Lifesaving Donation

OCC student Caitlyn Garbutt donated her bone marrow after signing up at a “Be The Match” registration drive on campus. Garbutt is a 2014 graduate of LaFayette High School.

Caitlyn Garbutt remembers getting “the call.” It was February 2019, approximately two years since she had given a sample of her DNA at a “Be The Match” registration drive on campus. “My phone rang and the person calling asked if I was still interested in donating bone marrow. They told me I was a match with a 49-year-old woman.”

The person in need had Myelodysplastic syndrome, a group of disorders caused by blood cells that don’t work properly. “Once I was called I thought, ‘I could save somebody’s life. She might have kids and a family.’ I decided to go ahead with it. Everyone in my family was very proud of me. It helped to have their support.”

In March, Garbutt underwent surgery at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester and donated bone marrow from her hip. She was up walking shortly after the procedure and recovered quickly. “My biggest challenge was putting on socks. It took me about two weeks before I could put my own socks on again.”

Garbutt has not yet met the woman she helped. Under the terms of being a donor, they can exchange letters in the months following the donation. If both parties want to meet after one year, they can do so. Garbutt hopes to meet her one day and encourages anyone considering donating to do so. “Being able to save someone’s life was pretty cool. You should join the registry. If you decide to donate, think about the person’s life you could save and how it might effect them, their family and their children. Saving a life is worth a little bit of pain.”

OCC’s Gold Medal Day in Albany

Several of Onondaga Community College’s best students were honored in Albany April 24 during the presentation of the USA Today Phi Theta Kappa All-New York Academic Awards, and the SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence. Both ceremonies were held in the Albany Capital Center.

Three OCC students were named winners of the USA Today Phi Theta Kappa All-New York Academic Awards for their distinguished academic achievements and leadership accomplishments. They were:

Pictured with SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson (center) are OCC representatives (left to right) PTK Faculty Adviser Dr. Annie Tuttle, student Marigone Istogu, PTK Coordinator Jackie Barstow and student Kate Hanson.

Katelyn Doner

  • High School: Cicero-North Syracuse, class of 2016
  • Major: Electronic Media Communications


Kate Hanson

  • High School: Central Square, class of 2016
  • Major: Mathematics & Science with a concentration in Biology
  • Kate was also recognized for earning a national Coca-Cola scholarship.


Marigone Istogu

  • Native of Kosovo
  • Major: Electrical Technology


Four OCC students were recognized as winners of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. It is the highest honor bestowed upon a student by SUNY. OCC’s winners were:


OCC’s SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence winners include (left to right) Seth Bae, Nathan Burroughs and Michaela Grainger. They are pictured with OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill (right).

Seth Bae

  • High School: Fairfax in Los Angeles, class of 2013
  • Major at OCC: General Studies – Liberal Arts & Sciences


Nathan Burroughs

  • High School: Homer, class of 2016
  • Major at OCC: Engineering Science


Michaela Grainger

  • Home schooled, from Fayetteville
  • Major at OCC: Humanities & Social Sciences with an Honors minor


Petey Maxwell

  • High School: Windsor in Colorado, class of 2016
  • Major at OCC: Exercise Science


During both ceremonies SUNY Chancellor Kristin M. Johnson addressed the honorees. “These award recipients emerged from their campuses this year as the top scholars, athletes, performers, and achievers, as well as a tremendous source of inspiration. The students made the choice to be leaders on their campuses, prioritize their studies, and serve their communities. Congratulations to this year’s awardees, and I applaud you for pursuing excellence in all that you do.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Advocating for Community Colleges

Onondaga Community College Political Science Professor Nina Tamrowski just completed four years as a member of the SUNY Board of Trustees.

Onondaga Community College Political Science Professor Nina Tamrowski recently wrapped up her service to the SUNY system. She just completed four years as a member of the SUNY Board of Trustees, a seat she earned as president of the Faculty Council of Community Colleges. “It was an incredible privilege to represent community colleges and faculty, and an amazing opportunity to get a 360-degree perspective on higher education in terms of policy and implementation. It was really fascinating.”

