October 30, 2006

‘Into the Streets’ Helps Construct Civic Spirit at Cornell

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Stel Whitehead, program director for the Southside Community Center, was more than grateful to have 16 Cornell students help her sort, stack and database books at her workplace this past Saturday.

“A group coming for the day is very helpful and supportive,” she said. “We can’t hire staff to do this [work]. It wouldn’t get done otherwise.”

Besides volunteering at Southside, more than 880 students participated in various community projects as part of the Into the Streets program, sponsored by the Cornell Public Service Center. The 15th annual event, organized to let students to give back to the Ithaca community, was the biggest in the program’s history.

The event kicked off at Kennedy Hall on Saturday morning with brunch and check-in.
tudents filed into Call Auditorium to hear a number of speakers, including Susan Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic affairs. Murphy emphasized that President David J. Skorton, in his speech to the Trustee Council this past weekend, highlighted the importance of field-based learning.

She commended the volunteers for fulfilling his mission. “What distinguishes Cornell University?” she asked the audience. “We are committed to service.”

Volunteers then split up into teams of eight to 12 to visit community service sites throughout the Ithaca community. Many of the groups were made up of fraternity and sorority members, clubs on campus and students in residence halls. Individuals who wanted to participate were also assigned to groups.

Volunteers from the Clara Dickson residence hall and the Delta Gamma sorority made up the group working at the Southside Community Center, where they spent the day organizing donated books and entering them into a computer generated database.

Tory Bredt ’10, leader of the Dickson Hall team, said that one of the reasons she chose to attend Cornell was the University’s commitment to community service.

At the end of the day, volunteers at Southside looked back fondly on what they had done. As the group posed for pictures outside the entrance to the center, Ilyssa Meren ’10 said, “It was fun hanging out with my friends and giving back to the Ithaca community. I’m definitely going to be more involved in the future.”

Others enjoyed the service project but wished there hadn’t been so much “misused” time at the beginning. Katie Walkley ’10 said, “We spent too much time being ‘motivated’ and only a couple hours doing work,” referring to the two hours in the morning spent eating brunch and listening to speeches.

At other locations in Ithaca, students were in charge of demolition work, painting and education.

According to Joyce Muchan, assistant director for student programs at the Cornell Public Service Center, so many students were eager to get involved with the program that 500 could not participate.

But Cornell’s commitment to community service does not stop at Into the Streets.

Southside’s Whitehead emphasized that students from the Hotel School often come to the community center to plan events for the kids. On Saturday, they were planning two Halloween parties. Reach, a student-led tutoring program, also comes to the center to help children with their homework.

Into the Streets coordinator Shane Dunn ’07 put it eloquently when he said,
“Service does not end with Into the Streets, it just begins.”

Into the Streets was also sponsored by the Triad Foundation, Onsite Volunteer Services, Subway of Collegetown, Cornell Dairy Bar and the Carol Tatkon Center.