Helping Teachers Learn

Nina James, OCC student and Director of the Salvation Army's Cab Horse Commons Child Care Center
Nina James, OCC student and Director of the Salvation Army’s Cab Horse Commons Child Care Center

Nina James discovered her passion while working as a property manager on East Fayette Street in Syracuse. “I used to see a lot of kids there who should have been in school. I would tell them they needed their education to be successful. It got me thinking that instead of working for the housing complex and overseeing the adults I should be working with children.”

Those conversations led James to where she is today. The 55-year-old mother of four is director of the Salvation Army’s Cab Horse Commons Child Care Center on South Salina Street. The facility can accommodate up to 95 children between the ages of six months and five-years-old. James is responsible for their daily care and her 13 employees who administer it.

Caregivers at the center are required to have nine college credits in Early Childhood Education to work there. That’s where Onondaga Community College comes in. As part of the Early Childhood Career Advancement Ladder II (ECCAL II) the College began offering nine credits of introductory courses at the Salvation Army’s Cab Horse Commons and the Head Start Summer School site. The courses are offered at one-third the regular tuition for practitioners already working with young children in child care or Head Start.

James was part of the first class of employees who enrolled when the program began in 2014. “When we started I wasn’t sure how I was going to juggle work, home and college. What we all found out was that the school work was much easier when we worked in groups and had discussions together. We were able to solve problems and encourage each other.”

Dr. Patricia Martin
Dr. Patricia Martin

The courses James and her co-workers take can be used as the education component for the Child Development Credential (CDA) which is the first of the professional credentials needed. Other credentials students can earn include the Early Child Care Certificate and the Early Childhood A.A.S. degree. The ECCAL II program includes a mentor who works closely with students and a textbook loan component.

Dr. Patricia Martin is Chair of OCC’s Human Services and Teacher Education program and an Early Childhood Education Professor. She’s seen the program play a vital role in the professional growth of the child care center’s employees. “These teachers provide quality early childhood education every day that directly affects young children, their families and their futures. We are thrilled to be able to bring them the courses they need to advance their careers.”

James is now just 23 credits away from getting her bachelor’s degree. In the summer she’ll begin taking classes at SUNY Empire State College.  She’s looking forward to her future but occasionally thinks about those children she tried to give advice to many years ago when she was working as a property manager. “Some of them listened and some didn’t,” she recalls. “Sometimes I would run into one of the children who listened and hear, ‘Thank you Miss Nina for telling me I should have been in school.’ It was very rewarding.”

Bridge to Better Health

OCC Nursing students carry health supplies across a footbridge in the highlands of Guatemala.
OCC Nursing students carry health supplies across a footbridge in the highlands of Guatemala.

They left with a strong desire to help others. They returned with a sense of satisfaction and an appreciation for life here at home. Seven of the College’s Nursing students spent their semester break on an unforgettable service learning trip. They brought medical supplies, provided health care and shared knowledge with the people of Guatemala.

Assistant Professor Lee Berg coordinated the trip for the third year in a row. She planned fundraisers and oversaw the collection of medical supplies. One week before their scheduled departure Berg and the students gathered to pack up their supplies. They filled 16 suitcases as close to the 50 pound limit as possible. When they finished they still had supplies left over which have already been set aside for the next trip.

OCC’s contingent took off from Syracuse December 29. When they stepped off the plane in Guatemala and began making their way to the rural area where they would spend the next 10 days of their lives it was evident they weren’t in the United States any more. “There was a tremendous amount of pollution in the air,” said student Lindsy Coon (Central Square high school). “Everyone there burns there trash. Vehicle emissions are bad too. You would see a van going up a hill leaving a big, black cloud of smoke behind it.”

Once they arrived in the community of San Lucas Toliman the students went right to work. They spent two days in a rural mountain village building fuel-efficient stoves in homes which vented to the outside. Residents were used to cooking inside over an open fire without any ventilation, blackening walls and lungs with damaging smoke which would contribute to significant respiratory problems. Cooking over an open fire in the home also increases the risk of severe burns, especially for children.

OCC students also broke up into teams of two and worked on teaching projects including hygiene, injury prevention and overcoming diarrhea. “We did our best to tailor our donations to what we were teaching,” said Coon. “When we talked about hygiene we gave everyone toothpaste, tooth brushes, body wash and hair products.”

When the topic was injury prevention they gave children donated shoes. “A lot of the children are barefoot. Wearing shoes prevents parasites. We made bringing shoes a priority because it’s a direct health intervention,” said Coon.

