Representing New York State at NASA

These three students are representing OCC and all of New York State in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program. They are (left to right) Wayne Ennis, Rebecca Agosto Matos and Nathan Burroughs.

Chemistry and Physical Science Professor Dr. Fred Jaquin is proud of what Onondaga Community College students have accomplished. Again. OCC’s best and brightest have become regular participants in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program. This year three OCC students have been selected. “They are the only three community college students in all of New York State to be chosen. It’s an amazing accomplishment for all of us to be so proud of,” said Jaquin. Not only do they represent all of New York State, they are also three of only 403 students chosen nationwide.

The three students are Nathan Burroughs, an Engineering Science major from Homer High School (2016) ; Wayne Ennis, an Engineering Science major from Corcoran High School (2007) and Rebecca Agosto Matos, a Mathematics & Science major from East Syracuse Minoa High School (2017). “I’m excited about this opportunity,” said Agosto Matos. “I had done robotics with NASA previously and learned a lot from it.”

Each student will take part in a five-week online activity which will culminate with a four-day on-site visit to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Students will have the opportunity to interact with NASA engineers and employees as they learn more about careers in science and engineering. While at NASA students will form teams and establish fictional companies interested in Mars exploration. Each team will be responsible for developing and testing a prototype rover, forming a company infrastructure, managing a budget and developing communications and outreach. “Being able to go to NASA and work with NASA professionals is very exciting,” said Ennis. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Burroughs has been dreaming about space since he was a young child when the Tom Hanks movie “Apollo 13” was popular. “I grew up watching it. It’s the one VHS movie I remember watching tons and tons of time. I got a telescope when I was little with a night sky atlas. I liked going outside and looking up.”

NASA will host another Community College Aerospace Scholars program in the fall. Students interested in participating can contact Professor Jaquin for more information at jaquinr@sunyocc.edu. “Students who do this will have such an advantage going forward,” said Jaquin. “They will have an ‘in’ with NASA if they want to apply for an internship or a fellowship. NASA will know who you are.”

Congratulations to Nathan Burroughs, Wayne Ennis and Rebecca Agosto Matos, our latest class of NASA Scholars!

Honoring Our 2017 Alumni Faces

OCC President Casey Crabill with the 2017 class of Alumni Faces (left to right): Ed Riley, Janet Riley, Marthe Ngwashi, Deirdre Hunter and John DelVecchio.

They returned to campus with their stories of success. There was a real estate developer, a nurse, a professor of engineering, a television director and an attorney. What brought them together was a common bond, Onondaga Community College. OCC paid tribute to these five former students on the night of November 1, recognizing them as distinguished Alumni Faces during a ceremony in the Recital Hall. “Each one of them has gone on to make their mark in Central New York and beyond with notable careers, service to community and living a life that exemplifies the importance of giving back to others,” said College President Casey Crabill during her opening remarks.

The Class of 2017 is:

John DelVecchio

John D. “JD” DelVecchio, ‘79

  • Major: Radio & Television (now Electronic Media Communications)
  • Profession: Television Director for the Golf Channel
  • High School: Corcoran, class of 1977

DelVecchio is an Emmy award-winning television sports director who has overseen coverage of some of the world’s biggest sporting events. Today he works for the Golf Channel. His resume includes the Olympics, College Football, Saturday Night Live, David Letterman and the Cosby Show.

 

Deirdre Hunter

Deirdre N. Hunter, Ph.D., ‘02

  • Major: Engineering Science
  • Profession: Professor of Engineering
  • High School: Jersey Village High School in Houston, class of 1998

Hunter fell in love with science and engineering while working on cars with her father in his auto repair business. She earned degrees from OCC, Syracuse University and Virginia Tech. She was one of the few women in her educational field and received many accolades for her research. Today she is a Lecturer of Engineering Design at Rice University in Houston.

 

Marthe Ngwashi

Marthe Ngwashi, Esq., ‘03

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Profession: Lawyer
  • High School: Nottingham High School, class of 1994

After earning her associate degree at OCC and her bachelor’s at SUNY Empire State College, Ngwashi worked in the State Attorney General’s Office where co-workers encouraged her to pursue a law degree. She took their advice and today practices law in her firm, Ngwashi & Associates PLLC in Buffalo.

