Ithaca Youth Bureau

Courtesy of Ithaca Youth Bureau

Volunteers of the College Discovery Program, an academic and mentoring program of the Ithaca Youth Bureau have been awarded The James L. Byrnes Award for Excellence.

The award is given annually in recognition of individuals who and volunteer-based non-profits organizations that contribute to the betterment of Tompkins County and improve the quality of life for its community members.

This year the award has gone to the College Diversity Program, created in 2008 to address the needs of a growing number of youth with great potential but limited resources in the Ithaca City School District who were not going on to higher education after high school. 

The program depends on volunteer tutors and mentors to help its participants excel in subjects such as Math, English, Social Studies/History, Sciences, Spanish, German and French during student homework clubs. The organization also takes its students on college tours, hosts "family dinners" and a summer academy that help build a community that encourages the student's success.

Mentors are also play a vital role for the organization. Students are encouraged to pair with a mentor who is matched with them based on commonalities, personalities, goals, preferences, transportation logistics etc. Program Director Linda Cimakasky-Barr described the non-profit organization as  a long-term mentoring and academic support program for middle and high-school students.

"We cannot run our program without volunteers and it is really a win-win situation for all, the CDP students benefit in a variety of ways and volunteers often stay involved for a year or longer because they enjoy the experience so much," she said.

The most recent data presented by the organization listed 91% of its participants as having graduated from high school (excluding those who moved away), and of those, 88% as having gone on to higher education, most to 4-year colleges and universities. The organization described the population they serve as diverse and full of individuals who are often the first in their families to go on to college.

“The dynamic relationships that volunteers develop with the participants, make all the difference. Being encouraged by someone, who not only has things in common with them, but understands the challenges they face can really turn things around for these young people." Suki Tabor, deputy director at the Ithaca Youth Bureau said.

The following individuals are the recipients of this award:

College Discovery Program Volunteers

Rielly DiamondLauren Kret
Sunny ChenRaven Bartlett
Christina ArroyoLauren Cody
Jackie FuentesIsabella Vittlin-Stein
Joyce TsaiAlizeh Khan
Amber ZhengElizabeth Ring
Patrick CrossenGeorge Mauceri
Alyyssa SheedyLirinda Ramasaj
Connor FlorczykStephen Armstrong

College Discovery Program Mentors

Angela AffrontiJose Martinez
Anush VejallaDaniel Hooper
Andreia FenleyKacie Allen-Pride
David SchwartzSimon Barretter
Alaina RicheyClare Meaders
Theo StravelAlyssa Cohen
Annie LeeJolly Shi
Daniel LeeKevin Chen
Jay PatelSam Wolf

The program is currently serving two cohorts of students with the third set to be added in late 2020. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Linda Cimakasky at the Ithaca Youth Bureau, 607-273-8364 ext. 2151 or via email at

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