The Big Event Returns April 21

The Big Event Returns April 21

04/15/2024 

The Big Event, a student-run, communitywide civic-engagement project that caught the attention of New York’s Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado during a recent campus visit, will take place on Sunday, April 21.

With a total of 460 volunteers signed up to participate, registration allowing organizers to match groups with the 47 identified job sites is now closed. However, volunteers will continue to be accepted up to morning registration at the event.

Those signed up have significantly exceeded last year's 405 volunteers at 40 sites.

The university’s Student Government Association (SGA) is once again organizing the event, which became a Cortland tradition in 2015 by sending hundreds of SUNY Cortland students to out into the Cortland community, cleaning, raking, painting and otherwise sprucing up a mix of private residences and businesses in their town.

SGA officers will give a presentation about The Big Event at Cortland’s spring administrative meeting on Monday, April 22.

The Big Event is the SGA’s largest, with Fall Festival coming second, said SGA Event Coordinator Emily Gallagher, a senior political science major from Cortland.

“It’s just a great way for us to match students with community projects and kind of get them out there so SUNY Cortland is involved with the community,” said Gallagher, who is co-organizing the event with SGA President Joe Mascetta. “We’re not two separate things. There isn’t just SUNY Cortland. Or the City of Cortland. Or Cortland county. It’s all one thing.”

Gallagher and Mascetta got an opportunity to describe The Big Event to Delgado during his Feb. 28 visit to campus to hear from students about the university’s wide-ranging community service efforts and learn how the state can help students in their efforts. That student input will help inform the early development of New York’s Office of Service and Civic Engagement, a new state office created  by Governor Kathy Hochul in January that Delgado is tasked with developing.

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In a recent Big Event, varsity athletic teams really moved the goalposts in tackling big spring cleaning jobs around town.

“I got to explain to him the community service aspect that Cortland has, and it’s through this event,” Gallagher said. “I briefed him on what we did, which is we send students out into the community to give back on one big day of community service.

“He said he thought that if every SUNY campus had something like this going on, it would be something like what that office he’s creating would be looking for,” Gallagher said of Delgado, who described Cortland’s program as a potential model for the rest of the state.

“He was impressed that we have something like that in place.”

Planning is well underway, Gallagher noted. Updates will be available on the Cortland SGA’s Instagram page.

On the big day, volunteers should check in at Park Center Alumni Arena between 9 and 9:30 a.m., where they are welcome to share a light continental breakfast. Participants will then organize into groups and depart for work sites by their own transportation at 9:30 a.m., continuing to depart through the morning. The Big Event will run through 3 p.m.

Volunteer work may include raking leaves, cleaning up trash, painting front porch steps, or any other requests SGA receives from community members.

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Student volunteers help a local homeowner spruce up their porch with coats of fresh paint.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own equipment, but the SGA will supply tools for those who don’t bring them. The SGA also is asking worksite hosts to supply the necessary tools for their site, if possible.

Participation by members of Greek organizations, student clubs and athletic teams has fostered a strong turnout in the past, Gallagher noted. This year will feature a strong showing by Greek organizations including Alpha Sigma Alpha and Sigma Delta Tau along with student athletes from football, women's lacrosse, women's soccer and club baseball.

Founded at SUNY Cortland in 2015 by Ashlee Prewitt ’14, the student club Actively Involved in the Community (AIC) was previously responsible for organizing this event each spring. More than 400 volunteers participated in the first The Big Event in Cortland.

For Gallagher, who is interning with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Cortland office, The Big Event is the first time she has given back to her own community.

“High School would have been my chance, but it was the COVID high school years, my junior and senior years,” in the Homer schools, said Gallagher, on track to graduate from Cortland in just three years. “So, I didn’t have much of a chance. It’s a pretty big chance, too, now so I’m enjoying it.”


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