Being Smart With Technology

OCC students Brandon DeFrancesco (left) and Marigone Istogu (right) quiz 5th graders on a variety of internet-related topics at McKinley-Brighton Elementary school.

“If you see a link and it says ‘click here for free items’ should you click on it?” The question was being asked by a student in OCC’s honor society, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). He was speaking with a group of 5th grade students at McKinley-Brighton Elementary School. After a brief pause, a McKinley-Brighton student responded ‘no.’ The OCC student congratulated him on his answer and explained that by clicking on the link, you could be exposing your computer to a virus.

The question-and-answer session Friday, December 7 was part of a larger conversation happening in the cafeteria at McKinley-Brighton. PTK students divided up into four groups and worked with students on a variety of topics including internet safety, cyber bullying and privacy. It was the third time this semester PTK students had shared knowledge with students at McKinley-Brighton. “We want to help when we can. We want to give back to the community,” said PTK President Marigone Istogu. “Community service has a lot of positive effects on us. It helps us develop skills, make contacts and allow us to improve the quality of life of others.”

Jon Clark, ’15 speaks with students about value of putting down their cell phones and interacting with each other.

OCC alumnus Jon Clark, ’15 also spent time with the 5th grade students and told them about the importance of putting down your cell phones. He started a business, UnpluggedCNY which encourages people to get off their phones and connect with each other face-to-face. His inspiration came from his experiences while attending Le Moyne College. “One day I saw 15 to 20 students walking to class with their heads down in their phones. Three of them bumped into me and said, ‘watch out!’ I started asking myself, ‘why are people on their phones so much?’”

Clark put a post on social media stating that for every ‘like’ or ‘share’ he received he would give up his phone for five minutes. He wound up with 130 likes which led to him giving up his phone for about a day-and-a-half. “I used social media as a platform to say we can get off our phones. I had people reach out to me and tell me they liked my mission and wanted to be a part of it.”

Clark’s experience blossomed into a movement. He recently put together a large social gathering at which people just talked to each other. “I didn’t ask people to give up their phones but no one pulled their phones out. I had so many people talk about how great it was to actually meet people and learn what they were about. I hope that’s a lesson students will take from today’s conversation.”

Top 10 Quotes from The Office that Describe College Life

Top of Story Michael Scott Image

Seth Bae is the Vice President of Media with the Student Association and a General Studies major here at OCC. He was the student speaker at December Graduation and will be transferring to Harvard in the spring. Bae is also a huge fan of the situation-comedy “The Office.” Below are the ways in which he sees similarities between “The Office” and life on a college campus.

“Sometimes I start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.”

Michael Scott

Having writer’s block? Have no idea what you just wrote last night? Is your essay is due tomorrow?  Don’t worry you are not alone.

“Whenever I’m about to do something, I think, ‘would an idiot do that?’ And if they would, I do not do that thing.”

Your exam is over and it is the Friday night. In other words, it’s time to celebrate! Before you do anything, ask yourself this question, “Would Michael Scott do that?”

“I wish there was a way to know you are in the good old days, before you’ve actually left them.”

Michael Scott

Going through stressful exams, hanging out with your friends, and thanking your teachers, some things cannot be done after a few years later. Make every moment counts.  

“Tell him to call me ASAP as possible.”

When one of your group members disappears the day before the deadline. 

“I love inside jokes. I’d love to be a part of one someday.”


You missed one class. All of sudden, you’ve missed all the inside jokes. 

“Saw Inception. Or at least I dreamt I did.”



That moment when you came to class with your well-prepared homework, but you realized you actually dreamt of doing your homework…

“I don’t care what they say about me. I just want to eat.”

Dwight from the Office

When cafeteria french fries are running out, but there are too many people in front of you.

“ I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do.”

Michael Scott

When classmates chose you to lead the group project but you are just as lost as they are.

“I understand nothing.”

Creed from the Office

Whenever I go to math class.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Top of Story Michael Scott Image

Silly, but true. You are closer than you think. Keep it up!

Brightening Faces At McKinley-Brighton

McKinley-Brighton Elementary 3rd graders Alea Baldwin (left) and Sanai Everson (right) show off the books they selected at OCC’s Book Fair at their school.

Alea Baldwin and Sanai Everson had a plan. When they walked into Onondaga Community College’s Book Fair in the library of the McKinley-Brighton Elementary school, the third graders knew exactly what their objective was. “We wanted to choose the same books so we could read them together,” said Everson. “We’re so excited we got the same ones!” Their choices were “Black Panther,” “The Magnificent Mya Tibbs” and “Nikki & Deja Wedding Drama.”