Students found natives were actually surrounded by solutions to their health problems. “We used plants to make shampoos and a substance similar to Vicks Vapo Rub,” said Shaowen Chen (Baldwinsville high school). “For diarrhea we worked on rehydration with plants which grow there.”

On January 7 the students said good-bye, boarded a plane and returned to Central New York. “I was so happy to come home. I walked in our kitchen and couldn’t believe everything we have,” said Coon. “It was very rewarding to go there,” said Cheng. “I would definitely do it again.”

A slideshow can be found at the bottom of this story. The Nursing students who went on the service learning trip are:

  • Rita Brush, Henninger high school
  • Lindsy Coon, Central Square high school
  • Shaowen Cheng, Baldwinsville high school
  • Kaylee Hartley, Edward-Knox high school
  • Josh McGinley, Whitesboro high school
  • Hannah Rhodes, Binghamton high school
  • Kira Kelley, Lafayette Junior-Senior high school

Berg and the students would like to thank the following business and organizations whose generosity made this trip possible:

  • M&T Bank
  • Wegmans
  • OCC’s Whole Earth Club
  • The entire OCC Community which generously donated supplies and funds
  • Families and friends of the students who also contributed supplies and fund

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Student Nominated for a SAMMY

Zoë Mullan-Stout
Zoe (left) and Alison (right) perform at the Oswego Music Hall.
Zoë (left) and Alison (right).

OCC student Zoë Mullan-Stout is a finalist for a 2016 Syracuse Area Music Award! The awards are more commonly known as “The SAMMY’S.” Mullan-Stout and her sister Alison make up the singer/songwriter duo “Alison and Zoë.” They are one of five music acts nominated in the category of “Best Folk.”

Mullan-Stout is a 2011 graduate of Marcellus High School. At OCC she’s a Humanities major with a Music minor. She’s in the College’s Honors program and is a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. Mullan-Stout will earn her degree this May.

Alison & Zoe Home is coverIn December 2015 Alison and Zoe released their first EP, “Home is…” It contains five original songs.

The SAMMY Awards will be handed out Friday, March 4 at the Palace Theater.

You can follow Allison and Zoe on Facebook.

Analyzing the Ads

Electronic Media Communications Professor Mike Kaminski discusses Super Bowl commercials with students in his Digital Audio Production class.
Electronic Media Communications Professor Mike Kaminski discusses Super Bowl commercials with students in his Digital Audio Production class.

The Super Bowl is a high-stakes battle for your attention. Advertisers pay up to $5 million dollars for 30 seconds of commercial time. They hope their ads will create buzz and you will remember their product.

On the Monday after the big game students discussed the effectiveness of Super Bowl commercials in Professor Mike Kaminski’s Digital Audio Production class. Kaminski began by asking students which ads they remembered. Commercials mentioned included:

Kaminski proceeded to play four commercials and discussed their target audiences and effectiveness with students.

  • Audi Astronaut: It used nostalgia to appeal to older men with money.
  • Doritos Ultrasound: Highly memorable, one of those commercials everyone was talking about but no one was sure if it would make you want Doritos.
  • Toyota Prius: Targeted younger buyers by making the hybrid appear to be peppier and sportier.
  • Mountain Dew Kickstart: The “puppy, monkey, baby” commercial created as much discussion as any other and  a teachable moment for Kaminski. “They were trying to be as absurd as possible and with the hashtag at the end they were encouraging people to go on the internet and talk about it. I’ll ask you this question every time you do something: ‘Why are you doing it? What’s the purpose? How does that impact your audience?’ If you’re doing it just to be really weird that’s not the correct answer. They did something really bizarre so that people would talk about it.”

Morris Ndebay

Morris Ndebay 003

Morris Ndebay is constantly on the go. He’s a full-time student majoring in Mechanical Technology. He also works full time at Federal Express as a package handler, loading and unloading trucks. How does he do it? “I manage my time. It’s school work, my job and my family. I don’t have time for anything else.”

Ndebay is a refugee from Liberia who came to the United States in 2008 along with his mother, brother, sister and her children. He earned his GED, became an American citizen and started taking classes at OCC in 2013. “When I came here I thought I wanted to work on cars. I thought it was a little easy for me and decided to challenge myself with Mechanical Technology.”

