With wide eyes and excited smiles, hundreds of Rochester elementary school students looked for just the right way to make this Mother’s Day extra special for the special woman in their lives, with a helping hand from people across the community.
For the seventh consecutive year, a team of community volunteers, led for the last four of those years by attorneys at Harter Secrest & Emery LLP (HSE), a full-service business law firm with operations throughout New York, once again partnered with the Rochester City School District to conduct the special Mother’s Day Jewelry Shop program in two local schools.
Approximately 400 students in grades K-6 at Schools 29 and 41 took part in the program, which rewards students who achieve attendance and behavior goals by inviting them to a special shop event, where they can select Mother’s Day gifts from among hundreds of pieces of donated costume jewelry. The event was co-chaired by Harter Secrest & Emery attorneys Erika N.D. Stanat and Jodi Reynolds, and Kate Cummins, a former associate at Harter Secrest & Emery and current principal of Invenio Recruiting.
The program aims to address issues of financial need and encourage school attendance and good behavior on the part of Rochester City School District students. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the childhood poverty rate in Rochester was 50.5 percent at the end of 2016.
“This event has become as meaningful for Harter Secrest & Emery and all of the volunteers from across the community as it has for the students,” Stanat said. “When you see how excited the students are when they choose their gifts, it is certainly rewarding. But, when you talk to the teachers and administrators about how the shop incentivizes stronger classroom habits, you understand how this program can, in a small way, help the education process.”
In order to earn the opportunity to attend the shops set up at each school, students must have a 95 percent attendance rate, must maintain a record of good behavior, and must have earned a certain number of points based on the incentive-based, long-term programs at their school.
“This is a great way to recognize the hard work of our students, and it provides them an opportunity to give back to the moms who are the students’ support system,” said Barbara Deane-Williams, Superintendent for the Rochester City School District. “Harter Secrest & Emery is a community partner that understands the importance of relationship building between students, parents, and our schools. I know the children in the City of Rochester have the capacity to achieve at the highest levels, and this is a perfect example of students using their voice by showing up and taking charge of learning.”
The Mother’s Day Jewelry Shop program is supported by the tireless work of a network of volunteers, a giving community spirit, and the generous partnership of Mann’s Jewelers. In support of the program, volunteers collect, clean, sort, and bag donations of gently-used costume jewelry for the shops. Mann’s has assisted with the collection efforts in the past, accepting donations in their stores, while also cleaning, sorting and bagging donated items. This year, Mann’s repaired and replaced batteries in the collection of watches donated to the effort, providing replacement watch batteries and making small repairs, as well as providing neck and wrist forms to display items at the shops as they would appear in a retail store.
“This is a true year-round community effort,” said Reynolds. “So many people have given their time, not just today, but in the weeks and months leading up to today, so that we can help make this a special celebration for the students. From collecting donations to hours spent cleaning and sorting an inventory of thousands of pieces of jewelry, the people and organizations who support this program have been remarkable.”
“Elementary school is a foundational time for students, when important lessons and habits can take root,” added Cummins. “The students have to earn the right to participate in the program – they have to put in the work, which is important. The students who participate are proud of what they accomplished.”
Now in its seventh year in Rochester, the Mother’s Day Jewelry Shop program has been a remarkable success. From 2012 – 2014, the program was run in one school. In 2015, the program was expanded to include at least two schools each year. In its first seven years, the program has enabled qualifying students to select more than 3,000 pieces of jewelry as Mother’s Day gifts for their mothers or female care-givers.