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Students Collaborate with Tom Wahl’s to Enrich Dining Experience 

Paul Nagel speaking with students school bus in front of Tom Wahl's Students eating at Tom Wahls

It’s not just the burger and fries at Tom Wahl’s that makes the experience great for local residents. It is the walk down memory lane provided by old yearbook photos from local schools that adds to the flavor of the meal. In a longstanding collaboration with community members and area school districts, Tom Wahl’s has decorated their walls with images derived from local archives and school yearbooks from the 1950s, 60s and early 70s. So, when Tom Wahl’s Vice President Paul Nagel invited Coordinator of Equity and Inclusivity Vincent French and students from Pittsford Schools’ ROC2Change club to add to the collection with yearbook pictures reflecting greater diversity, from that same time-period, the students excitedly embraced the idea.

As Otis Redding played in the background and the group dined on those world-famous burgers and fries, students met with Mr. Nagel to discuss the goals of the project. They brainstormed how to add to the existing photo display in a way that would both enrich the story told by the pictures currently hanging on the walls and also reflect the diversity that has been part of Pittsford’s fiber since before the first Tom Wahl’s opened in 1955 in Avon, NY.  

“As a locally-owned and operated business with seven restaurants in the Greater Rochester Area, Tom Wahl's strives to maintain a strong, supportive relationship within the communities we do business,” said Mr. Nagel. That relationship can be seen in the framed yearbook photos on the walls of their restaurants and the long-standing collaboration Tom Wahl’s has had with schools via sports teams, clubs and local fundraising events. Their commitment to the community and its youth can also be seen in less obvious ways. “Our restaurants will often stay open late to accommodate school activities, such as drama club events, to give students a safe place to meet and wind down after their performances,” said Nagel. “We value the role we play in supporting local schools and children,” he said. “By supporting our youth, we are supporting our nation’s future,” he added. 

This latest collaboration with Pittsford Schools came about when a loyal customer noticed the framed images of the local Tom Wahl’s did not fully reflect the diversity found in the Pittsford community or honor Pittsford’s longstanding history of civil rights, dating back to the Abolition movement when Village homes were part of the Underground Railroad and local officials hosted historic meetings with noted abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass. In more recent history, Pittsford Central School District was one the first school districts to establish an Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program and has welcomed Urban-Suburban students to its schools for over 50 years. 

Under the advisement of Mr. French, students are eager to get started. They will search the District’s archives of yearbooks from the 1950s, 60s and early 70s to find images that reflect inclusion and diversity. Of those images, ten will then be selected with the help of Mr. Nagel, to be reprinted, framed and added to the historic photos currently on the walls of the Bushnell’s Basin Tom Wahls. “The way our students continue to make a difference in our communities never fails to astound me,” said Pittsford School’s Superintendent Michael Pero. “This latest collaboration with Tom Wahl’s will leave a lasting impact that both reflects and honors Pittsford’s rich history of diversity and inclusion,” he said.