REACH stands for Raising Education Attainment Challenge. The REACH Program at the Cornell Public Service Center is a student initiative consisting of Team Leaders, America Reads/Counts Challenge tutors (ARCC), and volunteer tutors committed to supporting community organizations and schools serving children’s academic and social needs.

The purpose of the program is to recruit and mobilize a diverse, talented group of tutors so that they may have the necessary resources, peer support, and leadership to assist in the enhancement of academic achievement of children and youth in grades pre-K-12th.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Hello tutors!

The REACH board would like to thank you for all your efforts this semester. The work you do is incredible, and the difference you make is enormous. REACH tutors have collectively contributed over 7,000 hours of service to the youth in Ithaca and the surrounding areas this semester. That's over 9 non-stop months of service! Congratulations!

Good luck on your finals and have a wonderful holiday season!

~ The REACH Board

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tutor Development Session - Dr. John Sipple

Click on the Video to Watch!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

GIAC and the Kids! - Tara

Hey guys! I’m a new GIAC tutor and I just want to say how great the experience is. I’ve tutored kids before in Africa and it’s so funny to see how kids from all over the world act pretty much exactly the same. They are all so social and ready to run around and make you cakes out of the playground bark. This leads me to one of my favorite memory at GIAC so far.

After tutoring some of the kids, we all went outside to play on the playground. I was with a group of girls who were playing house. They served me a huge dinner complete with bark cakes, bark fried chicken, and invisible juice. The kids at GIAC are amazing and are so fun to work with. It’s a great feeling when you can brighten a child’s day by helping them solve a math problem or running around in the gym playing capture the flag. Tutoring at GIAC is definitely a great experience, and it is a great way to get away from the Cornell Campus and interact with amazing kids.

Peace and Love,


Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

H1N1 UPDATE #4- Ben Ortiz


I just received official word that the Ithaca City School District has completely lifted the moratorium on CU volunteers!!

So, with 2 small exceptions, all REACH tutors are cleared to continue (or start) tutoring at this point.

The exceptions are volunteers at Northeast Kids Count, who are not yet allowed to visit, and the Community Nursery School, who we are going to check up on by next week.

Progress is good.

-Ben Ortiz (

Monday, September 28, 2009

H1N1 UPDATE #3- Ben Ortiz


Two updates since my last announcement:

-All schools in the Groton School District are officially open for all REACH tutors on those teams (Groton HS, Groton ES, Cassavant ES).

-Beverly J. Martin Elementary School's Enrichment Program is also officially open for all REACH tutors on that team.

Stay tuned for more updates!
Ben Ortiz

Friday, September 18, 2009

H1N1 UPDATE #2- Ben Ortiz


Here are some developments since my last announcement:
• All sites that are "parented" by the Ithaca Youth Bureau are fully operational for work-study AND volunteer tutors. This includes:
o College Discovery Program sites at Dewitt & Boynton Middle Schools
o Paul Schreurs Memorial Program sites at Boynton MS and Ithaca HS.
• The Northeast "Kids Count" site is now allowing work-study tutors only.
• The Southside Community Center site is fully operational for work-study AND volunteer tutors.
• The Upward Bound sites in Groton HS and the 2 Elmira HS's are fully operational for work-study AND volunteer tutors.
• The Lansing Residential Center site is fully operational for work-study AND volunteer tutors.
o This is likely also the case for Gossett Res. Ctr. and MacCormick Secure Center. Those Team Leaders need to contact their Site Supervisors ASAP.

Stay tuned for more updates. Have a great weekend!

H1N1 UPDATE #1- Ben Ortiz


This is the first official H1N1 flu update for the REACH program, with more to come.

