Students Making a Difference

Sam Bindrim, a sophomore Adolescent Ed Math major, is tutoring a ninth-grader at the Cortland Prevention Services’ Homework Help Program.  Here, in her words, is how she is making a difference:

During last Tuesday’s session, John did not want to do his homework, as usual.  Seems like he saw me as the know-it-all college student.  “Fine,” I said, “I’ll use the time to do my work.”  When I opened my notebook, John saw my latest Calc I quiz.  “You’re tutoring me in math, but you got a 50?”

“Yeah,” I said, “just like you, I have struggles, so once I failed the quiz, I went out and got a tutor.  I only get one hour free each week with the tutor, and sometimes that’s not enough, but I work at it.”

John now understands that he needs to get to know other people before he judges them.  That’s how I’ve made a difference.


Service-Learning: Challenges Of a Busy Schedule

By Regina Gianfreda, Service- Learning Corps Intern

This semester I am defining the meaning of the word “challenging.”  Last semester when I created my schedule, I knew I would be incredibly busy. I would be serving as an intern for the Service-Learning Corps, tutoring for ASAP, having hands-on field experience at Parker Elementary school, on top of all my classes.  My jam-packed schedule, rigorous course work, and volunteer experiences are the challenge I set for myself – not just to simply do, but to do them to the best of my ability so I can learn through hands-on experience and reflection, as well as help my fellow community members.

Every week, I have field experience hours in Parker Elementary school.  I am an intern for a sixth- grade Inclusive Special Ed. room taught by Mr. Wallis and Ms. Swanson.  During the three hours I spend in the classroom during the week, I complete various tasks. Whether it is walking around the classroom, observing students complete a test, or sitting down and helping a student outline an essay, I know that I am serving the community of Parker school by creating relationships with the students, as well as with the teachers.  Sixth graders do not always want to do their work.  As someone who interns at the school twice a week for an hour and a half each time, these students are excited to see me, so school work may or may not be what they have in mind for my time there.  It is super challenging to keep these students on track the entire time I am there. The field experience portion is part of the class, FSA 210/211 (Introduction to Inclusive Teaching).  Twice a week, Professor Timberlake and our classmates meet for class and learn new material that we apply in our experiences at Parker School, in addition to reflecting on those experiences in class.  I can also apply some of that material on campus:  For twenty-five hours this semester I will be tutoring college students at the Academic Support and Achievement Program (ASAP) on campus.

Each ASAP tutoring session is an hour long, during which time I am helping tutees learn material from class in their own way, as well as, helping them enhance their own ways of learning with my guidance and prior knowledge from these courses. One thing that has been extremely challenging for me is tutees thinking I have and know all the answers, when in reality I do not!  Tutors are here to help to the best of their ability, by helping the tutee learn by their own means. I can tutor math, but under no circumstances am I a math expert!  It has been extremely challenging to not be discouraged when I do not know the answer, or if it takes me a while to understand how to help a tutee with a math problem.

I am also being tutored as a tutor.  Once a week, Jen Drake and our ASAP Tutor classmates meet for class and discuss effective ways of tutoring, and reflect on our tutoring experiences in class.  Luckily, I went into this tutoring class with a little bit of knowledge about tutoring since I attended the “Tutoring Workshop” last semester hosted by John Suarez and Jen Drake.  I reinforced the information from this workshop again this semester when I helped facilitate it with my colleagues John Suarez and Crissana Christie.  Facilitating the tutoring workshop was very relevant to my experiences.  Because I had gone to the workshop last semester, I am in a tutoring methods class, and tutor college students; I had a lot of rich information and experiences to share with those students who attended the workshop.

This semester has many challenges in store for me.  I have demanding classes, service- learning opportunities that challenge me to be a tutor, a mentor, and the best service-learner I can be through reflecting on my coursework and applying it to real life situations, as well as a rich internship where I can apply my coursework.  I am in the process of completing the challenge to the best of my ability so I can learn as much as I can and give back to the wonderful community I am serving in.


