Criminal Justice majors in Professor Donna Stuccio’s Law Enforcement Process (CRJ 226) course had the opportunity to learn from the voices of experience when they were joined in class by four retired police officers with more than 100 years of combined service. “Their collective wisdom was extremely valuable to my students as they work to learn about how police officers move through the challenges of the profession of law enforcement and the impact their careers had on them,” said Professor Stuccio.
The four retired officers who spent time with the class were:
Loretta Arlotta, 21 years with the Syracuse Police Department
Gail Barella, 32 years with the Geddes Police Department
Tracey Johnson, 26 years with the Syracuse Police Department
Becky Thompson, 32 years with the Syracuse Police Department
They spoke with the class as a whole, then broke up into smaller groups for question and answer sessions. “I wanted students to gather information about their careers, their decision to become an officer and the impact of that decision on their lives,” said Professor Stuccio.
Tracey Johnson shared with students her story of enrolling at OCC after graduating from Westhill High School. “I came for accounting because I was very good at math. When I got here I saw posters all over the place. They were looking for minorities and women to be police officers. I decided to do it. I saw what was happening here and it looked interesting.”
After earning a degree in Business Administration Johnson pursued a career in law enforcement and became a Syracuse Police Officer. During her 26 year tenure she regularly patrolled the west side of the city and specialized in interviewing children who had been involved in traumatic events. Johnson shared numerous stories with students from her career. She also explained to them the value of communicating with people. “90 percent of police work is talking people down. People are elevated and irritated. It’s better to listen to them and have them listen to you.”
“I hope that my students grasped how incredibly dedicated and brave these women were and still are,” said Professor Stuccio who is also a former Syracuse, North Syracuse and Cicero police officer. “The sacrifices they made for their community can never be underestimated. Their incredible willingness to share their lives with students is part of their continued commitment to our community.”
Brittney Hickey is working non-stop to achieve her career goals. She’s raising two children, working nights at the Elmcrest Children’s Center and is a full-time student in OCC’s Criminal Justice major. Earlier this week she was rewarded with a visit from Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway who presented her with the New York State Sheriff’s Association’s annual scholarship.
Hickey has a background in law enforcement. She previously worked as a corrections officer in North Carolina. The experience was eye-opening. “I didn’t like the way corrections officers and staff were treating the people there. Even though they are inmates, they’re still human beings and I have morals. I thought, ‘I can actually help people when they get out of this situation if they’re willing to push for it.’”
Based on her experience, Hickey decided she wanted to become a probation officer and enrolled in OCC’s Criminal Justice major in the spring of 2017. After a year on campus she’s convinced she made the right choice. “The teachers here make it easy to understand things. They have a level of experience which really helps them teach you.”
Criminal Justice Professor Jessica Field says Hickey is very deserving of the scholarship. “She is a great student who is focused on her career goal. She is an extremely hard worker who puts her education right up there with work and raising her two children. Without a doubt, she will succeed in the criminal justice field.”
Hickey says she will use the money from the New York State Sheriff’s Association’s scholarship to pay for her classes this summer. Her goal is to earn her degree in May 2019.
Sandy Klinzman has a simple message for all students at OCC. “Get involved! Everything you do on campus can impact your life. There are so many opportunities. If you want something changed, change it!” Klinzman is leading by example. She’s President of the Student Association which provides programming and services to students across campus. Being a student leader is something which seemed unimaginable to her not long ago.
In 1997 Klinzman dropped out of Marcellus High School. She chose to earn her GED rather than keep attending school. By her own admission she was going through a selfish phase which would set her back many years.
Two years later Klinzman became a mom. As her daughter became school-aged Klinzman started considering her own education. “I started to think, ‘I should probably set a good example for her. I wanted her to know if you decide not to go to college right after high school it’s not the end of the world. It’s never too late to go back and make something of yourself.”
Klinzman began taking classes at OCC in 2013. She was a Humanities major focused on getting her education and little else. “When I first started here I had tunnel vision. I didn’t make any friends. I didn’t interact with many people. I took my classes and I left.”
Her love of crime-related television shows would ultimately change everything. Klinzman took a Criminal Justice class, enjoyed it and decided to join the Criminal Justice Club on campus. Thanks to the encouragement of Professors Jessica Field and Peter Patnode she took a leadership position in the organization. “I started interacting with people and doing more things on campus.”
