Before coming to Onondaga Community College (OCC) Chayanne Robles ’13 grew up just outside the village of Liverpool with his two brothers and two sisters. In all, three of his other siblings attended or graduated from OCC, with his youngest sister arriving in the fall. His father was from Aruba and his mother, who homeschooled all five children, was from Watertown. “All through our childhood, because we were homeschooled, my parents encouraged us to get involved and get out there,” Robles said. At 15 he got a job with Wegmans, so that when he graduated high school he was able to obtain a 4-year scholarship through the company. In addition to his work at Wegmans, Robles volunteered at a local food pantry and tutored math on the south side of Syracuse.
Like many students, when he graduated from high school Robles did not have a clear direction of what he wanted to pursue in college. By chance, he scheduled an information session with an advisor at OCC and during their talk they discussed the Mechanical Technology Program (MET), which he had never heard of before but thought the opportunity was worth exploring. “After the meeting, I worked with Professor Bob Latham and he got me into all the necessary courses and from there it was history,” Robles said. From that point on, Robles found the work came natural to him, which impressed his instructors since they were well aware of his homeschool background. However, there was another element at play that went beyond the textbook. “Growing up in a multi-cultural family was awesome,” Robles said, “this coupled with the work I had done at Wegmans and in the community was the perfect combination that allowed me to excel with my fellow classmates.”
Another benefit, he would not realize until later, was the diverse mix of traditional and non-traditional students that were comprised in the MET program. “We were like a family,” he said, “it was a great experience because the older students would assist us with machine work which they were familiar with, while we could help them with some of the math involved in the course work.” This type of support went beyond the students as Robles soon found out the “family” atmosphere was something instilled in them by the instructors. When he was approaching the end of the second year, Robles met with Professor Robert Tanchak who proved to be the driving force behind him bypassing initial employment and to pursue his Bachelor’s degree at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). “The professors in the program did not want me to sell myself short,” Robles said, “with their help I was able to get accepted (to RIT), have all my credits transfer and receive an additional transfer scholarship to cover additional costs of attending private school.”
When he arrived at RIT in 2013, Robles found he was competitive in the classroom and slightly ahead when it came time to work with the machines because, unlike typical 4-year students there, he had already done this at OCC. Last fall, he just finished a six-month internship with GE and was based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. The team he got assigned to was implementing a new system for production so he was learning right alongside with other employees which made it more like a job than an internship. In fact, he picked up on it so fast he found himself leading training sessions in front of GE employees who had been there 20-30 years. Due to his educational background Robles was not only able to understand the manufacturing part of the system, but the technology end of it as well, so he was able to communicate between the two departments, which was a tremendous asset to the company. At the end of his internship he also interviewed and was accepted into their prestigious Operations Management Leadership Program, so when he finishes RIT this spring, he will start a two-year program within GE where he will explore the many facets of the company before he has to decide which one he will pursue as part of his career.
With so many options in front of him, Robles just wants to finish strong in his last semester and take some much needed time off before starting up with GE. “I feel blessed in that I always want to continue to learn, and to be able to work for a company who encourages something like that means so much to me” he said. Despite all of this recent good fortune, Robles recognizes where it all started. “Going to OCC was the best decision I made and I am very grateful to my professors and the services,” he said, “it was important for me not to just punch the clock, but to have a plan for the next step.”