As an African American and Environmental Studies double major, the array of projects Kori Strother ’15 has immersed herself in at For the Good, Inc. complement her studies and interests beautifully. Now in the sixth week of her fellowship, she has already gained experience editing the Utica Phoenix, updating its Facebook and Twitter pages, recording local octogenarians on their memories of race relations and influences of Jazz on American culture, matting vintage photos for the developing Oneida County Black History Archive, and weeding and planting in For the Good’s two community gardens. She will spend the remainder of her fellowship working in these areas, as well as bringing a younger voice to the Utica Phoenix through reporting and writing. While she was initially attracted to the Upstate Institute to develop her research skills, Kori has learned more than she imagined about what goes into running a non-profit, editing a newspaper, and keeping a city that “some consider to be dead” vibrant through her work with For the Good, Inc.
For the Good, Inc. was founded in 2002 to support low-income Utica residents and neighborhoods in overcoming poverty through a variety of programs. The organization relies on proceeds from the Utica Phoenix, its grassroots newspaper that presents and upholds the views and voices of those we hear from the least, to fund its range of programs and events. Programs such as the Study Buddy Club, founded in direct response to violence in African-American girl gangs, seek to provide academic, social, and cultural enrichment opportunities for inner-city, multicultural youth between the ages of 13 and 18. For the Good has also created opportunities for Utica youths to participate in original arts and theater productions, such as the Wonderful Wizard of Was that premiered in 2008 and involved nearly 100 children and teens. The organization’s Mohawk Valley Entrepreneurs Guild supports inner-city tradesmen and entrepreneurs as they envision and create their own companies. The community gardens were founded in 2008 and provide free produce to local immigrants who volunteer and maintain the gardens.
Kori has observed that “the people who come in here every day are dedicated to the mission and literally willing to work for the good.” For the Good, Inc. is primarily run by Cassandra Harris-Lockwood, the CEO, President, and founder, and highly dedicated volunteers. Kori says the organization wants to “expose the infected parts of Utica and shine light on the good that is coming out of Utica” in order to keep “it, as well as its people, alive.” She will channel this energy and outlook into her increased responsibilities with the Utica Phoenix. In the coming weeks, Kori will write a commentary on the recent results of the Trayvon Martin case, as well as an article on For the Good’s community gardens and a garden they helped begin in Rome. This will include setting up and conducting interviews with garden technicians and volunteers from each place. In addition, Kori will write pieces from her interviews with individuals in Utica regarding its city run gardens and veterans organization. Be sure to follow the Utica Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with Kori and For the Good’s busy, productive days!