Tamrowski began teaching at OCC in 1991. Her decades spent on a community college campus gave her a unique perspective when interacting with fellow trustees. “It was important to bring forward how things work on a campus in a beneficial way so it leads to better policies. It was important to remind trustees we have local boards and local sponsors. Each of SUNY’s 30 community colleges has 30 different labor contracts and different budget structures. The SUNY Board doesn’t have the same authority over us they have over four-year schools.”

Serving on the SUNY board also impacted Tamrowski’s impression of her home college. “I look at OCC much differently than I did four years ago. I have a much better perspective on how we run things. I sympathize with financial problems more than I would have. (OCC President) Casey (Crabill) is thought of very highly in Albany.”

With New York State’s changing demographics and colleges battling enrollment challenges Tamrowski sees big decisions ahead related to the future of SUNY’s 30 community colleges. “I have concerns about all of them being around in 10 years. There may be some consolidations down the road. I think those conversations need to be transparent. Everything needs to be done carefully and thoughtfully.”

Teaching Opportunity In Japan

OCC student Koichi Nakamura (right) is pictured with Satoshi Kai (left), President of Nakamura Gakuen University in Fukuoka, Japan which Nakamura attended before coming to OCC. Nakamura is proudly displaying his OCC Men’s Lacrosse National Championship ring and plaque along with the certificate he received when he was inducted into honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

Koichi Nakamura wants students in his home country to have the same opportunities as him. That’s why whenever he returns to Japan, he holds lacrosse clinics for players of all ages. “Lacrosse changed my life. When I was 18 years old, I came to the U.S. to play. I had a very good experience here. I tell Japanese kids they can come to the United States, play lacrosse and study here like I did. I’m very lucky.”

Nakamura is a native of Fukuoka, Japan and a Business Administration major at Onondaga Community College. He is also a two-time national champion having played for the Lazers Men’s Lacrosse team during its undefeated 2017 and 2018 seasons. Before coming to OCC, he attended Nakamura Gakuen University in Fukuoka and earned a degree in Education. During the semester break he returned there and visited college President Satoshi Kai, showing off his national championship ring and plaque along with the certificate he received when he was sworn-in to OCC’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. Their photo is at the top of this story.

Nakamura (in front holding lacrosse stick) is pictured at one of the lacrosse camps he hosted in Japan.

Nakamura has a busy year ahead of him. He’ll finish his studies at OCC in December. Between now and then he’s trying out for a professional lacrosse teams. He’s also working with current Lazer lacrosse players who are faceoff specialists like he was. During a faceoff two opponents attempt to gain control of a ball which has been placed between them. Winning faceoffs is a critical component to team success. “You have to be quick and strong. Practice makes perfect.”

In October Nakamura will bring his two lacrosse worlds together. The Falcons, a club lacrosse team from Tokyo will be coming to Central New York to practice and play. Nakamura is organizing their visit. “They have won 11 national championships. They are the OCC of Japan.”

Nakamura’s goal is to return to Japan and teach the game of lacrosse across the country. “Teaching lacrosse makes friends. Thirty thousand people play lacrosse there. It’s not the biggest sport there but it is getting bigger. We are growing the game.”

Getting Ready For TEDx Syracuse!

Twin brothers and OCC Math Professors Jason (left) and David (right) Furney are planning TEDx Syracuse. It will be held Saturday, April 27 at 10 a.m. in Storer Auditorium.

David and Jason Furney are at it again! The inseparable and hard-to-tell-apart twin brothers are preparing for the latest edition of TEDx Syracuse. It will be held in OCC’s Storer Auditorium Saturday April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “There are a lot of people who have something to say and need a platform to say it in. We’re giving community members a voice to talk about what they are good at,” said Jason.

This is the fourth year a TED Talk will be held on campus. It’s grown so much in size and attendance it now bears the name “Syracuse.” Previously it was named “TEDx Onondaga Community College.” The theme for this year’s is “Believe in Better” which is also the theme of The OCC Foundation’s fundraising campaign. The 2019 edition will showcase nine speakers from all over Central New York. Topics will include civic duties, healthcare, bereavement, community services, personal growth and self-expression. “Our main goal is to get people talking. We want people to start conversation about what they heard and spark ideas,” said David.

