Alyssa Haines fell in love with science during her senior year at Camden High School but didn’t pursue higher education in the sciences immediately. Instead she decided to attend the Paul Mitchell School in Schenectady where students learn how to become a cosmetologist, barber, or makeup artist. After two years she decided to make a change.
In 2017 she enrolled at Onondaga Community College. While in a Microbiology class she took an interest in the microscope and her love of science took off from there. In her Anatomy & Physiology class the teaching methods of Dr. Lynn Infanti had a profound impact on her. “She inspired me with the amount of effort and time she dedicated to her students. She would crawl around the classroom like an amoeba to help us understand how it moves, as well as go over the human body multiple times and let student’s video her going over them as well as ways to remember parts easier. She made me love science on a whole other level.”
Haines also decided to take American Sign Language (ASL) because she thought it might help her to have that skill set in the medical field. She enjoyed the experience so much she joined the ASL Club. “Professor Rebecca Dadey really inspired me with how helpful she was in class. She’s very strong and independent. She was always available whenever I needed help.”
Eunice Williams OCC’s Chief Diversity Officer also played a key role in Haines growth here as a work/study student. “She was always cheerful and uplifting. She always gave me new opportunities and reassured me whenever I was concerned about everything I had going on.”
Along with the ASL Club, Haines was also a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Council and a member of the committee which organized Unity Day. “I loved the experience here of being involved and getting to know so many people. I networked, built relationships and felt like I was more a part of the school because of it.”
After she receives her degree this Saturday, Haines plans to transfer to SUNY Cobleskill where she will major in Histology which is the study of the microscopic structure of tissue.
Breanna Cherchio has always wanted to help others. Her desire to do so started at a young age. “I grew up in the church. I was always doing kids ministries, making a set for a play or helping any way I could. It’s always been in my nature to help people.”
Cherchio enrolled at OCC as an Early Childhood major but an experience outside class ultimately led her in a different direction. “I was at a party and there was a little boy there who was deaf and no one was talking to him. I knew some sign language from doing interpretive dance and was able to communicate with him. His face lit up and he started teaching me signs. He was adorable.” Cherchio wound up taking an American Sign Language class, loved the experience and changed majors. “The passion of the professors here, especially Professor Dadey really made a difference. Her willingness to accept us into her life, culture and community were very important.”
Cherchio is in her second year serving the campus community as a member of Student Government. This semester she is the organization’s president. Being a leader has allowed her to see campus life and activities through a different lens. “There are a lot of events and initiatives happening for which I am able to be part of the planning. Seeing all the work that goes into the underlying themes and messages is really interesting. It’s encouraging to see how much effort the campus puts forth to use every opportunity to teach and guide us as students.”
When she’s not on campus Cherchio can be found working as a Direct Support Professional for the Resource Center for Independent Living. Earlier this semester she was sworn-in to the United States Navy. She has been classified as a Cryptonics Technician Interpretive and will be trained in a language while stationed in Monterey, California. Following her time in the Navy she hopes to work with children as an educational interpreter or an assistant for a teacher with deaf students.
The language of choice in Rob Stanton’s childhood home was one most of us know of but never learned. “Both my parents are Deaf. I grew up with American Sign Language (ASL) as my first language. Going to school for ASL was an obvious choice for me.”
Joining the United States Marine Corps was also an obvious choice for Stanton. “I had a lot of family in the military. It seemed like the path that was meant for me.” Two weeks after graduating from Sauquoit Valley High School (approximately 10 miles south of Utica) Stanton was in boot camp.
He served four years in the Marines, doing tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan before being honorably discharged in 2011 as a Lance Corporal. “It was the greatest time of my life. I met the best people in the world and I built bridges. For the rest of my life I can go anywhere up and down the east coast and there will always be someone I can stay with.”
Stanton spent six years working various jobs and attending two different colleges before his wife’s work brought them to Syracuse. In the spring of 2018 he began taking classes at OCC and majoring in ASL. During his time here he’s found two homes on campus. One is in the Veterans’ office on the second floor of Coulter Hall. “I love the Veterans community here. As soon as you walk in the Veterans office you feel at home. There are people here you find connections with and you feel that brotherhood and camaraderie you felt in the military. I went to two other colleges and never felt that. The veteran community is very close-knit here.”
The other place where he feels most comfortable is within the ASL community where he is president of the ASL Club. “The faculty is mentoring me and helping me with my goals. Most students wants to be an interpreter but I want to be a teacher.” Stanton will earn his degree in May but plans to be a regular presence on the OCC campus. “I’m going to shadow faculty while I’m going for my bachelor’s and I’d love to teach here while I’m pursuing my master’s.”
When Jennie Sabo saw the discrimination her deaf sister faced, she was compelled to make a difference. “I watched what my sister went through and is still going through and knew I needed to help” Sabo said. It motivated her and drove her career in education, eventually leading her to OCC.