 

Ed and Janet Riley

Edward M. Riley

  • Major: Architectural Technology
  • Profession: Developer
  • High School: Christian Brothers Academy, class of 1972

Riley is a nationally renowned developer. In 2016 he completed one of the hallmark projects of his career when he restored the old Hotel Syracuse. It reopened in August 2016 as the Marriott Syracuse Downtown.

 

Janet H. Riley, ‘74

  • Major: Nursing
  • Profession: Registered Nurse
  • High School: Bishop Ludden, class of 1972

Riley was a Registered Nurse at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital, a Triage Nurse at Syracuse University Health Center, and held several nursing and management positions at SUNY Upstate Health & Science Center prior to her retirement.

Earlier in the day the honorees spent time with current students enrolled in the majors in which the alumni earned degrees. They told students about their journey from the OCC campus to where they are today, offered career advice and answered questions.

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In conjunction with the Alumni Faces being on campus the College announced a new initiative, “The OCC Effect.” We’re asking former students to share their stories with the tens of thousands of people who make up the OCC community. If you attended OCC please take a moment, visit our alumni web page and let us know how your time at OCC impacted your life. Your story is a significant part of OCC’s story which began more than a half-century ago when we first opened our doors in 1961. We’re proud our middle name is “community” and we’d love to hear about OCC’s effect on you. We’ve assembled a few stories about our alumni which we hope will inspire you to share your story with us.

2017 Alumni Face Honoree John “JD” DelVecchio, ’79

OCC alumnus John “JD” DelVecchio (far left) is an Emmy award-winning director of sports on television.

Onondaga Community College annually recognizes distinguished graduates by naming them “Alumni Faces” for their accomplishments and contributions to the community. The 2017 class will be honored during a ceremony November 1 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 John “JD” DelVecchio.

“15 seconds to air.”

“Stand by all cameras.”

“Stand by video tape.”

“Stand by slo mo.”

“Stand by to roll video tape in five.”

“And roll tape!”

“Five, four, three, two, one.”

“Take tape!”

When John “JD” DelVecchio was growing up in Syracuse those were the words that inspired him. They were commands being given by a television sports director to his crew. When viewers tuned in to Monday Night Football in the 1960s and 70s, the beginning of every telecast included those words coupled with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a broadcast production truck. “I remember being 10 years old watching that and thinking it was the coolest thing,” said DelVecchio. “I decided I wanted to become a ‘TV guy.’” Today DelVecchio is one of the best “TV guys” in the business. He’s an Emmy award winning director who has overseen coverage of some of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Vincent Spadafora, '73

Vincent “Vinny” Spadafora, ’73

During DelVecchio’s senior year at Syracuse’s Corcoran High School he applied to several colleges. When he visited OCC and was given a tour by a professor in the Radio & TV major, he knew it was the perfect fit for him. “Vinny Spadafora took me around and showed me I could get my hands on the equipment and begin learning right away. I was pulled in immediately.”

DelVecchio started taking classes at OCC in the fall of 1977 and knew he had made the right choice. “I loved it there. Vinny Spadafora and (professors) Cathy Hawkins and Robert Gaurnier were very honest and open and really great teachers. They related to us and it made a big difference.”

The hands-on experience promised during his visit turned out to be true. “The first week in radio classes we were learning how to edit tape and mixing turntables. Instead of spending our first year in a book we were working. Getting involved right away really hooked us.”

DelVecchio stayed busy outside of class as well. “I got involved in the college radio station, calling play-by-play of basketball games.” He would also shadow Spadafora who often broadcast high school basketball games on the radio. “We loved to go with him, watch him set up, work with him and learn from him.” DelVecchio also found opportunities working on telecasts of a local minor league football team, the Syracuse Aces.

DelVecchio graduated from OCC in 1979 and transferred to SUNY Fredonia where he would earn a bachelor’s degree two years later. DelVecchio returned to Syracuse, spent a year working in production at WTVH TV in Syracuse, then moved to New York City for a position with the brand new Satellite News Channel. That job would evaporate when CNN bought out Satellite News Channel after only one year in business.

