Cornell seniors' awards will benefit human services and other students

Twelve Cornell seniors who have been honored for their community service efforts will use their monetary awards to benefit others.

Each year between 10 and 12 Cornell Tradition Fellows are honored for their community service work with a $2,500 Senior Recognition Award, which they then donate to either non-profit agencies or use to establish one-year fellowships at Cornell. The award winners, who are first nominated by faculty or staff members or are self-nominated, are chosen by a Cornell Tradition selection committee.

This year, several students chose to set up fellowships with their awards, and one student established an endowment.

Laura Barrantes, of Scarborough, Maine, a government major in the College of Arts and Sciences, will use the income from her award to establish a summer camp endowment. The interest from the $2,500 endowment, which she will call the Barrantes Family Scholarship, will provide about a week of summer camp each year for a child at Pilgrim Lodge in Maine.

"I decided to set up an endowed scholarship fund for campers going to Pilgrim Lodge because I want others to be able to have the amazing experience I had there," Barrantes said. "Each camper spends a week at Pilgrim Lodge, and for me those weeks were the most memorable and important of my summers. . . . Now I go back and volunteer for a week as a counselor, both for the opportunity to spend a week each summer at Pilgrim Lodge and to give back to the camp and the campers."

Barrantes said many parts of Maine are rural and "pretty poor" and she didn't want that to prohibit any child from attending the camp.

"I'd love to be able to add to (the endowment) in the future and to encourage others who went to Pilgrim Lodge to add as well, so more and more kids will have the opportunity," she said.

John Anthony Ontiveros, an industrial and labor relations major from National City, Calif., will establish a Cornell fellowship in his parents' name -- the Juan and Leonor Ontiveros Scholarship -- to benefit a Mexican-American student at Cornell.

Ontiveros said he chose to honor his parents with the scholarship because they always were behind his success in school, with their encouragement and support.

"My father is an immigrant from Mexico, and my mother (also of Mexican descent) is the first generation of her family in the U.S. So I'm the first to graduate in my family from college, as well as high school," he said. "I figured I could turn around and pass on some support to somebody else with a background similar to mine. I also hope that it will encourage someone to come to Cornell and help to relieve some of the financial burden of coming here."

Perhaps the most remarkable of the Senior Recognition Award winners is Darael Mahoney, of Horseheads, N.Y., a social work major in the College of Human Ecology. Mahoney, 42, and a mother of four, is donating her award to the ShoeStrings of Grace of Bath, N.Y., to be used to purchase hydroelectric power for the community of Sonador in the Dominican Republic.

Mahoney began her studies at Cornell part-time through the Cornell Employee Degree Program while working for Cornell Transportation Services. Later she was able to enroll as a full-time student (she still works for Transportation Services) in large part because of her Cornell Tradition Fellowship.

"Not only has the Cornell Tradition been responsible for making my dream of graduating from college a reality," she said, "but it has consistently fostered my involvement in community service, continually offered strong support of my need to work, and offered the opportunity to integrate theory with experience in an intensive internship."

In January, she completed a three-week internship in the Dominican Republic, where she helped organize two community gardens, conducted needs-assessment surveys and taught English classes in a rural community where roads, electricity, running water and medical services and even latrines are non-existent.

"This internship alone, made possible by Cornell Tradition, has proven to be a powerful, life-changing experience, which I am certain will help direct my future plans," she said.

In a follow-up to the internship in March, Mahoney brought a wheelchair that was donated by the Special Children's Center of Ithaca to an 8-year-old girl in the Dominican Republic who had been born with partial limbs.

"As I leave Cornell, I am determined to pass on the privileges and opportunity which I received to others. I stand as living proof that the generosity and caring of concerned individuals can and does change the lives of others," Mahoney said.

This year Cornell Tradition awarded $30,000 to students who, in turn, directed the money to other beneficiaries. Since the Senior Recognition Award program began in 1989, Cornell students have supported human services agencies, fellow students and others to the tune of $225,000.

"I think what's exciting is that the award provides the opportunity to recognize students who have contributed to the quality of life in the Ithaca community, in other communities and on campus," said Janiece Bacon Oblak, director of Cornell Tradition. "For them, the recognition and satisfaction comes from their hard work and volunteerism and from being able to pass on the award to someone else who can benefit. "

The 1997 Cornell Tradition Senior Recognition Award winners, their majors and their designated award recipients are:

  • Laura Barrantes of Scarborough, Maine; government; the Barrantes Family Scholarship;
  • Michelle M. Crames of Greentop, Mo.; hotel administration, and operations research and industrial engineering; $1,500 to the Senior Class Gift and $1,000 to the Center on Effective Services for Children (Washington, D.C.);
  • Susan K. Crisfield of Dover, Del.; plant science; The Partnership (Ithaca, N.Y.), and Alternatives to Violence Project, Perry City Area Council (Trumansburg, N.Y.);
  • Kety Maria Esquivel of Rochester, N.Y.; industrial and labor relations; one-year fellowship in the name of Octavio and Aracely Esquivel for a Hispanic woman student leader, preferably from Rochester;
  • Elizabeth C. Everett of Scarsdale, N.Y.; agricultural, resource and managerial economics; Senior Class Gift, in honor of individuals who have made a significant impact on her Cornell experience;
  • Joanne Hamburge of Plymouth, Minn.; English; the James and Sue Hamburge Fellowship for an English or history major, preferably from the Midwest;
  • Donell AndrĂ© Hicks of Dover, Del.; government; fellowship for an African-American student;
  • Aaron B. Hutman of Rockville, Md.; urban and regional studies; fellowship in the name of the Hutman family for a student preferably from either Montgomery County, Md., or the Washington D.C. metropolitan area;
  • Mark Klempner of Schenectady, N.Y.; English; The E.F. Schumacher Society for support of Ithaca HOURS (Ithaca, N.Y.), including its newly inaugurated Ithaca Health Fund;
  • Darael Mahoney of Horseheads, N.Y.; social work; Shoestrings of Grace (Bath, N.Y.);
  • John Ontiveros of National City, Calif.; industrial and labor relations; the Juan and Leonor Ontiveros Scholarship;
  • Nancy Ann Raitano of Seaford, N.Y.; human development and family studies; Loaves and Fishes (Ithaca, N.Y.).

For more information about the Cornell Tradition and the Senior Recognition Awards, contact Janiece Bacon Oblak at (607) 255-8595 or

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