Skip to main content
Cornell University mobile logo

Buffalo Co-Lab

skyline of Buffalo

Buffalo Co-Lab advances an equitable economy and democratic community, collaboratively integrating scholarly and practical understanding to strengthen civic action.

High Road Fellows

Ruby Herrera

Work Highlights

This summer fellow will conduct research on arts funding and economic issues with Hallwalls Development Director, assist the Visual Arts Curator with the Annual Members Show, and assist with Hallwalls media arts archival project. Also under exploration is an outside summer public arts project for High Road Fellows.

Photo of Ruby Herrera
Ruby Herrera

Lucas Pittman

Work Highlights

This High Road fellow conducted a comprehensive study of foreclosures and mortgage defaults in Erie County, creating a database and map of foreclosure and pending foreclosure locations, and identifying clients in need of services for foreclosure prevention.

Student Insights

I learned that are more public interest organizations than I could have ever imagined. I also have learned that Buffalo is going through an immensely difficult transition economically but I definitively believe that in the next couple decades some stabilization and growth will occur especially within the fields of medicine with projects such as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Impact

I helped Belmont Housing by putting together a study they would not have otherwise done. The study demonstrates how effective their services are which in turn helps them receive funding which ultimately helps more suffering people in the Greater Buffalo community.

Photo of Lucas Pittman
Lucas Pittman

Christopher Bain

Work Highlights

The summer fellow will work on a project to increase options and infrastructure for bicycle transportation in Greater Buffalo: adding bicycle racks, working with major businesses especially in the growing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and expanding the number of businesses in a program that gives discounts for customers who commute by bicycle.

Student Insights

My work experience definitely provided me with a better understanding public policy and civic participation. After speaking with the Department of Works and others from City Hall, I’ve realized that only having a good idea is not sufficient enough to get the city government on board. It takes more than a good idea, it takes persistence and a positive attitude. Working at GO Bike also understand how important civic participation. When an organization is consistently doing work in the community it causes the citizens to participate as well, and that’s something that I noticed this summer.

Impact

I think I really impacted the community with the Bicycle Lane Request Form. I was able to give the community a voice which is a great service to the Greater Buffalo community.

Phot of Christopher Bain
Christopher Bain

Jeffrey Joseph

Work Highlights

This summer project focused on Buffalo’s oldest neighborhood, Black Rock, now in resurgence on the city’s northwest side. The fellow worked with CAC staff and Black Rock residents to identify environmental health threats, research targets for clean-up, and develop related educational materials for residents.

 

Photo of Jeffrey Joseph
Jeffrey Joseph

Deanna Hall

Work Highlights

In the summer of 2012, Habitat for Humanity Buffalo will be constructing a Women Build house. The summer fellow will spend time on the actual construction of the house, will develop promotional materials for Women Build homes, and conduct research on a project to be determined in collaboration with the fellow to accommodate her/his interests regarding poverty and affordable housing in Buffalo.

Sudent insights

I learned how much character and potential the city has. I’ve learned to look at the utility every space could yield. In Buffalo in particular, space is not a constraint like most urban areas. This freedom to build almost anywhere has fostered the innovation that was so apparent in each of our fellowships this summer.

Impact

I am proud to say my work has had a direct effect on the Buffalo community. I had the privilege of actually building one of the homes that first time homeowners in Buffalo get to call their own. The building aspect really complimented my research and gave my work meaning. My fellowship embodied every aspect of “service learning and action research.”

Photo of Deanna Hall
Deanna Hall

Michelle Lim

Work Highlights

This summer fellow worked on the HSCS Career Exploration team, in conjunction with major health care institutions, to develop an inventory of employment opportunities available, salary range, and experience/education required. They also surveyed local employers’ personnel needs and interest/availability to provide HSCS students with internships, and help develop a mechanism to measure student and employer satisfaction.

Photo of Michelle Lim
Michelle Lim

Ini Inyang

Work Highlights

The summer fellow assisted with outreach and marketing to launch a new regional arts education initiative to increase arts education capacity in the region: Arts Partners for Learning. Work included contacting potential partners and gathering a portfolio of materials for internet and marketing purposes, including articles for blog posts, photography and video artifacts, and quotes from clients, artists and students.

