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Cornell University sophomore Christine Chow (right) decorates handmade picture frames with Nellyda and Josmalyz at the Village at Cataumet.

For all but one of the six Cornell students who assisted Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC) in April, it was their first introduction to life on this side of the canal.

But San Jose’s Christine Chow, a sophomore majoring in biological sciences, is one step closer than her peers to attaining true Cape Codder status, having visited here last year as part of Cornell University Public Service Center’s alternative spring break program.

Every April the Ivy League college encourages its students to spend their spring break giving back to communities as close as Ithaca, New York, and as far away as Orlando, Florida. Over the past 10 years Cornell has sent a contingent to Cape Cod to assist HAC in carrying out its mission.

In 2013 Chow was part of a team that was tasked to improve marketing efforts for HAC’s gift card program that helps to fund the non-profit’s Project Prevention which is aimed at keeping residents struggling with mortgage payments or bills in their homes. 

This year Chow returned as the team leader, working with her peers, under the guidance of Cheryl Kramer, the department manager of HAC’s consumer education center, to create a presentation on financial literacy targeted to students at Barnstable High School and Dennis-Yarmouth High School.

During the two weeklong stints Chow has spent at HAC, she has developed a deep respect for the wide variety of programs aimed at helping the region’s neediest residents. “It has been interesting to see how HAC has such a big presence on the Cape in addressing its housing issues,” she said, adding that she has also enjoyed witnessing the dedication of HAC staff. “I am always impressed, both last year and this year, at how positive, welcoming and enthusiastic the HAC employees are.”

Though she is unsure whether she will attend an alternative spring break as a junior or senior, Chow hopes to continue finding ways to help others, regardless of their socioeconomic status, as she plans on pursuing a career in the medical field as a doctor. “I really like the scientific approach and using science to be able to help people because health is an issue that impacts all people’s lives and their quality of life,” she said.

Learn more about last year’s project that Cornell University students worked on for HAC here. And look for more stories about this year’s Cornell spring break trip to Cape Cod in this month’s HACbeat!