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Summer 2011: Student field school projects

By Upstate Institute on August 15, 2011

Each summer, Colgate students remain in the region to work as field school fellows with the Upstate Institute. The fellows work with a community, government, or non-profit partner to create and complete projects that will have a positive social, economic, cultural, or environmental impact on the upstate region.

Below are a few of the community partners and projects from the summer of 2011.

For the Good Inc.

Makenna Osborn ’12 worked at For the Good, Inc., a not for profit organization that runs several programs centered around empowering low-income residents in the Utica community to overcome poverty through their own means. She helped manage For the Good’s Utica Community Gardens initiative, which involved organizing garden volunteers, managing day-to-day garden tasks, and representing the garden at community events. She also set up a metrics system for the gardens, since the organization did not have a method for officially measuring the produce of their gardens and therefore their impact on the community. Through the metrics system that she put in place this summer, For the Good began measuring the amount of produce that each garden yields and will be able to continue doing so in the future in order to have an accurate method for assessing the impact of the gardens.

Hope House

Makenna Osborn ’12, worked with Hope House to create a computerized inventory system that will help the organization keep better track of their incoming and outgoing supplies. Prior to this summer, Hope House did not have an official inventory system beyond periodic hand checking. As a result, the organization did not always have an accurate measurement of the paper supplies and food items that they had in stock and occasionally ran out of supplies unexpectedly.

Makenna created a computerized inventory system that will help Hope House to effectively keep track of the organization’s product supply levels. She took stock of all of Hope House’s supplies, systematically labeled all of the storage areas, created an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the supply levels, and generated corresponding forms to assist kitchen managers in updating the inventory information. This system will allow Hope House to function more efficiently and better serve their guests.

Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc.

TC Gallagher ’12, assisted Professor Susan Conn, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, in continuing the Consumer Bankruptcy Law Project. Originally started by Professor Conn, the Consumer Bankruptcy Law Project is a joint venture between the Upstate Institute of Colgate University and LASMNY, in which each semester eight to ten Colgate Students are trained in chapter 7 bankruptcy law and ethics in a class room setting and then each prepares an actual chapter 7 bankruptcy case, which has been pre-screened by LASMNY. The purpose of this project is to streamline the consumer bankruptcy filing process for low-income individuals and couples so that they may be referred out to a Pro-Bono attorney. Without the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, many low-income individuals in the Central New York area would be unable to obtain a fresh start through a chapter 7 bankruptcy due to the complicated nature of the bankruptcy filing process and/or the high cost of hiring a private attorney.

TC was able to review and complete four separate chapter 7 bankruptcy cases that were started during the Spring 2011 semester. He conducted one on one meetings, both over the phone and in the office, with clients to obtain the most up to date information about their debts and other financial information, as well as guide them through an online credit-counseling course, a requirement before filing a bankruptcy case. Once he was able to include any new information in the cases, he drafted memorandums for each file, detailing a basic outline of the client’s situation, and then assisted in referring each case out to a pro bono attorney in the Central New York region.

Madison County Stop DWI

Jack Daly ’12, worked on two projects with Madison County Stop DWI with DWI Arrest Report data. The first was a project conducted for the District Attorney’s Office, which called for him to analyze the total dollar amount of fines being collected from DWI sentencing and computing the amount of money the county was not utilizing by not following through on fine collection. He learned that approximately only 40-50% of fines are actually collected, and the county could collect an additional $130,000-$140,000 annually if it followed through with the courts on tracking down defendants and enforcing fine collection. The second project was a statistical analysis of arrest report data from 2007 to 2009 to determine the relationship between different variables (including but not limited to: age, gender, number of previous offenses, blood alcohol content, arresting officer, police agency, judge, etc) and the sentence that an offender would receive.

Oneida Community Mansion House

Amy Brown ’13, worked with the Oneida Community Mansion House to produce high-quality image files of more than two thousand photographs from the albums of Jessie Kinsley, an original community member, so that the photos would be useful for any publishing endeavors of the mansion house. She documented each photograph with details such as the photo’s measurements, captions, and who or where was pictured, in a format that would allow the contents of the albums to be searched on the computer without consulting the aged albums in the future.

These albums are significant because they present a very thorough record of community members and activities, they had not been examined by anyone at the museum previously, and they contain interesting information and resources for future exhibits, the Jessie Kinsley exhibit already in existence, and the educational endeavors of the museum.

