Mo Ayodele

Hometown: Charlotte, NC
College: Agriculture & Life Sciences
Major: Applied Economics and Management
Year: 2018

Three years ago, during my first Club Fest, I was approached by the president of Art Beyond Cornell when she asked, “Do you have a passion for art? Are you interested in working with incarcerated youth?” Those two simple questions have had such a profound impact on my life. Art Beyond Cornell (ABC), an organization which makes art with young men at a juvenile correctional facility, has shaped much of who I am today. With the intention of bringing new perspectives to both Cornell students and institutionalized youth around Ithaca, both communities are provided a means of self-expression, communication, and growth through art. I, often, find that the young men prefer to simply discuss college, family, and how the past often lingers into the future. I strive to instill the notion that our mistakes tell nothing of the future, and I want the work that I do to be a testimony to the fact that the dreams of all people may very well flourish.

As I have gotten to learn more about this underserved community, helping to raise awareness of the plight of institutionalized youth has been a difficult task. Yet, the time and emotion that I have invested into this organization has awakened my curiosity in social justice. As this program has served to dismantle any erroneous beliefs I had about the criminal justice system, I find myself becoming more of an advocate for those without the privilege to speak up for themselves. With that passion, I have become involved with the Cornell Prison Education Program. As a young black woman, it is important that I serve as a reminder of what black and brown folks can achieve when given the opportunity. I want people who look like me to feel empowered and deserving of opportunities coming their way.