Student Insights

I learned the capacity this city has for positive change and growth. Urban areas need a populace that has an investment in their surroundings.

Impact

I think that I helped the youth of the city. By working on programs that directly affect and help them, I feel as though, I made, if only a slight one, an impact.

Photo of Ini Inyang
Ini Inyang

Gregory Tonarelli

Work Highlights

In a structural reorganization of Business First’s outreach to align with the nine Buffalo Common Council districts, this fellow conducted research and design the structure and role for new District Directors, in collaboration with nonprofit partners, member businesses and the staff of Buffalo First.

 

Phot of Gregory Tonarelli
Gregory Tonarelli

Taylor Clarkson

Work Highlights

This summer fellow will work with MAP’s Market Director to expand their Growing Green Program, working with teens and volunteers on various enterprises including the Farm Stand, Mobile Market, food education programs, farm tours and field trips.

Student Insights

This summer I learned about the various cultural, political and social challenges that Buffalo faces. Specifically, after working with MAP, I realize the cultural struggles that arise at a simple farm stand. It is difficult for people to adapt their cultural food preferences in order to provide a healthy lifestyle for their families. Meanwhile, it is also economically challenging for these individuals to spend their miniscule wages on fresh food rather than purchase a more filling burger or snack at a corner store. I find that these challenges are faced in most all inner cities, however it is the first time I found myself fully engrossed in the situation.

Coming from a wealthy Northern Jersey region, I was never shown wide community-based organizations. It was an eye-opener to see the power and potential that these communities run organizations can acquire. I gained insight into how these community organizations arise, why they arise, and how they continue their development and expansion. However, I also see how some communities that may be great locations for development have not yet made the proper steps towards unionizing and sparking change. I believe the process starts through the people wanting to change and seeing that they are not alone in their vision. Some communities need that first catalyst in order to yield the results they imagine.

Impact

I believe my service was beneficial to the Greater Buffalo Community. Through my research, I have shown new location sites in which the fresh produce can be distributed. This will immediately impact the people near the location site, providing them with healthy living and fresh affordable food. Hopefully, if these location sites are able to foster new audiences, MAP can continue to expand, receive grant funding and continue to spread across Western NY. 

Photo of Taylor Clarkson
Taylor Clarkson

Arielle Kopell

Work Highlights

Working with CEJ staff, this fellow was responsible for producing a public forum on community benefit terms in project labor agreements (PLAs), in cooperation with building trades unions and Cornell extension faculty, authors of a recent report on national trends in incorporating community benefit conditions in PLAs. This project is integral to CEJ work on labor and community organizing for good jobs and sustainable economic development and will include research, materials development and utilization of traditional and social media.

 

Photo of Arielle Kopell
Arielle Kopell

Shivali Haribhakti

Work Highlights

WNYCOSH is creating a Workers’ Center in WNY to address the needs of immigrant/refugee workers, unemployed or underemployed youth, and low-wage workers in many sectors. This summer fellow worked on that project, conducting research on other workers’ centers, planning with collaborating organizations, and developing training materials on workers’ rights for the worker education component of the center.

Photo Shivali Haribhakti
Shivali Haribhakti

Micaela Lipman

Work Highlights

In partnership with Urban Roots Community Garden Center and Jericho Road, a refugee resettlement agency, this fellow worked to institutionalize sustainable community gardens and apply a model of a collaborative refugee community gardening by expanding access and technical assistance to refugees and their families for growing their traditional foods on cooperatively managed plots in Buffalo neighborhoods.

Student Insights

Buffalo is in a very unique position in that remnants of the past haven’t been destroyed and so renovation plays a much larger part in economic development than in other cities.  Arts and architecture are very deeply rooted that if Buffalo focuses on developing these assets while reevaluating its flawed infrastructure, the city can really have a second coming.  This potential is felt in all corners of the city leaving an air of excitement and a pension for positive change that’s really refreshing to live within.   

