2019 All-State Students

OCC’s 2019 USA Today Phi Theta Kappa All-New York State Academic Team members are (left to right) Katelyn Doner, Kate Hanson and Marigone Istogu.

Graduates of Cicero-North Syracuse and Central Square High Schools along with a native of Kosovo have been chosen to represent Onondaga Community College on the 2019 USA Today Phi Theta Kappa All-New York State Academic Team. All three students are members of OCC’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. They were selected for their academic excellence and community service. The students will be honored during a ceremony in Albany April 24. The students are:


Katelyn Doner

  • High School: Cicero-North Syracuse, class of 2016
  • Major: Electronic Media Communications
  • Katelyn is a member and officer in honor society Phi Theta Kappa.



Kate Hanson

  • High School: Central Square, class of 2016
  • Major: Mathematics & Science with a concentration in Biology
  • Kate is a member of honor society Phi Theta Kappa. an Honors Student Ambassador, a Biology notetaker for students who utilize OCC’s Office of Accessibility Resources and the recipient of a national Coca-Cola scholarship.



Marigone Istogu

  • Native of Kosovo
  • Major: Electrical Technology
  • Marigone is a member and officer in honor society Phi Theta Kappa who interned at National Grid last summer where she focused on Substation Engineering and Design.


All three students plan to transfer to four-year institutions and earn higher degrees. They are highlighted in this month’s edition of our podcast, “Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College.” You can listen to the podcast here.

Mahogani Hills

Mahogani Hills pictured in Shapero Hall where she is an RA.
  • Major at OCC: Human Services
  • HS: Cicero-North Syracuse, class of 2016

Mahogani Hills is about as busy as a college student can be. Doing coursework as she pursues her Human Services degree is just part of it. Hills is an RA in Shapero Hall, works as a Student Conduct Student Assistant, is a social media reporter for OCC’s Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter accounts, and is also part of the advertisements associated with OCC’s “Believe in Better” fundraising campaign. She also interns at the YWCA and teaches STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to girls ages 5 to 12.  On Saturday’s she carves out time for her part-time job at a restaurant and Sunday’s are reserved for church.

If all of that wasn’t enough Hills recently started her own eyelash business, “Cupid’s Lashes 315.” How does she do it all? “Most nights I’m up very very late. I prioritize. What needs to get done first gets done first. Everything else gets done when it gets done. Being busy has made me a better person and kept me more involved. When I had free time, I’d try to go to the mall or do things with my friends I shouldn’t be doing.”

Hills will earn her degree in May, then plans to head south. She wants to open a homeless shelter in Atlanta and help the less fortunate. “Growing up I always had an interest in helping people. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. I want to help the homeless and work with people with mental illnesses.”


The Flight Brothers

OCC graduates and CNY Central photographers Matt Landers (left) and Quindell Williams (right) are the first licensed drone pilot operators at a Central New York television station.

Ten years ago, Matt Landers and Quindell Williams were students together in Onondaga Community College’s Electronic Media Communications (EMC) major. Today they’re teammates in flight, becoming the first licensed drone pilots for a Central New York television station. When big news happens they’ll be getting in their CNY Central (channels 3, 5 and 6) news vehicle and responding to the scene with their drone. “When we were asked to launch the drone program it was an honor,” said Williams. “I’m very excited, humbled and honored to be part of this,” added Landers. “It adds a whole new skill set and a whole new challenge.”

Landers (Cicero-North Syracuse HS 2007 and OCC 2009) and Williams (Nottingham HS 2003 and OCC 2008) went through rigorous training before launching CNY Central’s drone operations. They studied relentlessly for a highly detailed written test and also traveled to Virginia Tech for three days of intense, around the clock training. “We really enjoyed working with each other,” said Williams. “We motivated each other. Our close working relationship made this all worthwhile.”

The next time you see drone footage on one of CNY Central’s television stations or its website you can do so knowing it was gathered by two graduates of OCC’s EMC program. “We’re honored. We know it’s up to us to set a standard both for our station and all stations in the viewing area.”