Baldwin and Everson were two of approximately 650 students whose faces lit up while they were selecting books. After each student selected three books they received a tote bag in the color of their choosing (either light blue, dark blue or red). Each student was also given a coloring book created by an OCC student.

The book fair was funded by the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International Educational Foundation and The OCC Foundation. You can see more photos from the book fair below.

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The OCC Effect: Ousmane Conde

Ousmane Conde grew up in a family of wood crafters in one of the poorest countries in the world, Guinea in West Africa. At a young age his mother recognized his unique math and science skills. She sent him to France where he would live with a foster family and attend an engineering school. He graduated from high school in 2006, went to college and earned a degree in technology. He created a startup, CRM software for small businesses which took him to Philadelphia for a brief period. While in the United States he met with people within his network and wound up in Central New York. “I wanted to gain education in computer science to complement my technical education I received in France to benefit my growing business plan and OCC provided me with best outlet to do that.”

Once at Onondaga Community College Conde enjoyed the small class sizes and family environment. “Everyone was very welcoming. There is a strong refugee population there so it was easy for me to make friends and have fun while also expanding my education in the process.” Conde found the computer science courses provided him with a great foundation and understanding that he would carry on throughout his professional career. While at OCC, he also applied for a Google Scholarship in order to stay in America where he could obtain advanced degrees.

He graduated from OCC in 2010 and moved back to France to continue working there, but shortly thereafter he received word that he had been accepted into the Google Scholarship program. He returned to the U.S., attended Florida Memorial University, graduated Summa Cum Laude, and landed a leadership development job at Boeing where he worked for five years. During his time there he enrolled in the Master’s program at Purdue University. However, he would suspend his education and leave Boeing in order to start his own business called Xoomdat, LLC. The company is an enterprise search and financial tech platform that works in real time, so companies and individuals can make decisions in real time instead of the customary 3-4 day delay of other software search engines. Since starting as an LLC, the company has been incorporated, has 10 employees, and has been named one of the top 20 tech companies to look out for in the nation. Currently, his company builds tools for business organizations to monitor in real-time, risk related information on social media sites. His company also builds payment solutions for commercial clients, allowing them to securely accept credit card payments via mobile devices, online and via web API.

“It’s hard to believe, I visited my family in Guinea a couple months ago, and it was there that I realized and fully grasped how fortunate I was to come from one of the poorest countries in the world to be where I am today,” Conde said. He’s grateful for the foundation he built at OCC. “The computer science professors there stressed to keep your code dry (don’t repeat yourself), simple yet strong and sustainable, and these elements are part of the foundation of my company and in our daily operations.” Conde is excited for what the future brings and has incorporated educational opportunities through his company as a way to give back and pave the way for the next great idea for students who may not have the necessary access to develop their ideas.

Scholarship From The Sheriff

OCC student Kristine Block (right) is presented with the New York State Sheriff’s Association Scholarship by Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway (center). On the left is Jessica Field, Chair of OCC’s Criminal Justice major.

Kristine Block is busy. Very busy. She’s a 36-year-old mother of two who works in a service industry and is in her first semester as a full-time student in OCC’s Criminal Justice major. She recently carved out enough time to apply for an annual scholarship from the New York State Sheriff’s Association. She wrote an essay about her life story and her dream of a career in law enforcement.

Earlier this month Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway came to campus bearing a gift just in time for the holiday season. “It’s an honor to present you with this check on behalf of the New York State Sheriffs Association which does a lot of great things across the state. Congratulations,” said Conway. “Receiving this means a lot,” said Block. “It’s not something that was handed to me. I had to work for it. The essay was very personal. I chose to write about my journey and how I ended up here as old as I am.”

Block grew up in a military family, moving to wherever the United States Army assigned her father. She was born in Syracuse, raised in California and moved back to Syracuse later in life. When she began exploring careers in law enforcement, she realized she had aged out of some options. “I figured there were other things I could still do within the policing community. I explored options, realized I needed schooling and here I am.”

Her first semester on campus has gone well. She feels comfortable in class, loves her major and has strengthened her relationship with her 16 year old son. “Going to school at an older age has brought me closer together with my high school-aged son because we fight for the computer, sit and do homework together and he proofreads my essays.”

Block’s essay which earned her the scholarship struck a chord with Criminal Justice Department Chair and Professor Jessica Field. “What you’ve done and how far you’ve come is very touching,” she told Block. “You’re working really hard and you’re raising your kids. You are very deserving of this.”

