 39 – AP: Rebecca Boyle; Parent Liaison: Yvetta Nelson

Church of the Transfiguration:  Bob Flynn, Helen Konz, Charlie Newton

School 50 – Teachers:  Janet Bird, Robin Valoris

St. Joseph’s Church:  Patty Vermilion

School 52 – Jason Branner, Danielle Branner

Temple B’rith Kodesh:  Don Ginsberg, Judith Slade

Overall, the 2012 Annual Meeting was a glorious event which provided wonderful momentum for the work to be done in 2012 and beyond.


FREE Partnerships Report - January 2012 Update

Happy New Year!

Friends of Educational Excellence (FREE) Partnerships made great progress on many fronts in 2011:

  • We formed 3 more FREE school partnerships and now support 10 Rochester city elementary schools
  • Recruited over 100 volunteers and now have 330 volunteers working with kids
  • Launched online volunteer training webinars to make our tutoring more effective
  • Expanded beyond tutoring to begin mentoring so kids see the value in education

In 2012, FREE Partnerships will provide even more support for teachers and students.  The theme for next year is:  “Make It Happen!”  Our goals include:

  • Forging FREE school partnerships with 5 additional schools
  • Recruiting 350 additional volunteers to support hundreds more RCSD students

FREE Partnerships principals have been pleased with the support they’ve received.  Here are comments from two principals:

Denise Rainey, Principal School 52

Q1.  Are you pleased with how your FREE partnership is supporting your school?

A1.  We are delighted with how our partnership is going.  It makes so much sense to have a “centrally coordinated” data base for the number of volunteers that come into our school.  I also appreciate the support that FREE has given to training volunteers and to being the initial contact for questions, concerns, changes in assignments, etc.

Q2.  Are you pleased with how volunteers are supporting your teachers?

A2.  Our volunteers have established solid relationships with our teachers.  They are responsive to what teachers ask of them, and a number of them ask to remain assigned to the same teacher from one school year to the next. 

Q3. Are you pleased with how volunteers are supporting your students?

A3.  Our volunteers work with students according to their personal expertise and training that we have provided.  It is very impressive to see them get into the flow of materials and activities that address individually identified student needs.

Q4. How could your FREE school partnership support your school even better?

A4.  I can’t think off hand of anything more needed, but as little things or questions do come up, we address them at our monthly Partnership Committee meetings.  This is an invaluable forum for keeping abreast of what the partnership looks like from both sides, and for raising the question of what else needs to be done or done differently.


Tim Mains, Principal School 50

Q1.  Are you pleased with how your FREE partnership is supporting your school?

A1.  Yes.  Our partnership coordinators are very capable and committed.   I used to know all the volunteers in the building but we have so many now I don’t know them all.  Fortunately, our partnership coordinators keep track of all the volunteers.

Q2.  Are you pleased with how volunteers are supporting your teachers?

A2.  We have more volunteers than ever before.  They all report that things are going well.  My teachers have gotten better using folders that contain materials for volunteers so their activities support teacher requirements and focus on the most effective activities to support student learning. 

Q3. Are you pleased with how volunteers are supporting your students?

A3.  In December we had 44 volunteers providing 170 hours of support for students each week.  Having these volunteer resources has allowed us to support more students.  School 50 is undergoing renovations next year to become a K-8 school.  When we relocate to our temporary school home for the 2012-2013 school year, we will certainly take our volunteers with us to continue supporting our students. 

Q4. How could your FREE school partnership support your school even better?

A4.  Our teachers will continue to learn how to best guide volunteer activities so students are supported in the best way.  That’s something that we can better at.  I can see this is a process and my teachers are getting better at it all the time.  As our FREE school partnership demonstrates value to teachers, I am confident they will embrace this support model more and more.


With your support, FREE Partnerships will continue to “Make It Happen!” for principals, teachers, and students in 2012. 

May you and your family have a Blessed New Year!


Bruce Pollock

Executive Director

FREE Partnerships


Hello Friends of Educational Excellence!

Rochester is a great place to live.  But the city is struggling.  We all know that helping the City of Rochester recover is important for the vitality of the entire Greater Rochester area.  The most critical element of this recovery is to ensure that all children in the city get an excellent education.

I want to tell you how FREE Partnerships is supporting educational excellence in Rochester but first I need to let you know about the upcoming Global Giving Bonus Day so you can provide the ongoing support FREE Partnerships needs to continue.

Global Giving Donation Bonus Day:  Wednesday October 19

On October 19, GlobalGiving is matching at 30% all online donations up to $1,000 per donor per project!  There is $100,000 available in matching funds starting at 12:01 am EDT.  GlobalGiving will match until matching funds run out.

In addition to the 30% match, GlobalGiving is offering a $1,000 bonus to the project that raises the most funds that day and a $1,000 bonus to the project that receives donations from the most individual donors!  So please, please, please – give a contribution to FREE Partnerships on October 19 via this link:

I will send you another note with a reminder before October 19.

Thanks very much for your ongoing support.  Here’s what’s happening with FREE Partnerships:

Rochester Educational Excellence:  Is it possible?

We can make a dramatic improvement in the quality of Rochester city school education.  Poverty is an explanation for the current low achievement but we all know it’s not an absolute deterrent.  My father grew up in Rochester in a poor family.  His parents were immigrants and didn’t speak English when they arrived in America.  My father went to Rochester public schools, studied hard, went to the University of Rochester, and became a successful attorney.  How did he do it?  Hard work and determination.  His parents’ poverty and lack of education didn’t hold him back.

