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Tofunmi Olabode ’24

Student Passionate About Education Reform

by Amelia Udayatharagai Rajakumar '24

The co-president of Cornell’s Black Students United and Nigerian Students Association, and a committee member of The Black Ivy Pre-Law Society, Tofunmi Olabode ’24 is deepening her interest in the intersection of economics, policy and social causes through her studies at the ILR School.

At ILR, she meets with mentors like Desiree LeClercq, ILR’s Proskauer Employment and Labor Law Assistant Professor, who taught Olabode’s labor law course. “A lot of the things we learn about in labor law and labor relations courses are directly related to modern social movements. The labor movement excluded, but also impacted, the Black community in a lot of different ways,” Olabode said. 

Olabode is passionate about educational equity and justice, and was an organizer in high school. More specifically, she is interested in the school-to-prison pipeline, a phenomenon highlighting how Black and Brown students in predominantly Black schools are incarcerated at higher rates. Olabode, who grew up in New York City, said, “Two-month suspensions, suspending kids in kindergarten, metal detectors and other dehumanizing practices were used in schools in New York City, and are all factors that target and indirectly push them into the prison system.” 

At Cornell,  an ILR class expanded on what she began in high school. During her sophomore spring, she took “Labor, Work, and Employment in U.S. Public Education” with Associate Professor John McCarthy. For a class project, she interviewed fellow students who went to different types of schools and brought a personal aspect to her interest in education reform. 

Olabode said she continues to “contribute to the experience of other students here” as a leader on campus.  She sees law as a way to impact the world and intends to attend law school after graduating from Cornell.

Amelia Udayatharagai Rajakumar '24 is a student writer for ILR Communications.