There has been a lot of information (and mis-information) swirling around about the status of CU students working/volunteering in the Ithaca City School District and other districts, so please read all details carefully:

  • The news:
    • The Ithaca City School District has declared a moratorium on CU volunteers (but not work-study employees or students doing work for credit) because of the high numbers of CU students with H1N1 flu. This moratorium does not have a concrete end-date, but many of us are thinking it will last for about 2 weeks. New information should be available by Friday.
    • There are other districts and organizations who have done something similar. To my knowledge, they are:
      • Northeast ES "Kids Count" (moratorium until further notice).
      • Groton School District (2-week moratorium).
  • The impact on REACH:
    • Tutors and Team Leaders who are earning work-study through REACH may continue to work at this time (unless you are sick, in which case you need to stay home!).
    • Tutors and Team Leaders who are NOT earning work-study and who are considered "volunteers" must refrain from traveling to their REACH sites until the moratorium is lifted.
    • Tutors who are utilizing REACH as the fieldwork component of the ED2400 class may continue to work at this time (unless you are sick, in which case you need to stay home!).
    • Team Leaders who are volunteers should continue to:
      • provide leadership and support to their work-study tutors who continue to travel to their sites.
      • stay in touch with your site supervisors via phone and email.
    • All Team Leaders should get in touch with their Site Supervisors ASAP to get any clarifications on this situation and to ask if they are doing anything in addition to the moratorium (if their site is within the affected districts).
    • Team Leaders whose sites are not part of the affected districts should get in touch with their Site Supervisors ASAP to ask if it's OK for your team to travel there. Get in touch with me as soon as you have an answer.
    • All REACH teams should continue to hold their bi-weekly team meetings as usual. Work-Study employees will continue to be paid for these because they qualify as "training sessions." Our Service-learning Chairs will be giving you the agenda items as usual.

Without a doubt, this is a difficult time for all of us. I ask that you all bear with us in managing this unprecedented situation. I'm confident that we'll be able to get everyone back out into their community sites within a few weeks, if not sooner. Please don't over-schedule yourselves in the time until then because you may find it difficult to re-integrate REACH into your schedule!

If there are any questions, you should email me, Ben Ortiz ( and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Please do not come to the PSC with questions because the foot-traffic in the office would be overwhelming for our small staff.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New REACH Board!

Clara Lee
REACH Chair, Team Leader (SIFE After School, Belle Sherman ES)

Meghan Smith
Service Learning Co-Chair, Team Leader (GIAC)

Mony Sarkar
Financial Co-Chair, Team Leader (NKC)

Nate Houghton
Financial Co-Chair, Team Leader (Groton ES)

Kristel Keegan
Publicity/Recruitment Co-Chair,Team Leader (Paul Schreurs Memorial Program)

Jayson Jones
Publicity/Recruitment Co-Chair, Team Leader (Fall Creek ES)

Tzvetelina Nikolova
Service-Learning Co-Chair, Team Leader (Upward Bound: Elmira Free Academy and Southside High School)

Ben Ortiz
PSC K-12 Coordinator

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Find out more about REACH!

Informational activities for REACH will be going on all week! Find out more about the REACH program and how to apply at the following events:

(1) CLUBFEST: Sunday, August 30, 1pm-4pm (Come find the REACH table, talk to current tutors, ask questions, take a REACH sticker or quartercard, and sign up for our list serve!)

(2) INFORMATION SESSION #1: Tuesday, September 1, 5pm-6pm, Lewis Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall. (Find out more about the application process and about REACH as an organization. Meet the Site Leaders for each of our different locations, and learn more about what it is like to work at those different sites).

(3) INFORMATION SESSION #2: Wednesday, September 2, 5pm-6pm in Room 165, McGraw Hall. (Same content as Information Session #1).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

REACH on the Cornell Chronicle!

Check out this article on Svante Myrick, our very own Paul Schreurs Memorial Program High School Team Leader and Publicity Co-Chair, and his reflections on four years in Cornell and REACH.

