Each year, TE Rochester hires 12 paid youth organizers to work 12-15 hours per week organizing creative initiatives to better their community. Since 2003, hundreds of Rochester youth employed by TE have engaged thousands of their peers, adults, and community leaders in youth-led initiatives.

At the Genesee Street site, TE youth organizers host open mic nights, youth brunches, PeaceBQs, and other safe social gatherings where youth use the performing arts to share ideas and inspiring, positive messages. They also organize and facilitate group sessions and forums that create deep and meaningful dialogue among youth and between youth and adults, community leaders, educators, and police.

Sen. Gillibrand and Mayor Warren at TE

TE youth organizers work on policy initiatives that engage public officials, bring youth voice to decision making, and work to create institutional and systemic change.

Current citywide initiatives include:

  • A "Solutions Not Suspensions" effort to develop more constructive discipline policies and school climates within the Rochester City School District.
  • A "Youth Police Dialogue Project" that facilitates dialogue between the youth and officers in the Rochester Police Department.

Police-youth dialogue


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Connections: How to discipline students?: A TE youth organizer voices the youth perspective and advocates for change in how the Rochester school district handles discipline. (7/29/15/15 WXXI News)

Work to ensure Baltimore riots don't happen here: Teen Empowerment brings police and teens together in dialogue in Rochester. (4/28/15 D&C)

Making things better: Teen Empowerment: A profile of TE's work in Rochester. (4/15/15 D&C)

Finding teens jobs, one at a time: The editorial board talks about TE's efforts to boost teen employment in the city. (4/11/15 D&C)

School-to-prison pipeline: The RCSD's over-suspension issue: TE youth organizer Freemonta Strong represents youth voice in the conversation. (1/26/15 WXXI Need to Know)

Senator Gillibrand, Mayor Warren learn about TE program: Kirstin Gillibrand and Lovely Warren visit the TE site on Genesee Street. (11/14/14 WXXI News)

Question Bridge: Black Males: Discussion exhibit at RoCo hosted by TE youth organizers. (11/13/14 City Newspaper)

Teen Empowerment youth organizers move forward: Profile of three youth organizers and how TE changed their lives. (7/14/14 ch. 8)

Teen Empowerment holds youth march: Coverage of TE's March for Jobs & Justice in southwest Rochester. (6/12/14 Channel 8)

Suburban Outlaw: Progress powered by teens (5/29/14 D&C)

Program aims to solve teen jobs problem: An article about TE's youth-driven initiative that partners young people with a coalition of business owners. (5/7/14 D&C)


RIT & TE Lift Up Youth to Lift Up Our Community

Success Means Little Without My Community

Youth Jobs Collaborative in Southwest Quadrant

Youth Police Unity Project Process and Impact

TE Top 10 Accomplishments in Rochester

Creating Peaceful Communities Through Youth Leadership

Can’t Do It Without Youth

View more powerful videos on the TeenEmpowermentTV YouTube channel.


TE Rochester invites you to experience the online exhibit 1,000 Words Inside the Eyes: Stories of Struggle and Hope featuring twelve former TE youth organizers.

The exhibit presents stories about coming of age in Rochester amidst daunting struggles. Larger than life-sized black and white portraits of young people are accompanied by audio recordings from their teen years and from today as young adults. They sharing their realities, triumphs, struggles, and visions moving forward and helping to create a stronger community.

The original physical exhibit was hosted by Joy Gallery in the summer of 2014. Additional project partners included Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester Medical Center, RoCo, and the City of Rochester. Special thanks to Glen Hintz of RIT’s Arts Department for creating the online platform.

Image from the 1000 Words exhibit

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This unique and powerful event is held each year at the Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center and brings together over 500 TE supporters to celebrate Teen Empowerment's work with the young people of Rochester. Sign up to receive an invitation to next year's luncheon!

Many thanks to all who joined us for Teen Empowerment Rochester's 2015 Annual Community Luncheon on May 7. The day was a great success and raised $44,500 to support our work! View images from the day below.

Our Lives Matter photo

Event Photo Images

Event Highlight Video

Opening Performance Video


Genesee Street Mural

TE commissioned master artist Eder Muniz to work with 5 youth apprentices with close ties to the Southwest neighborhood to install a mural one block from our storefront site.

The mural replaced a drab concrete wall to radiate a spirit of hope and pride, spreading the visual reach of community engagement down Genesee Street where neighbors and students must walk past boarded-up and burnt-out houses, street fights, and drug dealing every day. TE surveyed nearly 100 youth in the neighborhood to develop the concept for the mural, which portrays people bringing what they have to offer to move community forward together. 

Photo of mural

The mural was made possible by contributions from NYSCA, Arts & Cultural Council of Greater Rochester, The Synthesis Collaborative, and McMannis Painting.

Watch this powerful performance by Shanterra Randle, whose poem is inscribed on the mural.

Peace March 2012

In June 2012, we marched in honor of Lawrence Richardson—our friend, colleague and mentor to next generation YOs—who was killed on April 9 of that year. This video, a message to the shooter, reflects our wish that the devastation of his murder can be transformed into hope.


TE youth organizers created original chants with the help of percussionist and performance artist Topher Holt. The voices and unbounded energy of hundreds of youth and supportive adults drew an enthusiastic audience all along Jefferson Ave. and Flint St. with messages of unity and peace.

Peace March

Southwest Neighborhood Youth Summit

The youth organizers used the SW Neighborhood Youth Summit to challenge their peers to understand and approach “the game of life” in a new way—no longer playing into traps that get people stuck and fuel violence, and instead, building unity and power to get the resources and attention their community needs.

Demetris raps at Youth Summit

The YOs collaboratively created a one-hour show that included an original play, monologues, spoken word, hip hop, and speeches.

Male-Female Dialogues

Thousands of Rochester youth participating in TE focus groups have consistently identified teen pregnancy and dysfunctional, and sometimes violent, “drama” in relationships between young women and men as barriers in their lives. A total of 30 young men and women joined TE youth organizers for this Male-Female Dialogue series and participated in 8 parallel sessions with males and females meeting separately and 5 sessions together. In the sessions, they examined and built understanding around issues that contribute to relationship drama that often leads to street conflicts, domestic violence, and teen pregnancy.

Male-female dialogue session

TE enlisted the support of “community elders” —six women and seven men—to participate in the sessions, which brought the richness and community wholeness of a rite of passage. Watch youth talk about their experience here.

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Hanif Abdul-Wahid
Community Liaison
Monroe County Department of Planning and Development

Scott Burdett
Vice President, Marketing/Brokerage Services
Flaum Management Co.

Jeffrey Clark, Sr.
Vice President, Global Commercial Banking
Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Rick DeJesus-Rueff. Ed.D.
Vice President, Student Affairs & Diversity Initiatives
St. John Fisher College

Jonathon Hand
Problem Solver Reporter
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Donna Harris, Ph.D.
Research Analyst, Rochester City School District

Wayne Harris
Deputy Chief, Rochester Police Department

Judith W. Kaplan
President, Community Planning Associates

Caroline Edwards-Morrison
City Court Judge
Rochester City Court

Edward J. Nowak
Retired Public Defender, Monroe County

Danielle Ponder, Esq.
Assistant Public Defender, Monroe County / Artist

Bob Tobin
Professor, Simon School of Business
University of Rochester

Eric Van Dusen
Director of Community Initiatives, NeighborWorks Rochester

Jason Willis, Ph.D.
Associate Researcher, Department of Criminal Justice
Rochester Institute of Technology

Jeremy Wolk, Esq.
Partner, Nixon Peabody LLP

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