You can learn more about OCC’s Electronic Media Communications program by clicking on this link.

Katelyn Doner

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

Two years ago, Katelyn Doner was a high-achieving senior at Cicero-North Syracuse high school. She had options when it was time to choose a college and decided OCC would be best for her. “I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. Instead of going to go to a four-year, trying to figure it out there and spending tons and tons of money I decided to come to OCC where I could figure things out and save money.”

During Doner’s first semester on campus she focused on her prerequisites. When she took a Mass Media class with Professor Linda Herbert her future came into focus. “I fell in love with the EMC (Electronic Media Communications) major. I’ve always loved music and movies and television. The Mass Media class showed me all of the behind-the-scenes techniques. I loved it and it was one of my passions so I figured why not make a career out of it?”

In the spring of 2018, Doner was inducted into OCC’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). “Because of PTK I’ve met so many people who are great friends whom I can turn to for help. I’ve also been able to collaborate with a lot of different people. Group work is so much easier now because of PTK. I’m used to talking to three or four different people at a time about one project and communicate my thoughts.”

Doner was recently recognized for completing PTK’s Competitive Edge program which enhances students’ marketable skills to make them more competitive for scholarships, transferring and careers. Competitive Edge helps students strengthen the skills that are highly sought after by employers and colleges, such as oral and written communication, professional etiquette, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking. “It felt great to be honored. It’s time consuming to complete each of the five levels of the program. Having that recognition was amazing. It showed that I stuck with it and I did it.”

During the spring semester, Doner will do an internship at one of the local television stations and learn more about her passion, television and video production. She’s hoping that experience will be a springboard to a job after she earns her degree in May. “I want to get experience I can put on a resume. If I need to go to another school, I will. Right now I feel I’m ready to take on a job and go from there.”

Doner’s experience at OCC has been so positive she’s hoping to convince other family members to follow her path here. “I have two younger cousins who I tell ‘if you’re not sure what you want to do in college go to OCC and you’ll figure it out there. You might think you want to do one thing and you change your mind completely. It’s so much more worth it doing it at a community college versus a four-year.’”

2018 Alumni Face Honoree: Dave Bamonte ‘81

Onondaga Community College annually recognizes distinguished graduates by naming them “Alumni Faces” for their accomplishments and contributions to the community. The 2018 class will be honored during a ceremony October 3, at 5:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall which is located in the Academic II building. One of the graduates we will honor that night is Dave Bamonte.

Dave Bamonte, ’81 is a highly-accomplished professional trumpet player. He’s worked with world-renowned conductors Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa and John Williams while performing with the Israel Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Boston Pops and New York and Vienna Philharmonics. He’s a 1978 graduate of North Syracuse High School who built the foundation for his career at OCC.

Bamonte (center) with Professors Dr. Kevin Moore and Selma Moore

Bamonte last visited campus in the spring of 2017 and was thrilled to see the music department still had the creative energy and spirit from when he left. “I remember learning from them, particularly Dr. Kevin Moore and his wife Selma, who made time for questions and conversations at every turn which turned out to be just as important to my development as the lessons.” His visit also marked the first time he saw the state-of-the-art Academic II Building, which is the home of the College’s Music program. “This facility is amazing! I think it’s a tremendous investment for the institution to invest in the Arts and give the professionals of tomorrow the resources they need to excel at their craft.”

Bamonte went from OCC to the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, the New England Conservatory of Music and the Eastman School of Music. Today he is both a performer and a teacher, serving as Trumpet Professor at Portland State University and is also a member of the Oregon Symphony. He cherishes his memories from OCC and is deeply humbled by the Alumni Face Honor. “To be inducted with such an outstanding class and to share space on the Alumni Face wall with such a wide-array of high achieving alumni is truly special and one that I will never forget.”