A Senior’s Perspective

By Colleen Honan, Intern for SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement

As my undergraduate career comes to a close, I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic about the past four years. Lately, I’ve caught myself saying, “I’m going to miss this,” more than I’d like to admit. As a senior about to graduate, I feel pretty sagely, especially when I look back at my eighteen-year-old self. Although I’m only in my early twenties, I’ve come a long way from my freshman self. It’s been a journey of mistakes that I roll my eyes at now, but I know that making those mistakes is what made these past four years a memorable learning experience.

At times, I felt as though I was stumbling through college and getting myself into all kinds of predicaments. I didn’t begin my college career at Cortland but rather at small private school in Vermont. It was a difficult first year of schooling and I honestly believe I was not ready for college. I’d like to point out the ridiculous notion that students are supposed to pick a major when they are eighteen. I was a dual French and International Studies major for a while with no intention of teaching. Please do not ask why I was adamant about a French major because I could not honestly answer. Nor could I tell you why I took Arabic classes on top of French classes. My GPA did not take kindly to either. But hey, you live and learn, and most of that learning happened outside of the classroom.

For instance, I decided at one point last summer that maybe I should try to be an Air Force officer. I now laugh every time I tell someone that. Why? Well, for one thing I had no prior experience with the military in any shape or form. I met with my recruiter and for some reason I passed the interview and was scheduled to take the Air Force Officer test. I had two weeks to study on top of college courses. I went to Albany for the test, which turned out to be the strangest experience. First of all, I stood out like a sore thumb with my high top Vans and leopard bag. It didn’t occur to me that maybe that wasn’t the correct attire for a military environment. I was awakened at four in the morning to take a test at eight. I was yelled at, corralled and processed with fifty other kids who were off to basic. Four hours later, I finally got around to the test. Needless to say, I failed, which I felt at first to be a slap in the face but later came to the realization that maybe this was a sign that the military was not for me.

The next week, I did a “180” and decided to apply for the Peace Corps, for which I was also rejected. I didn’t even think that was possible. I applied for countless other jobs and the rejection letters kept on coming. I was floored by this and dramatically claimed that I would never, ever, in a trillion years ever, have a career. Obviously I’m prone to dramatizations. Moral of the story:  failure is a part of life and it’s crucial for personal growth. I took chances and I take pride in the fact that I tried. Although I’m highlighting my least successful attempts, I believe they were some of the most enlightening moments. I never understood how important it is to fail, and – more importantly – how to recover from those failures.

Another piece of advice I wish I could go back in time and share with young Colleen is the necessity of trying things that force you out of your comfort zone. Fortunately, I did catch onto this once I transferred to Cortland. I played for the varsity soccer team for a while before I decided club soccer was a better fit for me. I have had three different internships and six types of jobs while in school. I’ve met so many great and helpful people along the way who have contributed to my positive experience here. The internship I currently have is with the Institute for Civic Engagement.

I kind of fell into this internship when I had an end of the semester crisis of “Oh my God, what am I doing with my life?” and frantically searched for openings. I was hesitant to intern here because it wasn’t necessarily something I thought would complement my major, but it was an internship after all. To my surprise, it turned out to be a fantastic situation for me because it allowed me to greatly improve my communication skills. I published a few articles in the Dragon Chronicle, kept a weekly blog, helped maintain social media accounts, and wrote press releases, all of which were learning opportunities for me. This internship has inspired me to be more involved with my community, and has spurred a new interest in working with non-profit organizations.

This summer, I will go to Poland on a month-long service-learning study-abroad trip. I will be taking one class while interning at a non-governmental organization. I’m hoping to be involved in one that focuses on women’s issues in Poland. Before I go, I’d like to begin volunteering at a local Planned Parenthood. I’ve always had an interest in women’s issues but was never sure how to pursue a career in it. Volunteerism had never occurred to me as a great way to discover interests and possible career paths, but it is. Not only are you dedicating your time to help others, you are learning about yourself as well.

