Come Sit With Us

OCC students built a bench at the corner of Westcott and South Beech Streets as part of a Service-Learning project.

Students enrolled in OCC’s Architectural Technology and Interior Design majors have made their mark in Syracuse’s Westcott neighborhood. Over the course of two weekends they cleaned up the corner of Westcott and South Beech Streets and built and installed a bench there as part of a service-learning project. “The neighborhood lacked a place for people to sit down,” said Assistant Professor Diana Jaramillo. “We wanted to build something the community could use that is functional.”

Professor Diana Jaramillo

The bench was designed by Jaramillo and entered into a contest being put on by the Westcott Neighborhood Association. When her design was selected, she turned the installation into a service-learning opportunity for her students. “It was a very meaningful project for us. As we were building it community members were coming up, asking us questions and getting excited about this addition to our community,” said student Cody Musso, a 2018 graduate of Auburn High School. “It was a rewarding experience,” added Kaitlyn Iordan, a 2018 graduate of Baldwinsville High School. “It was fun working with other students and rewarding to know something we worked on is there for people to enjoy.”

The completion of the bench and the lessons learned during the project were exactly what Jaramillo was hoping for. She said it’s important for students to know it takes a team effort to achieve success. “Whatever you dream of building, it can come true but it’s never accomplished by just one person. Architecture is often seen as, ‘who is this famous architect?’ It’s a monumental team of engineers, designers, clients and contractors that make a building happen. Our bench took about 20 people working on it between design and construction. You can never do it alone. You are going to have to work with other people.”

OCC offers degrees in both Architectural Technology and Interior Design. You can learn more about the majors at these websites:

Architectural Technology

Interior Design

OCC students built this bench at Westcott and South Beech Streets as part of a Service-Learning project.

Leah Walsh

  • Major at OCC: Communications
  • High School: Auburn, class of 2015

Leah Walsh’s senior year of high school was similar to that of so many other students. She was busy applying to colleges, working a part-time job and having fun with her friends. A Ted Talk with an author named Rick Warren piqued her curiosity. Then she read his book, The Purpose Driven Life and everything changed. “I decided to take a gap year and enact on the very visions that brought me to life. So I bought a one-way ticket to Kenya, and continued to backpack through Europe.”

The experience transformed her life. Walsh decided she wanted to dedicate her life to helping others and her path would begin at OCC. “I came here so I could get my head back in the game and use OCC as my platform for what comes next. Rather than putting all of my money and time into a four-year school I thought it would be best to start here.”

Walsh served the campus community as Vice President of Clubs & Organizations in the Student Association. “I really enjoyed being a representative for students, listening, giving them a voice and standing up for them. I think students need that voice. I think our team has been really good about listening to students and responding to them.”

Walsh was also a member of the College Leadership Council, Diversity Council, Campus Funding Committee, the National Society of Leadership and Success, was Chair of the Unity Day event in April and is a member of the international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

In the fall she’ll be attending either Syracuse University, New York University or a college in London as she pursues a communications-related career. She’s heading to a place she couldn’t have predicted just a few years ago. “My gap year served as the basis for everything that followed. Without it I wouldn’t have the ambition or motivation or mindset I have now. OCC turned out to be the right choice for me. It was a good steppingstone.”

Remembering the Victims of Split Rock

The “Syracuse Journal” from July 3, 1918 tells the story of the tragedy at Split Rock. The newspaper and other artifacts from the event are on display at the Town of Onondaga Historical Society Museum in Onondaga Town Hall at 5020 Ball Road. The Museum is open Monday through Friday from 1-3 p.m.

A nearly century-old tragedy is motivating OCC students to make a difference in their community. “We want to preserve and memorialize what happened,” said Tara Carr (West Genesee HS, 2017). “We want to make sure Split Rock will never be forgotten.”

Carr is one of eleven students enrolled in “The Split Rock Disaster,” an Honors level class examining the tragedy that occurred July 2, 1918. What was once a former limestone quarry had been turned into a munitions factory where TNT was being manufactured for use in World War I. When a fire started at the site workers fought the blaze until they ran out of water pressure. The raging fire resulted in an explosion which was felt for miles around. Fifty-five workers were killed and 50 were injured.

Early in the semester students traveled to the site which is located off Split Rock Road in the Town of Onondaga. “To see what it looks like now gave us a sad feeling,” said student Flo Downing (Cathage HS, 2015). All that remains is a stone crusher which was built in 1903. “It was covered in graffiti,” added student Beckii Sessions (Town of Webb HS, 2016). “There was trash everywhere. The whole place was wrecked. There was a lot of broken glass and shotgun shells.”

Before and after photos of Split Rock.

