There was a time when all Allison Guzman-Martinez had was hope. She and her two sisters, brother and mother had left Long Island because they could no longer afford to live there. They wound up in downtown Syracuse in the Salvation Army’s Emergency Family Shelter where they would live for one month. Guzman-Martinez was a junior in high school. Every morning she would board a Centro bus to get to school. Survival was the goal. “At the time I didn’t see myself being successful in college. I want people to know you don’t have to start in a good place to end up with a bright and successful future.”
After graduating from Westhill High School in 2017 Guzman-Martinez came to OCC. Today her future is bright. Later this month on the morning of September 25, she’ll walk into room 210 in the Whitney Applied Technology Center and sit at a long table in the center of the room along with Onondaga Community College’s Board of Trustees. As the new Student Trustee she will sit side-by-side with bank presidents, school superintendents and other high-powered local executives as she debates and votes on resolutions critical to the future of the college. “I’m excited as a woman and as a Latina to really come forth and be a representative for our students on campus. It’s an opportunity to bring diversity and a new perspective, I’m hoping students can see me as a beacon of hope and an inspiration and know they can succeed too.”
Guzman-Martinez’s parents are natives of Honduras. Spanish was always and still is today the language of choice at home. Her ability to speak two languages fluently led to her working as a translator for Spanish speaking patients at SUNY Upstate Medical University Hospital. “I liked helping the Latino community because patients do come in to the hospital scared. We’re there to comfort them, to defend the patient, to protect their rights and to make sure they’re not violated. We’re the bridge between doctor and patient. It’s been a blessing to have that job and opportunity.” Guzman-Martinez entered OCC as a Humanities major but her time as a translator changed everything. “Working with patients opened me up to the medical field. I decided to major in Mathematics & Science because I want to be a doctor.”
Guzman-Martinez admits when she graduated from high school, OCC was her only option. She’s made the most of her time here. Guzman-Martinez has served the campus community as president of Spanish Club and as a member of the Basic (Brothers and Sisters in Christ) Club. Now she is adding Student Trustee and Diversity Council to the list. “I’m proud to be part of this school. This is a building block and foundation for where I’m going to go. Onondaga Community College will always be the place that led to wherever I go.”
Katelyn Malecki is a 2015 graduate of Baldwinsville’s Baker High School and the Student Trustee on Onondaga Community College’s Board of Trustees. The position comes with great responsibility. As the voice of the students, Malecki has full voting power and participates in closed-door meetings, known as Executive Session, along with the other board members. Below are Malecki’s thoughts on being the Student Trustee.
The typical reaction I get when I tell a fellow student I am the Student Representative to the Board of Trustees is, “What’s that?” It is also what my reaction was when I was first told about the position. Before I got this position, I didn’t know there was a board that met every other month or that there was a student on it who had the same voting power as any other trustee.
I was sworn-in as Student Trustee last November during the monthly board meeting which was held on the second floor of the Whitney Applied Technology Center. When I was going through the application process, I kept hearing that it was such a good opportunity and that it was unlike any of the other officer positions. I didn’t know what that truly meant until I actually sat down at the table with the other trustees and took in my surroundings. I saw so many successful people from our community with their names listed on prestigious-looking name plates and then I saw my own name on a nameplate that was placed in front of me. Although it was a bit overwhelming at first, it was also very inspiring to be sitting at a table with people like that. After being sworn-in, the meeting began and I entered into a world where I had previously never been.
I quickly realized that board meetings are updates about what is happening across campus. They allow me to learn a lot about the college, but they also have taught me some life advice. At the January meeting one of the trustees stated that the reason why all of the people sitting at the table were successful was because they genuinely have a passion for what they do. Sitting at that table inspired me to aspire. It showed me that I, a current student at Onondaga Community College, can one day be just as successful as the other board members. I can already see how having this position is helping shape my future.
Although just the opportunity to have the experience of being on a board like this and having the same amount of voting power is truly spectacular, one of my favorite parts of being in a position like this as a student is getting to see the college in such a different way. I view the college as a student, as a student leader, and as a student board member. It also makes me feel like my college experience right now is truly preparing me for the “real world” and my future. I am able to see how a board of this nature operates and witness events like audit presentations which typically aren’t things 19-year-olds get to experience. And for all of that, I will be forever grateful to all the people on this campus who helped me receive this incredible opportunity—it has completely transformed my time spent here at OCC.
I was able to serve in this valuable position and you can too! If you are interested in becoming the next Student Trustee, please visit Sarah Collins in the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement in room G114 of the Gordon Student Center.
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.