Aug. 22, 2013

Students help their new community before Orientation

Incoming freshman and transfer students
Lindsay France/University Photography
Incoming freshman and transfer students fill school backpacks for area children at the Salvation Army during Cornell Public Service Center’s Pre-Orientation Service Trips (POST).

Almost 60 incoming freshmen and transfer students aren’t waiting for Orientation to get to know Ithaca and its environs. They’re spending this week, Aug. 18-23, volunteering with the Cornell Public Service Center’s Pre-Orientation Service Trips (POST).

Since the program started 18 years ago, more than 950 incoming Cornell students and their upperclass student leaders have provided 21,619 hours of community service to the local community, before the Cornell academic year even officially begins.

“POST has given these students the opportunity to build lifelong friendships while simultaneously developing an understanding and appreciation for the Ithaca community,” says Renee Farkas, associate director of the Public Service Center and coordinator of the POST program.

This year, 57 incoming students and 14 upperclass leaders are spending the last days of their summer volunteering at more than 20 nonprofit organizations and schools. During the evenings they get to know the local community and each other, and the group camps out on the floor of the Boynton Middle School gymnasium.

“A lot has changed in the past 13 years since I started coordinating POST – the rise of social media, cell phones and Facebook,” says Farkas. “But the one thing that remains constant is the POST experience. Watching the students transition daily from Sunday to Thursday never ceases to amaze me. It’s just a great opportunity all around, and I love sharing the local community with new students.”

This year, for example, students are making papier maché dinosaurs and working on a summer exhibit at the Paleontological Research Institution; filling school backpacks for area children at the Salvation Army; helping the local school district prepare classrooms for the upcoming school year; repainting a New York state map on the playground at Cassavant Elementary School in McLean; and visiting residents at local retirement homes and more. Other volunteer sites include Cayuga Ridge Extended Care, Community Coalition for Healthy Youth, Drop-In Children's Center, Dump and Run, Fall Creek Elementary School, Family Reading Partnership, Ithaca Children’s Garden, Ithaca Health Alliance, Ithaca Youth Bureau, Longview, Meadowgate Equine Rescue, Planned Parenthood, SPCA of Tompkins County, Tompkins Community Action, Town of Ithaca Public Works Department and the YWCA of Cortland.

POST relies on student fees for all program expenses. The program is also supported, in part, by TCAT (Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit) and Boynton Middle School/Ithaca City School District.