May 2, 2003

Students Receive Robinson-Appel Awards for Community Service Work

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On April 4 in the Yale-Princeton Room of the Statler Hotel, the 2003 Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Awards were presented to four students who have had significant involvement in community service during the past year.

The award was given to Jennifer Harber ’03 and Rebecca Vichniac ’04 for upgrading the Reading and Math Rooms at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC), Lauren Jacobs ’05 for bringing Dump & Run to the Cornell campus and Funa Maduka ’04 for starting The IthaKids Journal. Each of the three projects won $1,500 with the award.


The award was established by Cornell alumni Gerald Robinson ’54, Margot Robinson ’55, Robert Appel ’53 and Helen Appel ’55 to support community service projects that have been initiated or proposed by Cornell students.

This year the candidates were evaluated by a selection committee comprised of eight members. The committee included the executive director and a student representative of the Public Service Center, which oversees the award, two community representatives, a past recipient of the award and several alumni.


The three winners were chosen from 17 applicants and nominees, who were evaluated on their proposed service projects and their community service involvement in the previous year.

Harber and Vichniac work at an after school program that serves over 100 kids between the ages of 4 and 17. Harber, along with Ursula Lam ’01, opened the Reading and Math Rooms about two years ago. “Our goal is to show the kids that reading can be something other than the challenging and boring task they might think it is based on their other educational experiences,” Harber said.


Vichniac said the money from the award would allow them “to focus on creating and implementing activities instead of fundraising.” The additional resources will also allow them to work more with the youngest children, as “they require the most resources because we like to design structured resources for them,” Harber said.

To keep their staff full, Harber and Vichniac recruit and train around 40 volunteers from Cornell each semester.

Jacobs was honored for her work to bring Dump and Run, a national organization already operating at 15 colleges, to the Cornell campus. The organization provides an infrastructure to collect discarded items from residence halls, fraternity and sorority houses and other living quarters during the time students move out for the summer, and then hold sales at the start of the fall semester to raise money for local not-for-profits.


“70 percent of the proceeds will benefit Loaves and Fishes, a local soup kitchen, while the other 30 percent will go to Dump and Run, Inc., so that it can be spread to other college campuses,” Jacobs said.

“I hope to raise $20,000 for Loaves and Fishes,” she added.

The sale, taking place August 23 and 31, will feature the collected items at very low costs. “We will take almost anything: electronics, clothes, cleaning supplies, toiletries, sporting goods, decorations, house wares and more,” Jacobs said.

The third award was given to Maduka for her proposal to start The IthaKids Journal. About 20 underserved elementary and middle school students will have the opportunity to learn how to use a computer while working creatively on the publication, which will be shared at the end of the academic year with the Ithaca community.

“While using their imaginations and working creatively on The IthaKids Journal, students will learn important computer skills and familiarize themselves with various computer programs,” Maduka said.

Three semifinalists were also recognized at the dinner. Edward Pettitt ’04 was honored for his work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters North Campus Program Houses Project, which will match children from the Ithaca community with Cornell students currently residing in the North Campus program houses.

Kerry Neijstrom ’03 was selected as a semifinalist for her work on the Parkside Reading and Literacy Center, a reading room she is working to establish for underserved children in Ithaca’s Parkside community.

Bethany Tong ’05 was honored for her work in establishing a chapter of Let’s Get Ready! at Cornell. Let’s Get Ready! is an SAT-prep program with outreach to minorities and low-income families in the local community.

Archived article by Tony Apuzzo