And on that note, we give our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all our graduating seniors for your hard work and dedication to the REACH organization. We thank our tutors, team leaders, and board members, especially

Brian Donovan - Chairman/president, BJM Elementary Team Leader
Svante Myrick - Publicity co-chair, Paul Schreurs Memorial Program High School Team Leader
Rif Rahman - Administrative co-chair, Boynton Middle School SuperCAT Team Leader
Susan Duan - Service learning co-chair
Teisha Swint - BJM Elementary Team Leader
Lindsay McAleer - Gossett Residential Center Team Leader
Danny Araniz - MacCormick Secure Center Team Leader
Emma Loughman - Parkside Gardens Team Leader
Jonathan Ray - Parkside Gardens/West Village Team Leader
Ugorji Emenike - Southside Community Center Team Leader

We all wish you the best of luck in your future plans! REACH could not have made such an impact on the community without you!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Reflections on the First Year of a New REACH Site - Ann Martin (Odessa Montour High)

My name is Ann Martin, and I'm the team leader at Odessa Montour High School. This site was just added to REACH in the fall of this year, and I was new to REACH last semester as well, so I feel like I've been through a lot of "firsts" with the OM site: the first time I drove to OM with Ben Ortiz to meet the principal and the guidance counselors I've worked with over the last year, the first time I tutored, the first day that we had our own dedicated classroom to use after school, and the first time a new member of the team drove to Odessa with me. I can't believe how quickly the year has flown by, and I'm really excited to put the lessons of this year to use to make the program stronger and more enriching in the fall.

With this in mind, I've been spending a lot of time looking at and thinking about different enrichment activities that I can bring to Odessa Montour, which is a pretty small school (about 500 kids in middle and high school) in a very rural community about 40 minutes from Ithaca. For my contribution to the blog, I thought it might be fun to share links for some of my favorite activities that make learning about science, math, and social studies fun:

  • Mega Math at Los Alamos National Labs: A bunch of conceptual math activities, relating to ideas like, "What's an algorithm?" or "Why can all maps be colored in using just four colors?" I'm a really big fan of the Hotel Infinity, an activity used by one of my teachers back when I was in high school.

  • Activities on the Nature of Science: These activities help students uncover the "point" behind the scientific method, by applying it to situations in the real world and their own lives.

  • Astronomical Society of the Pacific: A list of cool astronomy-related activities that can be found on the web (I'm a grad student here in astronomy, so I'd be happy to help you out if you'd like to try any of these activities!)

  • Language Arts at the Educator's Reference Desk: Language Arts lesson plans/activities for a lot of different age levels.

  • Education World: Mysteries!: A bunch of activities involving solving mysteries, which blends critical thinking and language skills into one fun experience.

  • Social Studies at the Lesson Plans Page: This one's more of a mixed bag, so you have to look around to find the best stuff (or you can get ideas from the lessons that aren't very well explained), but there are some great activities covering topics like what makes a community strong and voter involvement for really little kids.

Since it's the end of the year, we're all engaged in a lot of reflection (especially at the awesome In-Service Training!) but I'm hoping this list will also help with looking forward and thinking of fun ways to engage all REACH participants with learning and fun challenges.

Check out this NYT article on the Achievement Gap!

What do you think about it?

Negative Numbers, Positive Impact - Brian Donovan (BJM)

This quick little anecdote is something that recently happened to me that made me realize the immediate impact that volunteering has on the kids at my site. It started with me walking into the library where we do homework tutoring and one of the teachers who I have been working with over the past four years was relieved that I was there to explain addition of negative numbers to one of the students there. I took some time and went over a useful and simple way of thinking about those types of problems with the student until I was beckoned to help another tutor explain a word problem to another child. When I came back I realized that not only had that first student finished her negative number addition section, but she was explaining the method that I had just taught her to one of her classmates! It was truly fulfilling see both the help I had provided that child, but through clear explanation, the help that she was able to then give her peers. It is times like those that make all of my hard work more than worth it and make me love what I do.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

EYES Travels to Groton Elementary School - Nate Houghton (Groton ES)

One Cornell Public Service Center program can certainly make a huge difference in the educational experience of a young student, but when two work together, the possibilities are boundless. The latest example of successful collaboration between REACH and another PSC group came less than two weeks ago, when EYES (Encouraging Young Engineers and Scientists) traveled to Groton Elementary School to teach the students a few principles of structural engineering. Working first with marshmallows and dry spaghetti before graduating to gum drops and wooden sticks, the budding builders discovered the basics behind many of the structures they see every day as well as their own potential as thinkers and scientists. The experience was valuable for everyone involved - except, perhaps, the parents who had to convince their children to go home eventually.