Heather Rix McKenzie

Heather Rix McKenzie

Heather Rix McKenzie’s journey to a career started with the premature birth of her daughter. In 2015 her daughter was born three months early and spent 52 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Crouse Hospital. “When I was spending time in the NICU I was thinking ‘this would be a cool thing to do.’ It was miraculous what they did there.”

She spent the next year at home with her daughter. During that time she made the decision to come to Onondaga Community College. “Nursing was my original plan. I took a couple of classes that introduced me to Human Services and Sociology, fell in love with it and found my calling.”

Taking classes full time while raising a family presented Rix McKenzie with financial obstacles. OCC’s Foundation stepped in and presented her with the Community Scholars Scholarship for the 2018-19 academic year. “It was really appreciated. It’s less loans to take out. We take out loans to pay for child care. Every little bit really helps.” You can learn more about supporting students like Heather Rix McKenzie through our Believe In Better fundraising campaign here.

Today Rix McKenzie is a Human Services major and a new inductee into the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. “It was a big deal for me. I wasn’t the kid who did well in high school. I was the one who teachers said, ‘if you just apply yourself…’ My parents came to the ceremony. I said to them, ‘it took 40 years but I finally got a good report card for you!’”

Rix McKenzie’s daughter is now 3 years old. She’s happy, healthy and doing well in preschool. Her mother has never forgotten the people in Crouse’s NICU and how wonderful they were in the first two months of her daughter’s life. She’s become a volunteer peer mentor with Hand to Hold, an organization which pairs up former NICU parents with parents who currently have a child or children there. “It’s been such a rewarding experience to give back and help parents through a tough time that I understand from personal experience. It has also reinforced that Human Services is my calling and passion.”

Rix McKenzie will earn her degree next May. She plans to transfer and earn her master’s in Social Work. “I love OCC. If I could stay here forever and get my master’s I would. It’s such a supportive place. I have spectacular professors who I’ve learned a lot from academically and personally. They’re as good as any you’ll find at four-year schools. I’ve met so many cool people from so many age groups and walks of life. I tell everybody ‘if you’re thinking about coming back to school come here.’”

What’s Happening During Week 16 for Fall Classes at OCC

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Important Info for Residence Hall Students

  • Students must be out of the halls no later than 24 hours after their last final exams or by Friday, 21st December, 2018.
  • Residents with final exams after 5:00 p.m. on December 21st, and any others requesting to stay past closing, must submit the request form to Residence Life in the Gordon Student Central room 130 by 4:00 p.m.
  • Daily rates will apply to those staying past closing.

Monday, 10th December, 2018

10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. Gordon Great room- Relaxation Day

  • Office of Student Leadership & Engagement prepared a relaxation event for stressed-out students. Come join us and see how stress balls, massage rollers, and aroma beads can relax you. Also, Oxygen bar, Chi massage, massage beds and massage chairs will be at the events.

Tuesday, 11th December, 2018

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. Coulter 116 – Therapy Dogs

  • Come and de-stress by petting lovable dogs.

7:30 p.m. Recital Hall- OCC String Ensemble

  • Peter Rovit presents an evening of musical fun while you enjoy the wonder of string ensemble.

Wednesday, 12th December, 2018

11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Coulter Lobby- Therapy Dogs

  • Coulter Library is hosting a de-stress event. Take a break from finals with therapy dogs, and enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages. Also, there will be tables for other activities such as crafting, board games, and raffles.

Friday, 14th December, 2018

Last day of classes

  • Four months of long journey finally came to an end. Push it through a little bit longer and good luck on your finals!

Helping Students Become “Suited For Success”

Professional clothing collected and donated by the Greater Syracuse Association of Realtors is sorted and cataloged as part of the new “Suited For Success” effort.

The generosity of many will soon be helping Onondaga Community College students dress for success. A large clothing drive spearheaded by the Greater Syracuse Association of Realtors (GSAR) as part of the REALTORS Care partnership has helped the College’s Career Center create “Suited For Success,” a place on campus where students can go for professional clothing for an interview, job shadow, employer site visit or internship. “Our Career Services team was so impressed with this effort,” said Abbey Baird, Director of Career Services. “This collaboration will go a long way in helping students prepare for careers.”

Earlier this year when GSAR heard about OCC’s “Suited For Success” initiative the organization’s CEO, Lynnore Fetyko decided to take advantage of her network of over 1,700 members. She used GSAR’s weekly electronic newsletter to ask colleagues to donate professional clothing for students. She also created videos and sent them directly to members in the days leading up to the donation deadline. “Realtors are generous people by nature,” Fetyko said. “Their hearts are especially huge this time of the year.”

