Cornell University: Three students win Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Awards

The annual Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Awards went to three students — Matthew Borinshteyn ’25, Jennifer Lee ’23 and Avery MacLean ’22 — in recognition of their significant involvement in community service. Established by Gerald ’54 and Margot Robinson ’55 and Robert ’53 and Helen Appel ’55, the award is facilitated by the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement.

Borinshteyn, an environment and sustainability major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), was honored for The Sharing Project, which he founded in 2020 to fight food insecurity in Morris County, New Jersey. The organization partners with high school students and gardening communities to grow and deliver fresh produce to local food pantries, and it has a Young Gardener Club to teach elementary and middle school students about organic gardening, volunteerism, healthy nutrition and environmental sustainability. In collaboration with township leadership, The Sharing Project is building a garden on an abandoned baseball field. Borinshteyn is using the award to help complete the new garden, which has already yielded over 200 pounds of tomatoes for local donation.

“Matthew exhibits the characteristics of a natural leader,” said Julie Crawford, a New Jersey Sustainability Hero and board member for The Sharing Project. “He finds meaning and purpose in his efforts. He is a great listener who follows up with applications of new knowledge. He is constantly striving to learn new things.”

Lee was recognized for the Health Education and Awareness Raising Team (HEART), a new Cornell student organization. A human biology, health and society major in the College of Human Ecology, Lee launched HEART in fall 2021 to educate middle school students on health-related topics that are not covered in the standard science curriculum. Students in HEART draw on their Cornell coursework to create easy-to-understand, interactive workshops that help middle schoolers make healthy decisions with confidence. HEART has partnered with teachers at Ithaca’s DeWitt Middle School to host workshops on topics such as mental health and viruses and vaccines, and Lee is using the Robinson-Appel Award funding to create hands-on activities to complement each workshop.

MacLean, an agricultural science major in CALS, co-founded Red Wing Farm in 2021 to improve food access in the Thousand Islands region of New York. The farm provides fresh, affordable produce and a place where families can learn about growing and harvesting their own food. Red Wing Farm is the only operation selling food or produce on Grindstone Island and is one of three locations where the community can gather. MacLean is using the award to cover the cost of three community supported agriculture (CSA) shares that will be available through the Clayton Food Shelf. She will use remaining funds on equipment and supplies to increase the farm’s efficiency and help meet community demand.

“Avery is a unique student that stands out from many in her peer group, especially in these pandemic times. I have never met a harder worker,” said Steve Reiners, professor, Horticulture Section, School of Integrative Plant Science, who is working with MacLean on farm planning and management. MacLean is also collaborating with faculty on business development and with her local Cornell Cooperative Extension office on ways to extend the harvest season.

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