Antonee Lewis had a story unlike anyone else at OCC’s 2014 Commencement. On the day she received her diploma she was also seeing campus for the very first time.
Lewis earned her Early Childhood Education degree online from her home in Brooklyn. “I found out about OCC through the SUNY Learning Network. OCC had everything I needed: the major I wanted, the ability to take classes online, and financial aid,” Lewis said. She started taking classes in February 2012, one month after giving birth to her son, Adonai.
While taking classes online Lewis became close with Associate Professor Laurel Saiz from whom she took two English classes. “I would have been lost without her. She literally led me from day one up until graduation. She was my cheerleader, my coach, my guidance, and my mentor along the way.”
Their connection was so strong Saiz invited Lewis and her family to stay at her house over Commencement weekend. “She took an active and warm interest in everyone in the class, including me as a professor and an individual,” Saiz said. “It made the weekend so, so special to have her here and see her meet all the professors she had in all her classes over two years.”
Lewis’ journey to an associate degree was a long one. After graduating from Port Richmond High School in Staten Island in 2004, she attended Johnson & Wales and majored in Hotel Management, then transferred to UNC-Charlotte where she focused on biology. She was struggling to figure out what she wanted to do.
Today everything is in focus. Lewis wants to become a teacher and a positive influence in the lives of children. She says her OCC degree is the beginning of her pursuing her dream and that’s why she decided to come to Commencement. “I think of my journey and what it took for me to get here. I’m going to celebrate every step of the way, and this is the first step in what I want to accomplish. This college is so beautiful. I’m proud to be a part of it and glad I came up to get my diploma.”