Maurice Lamar Bradford of Hot Springs, Arkansas catapulted from his hometown across the country to Ithaca, New York in time for football practice in the summer of 2016. A legend at home referred to fondly as “Mo,” Cornell recognized this storied young man—a National Honor Society student with straight As, an admired athlete, and accomplished artist—as a student of promise.
Combining rigorous studies with demanding physical performance for an incoming freshman far from home was challenging.
“It eased any homesickness when I became fast friends with two other incoming African American football teammates—Malik Leary from Shreveport, Louisiana and Jelani Taylor from a community near Flint, Michigan,” says Bradford. “Somehow, we managed to squeeze three of us into a double and have been roommates and best friends ever since.” (Though luckily, they now have their own rooms in their shared apartment.)
Bradford recognized Cornell as the school which could offer him the academic training he envisioned essential for his future: “I’m interested in seeing cities grow—in particular, growth for the poor and disadvantaged,” he said.
After selecting Cornell,Bradford enrolled in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, with a major in urban and regional planning, and was designated a Meinig Family Cornell National Scholar.
“Cornell’s urban and regional studies major helps me combine my passion for social justice with the necessary skills to promote positive social change.” Bradford says. “As a Meinig Scholar, Cornell’s resources and network of contacts give me a chance to do public service work while developing leadership skills for community benefit.”
“I want to improve the circumstances of disadvantaged populations who lack equal opportunity to lead healthy lives,” he adds. “It will take firmly committed and informed advocates in our country to create good accessible public amenities for African Americans and other marginalized populations […] Gentrification, which has displaced poorer citizens, city disinvestment in minority-populated areas, historic redlining by banks and funders, unregulated and unfair mortgage financing, and gerrymandering by political groups have all contributed to the development of ghettos […] We need to undo these planning shortcomings and make it right for the people that have been affected.”
After Bradford’s sophomore year, he applied for a summer internship at Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, well-respected throughout the state and beyond. His family understood that he had to work in Ithaca, so he could also train daily for football. Just as Johanna Anderson, INHS’s new director, was moving in, she hired Bradford as an “extra hand” to assist her.
So, Bradford got to know and admire INHS quickly as Johanna settled in and the projects began multiplying.
“At INHS, I was fortunate to learn a little bit about everything they do,” he said. “I spent time getting to know the people that INHS serves, learning how affordable housing operates in the non-profit sector, and assisting with any tasks that Johanna or any other staff member put in front of me.”
“INHS has changed the landscape for Ithaca,” he says. It gives me great pleasure to see families whose housing that has been insecure take steps to securing stable, safe homes […] Wherever I go after Ithaca, I will carry their story with me so other communities can benefit.”