Mikelle Wortman ’10, 2011 Young Alumni Achievement Award
Mikelle Wortman, you graduated from Cornell in 2010 and immediately turned your passions for education and social justice into a classroom teaching role with an innovative charter school in Kansas City. Through Teach for America, you have taught math to 4th graders in this predominately Hispanic school where many students were below grade level in proficiency. Your first year results were remarkable.
Through diligent work in the classroom, during tutoring sessions after school and on Saturdays, and during a summer session, you helped your students master new material. They grew an average of 1.6 grade levels in six months, a rate higher than any other school in your charter school network, and they outperformed all other schools in your district on the math portion of the yearly state exam.
Your commitment to service on behalf of marginalized citizens began in high school when you, as a foster child, became an advocate for youth and children in foster care. Your work contributed to the creation of Iowa’s Preparation for Adult Living bill, which offers postsecondary education, medical insurance, and stipends for foster youth under 21. You became the youngest member to join the National Foster Youth Advisory Council, testifying before Congress and traveling nationwide to deliver speeches and position papers.
Your commitment to service grew at Cornell, where you embraced numerous extraordinary opportunities. They ranged from orphanage work in Africa, and an honors project in Ethnic Studies on foster care, to study at the Newberry Library on health care access for African-Americans, travel to Washington, D.C., to study the H1N1 virus, and research with a physician in Des Moines through the Cornell Fellows Program. And now, in addition to your demanding role as a teacher, you manage a staff of 20 adult educators as they lead Sunday school programs, and you make time to assist homeless and underprivileged people in your community. Meanwhile, you are dedicated to your own education, working toward a master’s degree in elementary education as a full-time student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Mikelle, by exemplifying Cornell’s commitment to education and service as means by which to bring about a more just, equitable, and diverse society where the talents of all are cultivated and valued, we honor you with Cornell’s 2011 Young Alumni Achievement Award.