As quickly as one door closed, another opened which would provide a lifetime of memories. DelVecchio was hired at NBC Television as an audio engineer. “I remember my first day there they put 10 of us on a subway and sent us to Brooklyn where we had to set up a stage for a show Bill Cosby was going to do. I remember running cables through rafters and doing whatever needed to be done.” The stage they built turned into the home of one of television’s most popular situation comedies, “The Cosby Show.” DelVecchio worked on some of the first episodes.

DelVecchio was also a part of Saturday Night Live throughout the 1984-85 season. The show had just lost its biggest cast member, Eddie Murphy, at the end of the previous season. Murphy would return several times to guest host. Regular cast members that season included Jim Belushi, Billy Crystal, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Christopher Guest and Martin Short. During his time at NBC he also worked on the Today Show and the David Letterman Show.

DelVecchio (left) with golf legends Jack Nicklaus (center) and Lee Trevino (right).

In 1985 DelVecchio got his foot in the door in the world of sports and has been there ever since. He was hired by a company now known as PGA (Professional Golf Association) Tour Productions as a videotape editor. “I always loved golf dating back to when I was on the Corcoran High School golf team.  I didn’t set out with the goal of being in golf but when I got the opportunity I loved it.”

DelVecchio has been a director for ESPN and ABC’s golf coverage since the early 1990s. His first live lead directing opportunity came in 1994 when Tiger Woods won his first U.S. Amateur Championship at the Tournament Players Club in Ponte Vedra, Florida. DelVecchio also directs more than 20 events annually for NBC and the Golf Channel including the NCAA Golf Championships, the Solheim Cup and various major championships. “The structure of how golf is done can be very challenging. At any moment, you can have 30 golfers taking shots. It’s a challenge to capture everything that’s going on all at once and I enjoy it.” DelVecchio’s next high-profile challenge will come in July when he is the lead director at the British Open in St. Andrews.

While golf has been the constant on his resume for the last 30 years he’s also directed coverage of several other sports. DelVecchio won an Emmy Award for his work at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. He’s also been a regular on the college football scene, directing numerous primetime games on ABC and bowl games. DelVecchio owns the distinction of broadcasting the two longest games in college football history, the longest of which lasted seven overtimes. “It was amazing and ultimately very tiring. In the moment, the adrenaline gets you through it.”

While directing college football telecasts DelVecchio (left) worked with former Miami quarterback Gino Toretta (center) and former Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson (right).

With the growth of cable and the exponential increase in the number of channels, longer work days have become part of the job. “When I started doing golf we’d be on for two hours. Now with the cable networks we are on for eight or nine hours. You get breaks within that time but it’s a long day. The excitement of the moments and the adrenaline that kicks in really carries you through. It’s as close to being on a team as we experience.”

Working long hours and traveling constantly with two children (daughter Jessica and son Alex) and his wife, Kathleen can be challenging. DelVecchio stays connected and involved in their sports at home and continues to manage Alex’s Travel Ice Hockey teams. Father and son also bond an old fashioned way. “We collect sports trading cards just like I did when I was a kid. It’s something we talk about regularly and it has really kept the fan in me alive.”

Throughout his decades in an ever-changing industry DelVecchio has lived by basic principles which are as relevant today as they were when he was hired for his first job in 1981:

  • Make the best of every opportunity every time you get one. The opportunities to be judged and move up are few and far between.
  • The broadcasting industry is a very small world. The person working for you this week may be your boss two years down the road.

Discussions about career growth and advice for future students inevitably bring DelVecchio back to his time at OCC. “We had a very close group when I was there and many of us still stay in touch to this day and are working in the industry. We are very fortunate to have had such a talented group.” As for DelVecchio’s own success it all comes back to Spadafora whom he met when he visited OCC. “I give Vinny a lot of credit for where I wound up. He was a good friend. I miss him.”

Spadafora passed away in a car accident in March 2013. OCC’s Foundation has set up a scholarship in his honor.

