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Sorbrique Grant '07

"The Future Belongs to Those Who Believe in the Beauty of Their Dreams"

Eleanor Roosevelt’s powerful statement is the personal motto of our 2007 JFK Award winner, Sorbrique “Sorby” Grant who graduated in May, 2007 with a double major in Government and American Studies. This young Jamaican-American woman, who says she was “raised” through her work at the Cornell Public Service Center, dreams of a life spent advocating for urban communities.

Sorby hopes she can soon play an influential part in forming public policy in this country. She has planned a two-step path to arrive at that goal. Since graduation she has been living in New York City and working with Teach for America helping people to learn English as a second language. Her goal as an ESL teacher is to make “a meaningful contribution to the conversations surrounding the policies and practices that affect urban youth.”

Immediately after her two-year stint at Teach for America, Sorby will enroll in the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. It is there that our JFK Award money will be put to good use in helping to defray the high cost of tuition. Sorby plans to combine the “high quality education” she received at Cornell with her her hands-on experience teaching ESL. She will add to that powerful background everything that she learns at Goldman about how to analyze the needs and problems in local urban communities. Armed with this combined knowledge and skill, she will be ready to effect substantive and sustainable change through writing public policy to protect the populations that are normally the target of discrimination.

Sorby Grant

Sorby Grant displays her award certificate

“As a first-generation American who has experienced the unequal distribution of wealth, political unrest, extensive violence, and strife of a developing nation,” writes Sorby, “I have always striven to fight injustice and inequality.

She has already made a substantial contribution to Cornell and the Ithaca community through an extensive array of volunteer and nonprofit projects. The Cornell Public Service Center was Sorby’s deepest involvement: as the Student Manager for three years, she has helped numerous students to become involved in all sorts of community programs. Sorby oversaw the 40-person New York City division of the Alternative Breaks program, led trips to multiracial organizations on and off campus, and developed eight-week training curricula for Sylvia’s Place, a New York shelter for homeless youth.

Susan Murphy, VP of Student Academic Services calls Sorby “one of the most distinguished student leaders on campus” because of an “empathy and insight that are well beyond her years and a willingness to immerse herself in challenging settings, allowing others to trust her and permitting herself to grow.” One of the most challenging of these positions of responsibility in which Sorby immersed herself is On-Site Volunteer Services, a student-run non-profit that provides Cornell students with diverse opportunities in community development. Having been chosen one of ten Cornell Tradition Fellows enabled Sorby to contribute significant financial support to this worthy cause.

Sorby Grant & Sue Hitchcock

Susan Hitchcock, director of financial aid, presents our award to Sorby Grant

Continually active in fighting prejudice in the form of racism, homophobia, and sexism on campus and in the community, Sorby has been a leader in Empathy Assistance Referral Services, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups such as Haven, Sylvia’s Place, and AIDS awareness programs. She has also worked with Cornell Urban Scholar’s Program (CUSP) at Cornell. Last year Sorby won the Steven Fellows Award for her dedication to providing a higher quality of life for people with disabilities in Tompkins County. This human rights award recognized her for work in raising the level of awareness of people with disabilities in the community.

Sorby also served as Coordinator and Operations Manager for Into the Streets, a nonprofit which organizes 30 agencies with local businesses and over 500 volunteers for Cornell’s largest day of service. Over her spring breaks, Sorby traveled to North Carolina as a trip team leader, building houses for the disadvantaged under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity.

It’s a privilege for the Class of ’64 to help Sorbrique Grant achieve her mission “to work toward inclusiveness, recognize that difference does not mean disorder, and reach out to those marginalized within the policy processes.”