Students (l-r) Serena Wang, Andreas Psahos, Nate Reilly, and Samantha Lambourne received Contribution Project awards and have ambitious plans to use the funds to advance their educations and their contributions to the Cornell community. 

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Superheroes and more: Brooks students make a “contribution”

Building a library, reducing food waste, studying in Denmark, helping children discover their inner superhero – that’s how four undergraduate students at the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy plan to improve the world using funds awarded by Cornell’s Contribution Project.

The project awards $400 grants to about 100 Cornell undergraduates and the only obligation is to make a meaningful contribution to themselves or to others.

Here is how the four Brooks awardees plan to use the funds:

  • Samantha Lambourne ’25 is traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark to learn how policies are implemented overseas. Lambourne is considering a career in government so comparing the approaches of the U.S. and Denmark to critical issues will be a plus.
  • Andreas Psahos ’24 will build and install a Little Free Library at the Risley Residential College dining hall. Little Free Libraries are book-sharing boxes where people can exchange books at no cost. Psahos hopes to offer books that emphasize diverse voices in what he says would be the first Little Free Library on campus. “I hope that the library could add to the publicly-minded and socially conscious conversations that Risley already engages in through its arts and theater programming,” Psahos said. “The Little Free Library can be an indirect but valuable way for students to stoke their intellectual curiosity outside of the classroom.” Psahos will be a resident advisor at Risley next year, so he’ll be able to keep the library stocked.
  • Nate Reilly ’23 will partner with a kindergarten class at a public school in Washington, D.C. A student in the Cornell in Washington Program, Reilly will ask the children to brainstorm and draw a new superhero. Then, Reilly will use the funds to paint a mural incorporating all the superheroes the children have envisioned. Reilly, a gifted artist, is using the $400 to pay for the paint. He said he expects to fill a large space with superheroes: “I’m super excited about it! One of the most meaningful aspects to me is that the school I’m going to be working with doesn’t have an art program or art teacher. This will be one of the first large scale art projects that the students are exposed to!”
  • Serena Wang ’25 seeks to reduce food waste at Martha’s Café in Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, the home of the Brooks School. Wang works in the café. “I see plenty of pre-packaged food being thrown away at the end of the week,” Wang said. “Disturbed by the waste, I proposed a policy to save the leftover pre-packaged food at Martha's and other eateries by donating it to an organization such as the Cornell Food Pantry. Students facing food insecurity could then have access to a greater variety of foods.”

This is the second year of the Contribution Project. It was founded by Anthony Burrow, director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, and Ferris Family Associate Professor of Life Course Studies in the Department of Psychology.

“It’s really amazing to see the scope of opportunities that our students want to contribute to,” Burrow said. “They’re noticing needs on campus, in their neighborhood, and around the world. The funding could be a small impact, it could be large, but these students are noticing things in their world and how they can be a part of it.”



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