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Incoming students become involved citizens

student volunteer paints
Lindsay France/University Photography
Students participate in the POST (Pre-Orientation Service Trips) program volunteer at the Ithaca Children's Garden Aug. 19.
student volunteers pull up grass
Lindsay France/University Photography
Student volunteers groom the grounds at the Ithaca Children's Garden.

More than 60 incoming freshmen got their Cornell careers off to an altruistic start by taking part in Pre-Orientation Service Trips (POST), a program of the Cornell Public Service Center, Aug. 18-21.

Seven teams performed work at 28 sites on behalf of 20 Tompkins County service organizations. Many of the sites invite POST students to visit every year, and this year two new sites were added: the Rescue Mission and the Tompkins County Public Library.

Teams worked at different sites each day. Projects included cleaning up furniture for resale at Finger Lakes ReUse, cleaning out lockers at Boynton Middle School, repairing a drainage ditch and trails at the Cayuga Nature Center, organizing a garage sale at Tompkins Learning Partners, and clearing out rooms at Fall Creek Elementary School.

“We’re not just going in there to do labor and then leaving,” said Shay Collins ’18. “A lot of time we’ll sit down first and discuss the ideas and motivations of each organization to learn why they do what they do.”

Team leaders who previously participated in the POST program accompanied each group of new students on the site visits.

 “As a freshman, it was really influential in starting my Cornell career, especially in meeting friends and getting to know Ithaca and the Cornell community,” said Grace Monks ’15. “Introducing all the freshmen to Cornell and Ithaca is a really valuable experience.”

A POST team visited the Ithaca Children’s Garden (ICG) Aug. 19. Some students painted the front gate, while others cleaned up grassy areas and did other site maintenance.

“We have a very small staff and a very small budget, so any volunteer help we get is always useful,” said Kara Cusolito of ICG. “The POST people are always really positive and willing to help.”

Bryce Molano ’18 wore knee-high rubber boots as he cleaned up the ICG’s wetland area. Earlier, he and team leader Bennett Kapili ’16 rebuilt a stone bridge to make it safer.

On Aug. 20, POST members cleaned out the tack room at Meadowgate, an equine rescue and rehabilitation facility in Newfield, New York, to prepare for a community yard sale.

“The POST program has been coming out here for five years, and I always look forward to it,” said Meadowgate founder Pam Watros. “Each year I have certain projects set aside that I wait for them to come help me with. I’m very grateful for the help.”

Many of the students saw POST as a good way to ease their transition to Cornell and to Ithaca.

“It’s great to get to know a few people before you’re thrown into a huge freshman class,” said Kayti Stanley ’18 during a break from doing grounds maintenance at the Cayuga Nature Center. “During the day we’re out at the sites, and at night we get to do some exploring in Ithaca or on campus.”

“It gives them a chance to develop a group of friends before heading into Orientation Week,” agreed team leader Tyler York ’15. “That can be an overwhelming process because there are so many new students, but the opportunity to see some familiar faces can really help through all the madness.”

“Any sort of pre-orientation trip is a fantastic idea – it makes the size of the new class more manageable,” added Summer Stephens ’18. “I was involved in community service in high school, and I wanted to continue it, so I thought this would be a great way to jump-start it. I also wanted to meet new people, and get up here before the mad move-in rush. It’s been super-duper fun, so I’m glad I did it.”

Jim Catalano is a writer for Student and Academic Services. 

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Joe Schwartz