How REACH inspires me - Rebecca Zuckerman (Boynton Middle School)

Hi, my name is Rebecca and I am a tutor at Boynton Middle School. I work with a program called the Advantage After School program whose main goal is to improve the grades of those that are struggling in school by providing additional homework help. After the homework hour, we have an hour of activities that include playing sports, making arts and crafts, cooking, etc. It is a truly incredible experience every time because we often work with different students depending who needs help. This enables the tutors to make connections with many of the students, who always look forward to seeing us again.

Both students and tutors alike always enjoy the activity portion of the program because it is a time when we can finally relax and just have a good time with one another without worrying about homework and studying. However, I find that the most rewarding part is when a student can actually check off all of the assignments that they had to do that day and know that they accomplishment something important. When I first started volunteering, many of the students saw homework as something they just have to get through and not as a tool that can help them learn. But after two years of working with the students and watching them grow, I can see a change in their attitudes towards learning and towards school in general.

Working with REACH has given me great inspiration for the future. I am able to see how these students, who have always struggled with their schoolwork and have not had any academic motivation, are not only starting to improve their grades but are also developing a greater appreciation for learning.

We don't just tutor... - Dipen Patel (Northeast Kids Count)

So as many of you know, one of the primary goals of REACH is tutoring kids and helping to reduce the education achievement gap (If you did not know this then you do now). But in addition to tutoring, we try to provide a positive environment for the kids we tutor. With these intentions in mind, last Friday afternoon at Northeast Elementary, REACH tutors helped to organize an Easter egg hunt at our site.

Now the effort on our part was by no means extraordinary (Steps for an Easter Egg Hunt: 1) Buys Eggs, 2) Fill Eggs with Candy, 3) Hide Eggs). However the look of excitement it brought the children probably was. The kids practically knocked us over to get to the eggs. I personally was a little scared. We even witnessed some childhood ingenuity. As a two-egg limit was set to make sure every child got his or her fair share, some kids would try to sneak the candy out of the eggs and then return the egg to its originally hiding spot (There was some extra so everyone still managed to find two filled eggs).

In addition, not only did the kids enjoy the event, but the staff could not have been more appreciative. They were delighted to see the joy that our little gesture brought the kids. (And we had a good time ourselves) For a little teaser of the festivities, check out the pictures below. Naturally, you’ll have to join REACH if you want to experience it yourselves.

Can you spot the hidden eggs?

Friday, April 10, 2009

What NOT to do in REACH!

Here are the skits created and performed by REACH tutors at our 2nd In-Service Training on March 28, 2009. The prompts consisted of things a REACH tutor should NOT do while at their site, and the antics that may ensue. Congratulations to the "NCAA Racist Wannabes" for winning the skit contest! Check them out!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Benefits of a Rural Site - Rachel Healy (Cassavant)

Hi! I’m Rachel, the team leader for Cassavant Elementary School. I find volunteering at Cassavant to be an especially rewarding experience due to its involvement in the REACH rural initiative. As part of REACH rural, the YMCA program at Cassavant is located in McLean – a hamlet within the town of Groton – and is thus quite a tiny program. The small size of the program allows tutors to form friendships with the majority of the students there. This is my third semester at Cassavant and most of the students that I know have been there since my first day. It’s a wonderful occurrence to go to the school each week and see how excited the kids are just to have another friend there. Also, because Cassavant is located within such a rustic community, there are numerous opportunities to teach and talk to the kids about ideas and issues with which they are unfamiliar; the learning opportunities for the children go well beyond the subjects taught in the classroom.

Another aspect of Cassavant’s involvement in REACH rural that draws me to the site is that unlike many of the other REACH sites, Cassavant is not within close proximity to Cornell’s campus, and transportation is required to get there. My REACH experience takes on an entirely different element than only tutoring the kids; the van rides to and from the site provide additional opportunities for socializing with other tutors. Besides the tutors from my site, the Groton Elementary School team is also present for the van rides. Not only do the van rides allow the tutors to get to know each other personally, but they also foster communication between the two sites and a better understanding of how the REACH program operates. On the whole, I’ve had fantastic experiences working at Cassavant because of the friendships I’ve developed with the kids and other tutors, as well as the teaching opportunities that working within REACH rural provides.