Alumni Faces Class of 2017

The etchings of Alumni Faces honorees are on display in the Academic II Building (above) and the Gordon Student Center.

Five former students have been named 2017 “Alumni Faces” honorees for their professional achievements and contributions to the college and the community. They will be honored for their accomplishments during an induction ceremony Wednesday, November 1 at 5:30 p.m. in the Academic II building’s Recital Hall. The honorees are:

 

DelVecchio

John D. “JD” DelVecchio, ‘79

  • Major: Radio & Television (now Electronic Media Communications)
  • Profession: Television Director for live sports events
  • High School: Corcoran, class of 1977

JD DelVecchio is an Emmy award-winning television sports director who has overseen coverage of some of the world’s biggest sporting events. Today he works for the Golf Channel. His resume includes Olympic Games, College Football, Saturday Night Live, David Letterman and the Cosby Show.

 

Hunter

Deirdre N. Hunter, Ph.D., ‘02

  • Major: Engineering Science
  • Profession: Professor of Engineering
  • High School: Jersey Village High School in Houston, class of 1998

Dr. Deirdre Hunter fell in love with science and engineering while working on cars with her father in his auto repair business. She earned degrees from OCC, Syracuse University and Virginia Tech. She was one of the few women in her educational field and received many accolades for her research. Today she is a Lecturer of Engineering Design at Rice University in Houston.

 

Ngwashi

Marthe Ngwashi, Esq., ‘03

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Profession: Lawyer
  • High School: Nottingham High School, class of 1994

After earning her associate degree at OCC and her bachelor’s at SUNY Empire State College, Marthe Ngwashi worked in the State Attorney General’s Office where co-workers encouraged her to pursue a law degree. She took their advice and today practices law in her firm, Ngwashi & Associates PLLC in Buffalo.

 

Riley

Edward M. Riley

  • Major: Architectural Technology
  • Profession: Developer
  • High School: Christian Brothers Academy, class of 1972

Ed Riley is a nationally renowned developer. In 2016 he completed one of the hallmark projects of his career when he restored the old Hotel Syracuse. It reopened in August 2016 as the Marriott Syracuse Downtown.

 

Riley

Janet H. Riley, ‘74

  • Major: Nursing
  • Profession: Registered Nurse
  • High School: Bishop Ludden, class of 1972

Janet Riley was a Registered Nurse at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital, a Triage Nurse at Syracuse University Health Center and held several nursing and management positions at SUNY Upstate Health & Science Center prior to her retirement.

Congratulations to our Class of 2017! You can see a list of Alumni Faces honorees here.

Dunya & Midia Shaalan

Dunya (left) and Midia (right) Shaalan are natives of Iraq. They became United States citizens in August.

 

Dunya and Midia Shaalan have come a long way since March 20, 2003, the night their lives changed forever. They were small children living in Baghdad, Iraq when the quiet, overnight hours were interrupted by the United States bombing their home city. “We hid in the bathroom for an entire day,” remembered Midia. “My brother was just one week old,” added Dunya. “Our whole family stayed in the bathroom. It was the only room in our house without a window.”

Two years later their family would move to Syria. In 2009 the Shaalan’s applied to come to the United States. In 2012, as civil war was breaking out in Syria, the Shaalan’s were granted permission to move to America. By that time, they were a family of seven. “It was very hard when we first arrived,” said Dunya. “We didn’t know anyone and we didn’t speak English. At first all we knew how to say was ‘yes,’ ‘no’ and ‘thank you.’”

Dunya (pronounced DOON-ya) had attended high school in Syria. Midia (pronounced MEE-dee-uh) was two years younger and would go to Syracuse’s Corcoran High School, graduating in 2015. That fall both sisters started taking classes at OCC. They quickly immersed themselves in the campus community, receiving assistance from the Educational Opportunity Program, the Collegiate Science Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program along with OnPoint for College. Both worked tirelessly and became outstanding students. Dunya was inducted into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). Midia will be joining PTK this semester. “We are very proud of ourselves,” said Dunia. We have had to work so hard to improve ourselves and get where we are.”

