Manufacturing A New Career

Danny Dziadula is working less than a mile from where he hoped he would retire from. Like many of his family members, Dziadula had a well-paying job at New Process Gear in East Syracuse. He started there in 1992 and stayed until the plant closed in August 2012. Thanks to a program at Onondaga Community College, Dziadula was able to begin his new career two-and-a-half years later at Inficon, a global company which provides world-class instruments for gas analysis. Its growing facility is just south of the shuttered New Process Gear factory off Fly Road in East Syracuse.

As New Process Gear was closing Dziadula learned about a retraining program at OCC thanks to the Trade Adjustment Act (TAA). The TAA provides support for workers who lost their jobs due to foreign trade and offers services in gaining the necessary knowledge and skills to obtain future employment. Dziadula met with Bob Tanchak, a professor in the Mechanical Technology department, and felt confident he could earn a degree. “He assured me that with my experience I would able to smoothly transition and be successful in the program.”

Dziadula began taking classes full time in January 2013. “The professors who are teaching you have been in the field working, and now they’re teaching us the skills they learned and really making our classes very hands on.” Dziadula graduated in December 2014 with his Mechanical Technology degree and soon after began applying for jobs. Through his OCC adviser, Steve White, he was connected with Inficon. He applied for a job and was hired one month later.

“The professors and advisers at OCC really want to help you even after you earn your degree. They want to place you into the workforce and show that their good students become good employees.” Dziadula’s previous work experience and new degree allowed him to find a new company to call home. “In this day and age you need a degree to succeed, and change is good.”

Traveling and Learning: The Study Abroad Experience

Toni Jones’ interest in studying abroad began at Clary Middle School in Syracuse. “In class we learned a lot about Mexico. I became very interested in Yucatan and decided I’d love to go there some day.” Her passion for traveling and learning brought Jones to Onondaga Community College where she has taken three study abroad trips. “I’m very interested in learning about people and culture. I’m so excited OCC offers these opportunities.”

Toni Jones
Toni Jones

Jones’ personal journey to a college campus has been a lengthy one. She graduated from Corcoran High School in 1998 and went to work. “I wanted to go to college but never felt I was ready. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and needed to figure things out.” After spending several years in child care Jones decided she wanted to work with adults with disabilities. She is now a Direct Support Professional at Access CNY, formerly known as Enable, where she’s worked since 2006.

Three years ago Jones decided to give OCC a try. “I had a son (now age 12), I bought a house and I did it all as a single person. Once my life became stable I decided the time was right to invest in myself.” Jones began taking classes in the fall of 2012. She excelled while majoring in Humanities and Social Sciences with an Honors minor, earning induction into the international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

During her first semester she saw a sign promoting an upcoming study abroad trip to central Mexico. She signed up, went on the trip during semester break and it changed her life. “It opened my mind to a lot of things. It was interesting to see things first-hand. The poverty really impacted me. I saw people who worked just as hard as me if not harder and didn’t have nearly what I had. It was very eye opening.”

Jones says the highlight of the trip was a visit to the community of Santa Rita. She and fellow classmates spent the afternoon playing outside with children who had grown up in poverty and owned little more than the clothes on their backs. “It struck me they had so little but were so happy. It was a reminder about how much we take for granted.”

After returning to campus Jones began recruiting students for future study abroad trips. She spoke in classes regularly, sharing her stories and experiences. She also became active in the Social Science department, doing work study there.

Professors Rick McLain (left) and Annie Tuttle (right) oversee the College's Study Abroad program .
Professors Rick McLain (left) and Annie Tuttle (right) oversee the College’s Study Abroad program .

“She’s a remarkable lady,” said OCC History Professor Rick McLain. “She’s extremely engaged. She works with our department, was president of our History Club for three semesters and now serves as an Honorary Officer, volunteered with our Lincoln Exhibit and volunteers with the Onondaga Historical Association. I don’t know how she’s able to do so much here along with everything else in her life. She’s an incredible person and it has been a real pleasure to see her go on these trips.”

McLain and Annie Tuttle, an Assistant Professor of Sociology, oversee the College’s Social Science study abroad program, which offered its first trip in 2008 and has continued every year since. “It’s a life-changing experience for students,” said Tuttle. “For many of them it’s their first time leaving the United States. Students build lasting relationships with fellow students and professors and leave OCC with cultural experiences they will always remember.”

