Youth Programs

Mentoring Program at Lorraine Academy
The Rotary Club of Buffalo program is the longest continuous youth mentoring effort in the city of Buffalo, established in 1990. It is a partnership with Buffalo Public School #72, Lorraine Elementary School, serving children, grades K through 8, who live primarily in the neighborhoods of south Buffalo.

Successful mentoring is based on the relationship that is developed between the mentor and mentee; requiring frequent and sustained contact over the course of a full school year. Over time, the relationship takes on a life of its own – creating in some cases, a life-long relationship. Mentoring is based on the teaching philosophy that the “whole child”  needs to educated.  Mentoring sessions often include discussions on personal and family concerns along with academic and behavioral challenges.

Buffalo Rotary Club’s mentoring program is site-based – meaning our volunteers travel to the school and meet with students inside the building and during school hours.  Volunteers commit to a minimum of one contact hour every week.

Mentors are recruited from the Rotary Club of Buffalo, Trocaire College, Erie Community College, and Mercy Center, among others. Each mentor must complete a three-hour introductory training/orientation session before working with a student. On completion of training, a mentor can specify what age group he or she would like to work with and then program coordinators can match the interests and personalities of students with a compatible mentor. Generally, boys are matched with men and girls are matched with women.  

Students are recommended for participation in the program by teachers, school counselors, or administrators. The mentee’s parents must give permission for their child to participate.

This program offers new and veteran Rotarians an opportunity to get involved in a different way. They don’t need to open their checkbook – just their heart.  They have the opportunity to play a role in an important and life-changing experience with a youth.  As we say in the program – mentor one student, change two lives. Generally, we recruit between 15 – 25 volunteers for each school year.  In addition to weekly mentoring sessions, the program offers several group activities.

Mentoring is not for everyone. Working with youth can be very rewarding, but can be challenging and frustrating. Success is not always clearly defined and the obstacles can be overwhelming. For those reasons, we have another saying in the program – mentoring is a journey, not a destination.

Youth Exchange
Rotary Youth Exchange is an international exchange program open to 15 – 18 year olds who wish to spend up to a year living with host families abroad and attending school in a different country.

The Rotary Club of Buffalo is part of the youth exchange program of District 7090, encompassing Southern Ontario and Western New York.  The club arranges for student exchanges with 20 countries around the world, in all continents except for Africa.

Students have the opportunity to learn a new way of living, a great deal about themselves and maybe even a new language. They are ambassadors teaching the people they meet about our country, culture and ideas.  Young people who have a desire to make our world a better place will be presented with opportunities in any one of 20 different countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America.  The international organization of Rotary brings together students from all corners of our world in the spirit of friendship and understanding.

The Temagami experience for all exchange students in District 7090 is the event they love and talk about for years.  It’s conducted at a wilderness setting in North Central Ontario, during February, in a safe and healthy environment.  Students are instructed in leadership and outdoor survival skills that will require them to be innovative, show initiative, develop team work, and accept responsibility for their actions.  The program includes a cross country expedition where leadership and outdoor survival skills learned will be applied.

New exchange students picture is of our new inbound student from Finland (Matti Pousi) who will go to City Honors – he is on far left. The other three are our RETURNING outbounds: Alexis Miziak went to Japan (middle left), Rumiz Haq went to Sweden and Lydia Fisher went to Brazil (far right). All three outbounds had graduated from City Honors last year. Japanese student is Satomi Matsazuki from Kanazawa. She will also go to City Honors.

For more information or to apply go to

Game Changers

Buffalo Rotary is a sponsor of Game Changers, a summer youth development/crime prevention program that was created in 2012.  Offered in Buffalo, in the Delavan/Grider area, and Niagara Falls, in the Hyde Park area.  The program, held on Friday evenings for eight weeks during the summer, this basketball and character-building program is aimed at involving young people in something positive.

Sponsored by federal and local law enforcement agencies along with other community organizations, the program teaches participants basketball skills, as well as offering motivational sessions from prominent local figures and athletes.

Game Changers was motivated by a meeting held by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and concerned citizens in the Delavan/Cambridge community following the fatal shooting of one of their residents, a 20-year-old African American man.  This East Side community has been plagued by violence, drug dealers, gang activity and high rates of unemployment.  Mayor Brown met with Federal DEA Resident Agent in Charge, Dale Kasprzyk to discuss a model similar to the Saturday Night Lights Violence Prevention program which was successful in New York City. The two agreed to pilot a similar program.

The program’s goals are to help reduce youth-related violence and substance abuse.  Game Changers is for girls and boys ages 9 to 18 at all skill levels of basketball. The weekly sessions include basketball and life-skill instruction, as well as other fitness activities during the “vulnerable” hours of 6:00 to 9:00 on Friday nights.

The sports component helps achieve the results of decreasing violence, conflict resolution, effective communication, team building and discipline only if other positive alternatives are offered and participants engaged. To accomplish this, the City of Buffalo has partnered with several agencies and organizations that provide educational, vocational training, health care, mental health services, employment, counseling, mentoring, substance abuse treatment and gang intervention.