Category Archives: Good news

Ms. Lori’s experience at School 22

Ms. Lori is among the many great volunteers at School 22 in Rochester, giving about 2 hours every week to help several second-graders, and one third-grader, 1-on-1 with their reading.

The problem: Other students in the class come up to her. “Can you help me today?” they ask. She doesn’t have time to work 1-on-1 with everyone.

If only there were enough volunteers. Certainly many people aren’t available between 8 am and 4:15 pm (the school day and the after-school program time). But there may be false ideas that get in the way.

Adults may fear that they have to have a teaching background. They don’t.

They might think they need a lot of free time to help. But there are unfilled needs that are just 45 minutes a week.

They might wonder what it’s really like. So I’ve created a 2-minute video showing Ms. Lori’s experience at School 22.

To watch the video, click here.

To learn more about this community-school partnership, click here.


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Filed under Being grateful, Good news, Rochester City School District

Sharing beauty

The beauty of nature begs to be shared.

The gardens at the George Eastman House, Rochester NY.

The red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.

Gorgeous flowers at Cornell Plantations in   Ithaca, NY.

(Updated:) I shared these photos (on handmade notecards and matted and ready to frame) at the Metro Justice Alternative Fair, held annually on a Friday night and Saturday at the beginning of December.

For other Farnum Fotos images, see

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Filed under Being grateful, Good news

City students eager to learn

At 8:15 one recent morning, I walked into an elementary school classroom. One of the  second-grade girls I tutor saw me and her face lit up. I sat with her and another second-grade girl, with worksheets about words with “ay” or “ai” in them. The girls vied for my attention, each wanting to show me each answer they figured out.

“Brain rhymes with train!”

“Did you know that ‘ay’ is usually at the end of a word?”

Around the room, two other volunteers and the teacher were working closely with other students.

At 8:50 a.m., I was sitting at a table in a classroom down the hall. My fourth-grade buddy walked in and smiled at me. She happily read aloud to me a story about a pilot and answered questions about it. We talked about what we knew about planes and flying. She told me she had flown to Puerto Rico. We made inferences about the pilot, since that concept was our focus for that session.

At 9:25 a.m., I sat waiting for a group of fifth-graders to walk in. The teacher was rounding up the students, all at the same reading level, for our intervention session. A boy whom I usually work with peeked his head into the classroom and darted back out. “Ms. Chris is here!” I heard him say. That was at least my third smile in just over an hour.

This is not always the image you see or hear about in the Rochester City School District.

But that’s where I was, at a city elementary school. I was one of 42 volunteers in that building this week, providing 111 hours of one-on-one or small-group support. As we do each week.

My inference is that low state test scores don’t sum up the students or their effort.

And I am grateful for the students’ excitement and eagerness to learn.

(If you are willing to volunteer in city schools, I’d be glad to connect you. E-mail

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Weekend food for needy children

Poor children can get free breakfast and lunch at school. So how well do they eat on weekends?

Colleagues of mine heard of an effort elsewhere that sends home nonperishable food with needy students on Fridays. In a wonderful coincidence, we discovered that Foodlink (the regional food bank) has a grant to start BackPack Food programs here. Studies have found that when kids eat better on the weekend, they do better in school.

There were obstacles to getting the program going. The application required a pile of documents. Details seemed to change each time we talked to a coordinator at Foodlink. We had to work out delivery plans. My church is sponsoring the program at the two schools where we provide volunteer tutors, and we had to decide whether we could afford the fees.

But thanks to great work by Tracy Smith and others, it’s happening. Today we delivered the first bags of food to one school. It looks like everything will be in place for our other partner school to start in January.

I’m grateful that people were willing to try something new that will help children have nutritious food.

ImageImageThis shows what was in one bag (for one student).

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