Amber Aspinall '17
Jamaica Difference (JD) is a cultural/community service organization on campus that started a few years ago. When I first joined, I was a Freshman Representative. Now, I'm a Service Trip Coordinator.
During Spring break, we take a small group of students on a service trip to Jamaica to work with a school. In 2014, we went to the Ensom Primary School in Kingston, where I was involved with a project to help sixth graders transition to high school. In Jamaica, high school starts earlier than in the United States and the application process looks a lot like the U.S. college admissions process.
We saw that children across the globe share a lot of the same concerns—the sixth graders were worried about time management, peer pressure, parties and schoolwork. The service trip was an awesome experience. I worked with a lot of passionate students, witnessed how a Caribbean education system ran and how that particular school operated within the community.
Organizing & Prison-related Work
I spend a lot of time studying the marginalization of black and brown communities. In particular, I tend to organize around social justice issues relating to the criminal justice system and mass incarceration.
Through Decarceration Education at Cornell and the Prison Reform & Education Project, which are two student run organizations on campus, I have been involved with a number of campaigns, including a campaign to eradicate solitary confinement in New York State. The focus last semester was on removing the criminal conviction question from employment applications and college applications, and I attended the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in Miami for this project.
I've also organized around issues of police terror to draw the attention of the broader Cornell population to this topic and to create spaces of healing for communities affected. This fall, I'm excited to be a Teaching Assistant for a class at the Auburn Correctional Facility through the Cornell Prison Education Program.
ILR High Road Fellow
As an ILR High Road Fellow in Buffalo, I interned at the Center for Employment Opportunities, a re-entry organization that helps formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet. I conducted interview prep sessions, life skills classes, and resume critique workshops. I also put together an impact report that included interviews with clients, employers, staff, and partner organizations. It was a great experience doing this work Buffalo, a city with a rich history that is also one of the most racially segregated cities in America.