The study abroad trips have also had a transformative effect on many students. “I’ve seen several who have become inspired to do much better in class and ultimately pursue higher goals in life,” said McLain. “Completion rates for students who have participated in the program are very high. They are finishing their degrees and going on and getting higher degrees.”

Taking students to Latin American had a significant impact on McLain as well. “Going there as a faculty member changed my life. I had never traveled there prior to coming to OCC. My own professional development was greatly enhanced for teaching World History through not only visiting the magnificent Mayan and Aztec ruins but also through interacting with other faculty members. Faculty learn from each other when we disagree and debate topics. It’s good for students to see us debating in a professional manner.”

Students interested in going on a study abroad trip who need financial assistance can apply for a scholarship through the OCC Foundation . Jones received a scholarship for one of her trips but paid for the other two on her own. “She’s so selfless,” said Tuttle. “She didn’t apply for more scholarships because she wanted other students to have the opportunity to go.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Two study abroad trips are planned in the upcoming academic year. In March 2016 a group of students will go to India. It will be part of a joint venture with Cornell University and Syracuse University funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In May McLain will join Professor Tim Scott on a trip to Machu Picchu as part of a Latin America cultural class. You can see student photos from study abroad trips here and here.

McLain hopes the successful study abroad trips happening in the Social Science and Modern Languages disciplines will inspire other departments on campus to consider similar opportunities. “I would love to see Business, Engineering and other areas that could really contribute to building our local community and industry and the job sector get involved too. If students travel to Germany to study engineering or India to study business practices it will only be to their benefit. Any of our students who would go to India and know Hindi would be guaranteed a job because it’s such a rare language. Cultural and language connections would equal a real payoff.”

If anyone needs a student’s perspective on the power of studying abroad, Jones is always willing to share her experiences. “I tell students ‘It changes your life. It makes you see the world like you never saw it before and appreciate what you have here. If you have the opportunity to study abroad, do it!’”

U.S. Senator Comes to Campus

United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand came to OCC June 22 to participate in a conference titled, “Meeting the Workforce Needs of the Food Processing Industry.” The event was held in the Academic II building. Senator Gillibrand spoke with event participants and also answered questions from the media.

OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill (left) and   United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill (left) and United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill presented Senator Gillibrand with a mounted poster commemorating the College’s latest Men’s Lacrosse National Championship. The Lazers have won seven consecutive national titles and nine of the last 10. They have also won 105 consecutive games, the longest winning streak in the history of college lacrosse.

Shining Star of Child Care: Stella Barbuto Penizotto, ’90

Stella Barbuto Penizotto’s affiliation with Onondaga Community College started with her first class in the fall 1988 semester and has grown stronger in the 25 years since she graduated. “The things I learned at OCC laid such a strong foundation for me,” said Penizotto. “The constant help I’ve received from OCC’s Small Business Development Center has helped me build what we have today.”

John and Stella Penizotto own and operate Shining Stars Daycare's three locations in Onondaga County.
John and Stella Penizotto own and operate Shining Stars Daycare’s three locations in Onondaga County.

What Stella and her business partner and husband John have built is “Shining Stars Daycare,” a group of locally owned day care centers in Onondaga County that employ 70 people and serve 330 families.

Penizotto graduated from Syracuse’s Henninger High School in 1987 with plans to go into nursing. When she decided she preferred to become a teacher she enrolled in OCC’s Human Services major. “It was perfect for me. The teachers and everyone within the major were great, and I loved what I was learning.”

After graduating in 1990, Penizotto continued on to SUNY Oswego, where she would earn her bachelor’s in elementary education two years later. “I was ready to become a teacher but there were no teaching jobs.” She took a job as a nanny then worked at three different child care centers.

It was 1994 and Penizotto was combing the classifieds searching for a new job when she stumbled upon an ad which caught her attention. “It was for space at Medical Center East in East Syracuse. We looked at each other and realized it was the perfect opportunity to open our own day care center.”

cropped Shining Stars logoWith her husband’s marketing expertise and her day care experience, the Penizotto’s opened their first Shining Stars Daycare in July 1994. By the fall it was filled to capacity. Seven years later they opened their second center in Manlius. In 2009 they opened their third facility in Liverpool.

