More than 1,000 Cornell students demonstrated their commitment to the local community by participating in this year's Into the Streets event Oct. 19 and 20. A Cornell tradition reaching back 21 years, Into the Streets is a student-organized program of the Cornell Public Service Center that focuses on public service and giving back and engaging in the community. It is Ithaca's largest day of service, according to organizers, and Mayor Svante Myrick proclaimed Oct. 20 "Into the Streets Day in the City of Ithaca."
This year, 120 teams of students volunteered in more than 49 nonprofit and public organizations in the greater Ithaca area, from doing garden cleanup and trail maintenance to organizing clothing donations for Catholic Charities and helping to mail books to prison inmates. Some volunteered with children in the Fall Creek School Age program and helped with costume making at the Edith Ford Memorial Library in Ovid, while others helped to set up and paint pumpkins for the annual apple festival at the Brooktondale Community Center.
Deborah Liu '13, for example, helped prepare food at the Salvation Army with a large group of other students she knows from from Chinese Bible Study (CBS), one of many Christian fellowships on campus. "CBS traditionally does [Into the Streets] every year," said Liu. "It's something that we do to give back."
Into the Streets also strives to address local environmental concerns; last year, 650 students handed out 10,000 free bags containing tips on saving money on energy. This year, 250 of the students partnered with Ithaca Get Your GreenBack to research local green habits. Ithaca Get Your GreenBack is a community-based campaign launched earlier this year to educate and inspire households and businesses in Tompkins County to save energy, improve efficiency, conserve natural resources and utilize alternative energy sources. The campaign encourages small "steps" of effort toward energy conservation, such as taking the bus, composting, buying local food, carpooling, swapping or bartering, and using natural light whenever possible. Currently, its website boasts more than 8,000 collective steps taken in the community.
As part of the campaign, students administered surveys, asking community residents about energy-saving methods they are using and how they learned of these methods.
"[Get Your GreenBack's] goal is to have everyone in Tompkins County make one change to save energy," said Aaron Hui '15, who surveyed shoppers in the Triphammer Marketplace. When asked why he personally decided to volunteer this year, Hui said, "I just had a heart for the community. I think that as Cornell students, it's easy to stay within the Cornell bubble, so I wanted to go out and serve the local community."
For the past 10 years, including this year, Cornell Cooperative Extension has also partnered with the Into the Streets program.
Jocelyn Wu '14 is a student writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.