On the High Road Blog
For most of the last several decades, the story of Buffalo’s economy has been one of loss. Thousands of good-paying jobs were lost in industries like manufacturing, causing a subsequent loss in population. Something else was lost, too. After being a hub of innovation for most of its history (thank Buffalonians for air conditioners, internal pacemakers, and Buffalo wings!), Buffalo lost some of its entrepreneurial spirit. But with the help of several new initiatives, this spirit is coming back.
My time with the High Road Fellowship has been a transcendent experience. I have been placed at the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT), an organization that specializes in the provision of arts education for high school aged students and professional workforce development training for adults. BCAT is a young nonprofit that has built itself upon the Bill Strickland philosophy of environment shaping mindset.
Coming to Buffalo for the summer, I wasn’t totally sure what exactly I was getting myself into. I was drawn to the High Roads program because I found it the best way to finally scratch the social sector itch I have had, truly, as long as I can remember. So many of the placements and projects peaked my interest that I was excited not only to experience my summer, but the summers of my peers.
I am a rising junior Global and Public Health Science major in the College of Human Ecology. For the eight-week summer High Road Fellowship through Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) in Buffalo, New York I am working at the Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York (LDA of WNY) on the LEAD716 project.
I am thrilled to be a part of the High Road Fellowship this summer. Cornell’s work in Buffalo was actually a large reason I chose to apply to Cornell nearly two years ago. Although I live in a suburb outside of the city, I am deeply invested in Buffalo’s growth and future. The summer before my senior year of high school I had the incredible opportunity to participate in Mayor Byron Brown’s Urban Fellow Internship Program. I was introduced not only to the inner workings of the city’s government, but also to the whole Buffalo community, which I believe to be like no other.
My name is John Sullivan Baker, I’m from Toledo, Ohio, and I’ve been working for the Partnership for the Public Good, a community-based think tank that partners with nearly 300 community organizations to advocate for evidence-based public policy intended to make Buffalo more prosperous and socially equitable.
Before every Friday panel discussion and each Wednesday dinner conversation, Megan Connelly, our High Road Fellowship director, proudly states, “Buffalo’s greatest asset is our people.” These words set the tone of discussion and generate a slightly quieter silence as people reflect. My first four weeks on the high road have been about engaging and understanding the meaning of an “asset” and its relation to value.
Coming to Buffalo this summer has been quite the learning experience. I was born in Houston, Texas and currently live in one of the many Houston suburbs. The Houston metropolitan area is HUGE and there are over five million people that live here. Therefore, I am used to being in a city that is well-established and constantly moving and growing.
This summer I worked at the Buffalo State Center for Excellence in Urban and Rural Education. As an anchor institution, Buffalo State has a commitment to support and empower the surrounding community to make it better. The Center for Excellence in Urban and Rural Education (CEURE) runs a plethora of projects for the community but the one I spent most of my time on was the West Side Promise Neighborhood.
Growing up just 25 minutes away from Buffalo, I’d always considered myself to be a true Buffalonian, with a deep love for Tim Hortons and chicken wings. It took me one day in the High Road precourse to realize how little I knew about the city I’ve lived near my whole entire life. I had no idea that it was one of the most segregated city in the country, or about the large refugee population in Buffalo and Lackawanna.
When I first started the High Road program, the eight weeks I was facing in Buffalo seemed to stretch out interminably ahead of me. Now, there’s little more than two weeks left and as cliché as this may sound, I can’t believe how quickly the time has sped away from me.
Capacity, per Merriam-Webster, means “the potential or suitability for holding, storing, or accommodating.”
Throughout the High Road Fellowship, I have experienced and learned a lot more than I had ever expected. This post will hopefully provide an overview of my experiences in the High Road Fellowship and in Buffalo.
Having taken the pre-course to learn about the resurgence of Buffalo and having done research about the goals and challenges of WEDI, I thought I was already quite exposed to the area and organization prior to my arrival. However, when I actually began work, I realized the true importance of field experience. No matter how much you study about or conduct research for something, on-site action takes learning onto another level.
When my friends and family asked what I would be doing this summer and I explained that I would be working with labor unions in Buffalo, almost everyone had the same reaction, “Well, it sounds interesting, but what will you be doing there? And why Buffalo?” If I’m being honest, initially I didn’t have an answer for them.
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” The words of Hélder Câmara nagged me as I sat in on the Buffalo Transit Riders United Allies Meeting. Câmara was addressing the same issue I’ve pondered over for some time: what is so wrong with asking why?
2017 High Road Fellow with Open Buffalo
Some people don’t see a difference between these two words. They are just synonyms for a place to live. For others, a house is just a place to live. A home is much different. It is where you live, but it is also a place where family comes together at every major holiday. Where memories have been made time and time again. Where generations of children have been raised.
Being born and raised in Buffalo has me completely vested in the area with no real intention of ever leaving, despite contrasting sentiments coming from a majority of my peers. I love to see Buffalo do well for its own good, as well as having positive national press so others aren’t as quick to talk down on this city.
I heard about the CommonBound Conference during my first few days in Buffalo. I heard so many program and organization names in the first few days that it’s a wonder I even remembered to Google CommonBound when I got a chance to.
Growing up an hour away from Buffalo, I've considered myself a Buffalonian my whole life. But living in a Buffalo neighborhood this summer, I now know that I was naïve in my assumption that I knew everything about Buffalo and the people that comprise the City of Good Neighbors.
I had never been to Buffalo before, and had no idea what to expect.
20 Cornell undergraduates will spend their summers contributing to community and economic development with dynamic social sector organizations in Buffalo, NY.
We are excited to release the High Road Fellowship Engagement and Impact Report for 2015 (PDF, 3 MB).
2015 High Roader Kyle Friend `17 had this letter to the editor published in the Buffalo News urging a living wage for workers in low-wage occupations across New York.
In 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law, establishing the United States’ first wage floor.
I have been able to meet some remarkable people. They are people who are truly passionate about what they do and will do anything to achieve their dream.
Have you ever stopped to think about who has guided you through your life?
If I have learned anything during my short time here in Buffalo, it is that community nonprofit groups go far beyond their mission statement.
"...ultimately turning out to be one of the most exciting moments of my professional life so far. All three weeks of it."
18 Cornell undergraduates arrived in Buffalo earlier this month to conduct research, assist with strategic planning, and develop new programming for nonprofits in the city.
High Roader Amber Aspinall was placed this summer at the Center for Employment Opportunities Buffalo office.
My supervisors have consistently encouraged me to pursue whatever I love, letting me know of arts festivals and galleries and meetings that they think would interest me.
Crawling under the impossibly tangled link of hands, I maneuvered myself into an even stranger position than my previous.
Verse by Zakiya Williams Wells
It has been six weeks since I arrived in Buffalo and began my High Roads adventure.
My assignment at the Partnership for the Public Good (PPG) this summer closely intertwines my interests in cross-cultural work and the arts.
My work at the International Institute of Buffalo has been the second major reinforcement of my education that this program has facilitated.
While at the International Institute of Buffalo I have been working to develop a skilled mentoring program for refugees.
I am incredibly honored and humbled to serve as a High Road Fellow at the Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York (LDA of WNY).
On Friday, we met with a few major Buffalo stakeholders Jack McGowan and Paul Tesluk.
As soon as I stepped off the train in Buffalo, I knew that this upstate city was going to be a great place to spend the summer.
This summer, I am working at the Western New York Law Center on research related to the mortgage foreclosure process.
I arrived in buffalo more than 3 weeks ago and already I am starting to see my way of thinking change.
…working in Buffalo's living laboratory