Impact

So many individuals I met have had extremely inspiring pasts from which I was able to learn a lot.  The relationships I developed with community members this summer really made the past 8 weeks ones I will never forget.

 

Photo of Micaela Lipman
Micaela Lipman

Pamela Amaechi

Work Highlights

This placement has an environmental focus: the fellow will examine the link between economic development programs and environmental sustainability in Western New York (for example, does the state subsidize a polluter with one hand while punishing it with the other?). This fellow will also further PPG’s work to raise the City of Buffalo’s recycling rate by working with stakeholders to determine barriers to recycling and possible solutions.

Student Insights

My work experience did provide me with a better understanding of public policy, politics, and civic participation. I got to see how public policy being advanced through a grassroots, community-based approach. The numerous interactions we had with local politicians really opened my eyes to the workings of politics in Buffalo, and how tight-knit things are between local nonprofits here.

Impact

The brief I constructed lends research on the companies that are polluting heavily in buffalo and helps open up the community’s eyes to the specific severity of the pollutants. The community, having this knowledge, can take appropriate actions against the offending companies.

Pamela Amaechi speaking with press
Pamela Amaechi

Shane Jones

Work Highlights

The summer fellow worked on business plan development at CAO’s Green Entrepreneurial Center, an urban farm on Buffalo’s East Side, conducting market analysis, cash flow projections, and feasibility studies for sustainable business growth.

Student Insights

One of the most valuable aspects of living and working with the other fellows this summer has been seeing how we all apply our ILR education in so many different ways, and in particular the many paths we plan to take and have taken despite our similar academic backgrounds.  

Impact

By planning the farm’s expansion, I will have had a direct hand in providing much needed and much demanded healthy, organic, and affordable produce and fish to local residents of Buffalo.

Photo of Shane Jones
Shane Jones

Cameron Walsh

Work Highlights

This High Road Fellow worked with law faculty and law students in a project to form a land bank (a mechanism to recycle vacant land and buildings) with the City of Buffalo. They researched successful urban land bank projects such as Flint, Michigan, and assist in identifying priority properties for the Buffalo land bank.

Student Insights

Having grown up on the outskirts of the city, I was not fully aware of the non-profit culture that is so alive and well in Buffalo. In addition to that, I was also not as cognizant of the community-based organizations that are thriving and expanding in the Buffalo region. Seeing organizations come together to sponsor community-based events such as Shakespearean Idol was extremely riveting and enlightening, affording all of the High Road fellows a chance to see how vested powerful individuals were in the community and turning it into a better place to live, work, and play.

 

Photo of Cameron Walsh
Cameron Walsh

Sarah Coderre

Work Highlights

In December 2011, PUSH Buffalo began work as a community outreach/workforce organizing contractor for NYSERDA’s new Green Jobs/Green NY energy efficiency retrofit program. This High Road Fellow worked in a team to identify residential customers, recruit potential workers into a new Laborers International Union local, work with local contractors to implement the retrofit program, and develop related social media outreach.

 

Photo of Sarah Coderre
Sarah Coderre

Carolyn Krupski

Work Highlights

This placement focused on issues related to poverty and inequality in Buffalo. The fellow researched funding for public transit and analyzed the budget challenges of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and how to solve them. The fellow also continued research and advocacy for reform of the Erie County Holding Center: a county jail that has been the subject of federal civil rights litigation for inhumane conditions and treatment. Lastly, this fellow supported PPG's work with the City of Buffalo’s Living Wage Commission to monitor and enforce the City's living wage ordinance.

Photo of Carolyn Krupski
Carolyn Krupski

Rachel Hidek

Work Highlights

Collaborated to create an asynchronous online training about organizing around health and safety during COVID-19.

Compiled a toolkit to accompany this online training, including sample social media posts, call scripts, letters to management, and information about legal rights in the workplace.

Completed a small research project to identify key resources used by local organizations to safely adapt to COVID-19 , and made recommendations about gaps that WNYCOSH might fill.

 

Summer Takeaway

Being from Syracuse, I appreciated this opportunity to learn from the powerful work being done in Buffalo – another small city in upstate NY!

