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Urso Gains Three Grants for Soaring Stars Program

Annmarie Urso, associate professor of education.

Annmarie Urso, associate professor of education, has received three grants in support of the School of Education’s Soaring Stars program, which begins its seventh year this summer under her direction. She also has secured additional funding to support the transition of two students in the program to an on-campus summer program for rising 6th – 11th-grade students.

One grant is a one-year $25,000 award from the Wilson Foundation, which has supported the Soaring Stars program since its establishment in 2012. The second grant is a $15,000 grant from the Feinbloom Supporting Foundation through the Rochester Area Community Foundation (RACF), which has provided continued support since 2014. The third grant is from the United Way of Livingston County for $5,000; they have provided continued support since 2014, as well. The additional support is from the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association (GRSLA), which is providing $2,000 for two students (rising 7th graders) who have completed the Soaring Stars program to transition into the Rochester Young Scholars Academy at Geneseo (RYSAG). RYSAG is directed by Susan Norman, director of the School of Education’s Xerox Center for Multicultural Teacher Education.

“I am extremely grateful to these organizations for recognizing the value of what we’re doing with Soaring Stars,” said Urso. “Such financial support attests to their praiseworthy belief that quality education is something that should be available to all students, and I’m pleased to have them as partners in that mission.”

The program is supported by participating Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (GVEP) school districts through Cooperative Service funding for their students. SUNY Geneseo also provides matching funds through the Office of the Provost and the School of Education.

Begun in 2012, Soaring Stars is a five-week, six-hours-a-day learning opportunity for economically disadvantaged students in rising kindergarten through rising 6th grade from participating rural GVEP school districts.

“We conceived the idea of transitioning students from Soaring Stars to RYSAG about five years ago, and we’ve been planning for the transition the last few years,” said Urso. “Susan has built a tremendously successful program that dovetails nicely with the goals of Soaring Stars and that will provide both short-and long-term educational benefits for the students.”

Urso and the faculty and staff working with her, including undergraduate and graduate students from the School of Education, use the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy during the program, a method that Urso says focuses as much on the educational environment and student as it does on the teacher. The philosophy encourages children to develop individual interests and explore them using art, music, technology, building projects, and physical activities. 

“The students are discovering their talents and interests,” said Urso. “It perhaps will help them find an undiscovered strength.”

The Soaring Stars program has been located at the Mt. Morris Central School District since 2016, but will relocate to another district in the GVEP next year while it is under renovation.

The cohort of students this year came from the following school districts: Caledonia-Mumford, Livonia, Geneseo, York, Mt. Morris, Dansville, and Wayland-Cohocton.


Monique Patenaude, PhD
Director of Media Relations
(585) 245-5056