by Justin Kwasa
Partnerships to Uplift Communities, or PUC, National founders Jacqueline Elliot and Ref Rodriguez are still amazed that they are in Rochester, NY.
Together they founded and are running 14 highly successful charter schools in Los Angeles, and they had absolutely no desire to expand out of Southern California. That was until they toured Rochester with Joe Klein, who is now the school’s Board Chair. During their visit they fell in love with the city and envisioned opening a school there. On October 21, 2014, their vision became a reality when PUC Achieve Charter School celebrated its opening with an official ribbon cutting ceremony with students, families, teachers and staff.
True to its name, the charter school really did bring the community together. Among the speakers at the ceremony was Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and Mayor Warren’s executive staff member Allen Williams. Representatives from State Senator Joseph Robach and US Senator Kristen Gillibrand’s office were there. Jacqueline Elliot and Ref Rodriguez even made the 2,500 mile journey from California to celebrate with the staff, parents and students in the cold October weather.
After the ribbon cutting, the students led guests on tours of the school. The building itself serves as a symbol of the transformative change that PUC plans to bring to Northeast Rochester. A mere 10 months ago the building was an abandoned church in disrepair. With the help of many supporters and a flexible construction crew, the building has quickly been transformed into a modern school building with full handicap accessibility.
PUC joins three additional new charter schools that opened in Rochester for the 2014-15 school year. PUC now faces the challenge of adjusting its model to work in a new city and state. Regardless, the founders are confident that their model will work as well in New York as it has in California.
During the ceremony, the school mascot was revealed: the Pioneers, which seems fitting as the founders have expanded from California to New York. Klein joked, “Traditionally Pioneers moved from the east to the west, but these Pioneers are moving from the west to the east.”
To see more pictures from the ribbon cutting, check out our Facebook photo album.
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