 

Supervisor Quote

Rachel has been a wonderful addition to WNYCOSH this summer! She has brought new perspectives, ideas, and experiences to our work and has made contributions that will have a lasting impact. Rachel adapting to the remote environment while still fully engaging and participating in WNYCOSH's work and that of community partners was amazing. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with her this summer and look forward to seeing what she does in the future! 

–Susanne Donovan

Rachel Hidek
Rachel Hidek

Ashton O'Connor

Work Highlights

Researched sustainable funding and land protection strategies for community gardening through a competitive analysis on twelve cities across the nation. The analysis included existing research reports, financial statements, and interviews with key community gardening figures.

Constructed and mapped an equitable,  sliding-scale membership fee model using ArcGIS software to increase annual revenue $30K for Grassroots Gardens.

Pioneered zoning changes and recommended key partnerships to strengthen land protection for community gardens in Buffalo.

Summarized key findings and case studies in a 60-page research report and presented my recommendations to the Board of Directors.

 

Summer Takeaway

Throughout the summer, I have gained a glimpse into the tools and strategies community organizations deploy to address the disparities that plague our cities. I have realized how possible it is to create a tangible impact through this line of work. My research has played a small but important role in allowing Grassroots Gardens to combat food apartheid in the Buffalo-Niagara region.

 

Supervisor Quote

We've been so appreciative of all of Ashton's efforts. His dedication to the cause, detailed research, and willingness to go above and beyond has given us a treasure trove of information to help our organization center itself in the national movement of community gardening. It will also provide us a pathway forward as we fight for land justice and equal access for all community members to green space. We've needed this research for years and now we have it. Thank you Ashton! 

- Jeanette Koncikowski

Ashton O'Connor Headshot
Ashton O'Connor

Helen Zhou

Work Highlights

Researched and closely examined the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Community Schools program and the Buffalo community at large.

Conducted interviews on trauma-informed practices and responsiveness, a hybrid model, tracking engagement, and more.

Developed multiple needs assessment surveys for students and parents with post-crisis questions/considerations.

Wrote a Community Schools guide for reopening schools through trauma-informed and racial equity lenses that has new logic model considerations, steps for conducting a needs assessment, and more.

 

Summer Takeaway

Nonprofit work is vital.

 

Supervisor Quote

Helen was a perfect fit to advance this project with Say Yes. Helen is self directed, resourceful, a visionary thinker, and a great thought partner. Helen demonstrated her thoughtfulness in addressing the tasks of her project, focusing on impact and results of programming on children and families and stressing the importance of using a trauma-informed and equity lens. Helen developed two amazing documents that are critical to the post COVID-19 work we will do in Community Schools and Parent Centers. Helen has been a valuable member of the Say Yes Buffalo Team. We are truly appreciative and thankful for her and her work. 

–Tanya Staples and Gellenia Smallwood

Helen Zhou headshot
Helen Zhou

Ryan A. Aguilar

Work Highlights

•Spearheaded a four-year business development program for incoming vendors outlining business planning, credit management, income statement forecasting, and strategies for navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic.
•Devised four comprehensive reports detailing predatory lending and systemic inequality in Buffalo to educate local entrepreneurs.
•Conducted interviews with Community Development Financial Institutions, predatory lending organizations, and a former Congressman to carry out a thorough analysis of the landscape of predatory lending as it applies to historically disadvantaged small business owners.
Headshot of Ryan Aguilar
Ryan A. Aguilar

Nathan Lamm

Work Highlights

Conducted multiple interviews of current and former Buffalo Police Department officers and Police Benevolent Association leadership regarding the labor relations of police.

Drafted and disseminated a survey about the labor relations of police to the membership of the PBA.

Quantified and analyzed the responses of the PBA members and used the context from free response answers and interviews to demonstrate trends in the labor relations of Buffalo police.

 

Summer Takeaway

When organized labor wants to, it can be the most effective tool of the working class in struggles for justice, but wanting to is half the battle.

