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April 9, 2014

Group holds Hometown Hoedown

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — A group of 12 high school students who graduated from the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Youth Leadership Retreat Project last June have teamed up to put on the Hometown Hoedown event for students at all three high schools.

Rochester Youth Leadership Retreat Project organizers say the program strives to create an experience for young people that fosters leadership, community involvement and civic responsibility in the greater Rochester community. During the retreat — held June 22-23 — students explored the Leader Dogs for the Blind, local law enforcement agencies and the courts, the history of Van Hoosen Farms, the Crittenton Hospital Medical Center and the Paint Creek Center for the Arts. After graduating from the leadership program, participating students are expected to continue with their community service throughout the school year, using the skills they learned during the program. Each year, students determine the projects they want to create in teams or as a group.

Michelle Lo Piccolo, 18, of Rochester, said she suggested the idea of the Hometown Hoedown to her peers in the 2013 Youth Leadership Retreat Program graduating class.

“From there, everyone just ran with the idea. It was awesome working with my leadership class because it is amazing what can be accomplished when you fill a room full of determined people,” she said in an email.

Lo Piccolo said she and the others in her leadership class wanted to put on an event to give back to the community.

“Our leadership class learned what it meant to be a member of a community, and giving back to a community that has given so much to us is what it is all about,” she said in an email.

The Hometown Hoedown, which the leadership team hopes will increase the involvement of local Rochester teens in the community, will be held 6-11 p.m. May 9 at Van Hoosen Farm’s newly restored barn.

“The overall goal for the Hometown Hoedown is to bring the three high schools together as a community for a charity event that benefits our great city that we all love so much,” said Nicholas Ang, a 2013 retreat graduate and a junior at Rochester High School.

The main event, according to Ang, is the traditional square dancing, followed by music from a DJ. Other attractions, such as zorbing — rolling downhill inside an orb — Van Hoosen Farm tours, food trucks, roasting marshmallows, a movie and the releasing of sky lanterns, will also be offered. Proceeds for the night will be donated to the Leader Dogs for the Blind Foundation.

“Leader Dogs was one of our stops during   the retreat, and it was the one experience that really struck a chord in each of us,” Lo Piccolo said in an email.

“We spent a couple hours at Leader Dogs, and they had a camp there for kids about our age who were visually impaired, so we got to spend time with them, and then after that, we got to tour the facility, meet some of the dogs and trainers, and even do a test run while blindfolded where the dogs walked us around. It was really cool. We felt a connection to the Leader Dogs after that event, so we decided that would be our charity of choice,” said Ang.

Tickets for the event, which are $10, will be sold to high school students during lunch at each school.