After three years of limited operations, Ithaca College’s paid Off-Campus Community Service Program (OCCSP), which provides paid community service opportunities to students who receive federal work study, is back for Fall 2022 with a full staff.
For the program, the college partners with organizations and nonprofits in the Ithaca area to find placements for students. As of October 2022, 12 local organizations, including Foodnet Meals on Wheels, Quarter Acre for the People and Durland Alternatives Library, have partnered with the college for the program and the list is likely to grow, according to the OCCSP. According to the program website, prospective employees can apply through the IC Student Recruitment Cloud and are required to work for at least nine hours per week.
Jackson Short ’21, business process and systems analyst in the Office of Human Resources and Planning, oversees the OCCSP and said it serves as a means for students to earn money that can go toward their financial aid and other expenses, and as a way for them to engage with the local community and experience a professional working environment.
“I think … these jobs tend to be very great experiential learning opportunities,” Short said. “I think that there’s a real benefit to leaving campus as well, and to being able to see the community that exists outside of [the college] and to engage with that.”
Short said 7% of the funding received by the college for federal work study is set apart for the program. Short said most jobs tend to pay students at least $13.35 per hour to begin with in the form of a bi-weekly paycheck.
Short said that while the number of students participating declined during COVID-19, typically 20 to 25 students participate in the program each year. In the 2022–23 academic year, the program aims at recruiting about 20 students, but Short said the recruitment process is still ongoing.
For the 2022–23 academic year, The Durland Alternatives Library in Ithaca hired two students for their Prisoner Express Program, a distance learning program for inmates that aims at providing them with a public platform to creatively express themselves. The program, which is one of the many initiatives that the library has, sends inmates book packages and feedback on their writing.
Gary Fine, director of Durland Alternatives Library, said students work both with the Prisoner Express Program and the library in general by cataloging books, developing the collection and other activities, like reading inmates’ letters and writing back to them.
“My perspective on [the college] has been generally created by the student workers who want to work for me,” Fine said. “The majority of [student employees] reflect IC in those positive ways that create incredible programming for prisoners … and I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I have a large base of students to refer to when I say this.”
Senior Adison Nadler was hired at the end of September 2022 to collaborate with other student employees from the college and Cornell University to build a social media presence for the Durland Alternatives Library. Nadler said she has found the program to be a unique way to engage with a wider community.
“I definitely think it’s helping me just kind of learn how to acclimate myself into a new work environment without it being facilitated by a professor,” Nadler said. “And I’m getting to work with people who I don’t necessarily go to school with or take classes with. So it is just coming into a group of my peers in age but not necessarily in skills or interests. I feel like I’ll be able to learn a lot from them.”
Foodnet Meals on Wheels, a partnering organization of the program, provides and delivers meals to senior citizens in Tompkins County. They are currently looking for a social media and community engagement facilitator through the OCCSP.
Aly Evans, executive director of Foodnet Meals on Wheels, said working at the program could be beneficial for the students because it provides them with an opportunity to learn beneficial skills for the future, by contributing to the community they are a part of.
“To be able to get those experiences and to have long-term impact for a nonprofit organization such as ours does a really great job to serve the community in need,” Evans said. “And that’s a resume builder. That’s going to help define where you want to go in your life.”
Quarter Acre for the People, another partner agency, is a program within the Khuba International nonprofit group that is looking for a social media and e-blast coordinator, as well as a photographer and filmmaker. The organization aims to provide support to farmers of color through the development of farming cooperatives and access to other farming activities, like food production and homesteading.
Christa Núñez, executive director of Khuba International and owner of The Learning Farm, said she is excited about collaborating with younger people and believes that students can grow by participating in the program.
“We partner actively with students at Cornell University and departments like the Master of Public Health Program [at Cornell University],” Núñez said. “Students potentially could grow in building their networks across other campuses and creating connections between students at Cornell and [Ithaca College].”