REF Partner Programs

At REF, we're proud to support several "Partner Programs," including the Dr. Walter Cooper Academy Fund, the Wilson Outdoor Club Fund, One Step Closer, and School Gardens. Read more about each of our Partner Programs below. 

For more information on our Partner Programs or to start your own REF Partner Program, contact Stuart Hencke at or 585-271-5790 ext. 1

Dr. Walter Cooper Academy Fund

Photo courtesy of Myers Creative Imaging, Antithesis Advertising, and Cohber Press.

Photo courtesy of Myers Creative Imaging, Antithesis Advertising, and Cohber Press.

Since the opening of the Dr. Walter Cooper Academy School No. 10 in 2009, REF has provided resources to its students under the advisement of Dr. Walter Cooper.

The REF Dr. Walter Cooper Academy Fund provided micro-libraries to students and their families during the summers of 2011, 2012 and 2013. Dr. Cooper personally delivered books and talked to families of students in need of extra reading support. This effort helped to stem summer learning loss and increased reading proficiency. The Fund has also supported a Math Club for  students in grades 3, 4 and 5.

A prime focus has been field trips, including full-grade trips to the Corning Museum of Glass and the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. These trips and activities support Dr. Cooper's vision of allowing all students to experience travel and the rich resources surrounding them. 

In October 2014, Dr. Everett Williams, a retired educator from Buffalo and a childhood friend of Dr. Cooper, announced a multi-year gift to support literacy, field trips and other enrichment at the school. The Fund also is supported by individual contributions. 

Dr. Walter Cooper Academy is named in honor of Dr. Walter Cooper, a former member of the New York State Board of Regents who has exhibited a lifetime commitment to educational excellence. Dr. Cooper, a retired Eastman Kodak scientist, was the founder of Action for a Better Community and the founder and president of the Rochester Urban League. Dr. Cooper also is a member of the REF Advisory Board.

Interested in making a contribution to this fund? Please click the button below and designate your donation to "Dr. Walter Cooper Academy Fund." Thank you!

Wilson Outdoor Club Fund

Photo from the Wilson Outdoor Club Facebook Page

Photo from the Wilson Outdoor Club Facebook Page

This fund supports the Wilson Outdoor Club, a student club at Wilson Magnet High School. Contributions support student participation and activities in county parks, Western New York recreation areas, and beautiful natural areas even farther afield, such as Camp Pathfinder in Canada.

The club offers urban students an opportunity to participate in activities that are fun, educational and physically active. Many young participants in the club have never been to county parks or enjoyed the beautiful outdoors as they can through their participation in club activities.

Participants in the club:

  • Have an opportunity to hike in local county parks

  • Learn basic map and navigation skills

  • Enjoy physical activity in a fun environment

  • Build confidence and self-esteem

  • Improve basic science, math and social studies skills

  • Gain appreciation for nature and the environment

  • Enjoy a sense of adventure and leadership

  • Appreciate Western New York's beauty

Learn more about the Wilson Outdoor Club on the club's Facebook page.

The Fund is generously supported by the Algonquin Campership Fund, Margaret Burchell in honor of Nicholas Brownrigg, Scott Marks, and many  individual donors. 

Would you like to support the Wilson Outdoors Club? Click the button below and designate your donation to "Wilson Outdoors Club." Thank you!

Yellow and Red Megaphone Community & Non-Profit Logo (2).jpg

One Step Closer

The One Step Closer program has been providing needy Rochester city students with a new pair of shoes since 2008.

The program started with the observation that many students were coming to school without a sound pair of shoes. As one of the founders, Nicole Berg says, "Every day, children come to school in Rochester with shoes that are full of holes, that are too tight, too big... there are some that even come to school in slippers."

Ms. Berg, an educator, noted that the consequences of not having a good pair of shoes could be devastating for young people. Some children had to go to the nurse because their shoes were too tight. Some got into fights because they were criticized due to the shoddy condition of their shoes. Shoes are important for safety and comfort ...but also can be a distraction to learning and self-esteem.

What if you could solve the problem with something as simple as new shoes? The leaders of One Step Closer have been doing just that. After operating as an independent organization, the group joined Rochester Education Foundation in 2016.

How does it work?

  • One Step Closer targets schools in the City of Rochester.

  • They ask administrators for the names and shoe sizes of students who would particularly benefit from the program.

  • Shoes are purchased and delivered to students before school starts in September.

Would you like to support the purchase of new shoes for students who need them? Click the button below and designate your donation to "One Step Closer." Thank you!

School Gardens


School gardens are an engaging way for students to learn about biology, nutrition, and ecosystems. But beyond that, gardening teaches students important life skills- skills like patience, commitment, and environmental responsibility. It allows students to experience the feeling of pride, fulfillment, and accomplishment when the seeds they nurtured become blossoming flowers and vegetables. 

Since 2015, REF has supported school garden programs at Mary McLeod Bethune School #45 and World of Inquiry School #58 thanks to the generosity of Dr. William Valenti and Mr. James Wolk. 

Interested in replicating this program at another Rochester city school? Contact us! We'd love to work together to make that happen. 

Would you like to support this partner program? Make a donation to REF! You may designate your donation for "School Gardens" in general, or for "School #45 Gardens" or "School #58 Gardens."