Onondaga Community College’s leaders paid tribute to a fallen student, presenting the family of Rasheed Baker his college degree during the Board of Trustees meeting September 26. “When we lost Rasheed the college’s heart was broken,” said OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill. “I heard from so many people on our campus stories about his incredible personality and the strength and spirit he brought to his education. We wanted to make sure we recognized his family and completed Rasheed’s education.”
Baker was shot and killed in Syracuse’s Valley neighborhood June 5, five days before his 22nd birthday. He was just seven credits away from earning his associate degree and was enrolled in summer classes at OCC. Baker was a 2014 graduate of Jamesville-DeWitt High School where he was a star football and basketball player.
During the Board of Trustees meeting Dr. Crabill presented Baker’s mother, Rasheada Caldwell with three things each student receives at commencement; a diploma, a hood which symbolizes completion and a flower to recognize someone who helped that person complete work toward their diploma.
Following the presentation Caldwell thanked the college and reflected on her son’s life. “I’m honored to be here today and accept this beautiful award for Rasheed Baker who was an amazing individual and an amazing young man who planned to do great things. He just wanted to help and love people. Rasheed always thought about others before he thought about himself. He would say, ‘Mom, how can I help this person? Mom, what can we do for this person? Mom, my sister needs this. Let’s get it for her. Mom, what are you doing for me for Christmas? Don’t do it because my friend really needs it more. Can we help that individual?’ Rasheed Baker will live forever. We have to continue to help our youth live the same way Rasheed lived. To help others, to love others, to be respectful to their parents, have faith and to do great. I’m staying strong because my faith is strong but we struggle daily because we miss him. I miss him saying, ‘Mom I love you.’ I’m gonna do right. I’m gonna do great. I’m gonna be great.’ And he did. I thank everyone in this room and I appreciate everything you have done.”
Board of Trustees Vice Chair Melanie Littlejohn is a longtime friend of Caldwell and her family. “I had the opportunity to see him as a little boy playing basketball with my children and I feel enormously fortunate to have had the opportunity to let him know how proud I was of him and all of his achievements and who he was as an individual. He will live with us forever in our spirits and in our hearts.”
Baker’s murder remains unsolved. Anyone with information is asked to call Syracuse Police at (315) 442-5222 or (315) 442-5223.