High academic honors are just the beginning for the Shaalan’s. Last month they were sworn-in as American citizens. Next May, Midia will earn her degree in Architectural Technology. Dunya will complete work toward her Interior Design degree in December 2018. Both feel fortunate they came to college here. “OCC gives you a really good opportunity. I have really loved the experience,” said Midia. “Your life is like a building. OCC gives you a really good foundation so you will be prepared wherever you go next,” said Dunia.

Husband and Wife Graduate Together

Yajha (center left) and Deyquan (center right) Bowens received their college degrees together in May 2017. They are pictured on campus with their daughter, Ahjay (left) and their son, Deyquan Jr (right).

They’ve been inseparable for 15 years. Now Yajha and Deyquan Bowens have earned their college degrees together. They met in church, became high school sweethearts, married and started a family. On May 13, 2017 they received their college degrees during OCC’s 54th commencement ceremony. “I consider this associate degree to be like a master’s. This is what I set out to do and I’m finishing what I started,” said Dayquan. “I know some people think, ’it’s just an associate degree.’ I’m treating it like it’s top notch. It was a struggle for both of us,” said Yajha.

Religion brought Yajha and Deyquan together. They met at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church on Oakwood Avenue and began dating in 2002. They continued dating through high school despite attending different schools. Yajha graduated from Nottingham in 2006, Deyquan from Corcoran the same year. That fall both began taking classes at OCC.

The Bowens are interviewed by CNY Central TV prior to commencement.

When it was time to choose a major Deyquan struggled with conflicting advice from his parents. “My dad encouraged me to do what I wanted to do but my mom wanted me to, ‘do something that made money.’” Deyquan took his mother’s advice and chose Computer Engineering. “It wasn’t my passion and I couldn’t stay focused.” He flunked out, then tried what his father suggested. Deyquan had played music his entire life. He followed his heart into OCC’s Music major with a specialization in Piano. He loved it but by that time had lost financial aid and needed to take classes part-time.

Yajha faced similar struggles. She too lost financial aid and had to become a part-time student while making ends meet. She would eventually earn an Early Childhood certificate in 2009, then decided to pursue a degree in Human Services. “The major would allow me to do what I like and work with children. With marriage and children and life I wound up being in school longer than expected.”

As they continued pursuing degrees Deyquan and Yajha married in 2012. One year later they started their family. Today Deyquan Jr. is 4 and Ahjay is 1. As Deyquan and Yajha have worked toward their degrees they have also established themselves in the community. Deyquan owns his own business, Kue Music and Entertainment and also teaches Gospel Choir at SUNY Cortland. Yajha is in her third year teaching a class titled “Building Women” to 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Lincoln Middle School.

Deyquan and Yajha have an appreciation for what they’ve accomplished together and the people they have become. “I’m much more mature now than when I started. I took financial aid and life for granted. Now I’m more focused than I’ve ever been. For us it was good to go to college as long as we did and later in life,” said Deyquan. “It’s important we finish to show our kids although you have stumbling blocks you can still be successful,” said Yajha. “You shouldn’t let anything stop you. Persevere!”

On the night of commencement CNY Central aired a story on the Bowens in its evening news. You can view the story here.

Book of Dreams: London Ladd ‘95

Ladd in front of is Alumni Face Plaque in Academic II Building.
Ladd in front of is Alumni Face Plaque in Academic II Building.

Acclaimed children’s book illustrator, London Ladd’s latest book Waiting For Pumpsie coincides perfectly with the start of the Major League Baseball season and is something he is very excited about. For Ladd, who graduated from OCC in 1995, this project was quite different from his previous five books, which was very refreshing. “The book is less historical in nature and is strictly told through the eyes of an eight-year old fan, which challenged me in a fun way as it was a point of view I had not dealt with before.”

waiting-for-pumpsie-232x300Waiting For Pumpsie chronicles the story of a young boy and his family, who are avid Boston Red Sox fans, and the joy that follows as their team becomes the last major league franchise to integrate by calling up Elijah “Pumpsie” Green in 1959.  However, for Ladd, getting the expressions of the child and his family were not the only challenges. “As baseball fans know, Fenway Park has undergone several renovations over its lifetime, so getting accurate images of that era to make sure the history of the team was a critical component.”