The Furney (pronounced fur-NAY) brothers are used to working together. Both are Math professors at OCC and share an office in Mawhinney Hall. After graduating from Jordan-Elbridge High School in 2006 they came to OCC and earned Engineering degrees two years later. They transferred to SUNY Binghamton, earned bachelor’s degrees, then went to different colleges for their advanced degrees.

Tickets for TEDx Syracuse are available at this link. Tickets are $25 for the public and are free for students who fill out an application which can be found on the website. Anyone purchasing a ticket whom is interested in supporting future TEDx Syracuse presentations can do so by clicking on the “donate” button.

Why College Decision Day Isn’t the Final Day to Decide on College

It’s been drilled into your head throughout the college search process. If you’re deciding where to go to college May 1st is the final day to let that college know you’re in.  

If you’ve been on the fence about committing to a school, we’re here to tell you that at OCC and at community colleges across the state, May 1st isn’t the last day to commit to going to college. Community Colleges operate on rolling admission, which means you can apply and enroll at any point leading up the semester.  

Not only does it give you time to consider whether college is right for you, but it also gives you a better option (in our opinion). Here’s why: 

We’re There for You Every Step of the Way  

At OCC, we make it our business to help you at every step of the process. Once you apply, you get assigned a personal contact who will help you through every step of the application and enrollment process including helping you navigate financial aid and paying for college. Once you get here, that same personal contact will help you through your first year at OCC.  

In addition to your personalized contact, you’ll have access to many other resources we have that will help you through your education. You’ll be able to purchase books at an affordable flat rate, get free tutoring at our Learning Center and be able to go to our Community Care Hub when life gets in the way of school.  

We also have smaller class sizes to ensure that you’re getting more support from your professor.  

It’s a More Affordable Alternative  

College can be expensive. But at OCC, we try and make it as affordable as possible. Our annual tuition is $4,900 (excluding room and board) and there’s plenty of ways to make it more affordable. See our blog “How to Pay for Your Education at OCC” to see how you can apply for your education at OCC.  

We Get It, Life Happens  

One of our big advantages over a four-year school is that we understand you! We understand that you’re working while going to school. We understand you have a family and might need to support them. And we understand that things come up in your life. We get it. Life Happens. We’re here to help you get through it. Because your education is worth it. Because you’re worth it.  

To find out who your personalized onboarding contact is, contact Student Central at 315-498-2000 or 315-400-4057.  

Training For A Career

FEAT Hussein Yussuf
Hussein Yussuf completed OCC’s Medical Assistant program and was hired by the Syracuse Community Health Center after a successful internship there. Yussuf is pictured in OCC’s Mulroy Hall where he took Medical Assistant classes.

Hussein Yussuf has found a new career thanks to his own hard work and the multitude of workforce development classes where short-term training leads directly to living wage jobs. Yussuf recently completed the Medical Assistant program. While taking classes he interned at the Syracuse Community Health Center as part of his practicum. Last month when he completed the program, he was offered a job. “I was very excited. I never expected this. So many people have supported me to get to this level.”

Yussuf was born in Somalia but a civil war there forced him to flee to Kenya when he was a young boy. He would spend more than a decade in Kenya before bringing his family to the United States in 2015. Three years later he decided to give Onondaga Community College’s Medical Assistant program a try. “I had worked as a teacher in Kenya. I felt I could be very useful to my community if I was exposed to a medical field and had more knowledge.”

Yussuf is now a shining example of how quickly someone can go from taking workforce development-related classes directly into a career. “Everything is possible in this world through hard work. Everything can be achieved.”

OCC offers Workforce Development program offers training for various positions and industries including Medical Assistant, Medical Billing Specialist, Phlebotomist, Manufacturing, Line Cook and Warehouse Operator. You can learn more about career options by clicking on this link.

