Rochester Better Chance is losing its chance - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Fanna Haile-Selassie

Rochester Better Chance is losing its chance

Rochester, MN (KTTC) --

In almost 4 decades, nearly 60 young men from around the country have come to Rochester for a better chance at life. And they did it through education. It's all part of the Rochester Better Chance organization, but now the board may be forced to close its doors.

The program costs about $75,000-$80,000 to bring these students in every year. And with donations slow to come in and little new volunteers, the board may be on its last legs if it doesn't get help soon.

High school can be a challenging time. A time when family support is important. Sophomore Eric Walker is thousands of miles away from his family in California, here in Rochester with the hope of a better future.

"Just get into a good college, have a good career in the future, start a family up."

The same goes for Chicago native Wesley Cammon. It was his teacher and his mom who pushed him to reach for more.

"After high school, there was like nowhere to go. You know, she told me to rise above everybody else, be my own-self."

They're here because of the Better Chance Program that takes teenage boys about to enter high school in poor education districts and places them in better ones. Some former members are now doctors, lawyers, and engineers. But after 38 years of the program, it's on its last legs in Rochester.

"For the community, I think it would lose a gem," says Juan Vasquez.

Vasquez is a former scholar in the program, now the cultural liaison at Friedell Middle school. Taken from the streets of the Bronx, he says the RBC program was a life-changer for him and can still be so for many more students.

"A lot of gangs, a lot of violence, a lot of drugs, a lot prostitution I was seeing. And I did well in school and my family would always push me to do well, but my environment outside of my family, you know, outside of my immediate family, it wasn't really there to sustain somebody that wanted to be successful. Everything around you reminded you of the fact that you were going to be stuck here," Vasquez explains.

What the board needs now is donations from the public and community members stepping up as board members or volunteers for various committees. They need the help before a better chance for these boys is lost.

The Rochester Better Chance board will hold a public meeting in one week at John Marshall High School to discuss the program's challenges and its future. The meeting will start at 6, and anyone interested in the program is strongly encouraged to come.

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