Ndebay’s home on campus is the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) office on the first floor of the Gordon Student Center. EOP provides access, academic support and financial aid to students who show promise for succeeding in college. “The EOP Office is a wonderful place. You can use the computers for your homework and print out your work for free. They have tutors who can help you. There are advisors you can speak with. It’s a wonderful place if you make use of it!”

Ndebay is on track to graduate in 2016. He plans to stay and earn extra credits which he can bring with him to a four-year school. His goal is to transfer to Syracuse University.

Women’s Basketball Alumni Game


On Saturday, February 6, former Onondaga Lazers Women Basketball players gathered at the Allyn Hall Gym for the second annual alumni game. Over 25 players, from 2001 – 2014, divided up into the “white” and “blue” teams in a friendly competition among former teammates.

Team white having some fun at the 2nd Annual Alumni Game
Team white having some fun at the 2nd Annual Alumni Game

Although all of them were coming to lace ‘em up one more time, for most, the game took a backseat to the anticipation of who was going to walk through that door next. “It’s fun and exciting,” said Elizabeth Metz DeJesus ’07, “you still get the same pit in your stomach from when you used to play, but now you get to see how everyone has changed since the last time we saw each other.”




Team blue are smiles at the 2nd Annual Alumni Game!
Team blue are smiles at the 2nd Annual Alumni Game!

With the game evolving into an annual event, the alumni who take part can find solace that at least once a year they’ll be able to reconnect with former friends. “Since graduation, we’re all living extremely busy lives,” said Jennifer Collis ’10, “it’s easier to stay connected because of social media, but for so many of us to take a timeout from our lives and come back here for this proves how important our time was here.” Collis was one of the players who came within one game of a National Championship and when she sees her former teammates and the memories begin coming back the emotions still run high. “That was a really special run,” she said, “to be part of a team that was so close and was making history in the process is still one of the best times I’ve ever had to this day.”

After the game, most of the alumni stayed to cheer on the current Lazers, who defeated Jefferson Community College to remain perfect on the season, before enjoying a celebratory lunch with one another to cap off a special day of memories and laughter. For more information on alumni opportunities and events please contact Russ Corbin at

Facilitating Dialogue

TOP OF STORY Dialogue Facilitators

OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill and Beth Broadway, Executive Director of InterFaith Works recognized 20 OCC faculty and staff who completed an intensive 12 hour Facilitator Training Program.” Facilitators will oversee a total of about 15 race and ethnicity student dialogue circles throughout this semester.

Those who completed the program are: Jenna Alexander, Bridget Baker, Tess Barrett, Carolyn Bice, Michael Borsz, Frank Cetera, Russ Corbin, Cathy Dotterer, Monty Flynn, Liz Goldschien, Darien Gregory, Glenda Gross, Arnaud Lambert, Eliyahu Lotzar, Joshua Martin, Fantasia Thorne-Ortiz, Denise Valdes, Dave Wall, Eunice Williams and Ednita Wright.

Student Moviemaker

Chris Steinberger
Chris Steinberger

His inspiration for a movie came to him while driving to and from classes at Onondaga Community College. Chris Steinberger had just seen a local band named “Scarlet Ending,” loved their sound and bought their music. “I kept listening to this one song over and over and began to visualize a scene. There was this ballroom and this thief who was trying to steal something and someone who was trying to stop her. Thinking about that scene led to other scenes and ultimately a movie!”

The movie Steinberger refers to is “Iris,” a feature-length action thriller which will premiere Friday, April 22 at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theatre in Eastwood three years after filming started. The ballroom scene he envisioned on his commute to OCC appears about 20 minutes into the movie.

Steinberger’s inspiration for making movies came early and he freely admits it wasn’t from watching a classic. He credits the 2001 comedy “Rush Hour 2” starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker with putting him on the path to cinematography. “It’s filled with action and fun and it’s not trying to be anything other than itself. I’ve always wanted to make things that are entertaining. It doesn’t have to be an art. I want to make movies that people can have fun with and enjoy.”

While attending East Syracuse Minoa High School, Steinberger was part of a team of students who made a public service announcement video which showed the dangers of texting while driving. The video was entered in a statewide contest sponsored by NYCM Insurance and won a $15,000 prize for the school district.

As Steinberger was graduating in 2012 he was also considering college choices. He looked at private schools but wound up selecting OCC. “It was the option that had the most value. I could go somewhere and pay $60,000 but I wanted to start a business. I didn’t want to start $300,000 in debt.”

Steinberger entered OCC as an Electronic Media Communications (EMC) major and loved the atmosphere. “It was like a community. Every student had to know each other because we relied on one another to get things done.”