All in all, it’s been a bumpy ride full of twists and turns, some that I wish I could relive again, and others I’d rather forget. What you get is what you put into it, and you somehow find yourself along the way. The best moments of undergraduate life resulted from closing my eyes and stepping away from what I knew. More often than not, I was rewarded for choosing to do something that terrified me, and that in itself was exhilarating. So to all my undergraduate peers, a Mark Twain quote seems fitting, “throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Volunteer Week

By Colleen Honan, Intern for SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement

On April 15th, we witnessed humanity at its lowest, but also at its brightest. The senseless killings were overshadowed by the humanity displayed by Bostonians and marathon goers. I was shaken by the explosions and distraught by the deaths and injuries sustained that day, but I was also comforted. A quote by Fred Rogers captures this perfectly, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” There are numerous uplifting accounts of people going out of their way to respond to the bombings. From the medical responders and law enforcement officers to ordinary citizens offering up their couches on craigslist. These overwhelmingly courageous and selfless stories can be an inspiration to everyone. These helpers set us apart and demonstrated how a simple act can make all the difference to some one else.

This week is National Volunteer Week, a week to celebrate people making a significant difference through service. These days of service are a great opportunity to give back to your community. Founded in 1974, this week centers on the impact and power of volunteerism. It is also a chance to step up as helper in your area just as so many did in Boston. The Cortland community and surrounding towns are always looking for volunteers for various services dedicated to making their community a better place. Find a cause you believe in and dedicate your time to it.

If you’re looking for reasons to soak up the sun, voice an interest in helping with the plans for a campus garden. There will be an event to build raised beds on April 23rd, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m in front of Neubig Hall.

Volunteer for the March of Dimes in Ithaca this Saturday to celebrate 75 years of working for healthier, stronger babies. The event is in need of volunteers to help with registration, organizing and setting up for the event! Find more information here.

If you’d rather stay close to home, volunteer for the Spring Community Cortland Clean-up on Saturday May 4th. For more information about the Spring Community Clean-Up here.

Volunteer for the Spring Fling clean up this Sunday, April 28th.

If you are a future educator, sign up as a mentor for youth at the local YMCA. If you are less of a people person, volunteer at the SPCA; animals need hugs too!

The point is that there are half a dozen services that are in dire need of your time and energy. Do your community and yourself a favor by lending a hand to a cause that inspires you. Not only is it a great résumé builder, it’s also a chance to step outside your comfort zone by doing some good for others.

Become a helper this week, be Boston Strong!

Share your volunteer experiences with us on our Facebook page or on our Twitter feed with #getinvolved.

Sustainability Month

By Colleen Honan, Intern for SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement

Sustainability month is upon us once again! Time to check your energy wasting habits at the door and participate in a bunch of green activities! This month Sustainable Cortland will be hosting a variety of events that encourage Cortland students to keep their environment in mind and support the green movement. We all need a gentle reminder to turn off the TV, the lights and just be a little more mindful about energy use. This month will also be promoting clean energy, more sustainable ways of living, as well as supporting our local economy.

Each week in April will be dedicated to a different topic concerning sustainability, beginning with energy week (April 8-14), followed by climate week (April 15-21), and concluding with food week (April 22-28). Lectures and activities will focus on these themes in order to provide important information while ensuring everyone has a good time!

Here are some highlights of the events that will be taking place during Sustainability Month:

To kick-start Sustainability month, a flash rave will be hosted featuring a student DJ and glow sticks! Students will be invited to the steps of Corey Union on April 11, at 8 p.m. to dance their hearts out for fifteen minutes to help promote energy week. Bring your raving shoes!

Another great event planned is Cortland Blooms, which is a small biking event that is a perfect excuse to get outside and support local businesses. A bike path will be set up between the Cortland County building and the Corset building, which will wind through an art gallery set up by local artists. There will also be free helmet fittings and bike rentals! All festivities begin at 11 a.m.

The last week of Sustainability Month will be dedicated to strictly food. A local foods workshop will be hosted at the Blue Frog Café from 5-6 p.m. on April 22. There are few things better than delicious, free food.

Also, Allan Gandelman of Main Street Farms will be giving a talk about sustainable agriculture in Sperry 204 at 7 p.m. on April 24, to wrap up the end of Sustainability Month.

So take some time out of your schedule to attend a few of the events. Bring your friends and enjoy yourself while taking in some valuable information about the green movement. Learn how you can be a part of it!

