April 10, 2014

Students serve up selflessness on alternative break

student
Provided
In the kitchen of Home Delivered Meals, a student prepares food for senior citizens during an alternative spring break.

Forget the Florida foolishness. So long, sand and sun. Cornell students traveled to the concrete world of Manhattan’s Upper West Side to spend their spring break at the Goddard Riverside Community Center.

Goddard, a New York City human service organization, offers food, education, aid and social action programs. As part of the Cornell Public Service Center’s Alternative Break program, the students worked for Goddard’s Home Delivered Meals and The Other Place (TOP) programs, which serve homeless older adults and those living with mental illness.

For Goddard’s Home Delivered Meals, students prepared and packed 500 meals for senior citizens and delivered them to area seniors, many of whom are frail and live alone.

While meals met strict nutritional guidelines, the experience opened the eyes of Angie Estevez-Prada ’17. “The dynamic of the staff was amazing,” she said. “You really have to have a certain personality to do this work so diligently.”

At the TOP program, a supportive club for homeless and formerly homeless adults with mental illness, the students learned about clients’ life circumstances and stories of homelessness.

For this year’s spring break, about 74 Cornell students went to New York City to participate in about a dozen community service programs. Since the late 1990s, more than 2,000 students have participated in alternative spring breaks, according to Joyce Muchan, assistant director for student programs at Cornell’s Public Service Center.

During their final day, in a reflection meeting, Karen Smith Moore, associate director of programs at Goddard, assured the Cornell students that their impact was twofold: “As much as you all were touched by meeting and learning about our clients, they were positively impacted by your presence and willingness to engage with them. For you all to spend your free time and be present, it really is priceless.”

Christina McSwain is PR and communications manager and a blogger at Goddard Riverside Community Center.