Student’s Transformation Puts Her In The National Spotlight

OCC student Samantha Sutton (left) is pictured with Oprah Winfrey (right) in Winfrey’s California home. After losing 50 pounds with the help of Weight Watchers, Sutton spent five days with Winfrey shooting photos and videos for a national advertising campaign.

Imagine waking up one morning and deciding it’s time to transform your life. Imagine your transformation going so well you wind up spending five days at Oprah Winfrey’s California mansion. While you are there you are filmed with one of the world’s most famous people as part of a national advertising campaign which you are prominently featured in. That’s what happened to Onondaga Community College student Samantha Sutton. “I still can’t believe it all happened. It was such an ‘aha moment’ in my life.”

Sutton achieved another milestone in her transformation Thursday, March 28. On the night of her 34th birthday she was sworn-in to the college’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa thanks to her perfect 4.0 grade point average in the Human Services major. “It was such an honor. I was so happy and excited to be invited.”

Sutton’s life wasn’t always as magical as it appears to be today. While growing up in Adel, Georgia in the 1990’s and early 2000’s she struggled with her weight. After graduating from Cook High School in 2003, she went to work and started her family. Her struggle with her weight continued. Three years ago she promised herself she would change her life once and for all. “I had always been overweight. Down south we love you with food! I had three boys and decided I needed to get healthy. My jeans were tight and I was tired of it.”

Samantha Sutton as a high school graduate (left) and after her successful weight loss (right).

Weight Watchers provided Sutton with the winning formula. She committed to their program and lost 50 pounds. “It was life changing for me.” One year later she was sitting in front of a camera with Oprah Winfrey, being filmed and photographed for Weight Watchers’ national advertising campaign. You can view the commercial by clicking on this link. “I have a folder on my phone with pictures and videos from there. Sometimes it doesn’t seem real! Oprah was such a nice person and she was really funny. It was good to see. Sometimes when you meet people you’ve always admired you can walk away disappointed. It wasn’t that way with her.”

Sutton decided to give college a try and enrolled at OCC for the fall 2018 semester. She wanted to set an example for her sons (ages 12, 10 and 6) and wound up starting a friendly competition at home on their refrigerator doors where they post their school work. “We all bring our grades home and say ‘look at my grades!’ They’re motivated to bring home A’s and show me their great grades. We’re constantly cleaning off space on the refrigerator so we can fit more good grades.” The end of this semester will mark the end of Sutton’s stay at OCC and she’s enjoyed her time here. “I like the diversity on campus and I’ve had a great experience. The class sizes are awesome and I’ve had great professors.”

Her weight loss experience has sparked career inspiration. She works for Weight Watchers and plans to transfer to Syracuse University where she will major in Nutrition Science. As someone who spent much of her life struggling with her weight she offers advice to those going through similar struggles. “When you are losing weight make lifetime choices not temporary choices. Lose the weight in a style and manner you can maintain. Don’t lose the weight by only eating lettuce. Can you only eat lettuce for the rest of your life? Be realistic with your goals, what you’re eating and be honest. You can lie to yourself but you can’t lie to the scale.”

Student’s Service Leads To Fellowship

Ellie Abraham was awarded a Newman Civic Fellowship for her service to the community. She is pictured in the Gordon Student Center.

Four years ago, Ellie Abraham decided it was time to make a difference. She was been born and raised in Central New York by parents who had immigrated to the United States from Palestine. They knew the hardships refugees faced when coming to a new country and starting over. That’s why Abraham started “Community Care of Syracuse.” “We collect donations for refugees and immigrants and give them to families in need. They come here with so much trauma and so many things going on.”

Community Care of Syracuse has taken off. Students from Onondaga Community College, Le Moyne College and Syracuse University have engaged in service-learning with the organization, volunteering throughout the community. Abraham’s group has collaborated with several organizations including Interfaith Works of Central New York, CYO, Vera House, We Rise Above the Street and Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital on a variety of projects. “Last summer we gave out more than 200 bicycles. Upstate Golisano gave out more than 200 helmets and educated refugees on the importance of wearing helmets.”