How it all started... - Clara Lee (SIFE)

Being in my third year of REACH, one thing I’ve learned from the program is the importance of continuity. Not just the continuity of showing up every week at your site, or even every month. It’s the continuity of being there for the kids as they grow from year to year and maintaining that connection with them.

Before I became the team leader at SIFE this semester, I worked at West Village Community Center for five semesters, since my fall semester of freshman year. It was during my first semester at West Village when I met the children of a group of Karen refugees in the West Village after-school program. The Karen people are an ethnic group from Burma and Thailand who are currently experiencing political instability and persecution by Burmese authorities. This extended family previously lived in refugee camps in the Burma-Thailand border before immigrating to Ithaca. I couldn’t even imagine the conditions that they must have lived in, coming from a fairly comfortable life in Southern California and Cornell.

The younger children spoke almost no English, which certainly posed many communication problems (how do you tell a non-English speaking child to throw his/her trash away, or to wash their hands after snack?) I remember their surprise and fascination the first time they saw running water in our sink. Yet, they were just like any other children, filled with boundless energy (and mischief) and always with a smile on their face. As my semesters in West Village passed by, I watched them learn and grow in leaps and bounds.

Last semester, I was told that these children would be attending an after-school program called SIFE at Belle Sherman Elementary (where many of them attended), a program specially tailored for their social and academic needs. As a new REACH site, it would need a team leader. Well, would I be interested?

Yes. And so, here I am.

~ Clara

Friday, March 27, 2009

Just another awesome evening at LRC - Sharon Gerbode (Lansing)

So the other night the young women at Lansing Residential Center were pumped -- they were practicing dance moves for some kind of talent show at the facility. They were blasting tunes and bouncing around, and I was kind of timidly watching and trying to learn from them. Then one of the other REACH tutors taught me some Step moves and everyone was laughing and cheering us on as she and one of the residents and I were performing what I'd just learned.

Then after all that madness, I found out that the resident I've been working with for the past 6 months would be leaving LRC the next morning to head back home. She was so excited to be moving on, and I didn't think there was much of a chance she would want to sit down and do tutoring... but amazingly she wanted to do some algebra! When it was time to go, she said she wished she could take me with her back home to keep helping her out with math. I'm going to miss her.

Life at GIAC - Alicia Wiprovnick (GIAC Youth)

Hi, out there to those reading this! I’m Alicia and I’m a team leader at GIAC. I’ve been working at GIAC for about a year and a half now, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know all of the kids there. It’s really rewarding to make relationships with some of the kids; I feel like I’m making an impact on their lives when they look forward to seeing me. There are kids that comment when I’ve been gone for a while, and kids that specifically ask for my help on their homework.

My favorite part about working at GIAC is the little unexpected things that come up that just brighten my day. This can range from noticing someone is improving on their reading skills or becoming more motivated to do their school work, to having a political discussion with a 5th grader. That’s right I had a political discussion with a 5th grader when it was around election time. He must have very liberal parents; he believes that Obama is going to fix every problem ever and that the world would be better if money didn’t exist. He also told me about this website that makes fun of Sarah Palin that he likes to frequent. While he doesn’t quite grasp the intricacies of the political world, it’s really great that he is taking an interest in politics, something that I was definitely not interested in when I was 10 years old.

So basically my point is, working at GIAC is great and the kids are definitely a refreshing change from Cornell Campus life.

Peace out,

On Releasing My Inner Kid... - Melanie Lipton (IACC)

There are so many things I love about REACH. I love getting a break from craziness of campus, my prelims and papers. I love spending time with the kids at my site, but most of all, I love that my time spent at IACC helps me release my inner kid. A few weeks ago, my inner kid was brought back to the days of elementary school and show and tell.