On the night of Tuesday, December 4, a van generously donated by C&S Companies pulled up to the GSAR office on East Taft Road to pick up what realtors had dropped off. There were boxes filled with more than 700 articles of men’s and women’s professional clothes, shoes, purses and accessories.

Once the C&S Companies van arrived at OCC’s Mawhinney Hall, it was unloaded and the boxes were carried into two rooms; one for men’s clothes and one for women’s clothes. A team of OCC employees spent hours unpacking, sorting and cataloging each item. The volunteers came from OCC’s Career Center and the College’s chapter of the American Association of Women in Community Colleges. Another supporter, Ritter’s Cleaners in North Syracuse offered to clean any items which needed touching up.

The result of everyone’s generosity and hard work is the creation of “Suited For Success.” Students who need professional clothing can stop in at the Career Center which is located in Coulter Hall, room C110 and a staff member will help him or her find what they are looking for.

This isn’t the first time GSAR has stepped up to help OCC students. The organization is also giving the Community Care Hub $7,500 annually to support the outstanding work being done there assisting students with a multitude of services.

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Improving Lives at the Southwest Community Center

Flagan Prince (left) is a Recruitment Specialist at OCC who staffs the College’s office at the Southwest Community Center. Rashawn Sullivan (right) met Prince at the Southwest Community Center and is now a student at OCC. They are pictured in the Whitney Applied Technology Center where they were guests on our podcast, “Higher Ed News You Can Use From Onondaga Community College.”

OCC’s growing presence in one of Syracuse’s most impoverished areas is the topic of our monthly podcast, “Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College.”

Flagan Prince pictured in OCC’s office in the Southwest Community Center.

Two years ago the college opened an office at the Southwest Community Center on South Avenue. The office is staffed by OCC Recruitment Specialist Flagan Prince. He has worked tirelessly to establish a presence there and a connection with the community. Prince has also built relationships with people interested in attending OCC. One of them is Rashawn Sullivan who is completing his first semester in college. Sullivan spent several years incarcerated before becoming a college student. He’s turned his life around and found a home on campus.

Prince and Sullivan are this month’s guests on our podcast. You can listen to it by clicking here!

Enjoy the podcast and Happy Holidays from Onondaga Community College.

Heading to Harvard

Seth Bae (left) is congratulated by OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill (right) at the December graduation ceremony Tuesday in Storer Auditorium.

Eight years ago Seth Bae and his family moved from Korea to Los Angeles. After arriving in his new home he began working to learn the English language. “I knew the alphabet and a few words. That was it.”

Fast-forward to Tuesday night and the December graduation ceremony in Storer Auditorium at Onondaga Community College. Bae (pronounced BAY), who will be attending Harvard University in the spring, was the student speaker and told his classmates they could accomplish whatever they wanted. “Your pattern overrides your potential. You are here today because for the past two years, you committed yourself to what you believed in and dedicated your time and effort. I want to encourage everyone to continuously practice that pattern you devoted yourself to here at OCC. Don’t let your present circumstances define your destiny and don’t let your doubts stop you from moving forward.”

Seth Bae

Bae has lived that very message. When his family arrived in southern California he was 16 years old. He was placed in English as Second Language class and struggled in school. “I knew I wasn’t ready to do well in college. I thought it made more sense to go in a different direction.” After graduating from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles in 2013, Bae joined the United States Army. While stationed at Fort Drum about 90 miles north of the OCC campus, Bae drove to Central New York weekly to worship at the Korean Church of Syracuse. He liked the people he met there, enjoyed the area and decided to move closer to Syracuse after he was discharged.

Bae started taking classes at OCC in the summer of 2017 and majored in General Studies – Liberal Arts & Sciences. As his English skills improved he became more immersed in campus life. He was Student Association Vice-President of Media, a VA Work Study student in the Student Veterans’ office, a Peer Connector in the Advising Center and a First Year Experience Mentor. He was also a Social Media Reporter, blog contributor for OCC’s website and presented a TED Talk on healthy communication, sharing wisdom on how people can better understand each other and manage disagreements or conflicts. In the classroom he owned a perfect 4.0 grade point average which earned him membership in the college’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

Next month Bae will be a visiting student at Harvard University. In the fall he plans to transfer to Yale University. His goal is to work for the United States government in some capacity. Language is his specialty. Bae speaks Korean and English fluently and is learning Chinese and Spanish. Everything came together for him at OCC and for that he is thankful. “OCC is a great transition for wherever you want to go. It was life changing for me here. I’m really grateful for how things worked out. My message is that hard work really pays off. ”