Mar. 7, 2013
Cornell Bridges to Community wins Perkins Prize
A group that sends students on service-learning trips to Nicaragua and encourages them to become global citizens has won the university's most distinguished diversity prize.
The 19th annual James A. Perkins Prize for Interracial Understanding and Harmony was presented March 6 at Willard Straight Hall to Cornell Bridges to Community. The group was credited with providing its members with insight into global inequality and community development and helping to further their academic careers and future actions as engaged global citizens.
The $5,000 prize recognizes the Cornell student, faculty, staff member or program making the most significant contribution to furthering the ideal of university community while respecting the values of racial diversity. Honorable mentions went to FootPrints and the Women of Color Conference.
Bridges is a global service-learning program that incorporates coursework at Cornell, fieldwork in Nicaragua, and community awareness and fundraising to encourage students to become global citizens. Each spring, student leaders direct and facilitate a two-credit course that explores issues related to Nicaragua, including service-learning, philanthropy, poverty, history and culture. Over spring break, the students experience a total immersion in Nicaraguan culture.
"Upon returning to the U.S. from Nicaragua, students engage in important reflection activities during which they evaluate their experiences from living, working alongside and discussing with our host family and community members," the students wrote in their application for the prize.
The group encourages students to develop ideas about the ways they can incorporate their newly developed worldviews into their daily lives, such as thinking about the impact of where they shop and the amount of water and electricity they use.
Moreover, Bridges recruits student leaders with diverse academic majors, class years, races, ethnicities, genders and levels of community involvement. Past and current members represent racial and ethnic backgrounds including Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander, African-American, American Indian, Jamaican, Greek and Turkish. International students represent Russia, Germany, India and Mexico. "Through the program [the students] not only experience Nicaraguan culture, but also experience diversification within their own student body," the students wrote.
FootPrints provides shoes and educational supplies to students in underprivileged communities throughout the world. More than half of all students in developing nations attend school barefoot, according to FootPrints. Shoes improve a student's ability to attend school and decrease health problems by preventing foot diseases. For example, going barefoot can contribute to hookworm, a disease that causes intestinal pain, weakness and cognitive impairment.
Footprints has donated more than 3,000 pairs of shoes and school supplies to children in Nigeria, South Africa, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cameroon and Ghana. Its events have included the Best Foot Forward 5K Walkathon and Marathon, Swish-for-Shoes 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, TOM's Shoes One Day Without Shoes, and FootPrints' Presents a Multicultural Celebration to Remember.
The Women of Color Conference, titled Brave Bodies: Deconstructing the Intersections of Identity, will take place March 8-9 on campus. The organizers are working to "create unity across boundaries that have been both internally and externally constructed to oppress, but that have also empowered women of color to build pride," the students wrote in their application. "This conference aims to give voice and strength to experiences that are often marginalized and will foster further self-reflection and awareness of issues that affect women of color at Cornell and in the broader world." The conference will include a resource fair, 10 workshops and speakers talking about issues related to the LBGT community and mixed-race identity.
President David Skorton presented the awards. Also speaking at the event were Kent Hubbell '69, the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students, and Thomas W. Jones '69, trustee emeritus, who established the Perkins Prize in 1995 to honor James A. Perkins, Cornell president, 1963-69.