The book is available for purchase today at bookstores and online and is something Ladd hopes is a sense of nostalgia for the whole family. “The message of the book is a child’s joy, which he shares with this father and family because there is now someone they can identify with on their favorite team, so the child can relate, but I hope it also takes adults back to a time when they were excited to be eight-years-old too.”

 

Ladd is currently working on his seventh book, Midnight Teacher, which is a story about a slave, Lily Ann Granderson, who after learning to read and write commits herself to teach others despite the harsh consequences if she were caught doing so.

Valerie Flanagan

Valerie Flanagan
Valerie Flanagan
  • High School: Corcoran, Class of 1975
  • Major @ OCC: Human Services

Valerie Flanagan spent 30 years raising her three children. Now she’s focused on her own success. This is her time. “When my youngest son left the house I finally had some time to think about what I wanted to. Giving back to the community has always been important to me.”

Flanagan had started college four decades earlier. After graduating from Corcoran High School in 1975 she attended Spelman College in Atlanta. She was a year away from earning her degree when life happened. She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. “Once I had my son I had to start working and paying bills. School wasn’t an option. My hands were full.”

Flanagan eventually returned to Central New York with her two youngest children due to her mother’s health. Three years ago her youngest son enrolled in Syracuse University giving Flanagan the time and freedom to think about continuing her education.

In 2015 Flanagan made the decision to come to OCC. Her daughter was attending OCC and has since earned her degree. Flanagan received assistance from the OCC Foundation when she was awarded the Gifford Scholarship. It is funded by the Rosamond Gifford Charitable Foundation and helps students from underrepresented backgrounds. “The scholarship was really big for me. It removed a lot of the financial burden. It also motivated me. Knowing that someone believed in me made me say to myself, ‘You can do this!’”

Flanagan’s dream of helping others led her to the Human Services major where she has found a home. “Professor Tina May has been wonderful. I have a good rapport with her and all of my professors. They have so much information to share and I’m happy to receive it.” Flanagan has been an outstanding student and was recently inducted into the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

Outside class Flanagan works full-time and is also co-director of Junior Frontiers of Mohawk Valley, an organization which mentors students in both Syracuse and Utica throughout their high school years and prepares them for college. “We help them in the areas of academic preparation, when to take standardized tests, public speaking, college tours and individual guidance through college, financial aid and the scholarship application process. The whole process can be daunting.” One of their recent success stories is Chidera Joseph, a 2016 OCC graduate who is now a student at Cornell University.

Flanagan’s goal is to get her master’s degree and set up programs which will mentor teenage moms. “I know I was 23 when I had my oldest son and it was challenging for me even at that age. As a teenager it has to be overwhelming. If you can help the mom it’s going to help the child. If you can help the child it’s going to help the community.”

Flanagan will earn her degree from OCC this May.

We are the Champions… Again!

OCC's winning team in the New York Beef Council's Veal Culinary Tour and Competition (left to right): Chris Sheppard, Brandon Clary, Chef Deb Schneider, Alex Courgi and Lexi LaFountain.
OCC’s winning team in the New York Beef Council’s Veal Culinary Tour and Competition (left to right): Chris Sheppard, Brandon Clary, Chef Deb Schneider, Alex Courgi and Lexi LaFountain.

Somewhere an engraver is getting used to putting the words “Onondaga Community College” and “Champion” on cooking competition plaques. In November, four students enrolled in the Hospitality Management major traveled to Canandaigua and earned first place honors in the New York Beef Council’s Veal Culinary Tour and Competition. “We’re just really proud,” said OCC faculty member and Chef Deb Schneider. “It’s a great accomplishment for our students and our program.”

cropped-hospitality-management-winners-002Student teams from OCC’s Hospitality Management major have made a habit of winning these competitions. In each of the last three years during the month of May, students have earned first place honors in the Beef Farm Tour and Culinary Competition. Those were also held in Canandaigua.

