Pillars of Hope: Youth Pathway to Careers

On May 18, the All-America City of Rochester, NY, celebrated Pillars Day which is the culminating year-end event to celebrate mentorship for Rochester City School District students at select middle schools. The City of Rochester’s Pillars of Hope program, now in its 17th year, is unique in helping fifth and sixth graders think about their future.

Pillars of Hope was started in 2007 by Mayor Bill Johnson and is still going strong under the Administration of Mayor Malik D. Evans. The concept connects the city’s Latino and Black professionals with young students who deserve personalized guidance. These professionals adopt an elementary school class and visit for one hour each month to talk about their jobs, their achievements, challenges and experiences. A Pillars team consists of ten professionals who implement activities to:

  • Develop and increase students’ love of learning;
  • Impart knowledge about higher education, careers, and entrepreneurship;
  • Share how they overcome challenges;
  • Share their personal journeys in pursuit of education, entrepreneurship or career goals.

“Our program gives youth hope and opportunity. The pillars are leaders who care about students as they spend quality time with the students each month. In return, the students are eager to see them walk through the door every month. Students’ eyes and smiles widen at the sight of our pillars. It’s truly heartwarming and inspirational,” said Liliana Ruiz, Director of Special Projects for Rochester’s Mayor’s Office, and program director for Pillars of Hope.

As a former youth leader himself, Mayor Malik Evans has supported the program since his election and feels that “Our pillars are the epitome of servant leaders, said Mayor Evans. They take time out of their busy schedules to engage, encourage, and educate kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods who don’t often see people who look like them doing positive things in the community. This program puts the very best of Rochester’s Black and Brown communities in a position to offer the example from their own lives to help children in Rochester reach their full potential. I’m honored to continue the Pillars of Hope legacy and I look forward to many more Pillars Days.”

At Pillars Day, mentors and kids were celebrated with refreshments, entertainment and presentations. Over the years the program has grown to include 358 students and approximately 70 Pillar volunteers, making the program a shining example of how community residents can give back to uplift, applaud, and mentor Rochester youth.

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