Over Winter Break, I took a 10 day trip to Israel through a program called Birthright. I had told Lyn, my site supervisor about it before I left for the semester and she was so excited for me. When I called her in January to discuss my new schedule and when I would start, she asked me how the trip went and if I had any pictures to show her and the kids. When I went in to the site later that week, I brought the scrapbook I had made. My site supervisor was so impressed by the book that she insisted I do a show and tell with the kids. They all sat around the carpet in a circle as I brought out my book. Most of them listened intently as I flipped through the pages and explained the pictures from my amazing journey.

What was really special for me was being able to share some of my life with these kids that I have come to know so well. I see them on a weekly basis, I’ve met their parents and their siblings, but they have never really seen my life outside of REACH and Ithaca. This little show and tell allowed the kids to see part of my life, to see me as more than just someone who helps them with their homework and plays in the gym with them. For me, that is what REACH is all about, not just helping these kids academically, but letting them into your lives like friends. I’m glad I got to get in touch with my childhood self and bring in a little show and tell.

Reflections of a REACH veteran - Svante Myrick (Paul Schreurs)

I am now in my 8th semester as a REACH tutor and mentor.  With only two months left I find myself reflecting on what my experience has meant for my academic career, my personal life, and my future goals.

            Through REACH I have had an opportunity to pursue interests I never thought possible.  It was thanks to REACH that I am now the youngest member of Ithaca’s City Council.  As amazing as these opportunities have been, REACH remains the most important aspect of my academic career.

When I began at the Paul Schreur’s Program as a freshman I simply wanted to get off campus for a couple hours a week, earn some money, and hang out with kids.  I came to campus to study journalism and pursue a career in broadcasting.  Now, at the end of my undergraduate journey, I am excited to pursue a career in education policy.  Learning about the problems of the achievement gap while simultaneously seeing first hand the stories and lives of those directly affected by inequities in our system lit a fire in me.  I am now motivated to work actively towards a solution.  I know that education is at the core of success, not just for individuals, but for our entire country.  Without a sound and equitable educational policy we will all fail.  

            My service-learning experience has shown me my own personal power.  I may not have the resources, the knowledge or the skill to change the world.  But I have discovered that by showing up every week and giving what I do have to give, I can make a change for these youth and for this community.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

A tutor's perspective...

Hello, good day, and welcome. Now that the formalities are out of the way, what’s up? I’m fine thank you, even more so because of my latest revelation. REACH is unlike any other organization on campus, and I’ll tell you why.

On a typical day going to my site I often find myself staring out of the window of the van, wondering if what we’re doing really makes a difference. Do these kids even care, and even more important than that, are they learning? But, how does one judge that?

I started tutoring elementary school students last semester, so I wouldn’t say that I’m the most experienced but I can say that the experience that I have now is, priceless. Those kids appreciate all that we do, and we appreciate them. Last week, this girl asked me if one of the other tutors and I have “a connection.” We laughed and tried to change the subject, but she persisted. And, I realized that we do have a connection. We and a few select others are a connected group of individuals trying to help children in this area achieve. Someone helped us so why not help them? Worried about the time commitment? Make time. Worried about getting to your site? We provide transportation. No experience tutoring? What better experience than hands on? Your worries will always be there but this opportunity won’t.

Earlier I asked how do you judge if these kids care and if we’re actually making a difference. On my last visit a little boy ran up to me, hugged me, and said “can you please help me with my homework?” I guess that I’ll have to think about something else during those van rides. But, please join REACH, and reach to make a difference. Pun intended.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Now Accepting Spring Applications!

REACH is now accepting applications from anyone interested in tutoring and mentoring local youth this semester!

All those who are interested in joining the fight to close the achievement gap should click on the link to the online application to your right. You can get information about the different volunteer and work study opportunities available through REACH by browsing the sites on the right or attending one of two upcoming information sessions.

The sessions will be held:

Thursday Feb 5, 5pm
GS Kaufman Auditorium

Monday Feb 9, 5pm
GS Lewis Auditorium

Now is the time to serve your community and work towards change right where you live. Hurry though as the deadline for applications is 11:59pm on Tuesday, February 16th!!!

If you have any questions at all don't hesitate to contact me at

Svante Myrick
Publicity Co-Chair
REACH Executive Board