April 28, 2006

C.U. Students Reach Out to Local Schools

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TEACH to REACH, a student organization that allows Cornell students to teach at local under-resourced schools, is helping to share University resources with the community.

“Cornell is an academic powerhouse, and TEACH to REACH aims to extend its resources to under-resourced community schools,” said Eugenia Shmidt ’07, the group’s founder and president.

TEACH to REACH includes over 75 students from all areas of study who volunteer to share their knowledge with the local youth. On Wednesday, members were teaching 60 South Seneca Elementary School fifth graders about alternative fuel use through an organic chemistry experiment consisting of a bio-diesel reaction apparatus. Yesterday, a group of students taught the functions of the Supreme Court by holding a mock trial in a business law class at Lansing High School.

TEACH to REACH has two primary goals: to enrich and motivate students in local under-resourced schools and to provide Cornell students interested in teaching with valuable experience.

“We hope to inspire students to respect and perhaps pursue the teaching profession,” Shmidt said.

Members are encouraged to share any academic passion in any format. The full list of lessons offered to local schools covers everything from meteorology to French culture. These lessons, which are developed by TEACH to REACH members, last about one hour each and are taught to all age groups.

Shmidt said that all interested students are encouraged to join, and the commitment level can be very flexible. TEACH to REACH volunteers choose to be either teachers, who plan and develop the lessons, or assistants, who assist the teachers both behind the scenes and in the classroom. Lessons are taught by teams consisting of one to two teachers and one to two assistants. TEACH to REACH strives to introduce students to topics to which they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed. The group offers a “course menu” and also takes requests from schools and teachers.

Weekly workshops allow teams to practice their lesson plans and get them approved.

TEACH to REACH works with the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services to find under-resourced schools in these counties. The focus is on schools with lower expenditures per student than the national average. TEACH to REACH volunteers are currently teaching at South Seneca High School in Ovid, South Seneca Elementary School in Interlaken and Lansing High School in Lansing. The organization is also developing programs for Ithaca’s Caroline Elementary School.

Teams bring not only their own supplies but also food for the students.

“It is our goal to lift the burden from these schools,” Shmidt said. “We are being socially conscious by trying to extend Cornell’s resources to the community.”

Shmidt participated in a Cornell Commitment Leadership training program last spring that culminated in a leadership workshop with local high school students. The experience was very rewarding for her, and it gave her the idea for a program that would take this idea to the next level. In the fall, she began developing TEACH to REACH along with Kristen Aliano ’07, Jane Willett Forman ’08 and Madeleine Elkan ’08. The program was officially launched this semester.

TEACH to REACH is financed primarily by Cornell department funding and personal donations. Prof. Hudson Kern Reeve, neurobiology and behavior, serves as the organization’s advisor.

Archived article by Alli Miller
Sun Staff