The Shining Stars in Liverpool is a brand new building built to the Penizotto’s specifications. The entire design is based on everything Stella learned from spending time in other day care centers and seeing what did and didn’t work. Each classroom in the 14,500 square foot facility is larger than state regulations call for. Outside are three playgrounds specifically designed to accommodate children in three different groups: toddler, pre-K and school-aged. The center also has a 3,000 square foot gym where children can burn off their seemingly endless amount of energy. “Having a gym in this climate is invaluable. There are only so many days out of the year children can play outside. With our gym we always have a place for children to play.”

Joan Powers is Director of OCC's Small Business Development Center.
Joan Powers is Director of OCC’s Small Business Development Center.

As Shining Stars has continued to grow, Penizotto has leaned on OCC’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “We call them all the time. In the beginning it was about business plans and projections. Every time we opened a new center we would work with them again on financing and any grants that might be available.”

Penizotto’s point person at the SBDC is Joan Powers, who is its director. “Joan just has so much knowledge. There are things you need to know to get through the process and Joan and the SBDC are great to work with. I always tell people they are so worth looking up. Their services are free.”

Penizotto in the Rose Garden at the White House with President Obama
Penizotto in the Rose Garden at the White House with President Obama

In 2010 Powers was so impressed with what Penizotto had accomplished she nominated her for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s “Small Business Person of the Year” award. The judges agreed and Penizotto won both the Syracuse district and New York State awards. She then solely represented New York State in the running for National Small Business Person of the Year awards in Washington, DC during National Small Business Week. Attendees were recognized at a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House and Penizotto was photographed with President Barack Obama. “When we met the President it was very brief. I got to shake his hand because I happened to be right up front.”

In 2014 OCC named Penizotto an “Alumni Face” in recognition of her professional achievements and contributions to the College and the community. A plaque highlighting her accomplishments is on-display in the Academic II building. “It’s a tremendous feeling to be honored by OCC. I loved my time there and value the relationship I continue to have with the College.”

Penizotto will continue her relationship with OCC’s Small Business Development Center as she plans her next major project. “We’re going to rebuild our Manlius center. Any other expansion plans will be up to our daughter.” The Penizotto’s 15-year-old daughter Alyssa is a sophomore at Liverpool High School who plans to get her teaching degree before fully joining the family business. The Penizotto’s also have a son, 11-year-old Peter.

Penizotto has been in business long enough to see children return to her centers as employees. “We have several 18-year-olds working for us now who started with us as children. It’s rewarding to see how well they are doing. In many ways it’s a testament to the hard work we’ve put in and the success we’ve experienced. We’ve been fortunate to be in business for 21 years.”

Emmy Award Winning Director: JD DelVecchio, ’79

“15 seconds to air.”

“Stand by all cameras.”

“Stand by video tape.”

“Stand by slo mo.”

“Stand by to roll video tape in five.”

“And roll tape!”

“Five, four, three, two, one.”

“Take tape!”

When John “JD” DelVecchio was growing up in Syracuse those were the words that inspired him. They were commands being given by a television sports director to his crew. When viewers tuned in to Monday Night Football in the 1960s and 70s, the beginning of every telecast included those words coupled with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a broadcast production truck. “I remember being 10 years old watching that and thinking it was the coolest thing,” said DelVecchio. “I decided I wanted to become a ‘TV guy.’” Today DelVecchio is one of the best “TV guys” in the business. He’s an Emmy award winning director who has overseen coverage of some of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Vincent Spadafora, '73
Vincent “Vinny” Spadafora, ’73

During DelVecchio’s senior year at Syracuse’s Corcoran High School he applied to several colleges. When he visited OCC and was given a tour by a professor in the Radio & TV major, he knew it was the perfect fit for him. “Vinny Spadafora took me around and showed me I could get my hands on the equipment and begin learning right away. I was pulled in immediately.”

DelVecchio started taking classes at OCC in the fall of 1977 and knew he had made the right choice. “I loved it there. Vinny Spadafora and (professors) Cathy Hawkins and Robert Gaurnier were very honest and open and really great teachers. They related to us and it made a big difference.”

