Keith Hale

Keith Hale
  • Major: Electrical Technology
  • High School: Desert Pines in Las Vegas, class of 2007

Keith Hale has changed addresses 15 times in the last 10 years. After a decade on the move he’s found a home and the start of a career thanks to OCC’s Electrical Technology program. He’s doing an internship at Nucor Steel in Auburn and is hoping to work there after earning his degree in December. “They’re an amazing company and I wouldn’t be there without my Electrical Technology class. They approached the school looking for people because a lot of the equipment we use in my Problem Logic Controller class was donated by Nucor.”

Keith Hale (in orange helmet and orange shirt) stands between Congressman John Katko (left) and Vice President Mike Pence (right) at Nucor Steel June 21, 2018.

Hale graduated from Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas in 2007. A year later he enlisted in the United States Army and was shipped to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. In 2010 he was stationed at Fort Drum in northern New York. Hale did three deployments to Afghanistan before being honorably discharged in 2016.

A previous relationship brought Hale to Central New York where he began taking classes at OCC in the fall of 2016. Since his first semester on campus, he’s taken advantage of services offered by the Veterans’ office in Coulter hall. “Everything there has been done on time and correctly. Whenever I’ve needed to access my benefits, they’ve been there.”

Hale began interning at Nucor Steel in the summer of 2018, working where they melt down scrap metal. His internship went so well he continued with it during the fall semester. “You’re never done learning there. Once you’ve mastered everything they give you harder stuff to do. I’d like to get hired by them as an electrical technician after I earn my degree.”

OCC’s New Citizens

OCC student Faris Shaalan (center) was sworn-in as an American citizen during a ceremony in Storer Auditorium. His daughters Dunya (left) and Midia (right) are also OCC students and new American citizens.

Storer Auditorium was transformed into a patriotic courtroom when the College hosted a Naturalization Ceremony November 15. Fifty-one candidates from 21 countries became United States citizens. New York State Acting Supreme Court Judge Michael Hanusczak presided over the ceremony. Judge Hanusczak is a former adjunct professor at OCC and his four children all earned degrees from the College.

Several of the new citizens are either current or former OCC students. Sarah Robin is a 2017 graduate of the Food Service Management program and was the first restaurateur-in-residence at “With Love,” OCC’s teaching restaurant located at 435 North Salina Street. Robin is a native of Pakistan who came to the United States four years ago. During the ceremony she read “I Am The American Flag.”

Also naturalized was OCC student Faris Shaalan, formerly of Iraq. His daughters, Dunya and Midia are also students here who became citizens in October. During the ceremony Fairs Shaalan was the proud recipient of a United States flag which previously flew over the U.S. Capitol building. The flag was generously donated by Congressman John Katko.

Two other new Americans also have OCC connections. Current student and Photography major Hassan Nassif Jassim from Iraq was naturalized as was Ammar Hadi Mahmood who earned a degree in Business Administration in 2016.

The Naturalization Ceremony was presented in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Americanization League of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

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Self-Advocate of the Year

Kayla McKeon is presented the National Down Syndrome Society's Self Advocate of the Year Award by the organization's President, Sara Hart Weir.
Kayla McKeon is presented the National Down Syndrome Society’s Self Advocate of the Year Award by the organization’s President, Sara Hart Weir.
Kayla with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York
Kayla with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York

Kayla McKeon is a remarkable woman. Tuesday, April 12 she was presented the National Down Syndrome Society’s (NDSS) Self Advocate of the Year Award. NDSS self-advocates are volunteer advocates with Down Syndrome who are committed to taking part in the democratic process and serve as liaisons between NDSS and their communities to continually raise awareness, educate and advocate for public policy solutions that benefit the Down Syndrome community at the federal, local and community levels. McKeon received the award at the Buddy Walk® on Washington, the annual NDSS advocacy event in Washington, DC.

McKeon lives in Syracuse and is a student at both Onondaga Community College and Le Moyne College. She is an intern in the office of Congressman John Katko and an employee at Gigi’s Playhouse in Cicero. McKeon has been a longtime advocate in the Down Syndrome community and was vital in getting members of Congress to sign on to co-sponsor the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which was signed into law in 2014.

NDSS is a nonprofit organization representing the more than 400,000 Americans with Down Syndrome. Its mission is to be the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome. NDSS envisions a world in which all people with Down Syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations, and become valued members of welcoming community.