 

Supervisor Quote

I have been involved with the High Road since its inception, but this is the first time I had a Fellow. I was lucky to get Nate. Together we collaborated on a long term project.  Nate decided to conduct a survey of police officers working for the Buffalo Police Department. More particularly, Nate researched how officers viewed their police union's representation. Also, how officers viewed their role within the City of Buffalo.  Nate found some interesting disparity based on race. This was a timely research. Nate was excellent. 

–Cathy Creighton

Nathan Lamm Portrait
Nathan Lamm

Jackson Ross-Pilkington

Work Highlights

Assisted staff with constituent casework and policy research.

Completed a research project on the economic integration of new Americans.

Interviewed community advocates working with refugees and immigrants.

 

Summer Takeaway

In Buffalo (and in communities across the country), local advocates and organizations are on the front lines of creating real political change.

 

Supervisor Quote

Jack has been an absolute pleasure to work with. He has taken so much initiative throughout this project, especially working remotely due to COVID-19. He has reached out to and interviewed community leaders and conducted strong research on his subject topic. He is engaged with the office, eager to assist with other projects as needed, and very professional. His verbal and writing skills are superb and everything that has been asked of him has been excellently done and without issue. I know that Jack's professionalism, thoughtfulness, intelligence, and kindness will serve him well as he moves on to do great things. 

–Gabby Harrington

Jackson Ross-Pilkington photo
Jackson Ross-Pilkington

Elijah Emery

Work Highlights

Updated prior research utilized for PUSH Buffalo’s program funding applications to secure new affordable housing.

Shadowed meetings with PUSH and stakeholders to strengthen my direct knowledge of sustainable housing policy and development.

Produced a memo on the possibility of developing a Permanent Real Estate Cooperative.

 

Summer Takeaway

There are a lot of people working very hard in each of our communities to make them the vibrant, creative, and kind places they are or could become: we must give them the tools to do the best work possible so that we might all thrive.

 

Supervisor Quote

We're so excited we got to meet and work with Elijah this summer and wish he was in the office with us, instead of on zoom. He brought great energy and excitement to the work, rolled with changes made to the project, asked good questions, and dug deep into the necessary research for our housing development work. 

–Jen Kaminsky

Elijah Emery headshot
Elijah Emery

Eric Lee

Work Highlights

Compiled and analyzed FOIL property data collected from the City of Buffalo’s mortgage default registry database.

Conducted interviews to gather additional contextual and anecdotal information on the registry’s key shortcomings.

Drafted a report on the adverse economic effects of the city’s mortgage default registration system and made relevant policy recommendations.

 

Summer Takeaway

I was able to enhance my quantitative analytical and communication skills as well as gain valuable insight into local politics and socioeconomic issues.

 

Supervisor Quote

For starters, I genuinely don't know when or if Eric slept at all this summer. Every day that we interacted, no matter what time I sent something, he responded promptly and thoughtfully. Eric was very patient when we ran into a few delays with data from the City and was very flexible as we adjusted our time frames and shifted portions of the project. He was absolutely great to work with. He did excellent research and writing and took initiative. The report Eric completed is going to be incredibly helpful to us as we advocate for statewide legislation around Mortgage in Default Registries. We would not have been able to do this work without Eric and we are very grateful for his time with us this summer. 

–Kate Lockhart

Eric Lee Headshot
Eric Lee

Joanna Sowa

Work Highlights

Authored a report which analyzed survey data of 90 respondents on how COVID-19 has impacted Buffalo residents' abilities to continue making payments on their payment plans.

Submitted and received a FOIL data request from the Erie County Comptroller on surplus funds from tax foreclosure auctions from the past 5 years.

Compiled property class data on tax foreclosed properties for Erie County.

Attended meetings with the City, County, and Distressed Properties Task Force.

 

Summer Takeaway

This summer, I learned how important it is for community members and organizations to fight for equity in whatever avenue of advocacy that they are called to. It was incredible to hear from community organizers through our Friday programming who were all making significant change in Buffalo through poetry, art, union organizing, and so many different ways.

