Johnson Students Celebrated for Community Service Projects

5/6/2014 4:04:00 PM

Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick ’09 delivers keynote at this year’s Leadership Through Service Symposium

When Cindy Nham, MBA ’15, organized the Community Impact Club's annual spring auction at Johnson this year, she found so many students wanted to donate home-cooked dinners, gourmet lunches, and athletic training sessions that she had to turn some of them away.

"I was really overwhelmed with the response," said Nham, the club's vice president for fundraising. "On the very last day before the auction, I had 24 students reach out to me to ask how they could contribute with a donation. At a certain point, I had to cut people off and say we couldn't accept any more."

The March auction, which raised nearly $12,000 for four area nonprofits, was one of six Johnson student-led community service projects that was recognized at the Second Annual Leadership Through Service Symposium at the Statler Hotel on April 23.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 kicked off the event by urging the students not to wait to volunteer in the community. "I believe that young people like you have the skills that we need in the nonprofit sector that we are not getting," Myrick said. "You have the energy, the creativity, and the moral authority to make change, and it's those things — not experience — that matter."

Pointing to his own experience becoming Ithaca's mayor at the age of 24, Myrick said it was a community service project — tutoring kids downtown — that led to his first job as a social worker and his friendship with another social worker, who was a city Common Council member. After being invited to attend the council meetings, Myrick became hooked on government service and was elected to the council himself as a Cornell junior.

"Through service learning, not only did I fill up some time and make a little bit of extra cash, but I found a calling," said Myrick, who is the youngest and first African-American mayor in Ithaca history.

As the Johnson students presented their projects at the event, they showed how they have committed themselves to community service work by volunteering for a range of nonprofit organizations, from the Ithaca Incubator to the United Way of Tompkins County.

Jonathan Ambrose, MBA ’14, a Park Leadership Fellow, conducted an analysis of more than 50 incubators around the country and helped create an operating budget for the Ithaca Incubator, collaboration between Cornell, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College. After completing the study, Ambrose recommended key services the incubator needed to offer to attract entrepreneurs after it opens downtown this summer.

"Entrepreneurship is really about opportunity," says Ambrose, an entrepreneur himself whose Collegetown company, Rosie, provides economic and data analytics for retail businesses. "I think there are so many people in this region who are trying to create and trying to grow businesses."

Vikash Khanna, MBA ’15, and three other students in BR Consulting worked on a benchmarking study for the Tompkins County Public Library, comparing it to 30 peer libraries in college towns and cities in the Northeast. The team made three recommendations that could help the library increase funding and improve services: creating new revenue streams such as a café; adding more e-books to the circulation; and tailoring programming to senior citizens.

"The project overall has been a wonderful experience," Khanna said. "It taught me a great deal about managing relationships and managing expectations, but more fundamentally about giving back to the community."

— Sherrie Negrea