We can change the current Rochester culture of low expectations to high expectations so family poverty and low adult literacy will not hold the next generation back.  The Rochester community is on the tipping point of this change.  I can feel it - can’t you?  I founded Friends of Educational Excellence (FREE) Partnerships to help Rochester children stay on the path to success.  FREE Partnerships creates a unique bridge that brings school and community together so children in the city realize the power of education.

Rochester Educational Excellence:  What Does this Mean for Rochester?

FREE Partnerships mission starts with a vision where all Rochester students master reading, writing, and math; graduate from high school; and get good paying jobs.  This will transform the City of Rochester to be a safer, more prosperous place where families of all types will want to live, and businesses will invest and thrive.  Rochester will become a source of pride for the entire community and beyond.  This is the FREE Partnerships vision.

How is FREE Partnerships promoting Educational Excellence in Rochester?

FREE Partnerships supports community – school partnerships in Rochester schools that bring volunteers into school to help students succeed in school.

  • Tutoring:  Volunteers work with students on basic academic skills:  reading, writing, and math
  • Mentoring:  Volunteers are positive, caring adult role models to support students
  • Partnering:  A vibrant community partnership transforms a school’s learning environment

When we change the mindset of our next generation and give them the skills they need to succeed, we will revitalize education quality in the city and transform the Greater Rochester community.  That’s my dream.  That’s my vision.  I believe we can do this with the support of the Rochester community – with your support.

What’s happening now?

In September, the eight FREE Partnerships school partnerships have been very busy getting ready for this new school year: 

  • School 7   – First Universalist Church
  • School 10 – Community Christian Church
  • School 12 – Highland Park Neighborhood Association
  • School 20 – Mt Olivet Baptist Church
  • School 22 – First Unitarian Church
  • School 34 – Grace Urban Ministries & Saint Catherine of Siena Church
  • School 50 – St. Joseph’s Church
  • School 52 – Temple B’rith Kodesh

Each of the community partners has been contacting volunteers from last year and recruiting new volunteers to support more students this year.  FREE Partnerships has been actively recruiting additional volunteers.  So far FREE Partnerships has recruited 53 new volunteers:

  • SUNY Brockport fieldwork placements:  40 students in 7 FREE schools
  • SUNY Geneseo fieldwork placements:  in several FREE schools (not included in total)
  • MCC fieldwork placements:  2 students in 1 FREE school
  • SJFC student placements:  5 students in 1 FREE school
  • Community volunteer placements:  6 adults in 5 FREE schools

Most of these volunteers will begin by the end of September.  In my next GlobalGiving report, I’ll report the number of volunteers in each FREE school.

New FREE Partnerships Schools

Several additional Rochester elementary schools are interested in joining the FREE Partnerships Coalition.  Stay tuned for an expansion this fall.

FREE Partnerships Principals Advisory Council

The first meeting of the Principals Advisory Council will be on October 20.  The Advisory Council will give FREE School Principals the opportunity to guide the evolution of FREE Partnerships services.

Expanding Support for Rochester Schools

The FREE Partnerships partners have been primarily focused on providing volunteers to support teachers.  The volunteers make an impact but providing these additional resources for teachers is not enough to achieve the tipping point for school educational excellence.  There are many factors that influence educational achievement.  FREE Partnerships will launch two initiatives this year to achieve educational excellence: 

The WAVE for Success initiative is focused on influencing student peer expectations.  This initiative will help volunteers mentor students to show them the importance of Working hard; having a positive Attitude; having a Vision why school is important, and helping them Enthusiastically commit to being successful in school.

The CALL for Success initiative is focused on influencing parents’ cultural legacies.  This initiative is directed to parents and teachers.  This initiative asks parents to Call their child’s teacher each month; Ask the teacher how their child is doing in school; Listen to the teacher’s comments about how well their child is doing and what areas they need to improve; and then Lead a discussion with their child about their successes in school and what they can do to be an even better student.

These two initiatives will be rolled out in selected FREE schools during this school year.

Strive / Rochester

FREE Partnerships supports in-school tutoring with a heavy slice of mentoring and innovative partnering initiatives such as WAVE for Success and CALL for Success.  However, to achieve educational excellence in Rochester city schools all Rochester community agencies must be actively engaged to pull the key education levers.  There are many facets of a child’s education including pre-K programs, after school programs, summer programs, mentoring programs, and medical and social services support.

Many communities around the country realize they need to better coordinate the provision of all these programs to attain educational excellence.  One effort to coordinate these programs is called Strive, an educational initiative begun in Cincinnati, Ohio (  Rochester leaders are reviewing the Strive framework to see if it will work here.  On September 6, Anne Kress, President of MCC, hosted an Education Forum to engage the support of Rochester community leaders to launch Strive / Rochester.  Stay tuned for further developments . . .

Thanks again for your support -> and please remember the GlobalGiving Bonus Day on October 19!

Bruce Pollock

Executive Director

FREE Partnerships


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Organization Information

Friends of Educational Excellence Partnerships (aka FREE Partnerships)

Location: Pittsford, New York - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Friends of Educational Excellence Partnerships (aka FREE Partnerships)
Project Leader:
Bruce Pollock
Executive Director
Pittsford, New York United States

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