As people around the world prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, 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 give students at three city schools a special opportunity to honor the special women in their lives.
Nearly 1,000 students in grades K-6 at Schools 7, 34, and 41 took part in the Mother’s Day Jewelry Shop, a program that 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 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 owner 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 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, more than 52 percent of Rochester children under the age of 18 were living below the poverty level in 2014. In fact, the Rochester City School District has the highest poverty rate among the Big 5 school districts in New York State.
“Being able to give a token of love and appreciation on Mother’s Day is something that is, unfortunately, beyond the grasp of many children and families in our community,” Stanat said. “Through this community-wide effort, we are not only providing Rochester students the opportunity to give a gift to someone special, we are reinforcing the importance of school attendance and good behavior in a way that is meaningful to the students.”
In order to earn the opportunity to attend the shops set up at each school, students must have a 90 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.
“Increased student attendance is critical to improving academic achievement,” said Interim Superintendent Linda Cimusz. “I cannot think of a more thoughtful Mother’s Day gift than one earned by a child who worked hard to maintain good attendance and positive behavior in school. The District is extremely grateful to the partners at Harter Secrest & Emery, Mann’s Jewelers, and the many community volunteers who have supported our students through the Mother’s Day Jewelry Shop for the past five years.”
The program is supported by the tireless work of a team 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 assists with the collection efforts as well, accepting donations in their stores, while also cleaning, sorting and bagging donated items, providing replacement watch batteries and small jewelry repairs, as well as providing neck and wrist forms to display items at the shops as they would appear in a retail store.
“The collaboration that goes into making this event a memorable day for the students is remarkable,” said Reynolds. “We have had teams of volunteers collecting, cleaning and sorting, and preparing nearly 1,800 items for the last several weeks, so that the students will have a choice when they come to the shops. Thanks to the generosity of the people in our community, we have amassed an inventory of more than 5,000 pieces of jewelry to help support the program for the next several years.”
Once the students browsed and selected their gifts, they were able to make a gift tag or card, and then have the gift wrapped for their special recipient. In all, a team of 37 volunteers were on hand at the three schools to staff and operate the shops. The volunteers included the mothers of each of the three co-chairs.
“We have all been honored to be a part of this project for the past five years, and seeing the faces of the children as they pick out their gift is indescribable,” added Cummins. “Being able to share this day with our own moms made everything more special.”
Now in its fifth 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. Last year, the program was expanded with program volunteers staffing the shop and supplying jewelry to students at School 41 and supplying jewelry to School 17 to enable it to run its own program. Based on the program’s success and the volunteer team’s jewelry collection efforts, two new schools were added this year with program volunteers fully staffing shops and supplying jewelry to schools 41, 34, and 7. In its first five years, the program has enabled qualifying students to select approximately 2,750 Mother’s Day gifts for their mothers or female care-givers.
In addition to expanding to three schools this year, event organizers also added an essay contest for 5th and 6th Grade students. Students submitting the top essay at each grade level in each school will receive prizes and will be awarded pizza parties for their classes as well.