If you’re wondering how to get involved like our Facebook page at SUNY Cortland Sustainability Month or Sustainable Cortland’s website at

If you aren’t going to Panama City. . .

By Colleen Honan, Intern for SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement

The woes of Midterms week are almost over, and Spring Break is about to begin. Time to take a break from the demand of schoolwork and college life for a little while. If you were left behind by your friends who jetted off to warmer destinations and left you in the Arctic Circle known as New York State, then you might not be feeling too enthusiastic about the week ahead. I also was not one of the fortunate who managed to secure a spot on the next departing Caribbean cruise. However, I have given some thought to the options that are possible for my spring break that will work for anyone not laying on a beach in Mexico.

If home doesn’t seem appealing, then why not look into an alternative spring break? The phrase “alternative spring break” typically means volunteering for the duration of your break in exchange for a rewarding experience. You can stay local and check out a Habitat for Humanity organization near you, or you can look online to find travel abroad breaks that are always looking for volunteers. Your friends might be in Miami, but you could be in Central America soaking in the culture while lending a helping hand.

Volunteering is always a good idea; there are a thousand ways to give back to your community while building up that resume! Love animals? Play with some at your local animal shelter! Aspiring to be an educator? Help at an after-school program, or tutor. The list goes on, so take a look at what your community needs and help out!

If that doesn’t do it for you, there are other inexpensive ways to enjoy your break without breaking your bank. Check out your community’s events and do a little exploring. Indulge in a little culture while you’re home, attend a play, a musical, or go to an art gallery. Try a new restaurant, or go see a local band! Only the boring get bored!

Why not takes some classes when your home? No, I don’t mean something like Macroeconomics, unless of course, that floats your boat. Try something you know nothing about. Get out of that comfort zone and meet some new people. Take a class for yoga, cooking, pottery, or rock climbing. Find something you’ve always wanted to do but have never had the chance.

I know we are all looking forward to warmer weather that doesn’t require Eskimo attire, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy winter! The seasons become more exciting when you take advantage of them. The list of outdoor winter activities is endless. Skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, ice-skating, and snowmobiling are only a few suggestions. A lot of winter sports are relatively inexpensive and give you the chance to appreciate the snowy weather.

So go forth and seize spring break! Create your own adventures to rival those who went down south to enjoy themselves. Stay safe and enjoy yourselves!


Honoring the Do-Gooders

By Colleen Honan, Intern for SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement

Each year since 2005, SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement has recognized outstanding individuals or groups for noteworthy contributions to our community through leadership and various civic engagement activities.  Those who are honored by the Leadership in Civic Engagement awards have positively improved the quality of life in the Cortland area, and have shown a commitment to service in the Cortland community. SUNY Cortland students, faculty, staff, and community members can nominate an individual, a group, or themselves for a Leadership in Civic Engagement award. Furthermore, students are eligible for scholarships provided by the Institute for Civic Engagement and the Office of Institutional Advancement for exceptional civic engagement initiatives.

These awards and scholarships are a great way for students to further build their résumés. We all know that the job market isn’t looking too favorable for most students, so it is even more crucial that we take those extra steps to stand out. Whether it is an application for graduate school, or for a job, awards such as this will represent desired characteristics of leadership and hard work. And, let’s be honest, we need all the help we can get once we leave the college bubble.

Previous winners include a student who served Cortland Against All Rape for over four years, as well as students and faculty who conducted Project LEAPE (Leadership in Education in Adapted Physical Education), through which Cortland and Homer area students with mental and physical disabilities enjoy a range of activities while also raising awareness. These examples – only two of many – are a few of the different types of activities that have been carried out by prior nominees. So, if you know someone, or are someone who has gone above and beyond to reach out to the Cortland community, fill out a nomination form.

To complete a nomination, please go to SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement’s web page. If you are interested in applying for scholarships please go to; use the key words “community service”, to identify the relevant scholarships. Be sure to apply soon: deadlines are upon us! The applications for scholarships are due Saturday, March 2nd. Deadline for Leadership in Civic Engagement Award nominations is Friday March 15th.


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