For the past eight years, new Cornell students have traveled to Ithaca a week before freshman orientation to volunteer for various non-profit organizations as members of the Pre-Orientation Service Trip (POST) program.
According to Marcia L. Harding, co-organizer of POST, students participate because they are “getting the head-start, making friends, and building a community among themselves while getting to know the local community through community service.”
With 72 participants, the program is organized into eight teams of nine students with two team leaders each. The teams will go to a new volunteer site everyday and work together on various projects assigned to them. The team leaders are former POST-ers who were selected the previous fall.
“This year we asked the [team leaders] to take on more responsibility or more of the planning, which has been a goal for awhile,” Harding said. Over the previous spring semester, team leaders have worked in committees to set up a new POST website, communicate with non-profit agencies, and organize evening activities such as bowling and the closing barbeque.
“We have been really pleased with how they’ve pulled through,” Harding said.
Along with the new freshmen, transfer students have also participated in POST. “If we have enough we might even have a transfer team,” Harding said.
According to Harding, POST is also a great way for students to introduce themselves to the Ithaca area. Students have told Harding that if they had not done POST, they may never have gone into the city. Many students also go back to volunteer again at the non-profit agencies they first learned about through POST.
“The beauty of POST is that you are placed with about 80 other freshmen for 24 hours a day. Basically, you can’t help but bond with those around you, so you leave POST with a core group of good friends to help you through the transition process. I am a senior now and I am still close with my friends from freshman year POST,” said Devan Musser ’05, a former POST volunteer and current team leader.
“One of my favorite experiences was the first day of service, when my team was demolishing the upstairs of a house for Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Service. We were helping to fix up a house so that low-income families could buy a house at a low price. The job took us right into the streets of Ithaca, and although the work was really hard (we had to rip open the walls with crowbars), it was so fulfilling!” said team leader Jacquelyn Briesch ’07.
“The ease of transition was, in my opinion, the best thing about POST. It was very comforting to arrive on campus the first day of orientation knowing that I already had a great group of friends,” said former participant Jaime Westbrook ’07.
“It’s an impressive array of people,” Harding said, “brave enough and proactive enough to come early.”
The program runs from Sunday, Aug. 15 through Aug. 20. Students spend their first night in one of the Cornell dorms and then move down to Boyton Middle School, part of the City of Ithaca school system. There they sleep on the floor, go to a new volunteer site every day and attend various activities around Ithaca at night. The program cost $250 per student for the week, and is self-funded through these fees. Financial aid is available.
Archived article by Casey Holmes
Sun Staff Writer