Sabo started working at OCC in 2006 after learning the college shared her passion for building an American Sign Language (ASL) program. Creating the curriculum for an ASL program had always been her dream. Sabo gave up a higher-paying job as an ASL teacher and professional interpreter to work at OCC. Her hard work paid off three years ago when the program produced its first graduating class.
Building the program wasn’t easy. But it was very rewarding to see the first group of students graduate from the program three years ago.
Now, there are 60 students at all levels of the American Sign Language program at OCC and its only growing. Over the past couple of years, Sabo and her team of dedicated ASL instructors have been working tirelessly to grow the program and help students. Sabo also works tirelessly to expand accessibility for Deaf students on campus. Students see her dedication and love her for it.
“Whether in the classroom or outside of it, her personality and kindheartedness are what makes Jennie an amazing woman and professor,” said Missy Azzolino, a student in the ASL program. “She has instilled a sense of responsibility in me that I was missing when I first entered college after high school.”
When asked why she stayed at OCC, Sabo responded: “Everyone at OCC really cares about what they are doing and for me that makes all the difference. Everyone has really embraced the program and embraced creating a more accessible environment for Deaf people.”
Jennie Sabo is the program coordinator for the American Sign Language Department in the World Languages Department at Onondaga Community College. She recently celebrated her 40th anniversary with her husband. She has a daughter and two grandchildren. Outside of work, she likes to make as much time as possible to spend with her loving family.
Amber Canorro found her passion and her purpose at OCC and she’s thrilled about it. “I can see a point of success. I feel fulfilled. I don’t feel lost or wandering anymore.”
Canorro came to OCC interested in a career in education. Her coursework was a struggle. “I didn’t excel in school. I wasn’t a great student in high school or when I started taking classes here.”
While taking a foreign language Canorro developed a love for American Sign Language (ASL). The College was going through the process of adding ASL as a major so Canorro decided to take some time off and get a job.
Two years later, in January 2016, Canorro returned to campus. “When I came back I cherished school. I saw the opportunities it could bring me.” She was a full-time student juggling two jobs and loving every minute of it. By the end of the semester Canorro had earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
Today she’s on track to graduate in May 2017 with plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree. “I know I want to be an interpreter of some kind. I’m still learning about the field. There are so many more options than I even understand at this point.”
Canorro’s happy place on campus is in her major where there is a strong bond between students and professors. “Being a part of the ASL Club has helped me tremendously. Everyone is so supportive. The professors and other students are always there to help with anything. It’s such a nice group to be a part of.”
Rebecca L. Dadey, M.S.
Associate Professor, American Sign Language
Hometown: Horsham, PA
Education: B.A., University of Virginia; M.S., McDaniel College (MD)
History at OCC: I was hired in 2010 to meet the increasing demand for study of American Sign Language (ASL) here. Today, I teach ASL Levels I through VI, in addition to courses in Deafhood and ASL Literature & Film. I am also the faculty advisor for the student ASL Club, serve on the Diversity Council, and work to bring Deaf/ASL performers to campus each year. I am so thankful that so many individuals and departments at OCC have embraced Deaf perspectives and recognition of ASL.
Favorite Student Story: One of the best things about teaching so many different levels of ASL is the opportunity to see students grow and blossom from semester to semester. By the time students from all walks of life reach level IV, they have evolved into a cohesive group who are truly care about each other and foster each other’s learning journey in and out of the classroom.
Little-Known Facts: I am a runner and triathlete. I plan to complete my first full marathon and first Half Ironman triathlon in the next 16 months.
Meaningful Experiences Outside Education: As a life-long traveler, I have been to many corners of the country and world. One of my most meaningful trips was in 2013 when I traveled to Hungary to present at an international conference and to interact with the Hungarian Deaf community to learn their sign language and culture.
Jennie A. Sabo
Associate Professor and Program Coordinator, American Sign Language
Hometown: Carthage, NY
Education: B.S., Empire State College; M.S., SUNY Potsdam
History at OCC: My dream was fulfilled the moment I was hired as a full-time assistant professor in the fall of 2007. Prior to that I had worked 18 years as a certified interpreter for the deaf and as an American Sign Language (ASL) adjunct instructor and mentor. I am currently the program coordinator of ASL at OCC and am most fortunate to have a position where I get to love what I do and do what I love.
Favorite Student Story: It is incredibly rewarding when students get in touch with us to express how we have positively impacted their life. One student in particular contacted me to say that she was chosen to interpret for President Obama’s first Inauguration. I am passionate about teaching and blessed to be part of a community college that truly cares about students and their success.
Little-Known Fact: Before deciding to pursue a career in signed language interpreting and eventually teaching, I worked with my husband in a family-owned business for over 18 years.
Meaningful Experiences Outside Education: I am most fortunate to have been involved in performance interpreting. I have interpreted for many artists in the music industry and have done numerous performance interpreted shows such as my most memorable one, “Les Miserables.” I am married to a wonderful man and we have a lovely daughter who has blessed us with a granddaughter and grandson.
When you support Onondaga Community College, you are making a statement that you believe in the importance of quality affordable education for everyone. You are creating new opportunities and new beginnings for students and our greater community.