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Hurrahs for a Better Chance

t has been four years since 17-year-old Ranferi Cruz moved from his hometown of Santa Ana, Calif., to Rochester with hopes of a better education through the Rochester Better Chance program.

"I just wanted to get away from the drugs and the violence in Santa Ana," Cruz said.

Now a senior at John Marshall High School, Cruz is hoping to get into Columbia University to pursue a career as an architect. Cruz joined four other scholars celebrating the nonprofit program on March 7 at its annual gala and fundraising auction. More than 200 people glammed up for the benefit at Rochester International Event Center.

Established in 1972, Rochester Better Chance has helped more than 100 academically talented inner-city young people graduate from John Marshall High School with at least a 3.0 grade point average. Up to six teenage boys share a house on Second Street Southwest in Rochester and receive tutoring assistance from volunteers.

"It’s a very small program, but it has a huge value for the world," said Jackie Olson, RBC’s foundation president.

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Construction decor dominated the gathering — with bricks on tables and duct-taped cardboard boxes hanging from a tree — to match the gala’s theme "Building for the Future." The organization is hoping to renovate or expand its current housing for scholars.

Julie Rivers was among those doing her part to help out. The Rochester resident could be seen eyeing the many tempting items up for bid in the silent auction.

"I’ve already bid on a half dozen items and my husband is telling me slow down," she said.

But Rivers added she is glad to support a valuable program.

"I think it’s excellent for (the scholars)," she said "They really seem like they are very successful. I think it’s great."

While dining on London broil and salmon, diners enjoyed comedian and juggler Jason Huneke. They also had the chance to buy a $20 ornament and win a $1,000 Japanese pearl necklace.

Marilyn Morton and Rene Chartier of Rochester said they are glad to support this unique organization.

"We just feel like it’s a wonderful opportunity for these young men to get an education here," Morton said.

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To learn more, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

Rochester Better Chance http://www.rochesterbetterchance.org/

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