Brooklyn eighth graders visit Ithaca via Cornell Urban Mentorship Initiative

April 12, 2008

Earlier this semester 40 eighth graders, 10 of their parents, two middle school teachers, and a principal made the long trip from Brooklyn to Ithaca to spend the weekend exploring college life and learning how to make college entrance a reality. For the past semester and a half, the Cornell Urban Mentorship Initiative (CUMI) has brought together Cornell students and students from the Urban Assembly School for the Urban Environment (UE), a middle school nestled between Marcy and Tompkins Housing Projects in the heart of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. This semester, the youth engaged in activities ranging from attending a Cornell basketball game to treating a panel of Cornell undergraduates and professors to a spoken word slam to attending a garden panel in which they learned how to create a rooftop garden on top of their own school. The mentoring initiative is the first of its kind for the university—never before has an Ithaca-based Cornell course brought urban youths to Ithaca or visited an urban center during the school year as part of a service-learning endeavor which combines coursework with community-based projects. “It was a wonderful experience to have these eighth graders from an area that doesn't have the same kind of advantages as the average Cornell student,” said Sarah Pressprich, a graduate assistant for the CUMI course. “To share the experience of higher education and of how they might get there was amazing” The two groups’ first in-person meeting took place last fall during a weekend trip to Brooklyn where the UE students hosted the Cornellians. The students worked and played together in a variety of activities, including step routines, basketball, and one-on-one activities in which pairs worked together to create laws, governments, flags, anthems, and occupations in their “dream” countries. In addition, the group enjoyed the robust flavors of some of Brooklyn’s finest Caribbean and soul food cuisines. 

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