It was Patnode who ultimately convinced Klinzman to pursue the position of Student Association President. His confidence in her is something she will be eternally grateful for. “He told me I would be a great fit and I really appreciate that. He and Professor Field made me feel comfortable and made me feel the Criminal Justice major would be right for me. They are so ‘all about the students.’”
Twenty years after dropping out high school Klinzman will earn her associate degree this May. Her daughter, Sklyer Thorpe is now a junior at Marcellus who studies Cosmetology at OCM BOCES. She plans to attend OCC and pursue a Business degree. Her mother’s decision to go to college and get involved has made a difference. “If I hadn’t taken that one Criminal Justice class I would have never gotten into the field I’m interested in getting into now. It’s so important to interact with people. This is your college experience. Make the most of it because this experience doesn’t come to everybody. It’s an opportunity not to be wasted.”
Seyam Omery plans to spend his professional life protecting and serving citizens. Omery is an international student from Afghanistan who grew up in a military family. A career in law enforcement has always been his goal. “My father is in the Air Force in Afghanistan,” he said. “There is nothing better I can do than to enforce the law and protect the community.”
Omery has thrived in the College’s Criminal Justice major. He credits his instructors with his success. “The professors go above and beyond to help you learn what you need to know. Professors (Jessica) Field and (Pete) Patnode are the best. I really appreciate all of their hard work.”
Omery is on track to graduate in May 2016. His goal is to enter law enforcement with the Syracuse Police and eventually work with the Federal Government. “I speak seven languages. I believe I can help at the federal level one day.”
Bright, shiny pinwheels reflecting in the sun filled part of the quad in front of Ferrante and Mawhinney Halls. The pinwheels were placed there by children who attend OCC’s Children’s Learning Center as part of “Pinwheels for Prevention.” The event was held Monday, April 13 in conjunction with Syracuse’s McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center. The goal of the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign is to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect, as well as to increase the community’s ability to protect children through child abuse prevention and education. Students enrolled in the College’s Criminal Justice major also participated in the event, helping children place pinwheels in the ground.
Criminal Justice major Eric Watson is the 2015 recipient of the New York State Sheriff’s Association’s annual scholarship. Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway presented Watson with a $250 check February 18 in Mawhinney Hall.
Watson is a 34-year-old Syracuse native who attended Fowler High School. He spent 10 years working as an auto mechanic but realized he needed a change. “My heart was never really in it. My grandfather was a firefighter in Solvay for most of his life and I was always interested in some sort of public service,” Watson said.
Since arriving at OCC he has thrived in the Criminal Justice major. “Coming here has reaffirmed I made the right decision and makes me want this career even more,” said Watson. “Eric is a great student. He has a great GPA and we are very happy and excited for him,” said Criminal Justice Professor Jessica Field who oversees the scholarship program.
The need-based scholarship is awarded to the student who writes the best essay explaining why he or she needs the money and what they would do with it. Watson is putting a portion of the money toward paying the registration fee for an upcoming police exam. The age cut off for the exam is 35. It’s his one and only chance to pass it. Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway views Watson’s age as a strength. “Sometimes the officers who start later wind up being among the best officers because of the level of maturity they bring to the job,” said Conway.
Watson is on track to graduate in December 2015. He’s hoping to do an internship with a law enforcement agency this summer. His career goal is to become a probation officer. “I want to help people who are transitioning back into society,” he said.
Kari Quinn is proud to be an OCC alumna and she has the gifts to prove it! Quinn visited the alumni web site, filled out an alumni profile form which simultaneously entered her into a drawing for an OCC Prize Pack, and was surprised to find out she had won. “When I got the call I couldn’t believe it. I never win anything!”
Quinn came to the College and collected her winnings which included a NOOK e-reader, a sweatshirt, OCC pens and a water bottle. All of the prizes are sold at OCC’s Barnes & Noble Bookstore.
Quinn graduated from OCC in May 2014 with a degree in Criminal Justice. If you are a former OCC student we would love to hear from you. Visit our alumni web site, update your profile and perhaps you will be our next big winner!
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