2018 Alumni Face Honoree: Jim Campagna ‘79

Onondaga Community College annually recognizes distinguished graduates by naming them “Alumni Faces” for their accomplishments and contributions to the community. The 2018 class will be honored during a ceremony October 3, at 5:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall which is located in the Academic II building. One of the graduates we will honor that night is Jim Campagna ‘79

For as long as he could remember, all Jim Campagna wanted to do was to work in radio or television, particularly in sports. He grew up in Lyncourt and graduated from North Syracuse High School before coming to OCC to major in Radio/Television (RTV). “I remember the department was on the second floor of the Coulter Library. It wasn’t long after starting that we were doing play-by-play for baseball and basketball games. The faculty empowered us to explore.” That same year, Campagna was named Sports Director at WOCC, the campus radio station. It would be his first of several leadership positions.

Campagna worked hard and took advantage of every opportunity that came his way. When he finally had the chance to be on-air, he was paired up with legendary OCC Professor Vinny Spadafora doing halftime reports of area high-school basketball games. “I took every opportunity I could and got to know all of my professors beyond the confines of the classroom to tap into their knowledge. I’m grateful to this day for the time they dedicated to all of us.” His persistence would continue on at SUNY Oswego where he would complete his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1981.

The Campagna Family: daughter Alyssa ’08, James, his wife Lucille and son Jamie

Throughout the 1980s Campagna established himself as an up and coming professional in local media. He worked multiple positions at WHEN Radio from reporter to weekday news anchor before succeeding Donna Speziale as News Director. After several years at the helm there, Campagna made the switch to television in 1991 and began working as a reporter and producer for WIXT TV, now known as WSYR NewsChannel 9. The move to television coincided with him returning to OCC as an adjunct faculty member. “I got a call from EMC (Electronic Media Communications) department chair Tony Vadala. He asked me if I wanted to teach a sportscasting class. I told him ‘sure’ and asked him when the class started. By 2 p.m. that afternoon I was teaching my first class at OCC!”

Over the next 15 years, Campagna would teach while working at Channel 9, and enjoyed every moment. “It was great, to see the growth of the campus and within the EMC major. The new location and media technology in the Whitney Building set the program apart from any other community colleges. Working with students kept me young and energetic with their questions, ideas and aspirations.”

In 2015 Campagna was named News Director at Channel 9. His new responsibilities forced him to give up his teaching duties but he continues to cherish the time he spent on campus as both a student and faculty member. “The whole RTV department from Secretary Nancy Licata, Professors Catherine Hawkins, Rob Gaunier and Vinny, they all remain very special to me. The fact I am being honored with an Alumni Face award is a testament to their teaching and love for students, which is something I’ve tried to emulate since graduating. I credit much of my success in the broadcasting field to my two years at OCC!”

Honoring New York State’s Best

Celebrating our All-State Students are (left to right) SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson, OCC honoree Matthew Honeywell, OCC Professor and PTK New York State Regional Coordinator Dr. Annie Tuttle and OCC PTK and Honors Coordinator Jackie Barstow.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson shared a powerful story with students during the annual USA Today Phi Theta Kappa All-New York State Academic Award ceremony. The Chancellor recalled her first exposure to a community college. Her mother was pursuing a college degree when she got married, started a family and put her own education on hold. Many years later when all seven children had been raised, her then 60-year-old mother decided to go to a community college and complete work toward her degree. “Many of you are like my mom. You’ve had to juggle jobs, careers and families and all of the other responsibilities that go along with being a productive and contributing citizen of our country. We’re here today to celebrate not only your academic strengths but the other qualities like leadership and service you’ve provided to your college community.”

Giavanna Sylvester

The Chancellor’s remarks set the tone for a wonderful ceremony in which Phi Theta Kappa honor society students from each of the State’s community colleges were named to the All-New York Academic team. OCC’s two honorees were Giavanna Sylvester and Matthew Honeywell. Sylvester is a 2013 graduate of Fabius-Pompey High School who earned a degree in Humanities and Social Sciences. She is now pursuing her Psychology degree at Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe and was unable to attend the event. Honeywell is a 1989 graduate of West Genesee High School and a veteran of the United States Navy. He earned a degree in Human Services in December and is now enrolled at SUNY Oswego. Honeywell was a foster child. He is working to become a therapist for children in foster care, adopted children and their families.

