On Oct. 27, over 500 Cornell students and faculty will step out into Ithaca and throughout Tompkins County to participate in the 27th annual Into the Streets, Cornell’s largest community service event.
Volunteers will work with around 40 different non-profit organizations on a variety of community service projects, which in the past, have ranged from raising awareness about lead poisoning in older Ithaca houses, advocating for a living wage and doing laundry for the youth shelter downtown.
According to Esther Tsyngauz ’19, Into the Streets co-president, the event allows Cornellians to handle “all of the housekeeping things” that many organizations don’t have enough resources to get to during the year.
Organizing and making sure the hundreds of volunteers are “held accountable” has become the most challenging task for co-president Margaret Jia ’19.
“Most agencies don’t work on a Saturday. So they’re bringing in someone to work on a Saturday, or to come supervise volunteers. It’s our responsibility to make sure that those volunteers that we said are coming will be there,” Jia told The Sun.
Although the event lasts only one day, Tsyngauz and Jia hope that Into the Streets has long-lasting effects that will enable students to see themselves as not just Cornellian but also as Ithacans.
“I hope people get out of the Cornell bubble and just spend more time in the community,” Tsyngauz said. “Something we stress is to not volunteer just to volunteer, but to be actually educated about the issues and [understand] why you’re doing what you’re doing.”
Into the Streets, a program of the Cornell Public Service Center, was founded in 1991 to “encourage participants to use the day of service as a catalyst for forming meaningful relationships with the local community and developing a lifelong commitment to community engagement as active citizens,” according to its OrgSync page.
The program 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, Joyce Muchan ’94, assistant director of the Cornell Public Service Center told The Sun at last year’s event.
“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.”