Planning and preparation for this November’s competition began shortly after the start of the fall semester. Four students were selected to compete: Brandon Clary (Oswego H.S.), Alex Courgi (Fayetteville-Manlius (H.S.), Lexi LaFountain (Town of Webb H.S. in Old Forge) and Chris Sheppard (Corcoran H.S.).

College teams would be required to make veal schnitzel sliders while using only six ingredients. There were limits to which items could be used, also known as the “market basket.” “We got around it by making our own,” said Schneider. “Instead of taking sauerkraut out of a can we made our own and added caraway to it to give it more flavor. We made our own mustard and added beer to it which was part of the recipe.” The sauerkraut and beer each took four weeks to make. Students also made slider rolls.

In the months leading up to the competition students gathered regularly to practice making their recipes. “We worked on this every Monday for the past two months to make it really good,” said LaFountain. “Through our practice we’d done this enough times so we knew what we were doing,” added Clary.

By the time the competition began OCC’s team was ready. They were competing against five other colleges: Alfred State, SUNY Cobleskill, Erie Community College, Finger Lakes Community College and Morrisville State College. OCC won first place! “It was really fun… It was a very exciting experience for all of us,” said Shepard. OCC’s team was presented with a check for $2,000 which was split evenly between the four students.

The event also included lectures, presentations and tours of a veal producer and Noblehurst Farms, a dairy farm in western New York. It was quite an experience for students like Courgi. “I had never been on a dairy farm. It was very interesting to see the whole process and how things work.”

Congratulations to OCC’s team! You can watch a video produced by the New York Beef Council here.

OCC's team poses for a photo with the ceremonial check after earning first place honors.
OCC’s team poses for a photo with the ceremonial check after earning first place honors.

Michael J. Phelps

Michael J. Phelps
Michael J. Phelps
  • High School: Corcoran, Class of 2005
  • Major: Electronic Media Communications with a focus on television and video production

Michael J. Phelps came to Onondaga Community College to pay tribute to his mother’s memory. Kimberly Lethbridge spent many years taking classes at OCC. During her time on campus she was a member of the Student Association. She finally earned a degree in Human Services in the spring of 2010. Three months later she passed away. Today Phelps is also an officer in the Student Association and an outstanding student. “Graduating from this college and participating in leadership positions is in homage to her. It’s a way to honor everything she did to help me become the person I am,” said Phelps.

Phelps took a non-traditional path to OCC. After graduating from high school he joined the United States Army. During his six years as a human resources specialist Phelps visited nearly 30 countries. “Getting to see the parts of the world I saw helped me grow as a person. I wish everyone would have the opportunity to spend a year studying abroad, understand how the world works and think more globally.”

Phelps enrolled at OCC in 2013 as a Math & Science major. He struggled and decided to take time away from higher education. He returned in 2015, became an Electronic Media Communications (EMC) major and earned Provost List honors. “I found a curriculum I could relate to and excel at and it made all the difference. The EMC major here is phenomenal. The talent pool in the faculty is amazing.”

cropped-michael-j-phelps-at-bulletin-board
Phelps’ keeps bulletin boards updated across campus.

Outside class Phelps is very involved in campus. As the Student Association’s Vice President of Media he crisscrosses campus weekly, putting the latest posters highlighting college activities on bulletin boards. Phelps is also a member of the Entertainment Planning Board, the College Leadership Committee, the Diversity Council and a participating member in the Diversity Circle.

Being an officer on the Student Association affords Phelps the opportunity to meet once a month with College President Dr. Casey Crabill and discuss what’s happening on campus. “She really wants to relate to the student body and understand issues students face. She’s a one stop shop for fixing those issues. She’s an advocate for the student body.”

There was a time in Phelps’ life when socializing with and representing others didn’t seem possible. He’s a high-functioning autistic student who found the assistance he needed at the College’s Office of Accessibility Resources. “Daneen Brooks is a phenomenal caseworker. She’s a big reason why I’m successful on campus. As a student officer I’m able to interact with others. It’s made a big difference and helped me grow as a person.”

Phelps will earn his degree in May 2017. He plans to transfer to a four-year college and pursue a film-related degree.