The following is a republished press release and not an article written by The Cortland Voice…to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].
[do_widget id= text-6 ]
CORTLAND, N.Y. — It all started because of a broken-down bicycle — one missing its chain, with a seat held together by duct tape and a deflated rear tire. That’s what caught the attention of SUNY Cortland junior Jake Falge on his regular walks home from class during the fall semester.
He knew the bike belonged to a local man who delivered afternoon newspapers. Falge routinely saw the man straddle the bike and push it uphill with his legs, a delivery bag full of newspapers hanging at his side.
“You could see that his bike was in rough shape and that he could use something new,” said Falge, a communication studies major from Cazenovia, N.Y.
That’s when Falge made a connection between academics and reality. The class that preceded his walks home was “Issues in News,” a communication studies elective that stresses student concern for community problems such as poverty and hunger. As part of a semester-long project this fall, students in the class raised awareness and nearly $1,200 in funds for the local Loaves and Fishes food pantry.
That success was proof for Falge that he could do the same for the man in need. In just a few weeks he raised $500 through a GoFundMe page to buy the man a new bike.
“I call it critical empathy,” said Caroline Kaltefleiter, a professor of communication studies who teaches the “Issues in News” class. “It’s not just charity. It’s about solidarity — standing with the people who we live side by side with.”
The drive to provide a new bike united one of Kaltefleiter’s current students, Falge, and a former one, Steven Nahumck ’13. When Falge told his professor about the idea, she put it out to her Facebook friends with knowledge about bicycles. That caught the attention of Nahumck, a young alumnus who manages Dick Sonne’s Cycles, Fitness & Skis in New Hartford, N.Y. He had been a student the year Kaltefleiter’s class helped raise more than $1 million for the local Wickwire Pool project.
“I knew it was important to get him something that’s going to be safe and reliable,” said Nahumck, who credited his work on the Wickwire Pool project as one of the defining moments of his SUNY Cortland education.
He spent four hours assembling the Trek mountain bike, which includes a durable aluminum frame as well as gears that allow for easy travel up and down hills. He also delivered the bike to campus Dec. 16 and helped Falge find the man who would benefit from it.
“I saw someone that I could relate to myself,” said Falge, explaining that his laptop broke earlier in the year and he hasn’t yet been able to purchase a new one. “I know what it’s like to try to do a job without the best tools.”
That’s why Falge jumped into action unprompted, without an assignment grade attached to the project.
“Jake had what I like to call one of those critical flash points,” Kaltefleiter said. “He was walking home from class one day and made that connection.
“Ultimately, that’s what education is.”
[do_widget id= text-7 ]