October 27, 2008

C.U. Flows ‘Into the Streets’ for Day of Service

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Despite the rain, students woke up early this Saturday for Cornell’s 17th annual Into the Streets day, which brought students from various groups on campus to service the Ithaca community. The event was the largest yet, with over 1,200 students signed up to volunteer to go out and get dirty.
With President David Skorton as the event’s keynote speaker, students packed into Barton Hall to be assigned their tasks, organize their teams and listen to the speakers.
“Overall the mood was a very positive one,” Nicole Goodkind ’11 said. “Everyone seemed really excited to help out.”
Occurring on national “Make a Difference Day,” over 50 different local organizations benefited from the day of service. The entire program was student-directed and is one of 30 such programs giving students experience in public service.
The American Red Cross was also present, conducting a blood drive.
“We hope to get 68 humans,” said Jennifer Munger, a worker from the Red Cross. “We figured this would be a good opportunity to find people willing to donate blood and we’ve worked with Into The Streets before.”
According to Brittney Shulman ’10, the president of Into the Streets, “this event is definitely our biggest yet. It’s Cornell’s largest annual community service project.”
The purpose of Into the Streets is to build “action and awareness,” Shulman said. The credence is that Into the Streets can act as a starting point from which students can continue to serve the Ithaca communities later in life, according to Shulman.
Skorton emphasized the increased importance of such community awareness in light of the current economic situation. “It’s a tense time for our country and finances, there couldn’t be a more important time to do what you’re doing than now,” Skorton said.
Vice President Susan Murphy ’73 stressed the importance of this day, emphasizing that members of the community had come to rely on Into the Streets.
“This day is enormously important to Ithaca and Tompkins County. The sheer magnitude of this day signals to the community that everyone has a role and a responsibility in it,” Murphy said.
Students left in groups to work on different projects throughout Ithaca. These projects ranged from cooking food to excavating for sidewalks to assisting recovering addicts. One project in particular involved planting trees around Six Mile Creek.
City Forester Andy Hillman oversaw the project in which students helped plant 50 trees in two hours.
“This day makes such a difference, it’s incredible that this many trees could be planted in such a short time,” Hillman said. According to Hillman, planting trees in this area has significant economic ramifications, saving the City of Ithaca from the costs of removing soil and silt from the creek. A huge silt runoff enters the creek, as 80 percent of the city’s drinking water flows naturally downhill and becomes contaminated. By planting trees, the ground stays in place and there is less silt runoff, leading to cleaner drinking water.
The trees that were planted were native trees grown by RPM nurseries in Dryden, paid for by New York State Electric and Gas, donated to the city and then planted by Into the Streets student volunteers.
“The amount of time and labor invested into these trees is remarkable,” Hillman said. “These trees we’ve planted are just starters, they’ll produce seeds that will reforest this area.”
Students spent hours devoting their time to the city and expanding their volunteer experience.
“It was a class experience, I would love to come back next year to see the progress we’ve made and to help out again,” said Jaser Faruq ’10 said, an Into the Streets team captain.
Murphy stressed the importance of volunteer experience in learning to become responsible citizens.
“In professional life we will hopefully have learned to benefit our own communities,” Murphy said. “Get wet and muddy today, but make a huge difference.”