The hands-on experience promised during his visit turned out to be true. “The first week in radio classes we were learning how to edit tape and mixing turntables. Instead of spending our first year in a book we were working. Getting involved right away really hooked us.”

DelVecchio stayed busy outside of class as well. “I got involved in the college radio station, calling play-by-play of basketball games.” He would also shadow Spadafora who often broadcast high school basketball games on the radio. “We loved to go with him, watch him set up, work with him and learn from him.” DelVecchio also found opportunities working on telecasts of a local minor league football team, the Syracuse Aces.

DelVecchio graduated from OCC in 1979 and transferred to SUNY Fredonia where he would earn a bachelor’s degree two years later. DelVecchio returned to Syracuse, spent a year working in production at WTVH TV in Syracuse, then moved to New York City for a position with the brand new Satellite News Channel. That job would evaporate when CNN bought out Satellite News Channel after only one year in business.

As quickly as one door closed, another opened which would provide a lifetime of memories. DelVecchio was hired at NBC Television as an audio engineer. “I remember my first day there they put 10 of us on a subway and sent us to Brooklyn where we had to set up a stage for a show Bill Cosby was going to do. I remember running cables through rafters and doing whatever needed to be done.” The stage they built turned into the home of one of television’s most popular situation comedies, “The Cosby Show.” DelVecchio worked on some of the first episodes.

DelVecchio was also a part of Saturday Night Live throughout the 1984-85 season. The show had just lost its biggest cast member, Eddie Murphy, at the end of the previous season. Murphy would return several times to guest host. Regular cast members that season included Jim Belushi, Billy Crystal, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Christopher Guest and Martin Short. During his time at NBC he also worked on the Today Show and the David Letterman Show.

DelVecchio (left) with golf legends Jack Nicklaus (center) and Lee Trevino (right).
DelVecchio (left) with golf legends Jack Nicklaus (center) and Lee Trevino (right).

In 1985 DelVecchio got his foot in the door in the world of sports and has been there ever since. He was hired by a company now known as PGA (Professional Golf Association) Tour Productions as a videotape editor. “I always loved golf dating back to when I was on the Corcoran High School golf team.  I didn’t set out with the goal of being in golf but when I got the opportunity I loved it.”

DelVecchio has been a director for ESPN and ABC’s golf coverage since the early 1990s. His first live lead directing opportunity came in 1994 when Tiger Woods won his first U.S. Amateur Championship at the Tournament Players Club in Ponte Vedra, Florida. DelVecchio also directs more than 20 events annually for NBC and the Golf Channel including the NCAA Golf Championships, the Solheim Cup and various major championships. “The structure of how golf is done can be very challenging. At any moment, you can have 30 golfers taking shots. It’s a challenge to capture everything that’s going on all at once and I enjoy it.” DelVecchio’s next high-profile challenge will come in July when he is the lead director at the British Open in St. Andrews.

While directing college football telecasts DelVecchio (left) worked with former Miami quarterback Gino Toretta (center) and former Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson (right).
While directing college football telecasts DelVecchio (left) worked with former Miami quarterback Gino Toretta (center) and former Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson (right).

While golf has been the constant on his resume for the last 30 years he’s also directed coverage of several other sports. DelVecchio won an Emmy Award for his work at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. He’s also been a regular on the college football scene, directing numerous primetime games on ABC and bowl games. DelVecchio owns the distinction of broadcasting the two longest games in college football history, the longest of which lasted seven overtimes. “It was amazing and ultimately very tiring. In the moment, the adrenaline gets you through it.”

With the growth of cable and the exponential increase in the number of channels, longer work days have become part of the job. “When I started doing golf we’d be on for two hours. Now with the cable networks we are on for eight or nine hours. You get breaks within that time but it’s a long day. The excitement of the moments and the adrenaline that kicks in really carries you through. It’s as close to being on a team as we experience.”

Working long hours and traveling constantly with two children (daughter Jessica and son Alex) and his wife, Kathleen can be challenging. DelVecchio stays connected and involved in their sports at home and continues to manage Alex’s Travel Ice Hockey teams. Father and son also bond an old fashioned way. “We collect sports trading cards just like I did when I was a kid. It’s something we talk about regularly and it has really kept the fan in me alive.”