In 2017 Abraham decided it was time to try college. “I have three children. I had to show them the importance of getting an education. She came to OCC and enrolled in the Human Services major. Her outstanding work outside the classroom was recognized recently when she was named a Newman Civic Fellow. The yearlong program recognizes and supports community-committed students who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. “I wasn’t expecting this but it’s an honor. When I give back to the community I do it as part of our religion. I do things for the sake of God, I don’t do them to get rewarded. The reward is knowing you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing as part of humanity.”

Abraham wants to learn about mental health and become a counselor. She recently was certified as a mental health first aid instructor for adults and will soon be certified for teenagers as well. On March 28 she will be inducted into the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. In May she will receive her degree and plans to transfer to SUNY Oswego and major in Mental health. She’s setting quite an example for her children, the community she serves and plans to take advantage of her fellowship. “I want to build bridges with a lot of people, learn new things and make a difference in our organization and our community. I want to make this school proud. Receiving this honor makes me want to do more.”

Community Care of Syracuse can be contacted via email at or through the organization’s Facebook page, Community Care of Syracuse.

Leading The Nation In Helping Students Afford Textbooks & Technology

OCC and Barnes & Noble College’s “Box of Books” program will provide students with textbooks and technology at reduced prices before the first day of class this fall.

Last year, less than half of Onondaga Community College’s students were able to buy their textbooks, which cost a full-time student an average of more than $1,200 per year. A partnership between OCC and Barnes & Noble College (BNC), the operator of OCC’s campus bookstore, is providing a solution. Starting this fall, the “Box of Books” inclusive access program at OCC will provide students with flat-rate, predictable pricing for textbooks and an affordable Chromebook to level the playing field.

“OCC is focused on giving students the tools they need to succeed and are committed to seeing them complete their work at OCC with as little debt as possible. Students regularly tell us their OCC education is a tremendous value, but the added cost of textbooks, the online access codes, and a computer is standing in their way. This partnership is the first-of-its-kind program with a public institution and a first step towards addressing a nationwide barrier to college completion and student success,” said OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill.

“I know first-hand the difficult financial decisions I and fellow students are forced to make on a daily basis. Each of us has to consider whether to spend the money we have on our next meal, transportation to campus, school supplies or other necessities. As the Student Trustee on OCC’s Board of Trustees I am proud to have played a critical role in bringing this program here and helping the students who will follow me in the years to come. This is like Christmas for college kids,” said Allison Guzman-Martinez, OCC Student Trustee.

“We are thrilled to partner with Onondaga to introduce the First Day™ Complete delivery of Box of Books on campus,” said Paul Maloney, Vice President of Stores, Barnes & Noble College. “This inclusive access model will support affordability, accessibility and achievement for the Onondaga campus community, by providing all course materials conveniently delivered as a bundle for students on or before the first day of class.”

First Day™ Complete is Barnes & Noble College’s inclusive access model that offers first-day-of-class access to affordable, high-quality course materials for all courses. Included as a flat-rate per semester course charge, First Day Complete provides complete support to institutions and faculty to drive collaborative academic achievement goals.

Barnes and Noble College operates 773 bookstores. Through its Barnes & Noble College and MBS Textbook Exchange segments, Barnes & Noble Education operates 1,453 physical and virtual bookstores across the U.S., serving more than 6 million students and faculty. Onondaga Community College is the first public college in the nation to join this program.

Beginning with the fall 2019 semester students will have use of all of their required course material for a flat rate based on their registered credit hours, rather than the “sticker price” of the textbook. Students taking five courses (15 credit hours) will save an average of nearly $300 per semester. Printed textbooks, eBooks and access codes to interactive materials are all included in this program so students do not need to go without materials that in the past were cost-prohibitive.

Students who are eligible can apply financial aid to purchase the textbooks and the Chromebook at OCC. Students without adequate financial aid can also apply for an OCC scholarship to support these costs.

You can learn more about OCC’s Box of Books program at our spring Open House Saturday, April 13 at 9 a.m. You can register to attend at our website. You can also apply to OCC here. The college does not charge an application fee.