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The Rochester Promise

by Kyle Insixiengmay, Class of 2022

Hi! My name is Kyle and I’m a sophomore at the University of Rochester. I’m a recipient of the Rochester Promise Scholarship, which grants free tuition to eligible graduates of the Rochester City School District (RCSD). Currently, my plan is to be a brain and cognitive science major with a minor in digital media studies and cluster in psychology.

I’ve lived in the city of Rochester my entire life and I’m a RCSD graduate. I graduated from School of the Arts in 2018 as an instrumental music major. I played the trumpet, French horn, and baritone in both the wind and jazz ensemble, and I have over seven years of music experience.

I have a part-time job as a pharmacy technician at the local East Avenue Wegmans pharmacy as well. If I’m not attending class or working, you’ll most likely find me up in the Rush Rhees Library stacks trying to wrap my head around adulthood and college life.

As one of the recipients of the Rochester Promise Scholarship, I’m happy to talk about my experience attending college at a university right in my home city of Rochester.

My three favorite things about Rochester:

1. The campus itself

The campus is easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The older buildings surrounding the Eastman Quadrangle including Rush Rhees Library, Dewey, Bausch and Lomb, Lattimore, and Morey are very aesthetically nice to like at. On a sunny warmer day, the Eastman Quadrangle is usually filled with people hanging out and that really boosts the sense of campus community. Other highlights include sunsets over Rush Rhees, the first real snow fall that happens over Wilson Quad. Rushing to class through Wilson Quad in the winter and trying not to slip and fall is always fun too.

2. The hub of academic activity and the people

There are so many events throughout the school year, it’s almost hard to keep up. One of the most memorable events I went to this year was an artist talk by Ash Arder. Her works were presented in Harnett Gallery in Wilson Commons titled, A Study: Collision Detection. It was something I wasn’t planning on attending and was brought to by a friend, but it turned out to be a really cool experience. One of the best things I’ve found is going to events with friends and having cool new experiences. 

3. The Rochester Curriculum

The Rochester Curriculum is one of the most flexible systems and has allowed me to delve into many of the multiple interests I have, which is great! For my first year I took classes in the fields of digital media, brain and cognitive science, psychology, and philosophy, and I realized that philosophy is not for me, but I did enjoy the other three fields and that has helped me narrow down what I want to do in life and what I really want to study.

What the Rochester Promise Scholarship means to me

As the first person in my family to have the “traditional” college experience, the Rochester Promise Scholarship means the world to me. My dad achieved his associate’s in business and my mom achieved a bachelor’s in nursing, and this was all done while they were both raising me when I was younger. They didn’t really have the whole living away from home on a college campus experience.

The Rochester Promise Scholarship has allowed me to have the opportunity to begin to give back to my own family, who has cared for me my whole life. My parents first immigrated to the US in the 80s when they were only two or three years old, along with my grandparents. They came from refugee camps in Thailand, and they relocated here in Rochester. From there, my parents had to navigate growing up in the United States as first-and-a-half generation immigrants. Then in 2000 I was born when my parents were only 16, and the focus of the rest of their lives has been to care for me. They ensured I had opportunities they didn’t have in their own lives. The Rochester Promise Scholarship granted me the chance to try to make the most out of my life to give back to them.

Over my first year at the University of Rochester, I’ve come to the realization that part of my life has come full circle, since I was born at Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center. It feels like fate that I wasn’t born at one of the many surrounding hospitals in the Greater Rochester area. I’m back where it all started. The Rochester Promise Scholarship to me is a part of my human identity and the culmination of the last 19 years of my life. Sort of like Avengers Endgame (and the 21 movies that came before it).

Connection between the city and the University

It’s sort of funny, but the University and the city are much more interconnected than I had originally thought before attending school here. The University is one of the largest employers in the Rochester area, mainly because of its expansive medical centers throughout the greater Rochester area. Additionally, many of the key highlights and landmarks of the city find themselves tied with the University. This includes the Eastman School of Music, the Memorial Art Gallery, Strong Memorial Hospital, and so much more. Before I was a student here, I didn’t realize how many things in my life were connected. My high school, School of the Arts, is located in the former Eastman male dormitories. The Memorial Art Gallery was right across the street and the Eastman School of Music was only a ten-minute walk away and is home to the best musicians in the world, some of whom I’ve had the opportunity to meet and see through School of the Arts.

Poverty levels in the Rochester City School District (RCSD) presents a barrier for students from higher education and success. However, the University helps combat that and offers assistance to local students. One such example is the The Rochester Promise Scholarship.

The University has done a lot of other great work with the RCSD. The RCSD is known to be one of the lower performing districts in New York State, especially compared to neighboring districts, but the circumstances in the RCSD I feel are incomparable to other districts. I’ve had a rewarding experience as a graduate from the RCSD and I feel that the University connection played a large part in that. In high school, Eastman students would regularly come perform for us and the Eastman School offered many high school music programs that my friends enrolled in, such as the Eastman pathways program.

East High School in Rochester was on the verge of shutting down and was known for being the “bad” school, but the University of Rochester partnered with the school to start “All in at East High,” an initiative to revamp the curriculum, increase graduation rates, and improve the culture of the school. It was transformed to once again be a high school that students are proud of attending. My dad is an alumnus from East High School, so the transformation was a call back to when he attended the school.

I believe that the connection and community between the city and the University is very important, as the culture of one is rooted historically with the other. Keeping the connection alive keeps the history of Rochester alive. This relationship between the University and the city needs to maintained as a beacon of hope for future generation growing up in the city of Rochester.

Advice for high school students!

If you are like me the summer before starting college, you probably are addicted to those “tips for college” or “10 college hacks to make your first year great” videos on YouTube and don’t want to admit it. After experiencing my first year of college the biggest and most important advice I can give is to not stress about making things perfect. Things will never go the way you want them to and that’s okay! Part of the college experience is that transition to adulthood and one of the first lessons of adulthood is to be adaptable. Being able to go with the flow will make moving in and getting comfortable so much easier. Eventually you’ll get comfortable and used to the college routine.

The only other advice I have is to be ready and open to meeting so many new people. One of the best parts about being a first year is accessibility to meeting so many new people. Everyone is going to be just as anxious about meeting new people. So, go out and make friends with your floormates and meet people through clubs and other activities. It’s simple, but one of the highlights of my day is just seeing people I have met walking around campus and sharing a brief hello, or quick small talk. The campus may seem small, but meeting new people is always fun and rewarding.

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