CROPPED Michelle Hunter and Patrick Kelly
OCC student Michelle Hunter and alum Patrick Kelly play leading roles in the movie “Iris.”

2012 was also a landmark year for Steinberger because he was hired to work as a production assistant during the filming of the movie Adult Word in Syracuse. Steinberger had made a short film titled “Pendulum” and thought he had a good handle on how things worked. His long days on the set of Adult World were very eye-opening. “Through watching the director I learned what I was doing wrong. It was an invaluable experience for me.”

After completing his work toward an EMC degree Steinberger began pursuing a second degree in Business Administration. Outside class he was learning  business by generating revenue for Iris. He did it through Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. Steinberger posted a movie trailer, pitched his project and hoped for the best.  “It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Trying to raise the money we needed was nerve-wracking.” Steinberger hit his goal of more than $6,000, money he would use to pay for food and equipment while filming.

Throughout the filming process Steinberger leaned heavily on people whom he had met along the way. Some behind-the-scenes people who worked on Adult World joined him on Iris. Several OCC students played significant roles as well including lead actress Michelle Hunter who is currently enrolled in the EMC program. The lead actor, Patrick Kelly, is an OCC alum who earned a Psychology degree.

Megan Piechowicz
Megan Piechowicz

From start to finish Steinberger’s closest co-worker has been Megan Piechowicz. They were introduced to each other while attending ESM by Media teacher Michael Ferris. “He told me, ‘Chris wrote this film. He’s very creative and you’re very organized. Maybe you could both work together and help each other out,’” said Piechowicz. After meeting they collaborated on the short film “Pendulum.”

Steinberger and Piechowicz have been inseparable since then. She worked as a producer on all of his movies and as an event planner for the premiere. “Our relationship is very similar to what happens between producers and directors. Chris has these brilliant ideas and he’s got to get them done and he’s so excited. That’s when I say, ‘Let’s figure out how to do it and if we can do it and then we’ll do it.’”

Piechowicz is also an OCC student. She’s majoring in Business Administration with minors in Women’s Studies and Honors. She’s a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and is on track to graduate this summer. “This whole Iris project has been amazing. When Chris first told me about it I was only 16. It started with a couple of kids talking and the finished product is pretty amazing!”

Steinberger finished work on his two OCC degrees in December. Now he’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business through SUNY Delhi’s program which is offered in OCC’s Regional Higher Education Center. “I love the SUNY Delhi program. What I’m learning is cool and I love that I can take classes here at OCC without moving.”

You can reserve tickets to the April 22 premiere at Below is the trailer to the movie. What began three years ago “with a couple of kids talking” has turned into a remarkable finished product.

Scholarships Available!


Considering attending OCC in the fall? Interested in a career in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) related field? Scholarships are available and they include valuable internships!

C&S Companies and Carrier Corporation are offering scholarship opportunities specifically for incoming OCC students. You can learn more and apply at this website. Take advantage of this opportunity soon! The deadline to apply is February 29.

Marissa DeLand

Marissa Deland gives perspective students and their families campus tours while working as a Student Ambassador.
Marissa DeLand gives prospective students and their families campus tours while working as a Student Ambassador.

Marissa DeLand is a member of Marcellus High School’s Class of 2013 who came to OCC with the intention of fulfilling her general education requirements, transferring to a four-year college and pursuing a pharmacy degree. During her third semester she changed her mind, kept her Mathematics and Science major and decided to add on a Business Administration major. “I’m fortunate I realized here I wanted to change majors rather than at a college which cost a lot more money. A lot of students think they know what they want to do and they go to a bigger, more expensive school. Then they realize they want to change their major but now they owe a lot of money and it’s like they are starting over.”

DeLand loves helping students, whether they’re currently enrolled at OCC or considering coming here. She can often be seen working as a Student Ambassador, leading high school students and their families on campus tours. DeLand also serves as a Peer Connector helping students through the class registration process. In the fall 2015 semester she joined the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement as Vice President of Clubs and Organizations. She oversees all of the clubs on campus and makes sure they get what they need.

The OCC experience has been perfect for her. “I’ve loved it. I like the small class sizes and how personal you can get with your professors. They know your name and what you want to do after OCC. If I would have gone from Marcellus to a place with much bigger class sizes it would have been difficult.”

DeLand will graduate in May 2016. She plans to transfer to a four-year college and major in business administration or marketing.