By working in the mansion house, Amy learned a great deal about the community from local descendants and historians and was able to link the people and places she encountered in photographs with actual locations, happenings, and radical experiments that have social implications throughout the workd now and in the future.

Pathfinder Village

Paige Cross ’11, worked with the development office at Pathfinder Village. Due to the specialized nature of the program, the narrow audience of people with Down syndrome and their families or caretakers, and its rather remote location in Central New York, Pathfinder Village often faces difficulties with its recruitment and fundraising efforts.

As a result, Paige worked to increase Pathfinder Village’s visibility and research fundraising and grant opportunities. In order to develop Pathfinder Village’s presence and reach, she turned to informal outlets such as Facebook to explore the potential for non-profit fundraising. She developed a calendar of potential posts and Facebook initiatives that Pathfinder Village might undertake in the coming year. She discussed methods of “friend-raising” with the staff, and several of her idea were implemented during the fellowship. She also researched five major potential grant sources, and developed reports for the staff to use in the application process. Finally, she researched media outlets to update the organization’s database for newspaper, television, and radio contacts, and worked with a Colgate alum and a current Colgate student to plan Colgate-Pathfinder Village interactions.

Partnership for Community Development

Amy Brown ’13, worked at the Partnership for Community Development to help with the organization’s Great Chocolate Train Festival in September 2011, a historic family event unique to Hamilton which attracts visitors to the area. She contacted potential chocolate vendors and train exhibitors; assisted with the design of various advertisements for the festival; wrote a press release for a teacher education workshop associated with the festival; recruited Colgate volunteers for the day of the festival; researched similar festivals for ideas; designed and edited the festival’s webpage; and planned a schedule of events for the day of the festival.

Since the PCD also publishes a monthly magazine containing upcoming events in the area, she wrote the text for the Community Page in the August and September issues, a section that describes special events in greater detail. Through this position, Amy gained experience in marketing and advertising, verbal communication, and writing for publications.

Shapna Tea and Coffee Company

Caroline Anderson ’12, worked with the Shapna project on community outreach and expanded sales reach in the Upstate region. The Shapna Project is a for-profit tea and coffee company that gives back to the community from which it purchases its products and to communities which consumes its products. Twenty percent goes back to coffee and tea farming villages in Uganda and Bangladesh, and another twenty percent goes to community development efforts in Central New York. Caroline used research skills to determine which coffee shops in the area might be interested in working with Shapna, and spoke with community members about Shapna’s mission. She learned about the struggle of small business owners in the region, and came to understand the unique needs of small businesses and farms in an agricultural economy.

Southern Madison Heritage Trust

Claire Burgett '12 hammering a stake into the ground in the field.

Claire Burgett ’12 worked with Southern Madison Heritage Trust.

Claire Burgett ’12 worked with Southern Madison Heritage Trust to learn more about Fiddler’s Green, a parcel of land they manage with the Nature Conservancy. The land is important biologically due to a bog ecosystem present there, which contains many rare species. This bog used to cover a much larger amount of land, but it has been shrinking rapidly.

Claire worked to determine the historical extent of the bog, to document the flora present on the property, and to determine how environmental conditions caused by the succession of the bog affected plant life. Working in two transects (one which ran from west to east through the center of the bog between two well-defined ridges, and another which ran from north to south through the center of the bog between a well-defined ridge to the north and past a smaller ridge and into woodland area to the south) she used various sites every 20 m to take GPS coordinates, soil samples, and surface water samples. She then recorded the abundance of each plant species, such as sphagnum moss, pitcher plants, sundews, blueberries, huckleberries, red maple, white pine, and tamaracks.

Young Scholars Liberty Partnership Program at Utica College

Nam Kieu, ’11, worked with the Young Scholar Program in Utica to help the staff compose a completely digital database on Excel that is available to produce reports in an easy manner. Because of Nam’s skills in photography, he was also asked to take photos of the scholars, both individual photos, and photos of group activities. Additionally, he completed the research paper prepared by Paige Cross, the Upstate Institute fellow, in the summer of 2010. Using graduation data from the school’s administrative system, the paper examines the positive impact of YSLPP on its scholars. Paige and I discovered that students selected and participated in the Young Scholar Programs are more likely to graduate from high schools, and, when graduating from high school, they are more likely to earn a diploma with distinction than normal Utica students. These results are evidence of the commitment of YSLPP to higher academic standards.

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