RIT-Rochester Prep High School Partnership

Rochester Institute of Technology's partnership with Rochester Prep High School is a model for preparing urban youth for successful college careers. Collaboratively designed by RIT and Rochester Prep, and facilitated by the K-12 University Center, the partnership brings high school students onto the university's campus for a wide variety of academic, social and cocurricular activities. By the time RPHS students graduate, they are skilled at navigating the often-baffling twists and turns of college life.

The Partnership Story

A longtime 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, Zarrella made the decision in 2011 to cast his support behind an upcoming charter school, Rochester Prep High School. Part of the charter school network of Uncommon Schools, RPHS appeared to Zarrella to be a winner. To secure that hunch, he approached former RIT President William Destler with the offer of a gift to RIT to be used to enhance the success of those 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: 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 at RIT, beginning with a freshman-year campus scavenger hunt and moving through introductions to various majors and associated careers, hands-on experience in labs and studios, and participation in campus events such as the First Robotics competition and the annual hackathon. Through guided exploration of multiple dimensions of the college experience, RIT gives these students a head start in developing identities as a college student.

Partnership Mission

Each school brings what it does best to the partnership table.

  • The informing purpose of the partnership among Uncommon Schools and RIT is to enhance the probability of college entrance, success and graduation for Rochester Prep High School students
  • Partnership activities 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 — faculty, staff, students and facilities — to enrich the college preparatory experience for RPHS students with the goal of enhancing graduation from any college or university

RIT-Sponsored Activities

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

Name Department Capstone Title Capstone Year
Makini Beck Sociology Environmental Injustice 2018, 2019
Civic Engagement Through a Sociological Lens 2019
Michael Coleman Chemistry RIT Brownfields 2018
Eric Hittinger & Eric Williams Public Policy Sustainability “RUber” (or RTS + Uber) 2018
Chris Homan Computer Science Coding Computer Games 2017
André Hudson Microbiology Isolation/Identification of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria 2018, 2019
Josh Meltzer Photojournalism Senior Photojournalism Project 2017
Environmental Injustice 2018
Introduction to Photojournalism 2019
Doug Merrill Biomedical Sciences Investigations in Antibiotic Resistance in Food 2017
Robert Osgood Biomedical Sciences An Infectious Disease Investigation of Mosquitoes 2018
Ian Schreiber Game Design & Development Experimental Game Development 2017
“Card Clash”: A Computer Game 2018
“Monster Doctor”: An Original Computer Game 2019
Laurence Sugarman Biomedical Sciences Explorations in Health Care 2019

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.