Iscol program marks 10 years of inspiring students to serve.Since she graduated from Cornell, Chakira Branch '08 has dedicated herself to serving inner-city youth as a volunteer in her hometown of New York City.
In 2009, she was sworn, in by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as one of 193 inaugural members of New York City Civic Corps, a program to support local nonprofits and to grow the city's volunteer ranks. Branch spent a year recruiting volunteers for the Mentoring Children of Prisoners program run by Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City. She later aided in the development of Bigs United and High Impact Alliance, two new organizations committed to mentoring young people.
For Branch, her drive to serve youth started in 2007 at Cornell, when she interned with The Renaissance University for Community Education (TRUCE), an after-school program in Harlem. The experience "opened my eyes to many of the unfair disadvantages that youth have in urban communities," said Branch, who grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Ever since, she has been drawn to "teach youth the values of education, activism, and commitment to their community."
Branch's triumphs as a community leader are the sort oi success story Jill and Ken Iscol hoped for when they funded the Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development in Public Service in 2001. (Ken Iscol is a 1960 graduate of Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.) Based in the College of Human Ecology, the program seeks to inspire and educate Cornell students to become leaders in civic engagement through internships and annual campus visits by luminaries in public service. The Iscol Summer Internships in Public Service were initiated in 2007; to date, Branch and 45 other Cornell students have worked with community groups in underserved areas.
On Sept. 26, the Iscol program marked its 10th anniversary by welcoming as Cornell's annual Iscol Fellow Josh Tetrick '04, chief executive officer of 33needs, a microcredit: web platform that allows everyday people to invest in social enterprises around the globe. Tetrick met with students interested in social entrepreneurship and delivered a public lecture, "Connect Your Future to Change." While on campus, Jill Iscol shared information about her new book, Hearts on Fire: Twelve Stories of Today's Visionaries Igniting Idealism into Action, which was inspired in part by her interactions with Iscol fellows and students.
John Eckenrode, the co-director of the Iscol program, credited the Iscols for supporting a program that "builds on a strong tradition of public service at the university and among our students."
Eckenrode, professor of human development and director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, added, "Our students learn that service goes far beyond volunteering--that to build and sustain a successful public service program calls on all the talent, vision, and energy that leads to success in any other profession. We hope that the small seeds sown with this program will grow in many vigorous and exciting ways once our students leave Cornell."
Among the notable speakers in the annual lecture series have been Michelle Rhee '92, former chancellor of Washington, D.C, public schools; Bill Shore, founder of Share Our Strength; Ken Grouf '93, founder and former co-executive director of City Year New York; and Sara Horowitz '84, founder of Working Today--Freelancers Union.