Tuesday, March 8 was a big day for Onondaga Community College in the state capitol. The annual USA Today Phi Theta Kappa All-New York Academic Team Recognition Ceremony at the New York State Museum in Albany had an OCC feel to it.
Students Leighann Bulich and Iga Szczepanik were among those honored for their academic excellence and community service. Another OCC student, Music major Brittany Montpetit wowed the crowd with a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. College President Dr. Casey Crabill also played an important role in the celebration by introducing student honorees.
Bulich came to OCC from Lake George Jr.-Sr. High School (60 miles north of Albany) where she was a member of the class of 2014. Bulich served her community as a member of the West Glens Falls Emergency Squad and an emergency medical technician. She graduated from OCC in December 2015 after just three semesters on campus. She took more than 20 credits each semester, worked as an RA and was Vice President for Service in the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. Bulich earned a degree in Emergency Management with an Honors minor. She is now attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Emergency Management. Her career goals include becoming an Emergency Manager at a V-A Hospital and a management position with FEMA. Bulich was unable to attend the event.
Szczepanik is an International Student from Swidnica, Poland. She started learning English when she was in preschool and today speaks the language fluently. Szczepanik came to the U.S. when she was high school aged and graduated from Bishop Grimes in 2014. She’s majoring in Business with minors in both Women’s Studies and Honors. She’s also a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and is President of OCC’s chapter. Szczepanik also works as a student ambassador, going to area high schools and promoting the Honors Minor program. After earning her degree in May Szczepanik plans to Rochester Institute of Technology and pursue a degree in international business.
Montpetit is a Music major with a specialization in Voice who will earn her degree in May 2016. She’s also a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and a 2014 graduate of Cicero-North Syracuse high school.
Assemblymen Al Stirpe (D, 127th District) and Gary Finch (R, C, I, 126th District) were also part of the OCC contingent. They brought with them New York State Assembly Certificates of Recognition for Sczezpanik and Bulich.
The sounds of skilled vocalists practicing their craft filled the air on a hot August night on the OCC campus. The beautiful music came from the Recital Hall in the Academic II building where graduates of the College’s Music program reunited for the “OCC Vocal Alumni Summer Sing-In.” The event was planned by OCC Vocal Professors Jean Loftus and Dr. David Rudari as a way to show off the new and modern home of the College’s Music Department. “When we started this event in 1984 I held it at my home,” said Loftus. “Last year we moved it into the Recital Hall and created more of an alumni event. We contacted former students by phone, email and Facebook.”
The Summer Sing-In was highlighted by vocal performances from 16 graduates, many of whom are now singing professionally, teaching music or pursuing a higher degree. Evelyn White, a 2014 OCC graduate, returned for the event. When the Academic II building opened in the fall of 2013 she sang at the ribbon cutting ceremony. White has since moved on to Syracuse University where she is studying music therapy. “I couldn’t wait to come back. Hearing people sing and seeing how it impacts others is what really makes me so passionate about music!”
Class of 1996 member John Halpin also enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the Summer Sing-In. When he was a student the College’s Music program was located in the Gordon Student Center. Halpin was excited to spend time in its new home and get reacquainted with old friends. “The look of the building, the great Recital Hall and the private practice rooms are tremendous upgrades.” After graduating, Halpin transferred to SUNY Postdam’s prestigious Crane School of Music. He is now teaching music in the Cicero-North Syracuse School District where he has spent the last 16 years.
With vocal alumni coming back to reconnect and perform each year Loftus sees the Academic II building bringing new energy to graduates. “The Recital Hall is the perfect venue for gathering and performing,” she said. “I hope to keep this tradition going for many years.”
The Music department would like to recognize Leslie Kraus for all she did to help make this event a success.
Mark your calendar for next year’s event! It will be held Thursday, August 11, 2016 in the Academic II building’s Recital Hall. For more information on alumni events across the campus and information on how to reconnect with OCC please visit www.sunyocc.edu/alumni or contact Russ Corbin at email@example.com.
Ryan Buswell was only 18 years old when he received his associate degree from OCC in Humanities and Social Sciences. He did it less than a year after graduating from Cicero-North Syracuse High School in 2013. What was his secret? Onondaga’s College Credit Now program which allows students to earn college credits while they are in high school. In the 2013-14 academic year 3,422 students from 30 Central New York high schools took advantage of the program.
Buswell started collecting college credits during his sophomore year at C-NS. Three years later he had amassed 17 OCC credits and 20 AP (Advanced Placement) credits. Buswell considered going directly to a four-year SUNY college, then did the math. “I realized I could spend less money on the same courses by going to OCC. It made more sense to spend $2,000 rather than $17,000,” Buswell said.
Buswell brought his 37 credits to OCC, spent two semesters on campus, and graduated in May 2014. “Saying I graduated from college less than a year after I graduated from high school is both humbling and makes me feel very proud about what I’ve accomplished.”
In the fall Buswell started taking classes at SUNY New Paltz as a junior. He’s majoring in Speech Pathology, a calling he realized in high school. “I took a ‘what should you be when you get older’ quiz online and it pointed me in this direction. I started researching it, then went on a church mission to Buffalo where I worked with children with disabilities. I realized it was what I wanted to do.”
AmeriCU opened a new financial center on the first floor of the Whitney Applied Technology Center in time for the fall 2013 semester. The site provides a full complement of financial services and is a host location for student internships, financial literacy education, and financial planning services for students, faculty, staff and the community. It is fully staffed by AmeriCU professional associates.
Three Onondaga students completed valuable internships there. Nate Anderson, a sophomore Humanities major (Baldwinsville Christian Academy) did three internships of his own. He worked as a social media trainer and made presentations at senior management meetings. He followed that up with a marketing internship, then worked as a Member Service Specialist. “Managing an internship while working a full-time job and going to school taught me how to manage my time,” said Anderson. “I’m very grateful for AmeriCU. They did everything they could to make this the most positive experience possible.” Anderson was able to turn his internship into a job as a Member Service Specialist.
Business Administration major Lindsey Markell (Cicero-North Syracuse) also went from intern to employee, earning a position at AmeriCU’s Cicero financial center. “My experience interning with AmeriCU was very successful. I want to become an accountant. OCC is the most feasible way to get from an associate to a bachelor’s to a master’s,” said Markell. She’s on schedule to graduate in December 2014, then take advantage of the College’s “2+2 partnership agreement” and transfer to Le Moyne College.
Sean Dana (Westhill) graduated from Onondaga in May 2014 with a degree in Business Administration. He turned his AmeriCU internship into a full-time position at its Fayetteville financial center. “My experience as an intern was great. I learned how to be a professional and met a lot of wonderful people. I’m looking forward to a career in this industry,” said Dana.
As part of AmeriCU’s partnership with Onondaga, AmeriCU established a Community Scholars scholarship, helping to ensure that more students, regardless of socio-economic status, are able to attain a college degree and the opportunities one affords.
More information on the services AmeriCU provides are available at www.americu.org.
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