2021 Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Award recipients

Cornell alumni Gerald Robinson ’54, Margot Robinson ’55, Robert Appel ’53, and Helen Appel ’55 established the Robinson-Appel award to recognize and honor students who have had significant involvement in community service by providing support for their projects, which address a community’s social needs. Projects are selected by a committee of alumni, the Director of the Cornell Public Service Center, and a current student on the Community Partnership Funding Board. Each winner receives $2,500 to further a community service project initiated and proposed by a Cornell student. The focus of the project’s efforts may be the Cornell campus, the Ithaca community, or a location outside of Tompkins County (but within the United States and its territories).

Because of the pandemic this year, the usual 3 winners were increased to fund 4 awardee’s projects. This year, the four winners are Anushka Malik ’22 for Person-Centered Advocacy Team and Foodnet Meals on Wheels, Cosimo Fabrizio ‘22 for rapStudy, Anna Lifsec ‘21 for Parole Preparation Project at Cornell, and Joanna Papadakis ‘21 for Preemie to Premed.

Cosimo Fabrizio ’22 is a junior from South Orange, NJ studying Economics and Government. He currently runs an Ed-Tech company he Co-Founded called rapStudy that helps kids learn through their favorite music and does juvenile work through the New Jersey Public Defender’s Appellate Division.

rapStudy is a for students-by-students startup that helps kids learn through their favorite music. The platform integrates educational content into the songs Pre-K-8 students know and love. Cosimo explains, “so it’s as if Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and Travis Scott are teaching them about math, science, and social studies.” They have partnered with schools New Jersey, Connecticut, locally with South Hill Elementary School, and are now expanding with the entire school district, as well as Dryden Middle School. Cosimo concludes, “Educators have been incredibly supportive of our efforts to date and believe rapStudy has the potential to fundamentally transform the relationships students have with school and the learning process more broadly.”

He is a Co-Founder of the Cornell Criminal Justice Coalition, does research under Professor Marguiles, is a member of the Cornell Tradition Fellowship, Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, Kappa Alpha Pi Pre-Law, and BlackGen Capital. The Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Award will help rapStudy expand their Pre-K and Social-Emotional Learning content to more effectively engage with learners. Cosimo was also recently announced as the winner of the Truman Scholarship.

Joanna Papadakis ’21 dedicates herself to advancing public health equity and rural health access in all her activities. To Joanna, quality healthcare should be a basic human right, and she leaves her impact on this field by vowing to provide nothing less in all of her involvements. Joanna has focused her coursework in this area, immersing herself in classes on global and maternal health, child development, and pre-health studies. Beyond these academic achievements, Joanna has dedicated herself towards advancing public health and child health advocacy with all of her extracurricular pursuits. In doing so, she balances her work as a Cornell Tradition Fellow and Engaged Leadership Certificate pursuer with many organizations across campus and the US, including the Patient-Centered Advocacy Team (PCAT), Cornell Undergraduate Research Board (CURB), volunteering with the Tompkins County Mental Health Association and Cancer Resource Center, Outdoor Odyssey, rural EMS work, and in helping found the organization Preemie to Premed. Working with young kids and being involved in patient advocacy efforts has truly changed Joanna’s perspective on the type of healthcare worker, and aspiring physician she hopes to become, and she is both excited and grateful for the support of the Robinson Appel Humanitarian award for the opportunity to continue to give back to vulnerable communities and support advocacy efforts for pediatric patients. Joanna was recently received the 2021 Cornell Campus-Community Leadership Award.

Preemie to Premed (PTP) is an organization that intends to unify community resilience and patient advocacy for pediatric patients at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children (MGHfC), in Boston, MA through the reinstitution of pediatric child life event programming in post-pandemic times. A nationally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, PTP strives to not only address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on pediatric patients, but also inspire patients to pursue their dreams no matter their diagnosis.

“Personally speaking, growing up with a critically ill sister opened my eyes to the need for quality child life support services not just for the patient themselves, but also for the siblings and families involved. For this reason, it is really special to me to be able to work with PTP and give back to an area of healthcare that was so important to my own family.” Joanna explains, “The Robinson Appel Humanitarian Award will be instrumental for our organization in helping us design and re-institute post-pandemic pediatric event programming to celebrate, uplift, and support pediatric patients and healthcare workers in the Boston, MA community.”

Anna Lifsec ‘21 is a senior in the College Scholar program studying mass incarceration and the criminal legal system. She is the former president of the Prison Reform and Education Project and the founder and president of the Parole Preparation Project at Cornell. Anna does research on the intergenerational effects of mass incarceration, specifically focusing on the health outcomes of loved ones affected by the criminal legal system. Anna is a former Teaching Assistant for the Cornell Prison Education Program and a former mentor at the Finger Lakes Juvenile Facility. In her free time Anna serves as a founding member of the Mediocre Melodies, a philanthropic acapella group for mediocre singers, works at the rock-climbing wall and guides outdoor education backpacking trips.

Cornell Parole Preparation Project partners incarcerated individuals in prisons with trained Cornell students who assist and guide them through the arduous and emotionally taxing work of parole preparation. Volunteers in the organization are partnered with incarcerated individuals 9 months before their hearing and spend that period of time focusing on three major areas: relationship building, creating the parole packet, and interview preparation. Anna comments, “The Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Award would allow our organization to take on more incarcerated applicants and provide critical advocacy to individuals during a global pandemic, where time in prison is a matter of life or death.”

Anushka Malik ’22 is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences majoring in Biological Sciences. She is a Leader-Assistant for the Person-Centered Advocacy Team (PCAT), which is a university partnership with non-profit organizations in the community that provide professional experience opportunities in the field of patient/person-centered care and medicine for students to address public health concerns. PCAT has recently collaborated with Foodnet-Meals on Wheels (MOW) to provide student volunteers for the Reassurance Program, which was implemented to check in with MOW clients and reduce the increased effects of social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Robinson-Appel Award will aid in purchasing flip phones that can be used to make reassurance calls to ensure the clients’ safety and well-being. The reassurance calls not only provide much-needed social contact, allows for issues such as food and housing insecurity, home health, home repairs, snow removal, bill payee service, and personal emergency response system, to be identified and addressed, but also help clients with filling out their monthly menu choices and dietary/delivery preferences and enrolling for the Tompkins County COVID-19 vaccine registry or making vaccine appointments. Volunteers may also identify clients’ additional needs of supportive services, which Foodnet staff work to address by making referrals to the Tompkins County Department of Social Services, Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, Hospicare, and Cayuga Health Partners, among many other community partners.

Congratulations to all of the 2021 Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Award recipients. If you are interested in applying or learning more please visit the Public Service Center’s Awards and Funding area of their website.