Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

Hundreds of students set aside coursework and the stress of Cornell life to volunteer in Ithaca for Into the Streets.

October 29, 2017

Largest Annual Volunteering Event, Into the Streets Bursts Cornell Bubble

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Cornell students flooded into the streets Ithaca Saturday afternoon, volunteering for over 35 Ithaca-based agencies and nonprofits for Cornell Public Service’s 26th Largest Annual Day of Service, “Into the Streets.”

Approximately 550 Cornell students — 75 student teams and 50 individual volunteers — participated in community service projects, ranging from cleaning playrooms at the Ithaca Community Childcare Center to clearing up trails at the local YMCA.

Paola Camacho-Lemus ’18, who volunteered for the Tompkins County Health Department, said she was tasked with distributing lead-poisoning awareness pamphlets and door hangers to approximately 140 homes in Southside Ithaca. The pamphlets included information on preventing lead poisoning, such as wiping dust off surfaces and applying temporary barriers to walls.

“Even though it sounds like something that’s very simple like handing out information, considering the two recent lead-poisoning outbreaks, if this helps someone, it’s totally worth it,” Camacho-Lemus said. “People always make excuses — prelims and essays and projects — but in the end, this is what I’ll remember when I graduate.”

The event kicked off at 10 a.m. with performances from Cornell Yamatai, The Callbaxx and Break Free and a keynote speech from Ryan Lombardi, vice president of student and campus life. Into the Streets hosted volunteering projects at the Salvation Army, Sciencecenter, Tompkins County Public Library and even Wizarding Weekend.

Shreya Mantrala ’18, along with members from the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, volunteered for the Ithaca Community Childcare Center, cleaning the daycare’s playrooms, including toys, cribs, carpets and windows.

“I really felt at home volunteering there — it was just so easy to see that the people who worked at the daycare center really cared about the children,” Mantrala said. “Living in a Cornell bubble on campus, we don’t really understand the impact we could be making if we went out and did more things like this.”

Co-president of Into the Streets Margaret Jia ’19 and agency coordinator Jenny Swift ’18 said they are grateful for the opportunity to “serve as active citizens.”

“It’s important to distinguish Into the Streets from any other community service event, since we get the opportunity to travel outside Cornell’s isolated campus and take our citizenship to the local community,” Swift said.

Into the Streets implemented new changes in fall 2015, decreasing the number of volunteers from 1,200 to 500 in order for students to have a more extensive impact on the local agencies, according to Joyce Muchan ’94, assistant director of the Cornell Public Service Center.

“There’s a certain point when you start to saturate the community just to say that we’re doing service as opposed to the quality of service. It’s really the quality of service that matters for the agencies and the students,” Muchan said. “That’s we want for the students — to come out of this and be lifelong active citizens, in whatever community they may be.”