Throughout his decades in an ever-changing industry DelVecchio has lived by basic principles which are as relevant today as they were when he was hired for his first job in 1981:

  • Make the best of every opportunity every time you get one. The opportunities to be judged and move up are few and far between.
  • The broadcasting industry is a very small world. The person working for you this week may be your boss two years down the road.

Discussions about career growth and advice for future students inevitably bring DelVecchio back to his time at OCC. “We had a very close group when I was there and many of us still stay in touch to this day and are working in the industry. We are very fortunate to have had such a talented group.” As for DelVecchio’s own success it all comes back to Spadafora whom he met when he visited OCC. “I give Vinny a lot of credit for where I wound up. He was a good friend. I miss him.”

Spadafora passed away in a car accident in March 2013. OCC’s Foundation has set up a scholarship in his honor.

Eye on the World of Sports – Andy Italiano, ’85

Andy Italiano discovered his passion at OCC. His desire to succeed has literally taken him around the world.

When Andy Italiano started taking classes at OCC in the fall of 1983, he was an ordinary student, unaware he had an extraordinary talent. Like many 18-year-olds, Italiano wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. His father Joseph taught Astronomy at OCC, but Italiano didn’t see his future in the stars when he graduated from Syracuse’s Nottingham High School. During his first semester at OCC everything abruptly came into focus. “As I was walking down the hall I passed the TV department and realized you could ‘do TV’ and make money at it,” Italiano said. In the last three decades he’s done much more than make a living at it. Italiano’s ability to operate a television camera at some of the biggest sporting events have literally taken him around the world.

Italiano (right) with EMC Department Co-chair Tony Vadala, '83.
Italiano (right) with EMC Department Co-chair Tony Vadala, ’83 in the control room of OCC’s television studio.


Italiano got his first break shooting live sports while he was a student at OCC. Tony Vadala, ‘83, who was an instructor’s assistant in what was then called the Radio TV department, remembers when he met Italiano. “He said to me, ‘I want to be the person up there on the scaffolding running camera at big sporting events.’” Italiano said it to the right person. When Vadala wasn’t teaching he was working on local cable sports telecasts. He got Italiano a job running camera during high school football games. “Tony gave me an opportunity. He trusted me. He put me in a situation where I succeeded, and it gave me the confidence in myself to know I could do it. He was so generous and gracious with me,” said Italiano.

Italiano continued shooting local live sporting events through his graduation in 1985. He transferred to SUNY Fredonia, where he majored in Communications Media and would graduate two years later. He returned to Syracuse and got another break, working for CBS when the network would come to the Carrier Dome to televise big Syracuse University basketball games. He was doing whatever was needed: running and getting things for people, hanging banners, helping in any way possible. It wasn’t operating a camera, but it was a foot in the door and a chance to make contacts.

Regular work, however, was hard to find, so Italiano packed up his car and headed west to Los Angeles. “I had enough money for three weeks. If I didn’t find a job, I planned to return.” After two weeks without any solid prospects, he took a job installing carpets so he could make money and stay in California longer. In his spare time Italiano kept making contacts in the television industry, either by phone or by knocking on doors. Eventually he was hired to work in a television studio, “Heart of the Nation,” which focused on religious shows. He did everything there from sweeping floors to running cameras to technical directing.

Italiano got his big sports break a short time later when someone who was supposed to work on a television crew covering boxing called in sick. “I wound up holding a microphone all night. At the end of the night the woman who hired me told me, ‘Andy don’t beat anybody up, work hard, and you’ll get a job again.’”

From there his sports career took off. Eventually he wound up where he was most comfortable: behind a camera. Today he is one of the most-sought after sports cameramen in the world. His annual calendar is a sports fans dream:

  • Every two years he operates a camera at the Olympics for NBC, most recently at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
  • Live photographer at the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament for CBS.
  • All San Diego Padres (MLB) home games for Fox Sports West.
  • Weekly NFL games on CBS, which require him to be in a different city every weekend from September through January.

