A long-time friend of RIT and a trustee since 2004, Ron Zarrella has worked tirelessly to improve educational opportunities for Rochester youth. After years of working with blue-ribbon education committees, local schools, and the Rochester business community, Ron made the decision in 2011 to cast his support behind an upcoming charter school, Rochester Prep High School (RPHS). Part of the charter school network Uncommon Schools, RPHS appeared to Zarrella to be a winner. To secure that hunch, he approached RIT President William Destler with the offer of a gift to RIT to be used to enhance the success of RPHS students.
After two years of preparation, RPHS opened in the fall of 2014. The 2018 graduating class handily fulfilled the first challenges of the school’s mission of the school: all students will graduate from high school, be accepted into and graduate from college.
RIT’s role within this partnership is to supplement the fine education that RPHS provides with increasingly focused experiences on the RIT campus, beginning with a freshman year campus scavenger hunt and moving through introductions to RIT majors and associated careers to hands-on experience in RIT labs and studios to full participation in campus events, like the First Robotics competition and the annual girls’ hackathon. Through guided exploration of multiple dimensions of the college experience, RIT gives these high school seniors a head-start in developing their identities as college students.
Each school brings what it does best to the partnership table.
The informing purpose of the partnership between Uncommon Schools and RIT is to enhance the probability of college entrance, success, and graduation for Rochester Prep High School students.
Partnership activities will focus on three areas of preparedness that RIT and RPHS have identified as essential to long-term success in college and beyond: academic, psychosocial, and cultural.
RIT will deploy its resources—its faculty, staff, students, and facilities—to enrich the college preparatory experience for RPHS students with the goal of enhancing their graduation from any college or university.
The Capstone Experience
The Capstone Experience marks the culmination of this four-year relationship and a transition to college-level work for the students. In the spring of their junior year, interested and eligible students select a subject area to pursue on the RIT campus the following fall. From late August until early January, groups of two to four RPHS seniors attend a 3-4 hour weekly class working with an RIT professor on a specially designed research project that simulates work in a college course. The capstone class builds upon the students’ interests and skill levels while introducing them to the academic and behavioral expectations of college. The projects have varied from designing a computer game with a team of RIT students to isolating antibiotic-resistant bacteria to studying and documenting current Rochester issues.
Capstone Classes 2018-2020
Civic Engagement Through a Sociological Lens
Eric Hittinger & Eric Williams
Public Policy Sustainability
“RUber” (or RTS + Uber)
Coding Computer Games
Isolation/Identification of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
Senior Photojournalism Project
Introduction to Photojournalism
Investigations in Antibiotic Resistance in Food
An Infectious Disease Investigation of Mosquitoes
Game Design & Development
Experimental Game Development
“Card Clash”: A Computer Game
“Monster Doctor”: An Original Computer Game
Explorations in Health Care
By inviting Rochester Prep students onto campus, we convert alien territory to familiar ground. Through guided exploration of multiple dimensions of college life, these students get a head start in developing their identities as college students, in being college-ready. By the time they graduate from RPHS, they will have interacted with every college, division, and constituency of RIT, at which point they will be RPHS graduates and also, effectively, citizens of RIT. Their close relationship will serve them well at whatever college or university they attend.