Seeing what the site had become motivated students to take action in connection with the upcoming 100-year anniversary of the tragedy. Under the leadership of Professors Laurel Saiz and Melissa Hicks, students made a presentation to the Onondaga Town Board and are working on a series of related activities:

  • April 30 to May 4, 2018 will be “Split Rock Week” on campus. There will be a display in Coulter Library, a panel discussion and a performance of “Ghost Talk” by the OCC Drama Club which will focus on the perspectives of victims and survivors of the explosion.
  • A cleanup of the site led by community volunteers.
  • A ceremony at the site on July 2, 2018, the 100th anniversary of the fatal explosion.
  • A wreath-laying ceremony August 7, 2018 at Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse on the 100th anniversary of the internment of the unidentified victims.

Even though the class is about to end the work will continue for these students. They’ll need permission from New York State to access the site. They are asking Oakwood Cemetery to include information about the Split Rock monument in the brochure they hand out to visitors. They’ve also asked the Honeywell Corporation to refurbish the monument in time for the August ceremony. “We will have a committee of people from this class who meet regularly next semester to make sure everything is still on track,” said student Abbie Moskov (Auburn HS, 2016). “We want to continue to bring awareness to the community even though we’ll be done with the class. We want to follow through.”

Students and professors in “The Split Rock Disaster” Honors class.

Loving Life in the Honors Pod

These three students have become best friends since living together in the “Honors Pod.” The are (left to right) Abbie Moskov, Beckii Sessions and Flo Downing.

They know what each other is thinking, finish each other’s sentences and love living and working together. “We help each other with class, life, everything. We literally rely on each other 24/7,” said Flo Downing. “We instantly clicked,” added Beckii Sessions. “This is our second year rooming together and it’s had a big impact on our life.”

Downing, Sessions and Abbie Moskov live in one of Onondaga Community College’s Living Learning Communities, or LLC’s as they are more commonly referred to. An LLC provides students who share common educational, social or extracurricular interests the opportunity to live together. Programs are designed around specific majors or content areas. Students become heavily connected with faculty and staff and take advantage of opportunities to explore career paths and build their resumes through activities both on and off campus.

Downing, Sessions and Moskov are all high-achieving students. They are members of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and are in the Honors program. Their LLC is referred to as the Honors Pod. “It’s helpful to have something in common with your roommates. It gives you that instant connection.”

The three students didn’t know each other prior to meeting at OCC. Moskov is a 2016 graduate of Auburn High School majoring in Mathematics & Science. Sessions is a 2016 graduate of the Town of Webb High School in Old Forge majoring in Business Administration. Downing is a 2015 graduate of Carthage High School majoring in Criminal Justice. “It’s been the three of us since we came here. It’s like having sisters,” said Moskov. “We always say how fortunate we are because we get along so well,” added Downing.

As the three students have excelled academically, living in an LLC has also made a big difference in their personal development. “I’m a very introverted person. If I hadn’t been put with my roommates I probably wouldn’t have had as many friends as I did,” said Sessions. “They helped me get out of my shell. It’s really important to be able to make those strong connections immediately. They really pushed me. They’d say, ‘We’re going to this. We’re going to lunch. We’re going to dinner.’” “This is a support network you really need,” added Moskov.

Downing, Sessions and Moskov can’t imagine what life will be like a year from now when they are all attending different colleges and won’t have each other close by to lean on. As they enjoy their last academic year together they are working on a program to help those who come after them. They are in the process of creating an advisory board which will represent student residents and meet regularly with Residence Life administration.

Our New Student Leaders

The new Student Officers are (front row, left to right): Clarence Shepard, Moise Laub, Breanna Cherchio. Back row, left to right: Samantha Stetson, Calli Giron, Leah Walsh, Michaela Capone.

Meet the new group of officers who will lead the Student Association during the 2017-18 academic year! Their mission is to serve the needs of the student body while governing and developing their own leadership skills.

Samantha Stetson, President

  • Major: Business Technology with a minor in Communications
  • HS: Central Square, Class of 2016


Leah Walsh, V-P of Clubs & Organizations

  • Major:  Communications
  • HS: Auburn, Class of 2015


Michaela Capone, V-P of Entertainment and Programming

  • Major: Business Administration
  • HS: Faith Heritage, Class of 2016


Breanna Cherchio, V-P of Media

  • Major: Early Childhood Education
  • HS: Homeschooled, from Camillus


Clarence Shepard, Student Representative on the Board of Trustees

  • Major: Electronic Media Communications
  • HS: Rush-Henrietta, Class of 2014


Calli Giron, Student Representative to the OCCA Board

  • Major: Criminal Justice
  • HS: Chandler HS in Arizona, Class of 2015


Moise Laub, Student Representative to the OCCA Board

  • Major: General Studies
  • HS: Norman HS in Oklahoma, Class of 2006


The students are headquartered in the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement in room G114. It’s located on the first floor of the Gordon Student Center next to the Lazer Lounge.

The new Student Officers have fun during their photo shoot.