Italiano has run camera at multiple Super Bowls, World Series, Baseball All-Star games, NBA Finals, and Olympic games, which are his favorite. “The whole world is represented there and the whole world is watching. There’s a real sense of brotherhood at the Olympics.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To accommodate his busy schedule, Italiano has homes on both coasts in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and San Diego, California. Despite his globe trotting and world-renowned success, which has resulted in him winning five prestigious Emmy Awards.

Italiano has never forgotten his roots. In between working the Winter Olympics and the NCAA Tournament, Italiano recently visited Onondaga and spoke with students in an Electronic Media Communications class. He gave them valuable advice:

  • Be persistent.
  • Always work at your craft.
  • Respect the job you have by acting professionally.
  • Embrace fear and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll do your best work when you are really on the edge.

Students listened intently to Italiano’s message and were impressed with what they heard:

  • “I learned it doesn’t matter where you come from. If you work hard, you can accomplish anything.” -Jake Zahn
  • “It was very impressive to hear that he started at OCC and now is doing all of these amazing things.” -David Breur
  • “I was inspired when I found out he graduated from the same high school as me.” -Traevon Robinson

Robinson’s dream is to be a professional music video photographer. Ironically, it’s shooting music which Italiano says helped him improve his skills exponentially when he stepped away from sports for a year-and-a-half and went out on the road shooting exclusively with heavy metal band Metallica. “With music there are no rules as long as it looks good. I really got to know the camera and its capabilities better than ever before. When I returned to sports I was able to be more creative in the way I was shooting. It definitely made me a better photographer.”

The man who gave Italiano his start in 1984, Tony Vadala, is now Co-Chair of Onondaga’s Electronic Media Communications department. “Andy is very down to earth. None of this has gone to his head,” said Vadala. “Seeing him come back, share his stories and wisdom with students, and knowing it all started here is remarkable. It really validates everything we do.”

One of Italiano's five Emmy Awards.
One of Italiano’s five Emmy Awards.

Italiano has won five Emmy Awards for excellence in the television industry:

  • 2011 World Series, FOX
  • 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing, NBC
  • 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony, Beijing, NBC
  • 2004 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony, Athens, NBC
  • 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, NBC

In 2014 Italiano was named one of the College’s “Alumni Faces” for his professional achievements and contributions to the College and the community. “It’s a tremendous honor,” said Italiano. “To be recognized at the place where everything really started for me is a great feeling.”

Italiano was named one of the College's Alumni Faces in 2014.
Italiano with his Alumni Faces plaque.


Meet The Faculty: Annie Tuttle

Annie Tuttle, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology

Hometown: Arlington, Texas

Education: B.A., Sociology and Political Science, University of Texas at Arlington; M.S., Sociology, Florida State University; Ph.D., Sociology, Florida State University.

History at OCC: I joined the faculty in fall 2011 and quickly found an academic home at OCC and a community in Syracuse. I have been part of many committees on campus including the Faculty Executive Committee, Women’s History Month, Women and Gender Studies, Honors, LGBTQ, and International Education. I am also the faculty advisor for OCC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.  I work closely with Jackie Barstow and several other advising partners to provide research, service, and scholarship opportunities for high achieving students at OCC. We have helped many PTK members transfer to schools such as Cornell, NYU, RIT, and Syracuse University.  Our chapter was named the Most Distinguished Chapter in New York in 2013-2014, and we are very excited to have one of our members represent OCC on the state level as a PTK New York Regional Officer for 2015. This past year I also took part in the Social Sciences Mayan Riviera Study Abroad program where I taught a section of Gender and Society and travelled with students throughout the Southern Yucatan.  I teach Introduction to Sociology, Social Problems, Gender and Society, Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies, and Environmental Sociology.

Favorite Student Story: During my first year at OCC I had a student in my class who was a mother of four with a fifth child on the way. She was one of the smartest students in my class and was always on time and prepared. After class one day we were talking about an upcoming assignment and I commented on how smart she was and that I was looking forward to reading her paper. She instantly started crying, hugged me, and told me that no one had ever told her that she was smart. The littlest things we say to students can make the biggest impact.  At the end of the semester she earned an “A” in my class and had a new baby girl. Her story reminds me how much every day interactions matter.

Little-Known Fact: I am an identical twin! My twin sister, Ali, lives in Texas with her husband and two kids. We spend a lot of time together… on FaceTime!  I also love Broadway musicals and I can often be found listening to musical theatre in my office, car, at home, and even at the gym.