 

Supervisor Quote

Joanna was an absolute pleasure to work with this summer. From the very first day she showed initiative and started asking insightful questions about the work assigned to her. I was impressed with how well she carried herself in meetings and her interactions with staff. Working in a new environment, especially with attorneys, can be intimidating but Joanna did a great job jumping right in with our group meetings to accomplish our goals. She completed every task assigned to her early and always had questions or suggestions about her next steps. We are so grateful for all she did this summer and the work that she did has already had an impact on our conversations with both the City and the County regarding tax foreclosures this year. 

–Kate Lockhart

Joanna Sowa Photo
Joanna Sowa

Daniel James II

Work Highlights

Documented stories of community-led advocacy that led to policy wins for Partnership for the Public Good including implementing restorative justice in Buffalo schools, ending money bail in Buffalo, reducing arrests for low level marijuana, creating the Living Wage Commission and legislation, and enhancing community policing.

Compiled research reports on bills passed by the New York State Assembly.

Completed briefings of Buffalo Common Council meetings and Resolutions Hearings.

 

Summer Takeaway

Over policing and incarceration are merely the fruit of a larger problem of racial inequity in Buffalo.

 

Supervisor Quote

Daniel brought a wonderful curiosity to his time at PPG. Driven by his longterm goal of working for justice and fairness, Daniel is thoughtful and inquisitive; he is determined to learn how real community change happens. His desire to bring tried and tested advocacy tools back to his own community in South Carolina was the perfect fit for our project of documenting how policy changes have been won here in Buffalo. We are so grateful to Daniel for his work, as well as his kind and bright presence on our team this summer! 

–Andrea Ó Súilleabháin

 

Daniel James Headshot
Daniel James II

Tyler Pearce

Work Highlights

Conducted in-depth research on for profit nursing homes and their ownership structures.

Compiled data into a report describing such ownership structures and their impacts on labor relations in Western New York.

Gained experience with labor management interactions through the union.

 

Summer Takeaway

The High Road is a way to help a community with rich history and diversity in a variety of different forms with the idea that collectivism will make Buffalo stronger and even better.

 

Supervisor Quote

Tyler has shown he's got the most important asset to succeed in union work - heart. In the times we had conversations with workers, he displayed empathy and solidarity with workers in terrible situation. He was thrown into a chaotic time in the nursing home industry, let alone society. He worked through the challenges of being remote and an ever-changing project, lowered his head and plowed through. He's an incredibly self-driven individual. In a matter of weeks, he picked up on nuances in the regulations on nursing homes in NYS that take some people years. We were so happy to have Tyler aboard and hoping it's only his first stint in the labor movement (let alone 1199). Thanks for all your hard, and continuing, work! 

- Marshall Bertram and Hannah Lorenc

Tyler Pearce Headshot
Tyler Pearce

Leanna Zilles

Work Highlights

Conducted secondary and primary research to document and analyze the history of cooperative movements in Buffalo, NY.

Curated research for the purpose of creating an informational display on Cooperation Buffalo’s website.

Assisted in developing and presenting at Cooperation Buffalo’s community education webinars.

 

Summer Takeaway

There's a lot to be done in our current political moment, and it's up to all of us to take on responsibility in building a society and economy that works for everyone.

 

Supervisor Quote

Leanna is a wonderful and thoughtful human, who is going to be one among many that through their combined strength and leadership will change the world. Through her passion, precision, hard work, empathy, and the courage that allows her to bring her personal story to her work, she inspires others to do the same. We have learned much from Leanna during our two months together, and we hope this experience has given her more tools to do her part. 

–Andrew Delmonte

 

Leanna Zilles Headshot
Leanna Zilles

Emiliano Cardoza

Researched food procurement policies affecting Erie County, Buffalo, and Buffalo Public Schools and examined how values-based procurement as per the Good Food Purchasing Program can be implemented locally.

Created a fact sheet, op-ed, and policy brief to share research findings and policy recommendations internally and externally to MAP.

Engaged in various meetings with Buffalo community groups including Seeding Resilience and Good Food Buffalo Coalition to discuss improvement needs in the local food system.

Headshot Leo Cardoza
Emiliano Cardoza