What may have felt like a short amount of time was long on influence for the 29 Cornell undergraduates who spent their summer working and conducting research in communities across New York state as Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) interns.
“It’s probably the most impactful summer I’ve had as a Cornell student,” said Adjoa Fosuhema-Kordie ’20. A senior human development major in the College of Human Ecology (CHE), Fosuhema-Kordie’s internship took her to New York City where she worked with Cornell University Cooperative Extension - NYC on a project teaching teens how to deliver health and nutrition classes to youth participants.
“It was really impressive to see how much of an impact we had in a couple months on the teens,” she said. “And personally, I learned that with work like this there will be unexpected turns, twists and challenges, but how we handle those curveballs is what matters.”
Working on projects ranging from onboarding farm employees to supporting families amid the opioid epidemic, interns learned how purpose-driven applied research from Cornell – New York’s land-grant institution – benefits citizens across the state. Projects are proposed by faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and CHE and are hosted by extension educators at local extension offices in counties and boroughs all over New York.
Combining personal growth with hands-on research and community outreach is what makes the CCE internship program special, said CCE director Chris Watkins during his remarks at the internship reception Sept. 25 in the Biotechnology Building.
“I have had students tell me that these summer experiences were life changing,” Watkins said. “One College of Agriculture and Life Sciences graduate told me this summer that she was hired for her current position in North Carolina, despite lack of post-school experience, specifically because of her internship experience with CCE.”
Watkins acknowledged that the program could not exist without the support of the colleges.
“And I am very excited that this year we had four additional projects funded through the Office of Engagement Initiatives,” he said. “Those internships were open to all students across the university. We are excited to continue to grow this partnership and increase our impact beyond CHE and CALS.”
Kim Kopko, associate director of extension and outreach in CHE, and CCE associate director, has been a faculty adviser on a number the internship projects, including one this past summer.
“The internship program gives our students opportunities to take what they learn in the classroom and apply that knowledge as they work along with faculty to develop and evaluate programs that address important community needs,” she said. “Through work like this, CCE interns equip individuals and families to make changes in their own communities.”
CALS student Jesse Corona ’22 went to New York City this summer in search of “sub-career exploration” through an internship project focused on overcoming racial injustice in the food system through community education. One experience he particularly valued took place at a CCE mushroom cultivation workshop in one of Brooklyn’s poorest neighborhoods, Brownsville.
“It showed me that not all farmers are 65-year-old white men,” he said. “A farmer can look like anybody, especially in New York City. CCE helps propel that.
“The summer offered a lot of clarity in terms of what I enjoy doing,” Corona said. “Even though I started my internship not knowing what I want to do with major or my life – and I still don’t really know what I want to do – I learned that I really enjoy community organizing and community development. And just seeing the impact that CCE can have, and how I can help facilitate some of it, was pretty amazing.”
R.J. Anderson is a writer and communications team leader with Cornell Cooperative Extension.