Meaningful Experiences Outside Education: I am on the LGBTQ Board at Vera House, which assesses the needs and creates outreach opportunities for the LGBTQ community in Syracuse.  I also love to travel and make every effort to visit friends across the country during the year and explore new places, both nationally and internationally.

Gratitude: I really love my job. I feel so fortunate to have a job that I am passionate about and one that I feel allows me the opportunity to make a difference. I am inspired by my students and colleagues and am excited to see what the next few years have in store for Onondaga.

Life Lessons Learned at the Children’s Learning Center

Shavya Lakhe
Shavya Lakhe

Shavya Lakhe always loved playing with blocks in OCC’s Children’s Learning Center (CLC), but in April the 5-year-old student started using them in a way he never had before. “We noticed he was building houses with them,” said CLC Director Michele Ferguson. “Our teachers asked him about it and he explained that his grandparents home in Nepal had just been destroyed by an earthquake.”

Shavya learned about the devastation during a conversation at home.  “My mommy told me about the earthquake. It crushed and broke things including my grandparents house. They are okay but they are living in tents now.” The earthquake and Shavya’s grandparents became the primary topic at the CLC. It went from science-based discussions about what earthquakes were and how they happened, to good citizen-type discussions about how everyone could help. “All of our children were going home at night and speaking with their parents about it,” said Ferguson. “Our whole school community became interested and wanted to help in some way.”

The children and the CLC’s team of teachers decided to hold a fundraiser to benefit the people of Nepal. The children would bake cookies and muffins, then hold a bake sale. “The baking process was a great lesson in math and science for the children,” said Ferguson. They also got a lesson in marketing, making signs advertising the benefit to other students and their parents.

On the day of the bake sale students ran cash registers. They traded cookies for money and learned how to make change. When the bake sale was over everyone was excited to learn they had raised $162 for earthquake victims in Nepal. Anonymous donations helped raise the total to a round amount of $200.

CLC Director Michele Ferguson shows children the check they will be presenting to the American Red Cross.
CLC Director Michele Ferguson shows children the check they will be presenting to the American Red Cross.

Everyone’s hard work was rewarded June 9 when a representative of the American Red Cross came to the CLC. Tom Czajak, a grants specialist with the organization, explained to the children how their money would be spent. “All of this money will help victims in Nepal. We will use it to buy blankets, water and to help the volunteers working with the Red Cross network throughout Nepal,” he said. Local television stations CNY Central and Time Warner Cable News came as well to documents the children’s efforts.

What began as a natural disaster on the other side of the world turned into a wonderful experience for students, teachers and parents at the CLC. “We never think a child is too young to learn important lifelong lessons,” said Ferguson. “We can always help one another whether the people we are helping are here or far away.” Shavya and his family are living proof of that. “I’m happy we raised this money,” he said.

Shavya is interview by journalists (left) Andy Wolf of CNY Central and (right) Alexa Green of Time Warner Cable News.
Shavya is interview by journalists (left) Andy Wolf of CNY Central and (right) Alexa Green of Time Warner Cable News.

Supporting Workforce Development

Onondaga Community College received a $220,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase. A ceremonial check was presented during a press conference June 10 in the Whitney Applied Technology Center. The funding will support the College’s Workforce Development efforts, specifically in the training of students for employment in the agribusiness and food processing industry. The College is partnering with employers, nonprofit organizations and New York State to develop the program.

This generous grant from JPMorgan Chase is part of its $1 million commitment to supporting advanced manufacturing training programs in the upstate regions of Syracuse, Albany, Buffalo and Rochester, and part of a much broader $250 million commitment to address the skills gap in communities around the world. Goals of JPMorgan Chase’s plan include:

  • Building a demand-driven system through cross-sector gatherings to encourage collaboration, share findings and formulate strategies.
  • Investing in the best training and making targeted investments to strengthen and scale the most effective workforce training programs.
  • Relying on data and sponsoring a data-driven analysis of skills demand to supply gaps in local markets.