OCC Professor Dr. Annie Tuttle is the Regional Coordinator for Phi Theta Kappa in New York. During the event she spoke about what a privilege it was to serve in her role and to meet and work with outstanding students across the state. She also took a moment to highlight some individual student stories, including that of one of OCC’s honorees. “Matthew Honeywell and his wife are activists against human trafficking,” Tuttle told those in attendance. “They helped create a human trafficking prevention program in Syracuse, training hotel staff in how to spot and stop human trafficking.”

OCC Music major Alexandra Lombardo also played a significant role in the celebration of academic excellence and community service. The Cicero-North Syracuse High School graduate sang the national anthem.

The ceremony was held March 6 at the New York Museum in Albany.

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Thomas Nguyen

Thomas Nguyen performs during the fall Phi Theta Kappa induction ceremony in Storer Auditorium.
  • High School: Cicero-North Syracuse, class of 2016
  • Major: Music with a specialization in Piano

Love of a musical instrument came relatively late for Thomas Nguyen (pronounced WIN). While many Music majors recognize their calling at a young age, Nguyen didn’t start taking piano lessons until the summer between his junior and senior years of high school. “I’ve only been playing for three years. I thought coming to OCC made sense so I would have more time to build up my skills.”

Nguyen started playing on his grandmother’s piano until his parents, who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam, made the decision to invest in new one. “My parents have given me all of the blessings and the necessary steps for me to achieve where I am today. I am so fortunate.”

After playing for just three months Nguyen made the decision to participate in a competition. “I really had shaky hands. I was like a rattlesnake. I couldn’t even think straight. I crashed and burned but I learned a lot. Learning from our mistakes is a part of living.”

Nguyen says his Piano professor at OCC, Dr. Kevin Moore has played a critical role in his development. “He’s helped me with the performance aspect. You have to have a certain level of pride when you walk on the stage and say, ‘this is the music. This is the way it’s supposed to be.’ He’s helped me overcome my stage fright which I never realized I had.”

Nguyen’s new-found courage was on-display in November when he played the piano at the fall induction ceremony for international honor society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). “It was my first time playing with an ensemble. It was really outside my comfort zone and it made me a better musician.”

During the ceremony Nguyen was inducted into PTK, an accomplishment he wouldn’t have thought possible when he was a student at Cicero-North Syracuse. “In high school I was the most run-of-the-mill average student. I put in just above the minimum effort. When I was inducted into PTK I felt like I was going someplace in life.”

Nguyen will earn his degree in May and plans to transfer to SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. In the meantime he plans to enjoy his final semester on campus. “OCC is running a fabulous operation. The professors here are great. They teach you how to live life. All of them bring something new to the table, some new way to view life and some new way to think.”

Bill Bonnell, ’83

  • Major at OCC: Radio & TV (now Electronic Media Communications)
  • High School: North Syracuse, Class of 1981

Bill is an Emmy Award winning television sports producer with ESPN who has coordinated coverage of Olympic games, Super Bowls and several other high-profile sports events. He built the foundation for his success at OCC. “Going to OCC was a great experience. The classes were small. It was very intimate and personal.” Bill’s wife, mother and one of his brothers also graduated from OCC. “I loved my time there. OCC has been a big part of my life and always will be.”

Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life.

Dinyar Vania, ’99

  • Major at OCC: Music with a specialization in Voice
  • High School: Marcellus

Dinyar came to OCC with the dream of being a percussionist. OCC’s Music faculty discovered he had enormous potential as a vocalist and worked with him to enhance those skills. “Everyone was extremely supportive. There were many positive influences and that really went a long way in my development and growth. I received the best education of my life at OCC.” Vania is now an opera tenor and one of the most sought after talents throughout the United States and Europe. In 2015 he was named one of the College’s distinguished Alumni Faces. During the induction ceremony he joined Student Vocalist Brittany Montpetit, ’16 (Cicero-North Syracuse High School), the OCC Concert Choir and Pianist Katharine Ciarelli under the direction of Conductor David J. Rudari, D.M.A. in a performance of Brindisi from LA TRAVIATA. You can view the performance here.

Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life.