The focus of this project on the agribusiness and food processing industry is in response to a workforce demand in a growing sector of the economy. The five-county region of Central New York (CNY) includes 3,585 farm businesses generating products with a market value of $673 million. Agricultural commodity sales in New York State (NYS) increased by 20% from 2007-2012 to over $5.4 billion annually and by 21% in CNY during the same period. NYS is a leader in agricultural production of apples (2nd in the U.S.); feed corn (2nd); sweet corn (4th); fruits, tree nuts, and berries, (6th); and vegetables for market (8th). NYS is the nation’s third largest producer of fluid milk and commodity crops and was the nation’s top yogurt producer in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In addition, there are more than 200 food processing companies in CNY, including a growing list of farm breweries and distilleries producing beer, hard cider, wine, and spirits.

In October 2014, OCC was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program in support of this effort.

“We are thrilled to be selected by JPMorgan Chase to receive this important grant funding. Through our Workforce Development program we are committed to responding to the needs of both local employers and workers and aligning the needs of both as we work to advance the economic vitality and growth of the Central New York region. Having this support in place will make a significant impact upon our mission,” said OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill.

“All of us on the Board of Trustees are keenly aware of OCC’s critical role in the community and the opportunity we have to make Central New York a better place for all of us. We applaud JPMorgan Chase for being our partners in this effort through their very generous grant. We are very fortunate to have their support and thank them for it,” said Margaret M. “Meg” O’Connell, Chair, OCC Board of Trustees.

“At JPMorgan Chase, we believe we have a fundamental responsibility to use our resources and expertise to help the communities where we live and work. We are proud to be partnering with Onondaga Community College to provide training to folks in Syracuse that will fill important jobs within the advanced manufacturing sector,” said Mark Allen, Upstate New York Region Executive, Commercial Banking at JPMorgan Chase.

“I am grateful to community partners JPMorgan Chase and Onondaga Community College for their ongoing support of transformative solutions to impact both employers and un-and-underemployed residents in our community,” said Robert Simpson, president of CenterState CEO. “This new investment will dovetail with CenterState CEO’s Work Train initiative, which will align with and support the college’s training programs, helping to develop a manufacturing workforce pipeline in the region.”

OCC is working to ensure the programs it develops are well-aligned with employer needs by using the DACUM (Developing A CurriculUM) process. After a half-century of use, DACUM is widely accepted as the best methodology for creating competency-based and employer-driven training to build workforce capacity. Many state agencies, including the IRS, Texas Occupational Standards Committee, and national, international, and multi-billion dollar corporations, including AT&T, Boeing, Disney, Energizer and General Motors use DACUM to establish effective training programs with superior results.

Several leading employers in the Agribusiness and Food Industry sector have committed to the project including: AGRANA Fruit US, Inc., American Food & Vending, Byrne Dairy, Giovanni Foods, G&C Foods, HP Hood, Food Bank of Central New York and Tops Friendly Markets. Employer partners are committed to identifying and validating competencies, validating curriculum, promoting the program, providing content experts and instructors, identifying career pathways, hiring qualified candidates upon completion and participating in program assessment.

Non-profit partners include CenterState CEO, a 2000-member, business leadership organization; Work Train, a collaborative led by CenterState to link low-income individuals with job-training; the Workforce Development Institute; the Southwest Community Center; Catholic Charities; Syracuse Educational Opportunity Center; the Manufacturer’s Association of Central New York and the Onondaga Farm Bureau. The public workforce investment system is represented by CNY Works and JOBSplus!

Partners in the agribusiness program include SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Morrisville and Cornell University.FEATURE JPMorgan Chase check presentation

SUNY Student Art Awards

Five OCC students will have have their art work on-display in the New York State Museum this summer. It’s part of the annual Best of SUNY Student Art Awards which were handed out June 9 at the New York State Museum in Albany.

The Best of SUNY exhibit features 84 works of art chosen by individual art departments across SUNY’s campuses. It includes drawings, paintings, photography, sculpture and digitally produced works. The SUNY system includes 64 college and university campuses.

OCC’s five students whose work can be viewed at the museum are:

  • Michael Currier, Tully High School
  • Greg Minix, Marathon Central School
  • Zachary Ross, Skaneateles High School
  • Daniel Sanchez, Moravia High School
  • Ameilee Sullivan, Chittenango High School

Sanchez’s untitled art work is at the top of this story.