A Gap Year Filled with Learning

Jenn DeRosa, ’16 has spent the last year working at Ichor Therapeutics in LaFayette. In the fall she’ll transfer to Cornell University.

Jenn DeRosa has taken a year off school but her education hasn’t stopped. She’s spent the last year doing research at Ichor Therapeutics in LaFayette, a pre-clinical biotechnology company which focuses on therapeutic inventions for age-related diseases. A grant from the Methusaleh Foundation has supported her work. “It’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve changed a lot and grown in the last year being here.”

Just two years ago DeRosa was Valedictorian of her graduating class at Skaneateles High School. In 2016 she earned a Mathematics & Science degree with a honors minor from OCC. During her final semester on campus the College’s Career Center helped DeRosa find an internship at Ichor. She loved the experience. When the Methusaleh Foundation offered her a grant, she jumped at the opportunity to stay at Ichor for an entire year.

DeRosa’s work has focused on a macular degeneration program. She and fellow researchers have come up with an enzyme treatment which they are in the process of patenting. DeRosa is listed as the co-inventor.

Her Ichor experience has added a level of understanding to DeRosa’s knowledge which she could not have learned in a classroom. “When people here have big ideas I sit in on the thought processes, reduce it to practices and go through the work flow. I’ll be going back to school to become a ‘thinker’ as well so I’ll understand how both sides operate.”

In the fall DeRosa will resume pursuit of her bachelor’s degree at Cornell where she will major in Chemistry and Chemical Biology. She’s convinced her year at Ichor was exactly what she needed. “Working at Ichor during my last semester at OCC, I started to realize just how much I didn’t know. To be able to work here, learn so much and actually contribute, I don’t think I could have imagined things going any better.”


Jenn DeRosa

TOP OF STORY Jenn DeRosa 2016 commencement poster pic

In June of 2015 Jenn DeRosa was named Valedictorian at Skaneateles High School. Less than one year later she’ll earn a degree from OCC. When she leaves campus she’ll be on a different career path than she had planned.

“I came here set on being a pre-med student,” DeRosa said. “I wanted to major in biochemistry and do all of the prerequisites for medical school.” During her first semester DeRosa went to the College’s Career and Applied Learning Center and signed up to volunteer at a hospital. “I realized the atmosphere in a hospital wasn’t right for me. It made me rethink what I wanted to do.”

At the same time DeRosa was working on an Honors project with Chemistry Professor Doug Hagrman which focused on utilizing a High Performance Liquid Chromatography machine. Her fascination with chemistry blossomed into an internship with a research lab, Ichor Therapeutics on Route 11 in Lafayette. “The class and everything I was working on changed my future.”

DeRosa is now focused on a career in Chemical Engineering. She built the foundation for it at OCC where she’s a Mathematics and Science major with an Honors minor. Her outstanding classwork led to her induction into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

DeRosa is the second high-achieving member of her family to attend OCC. Her older sister Stephanie was Skaneateles High School’s Class of 2013 Salutatorian. Stephanie earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average in OCC’s Engineering Science major and is now at the University of California at Berkeley pursuing a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. Stephanie and Jenn’s father graduated from a community college and always told his daughters, “You get a great bang for your buck at a community college and you pay the least for it.”

As Jenn completes her second and final semester at OCC she’s grateful for the opportunities she found on campus. “All of the people here were so willing to lead you in the direction you wanted to go in. I came here with so many expectations and they were more than filled. I’m so excited I got to experience my life here first, otherwise I’m not sure where I would be.”

Grainger Sasso

TOP OF STORY Grainger SassoGrainger Sasso is on the fast track to success. When he graduated from West Genesee High School in June 2015 he had already accumulated 38 college credits through a combination of AP classes and OCC’s College Credit Now program. The strong foundation he built in high school will lead to a degree from OCC in just one year.

Sasso is majoring in Mathematics and Science and is in the College’s Honors program. He’s tailored his academic schedule to go along with Cornell University’s Biomedical Engineering program which he’ll transfer into for the fall 2016 semester. It requires several high-level classes which he’s been able to excel at here thanks to the great learning environment he’s found on campus. “What has blown me away is the dynamic between professors and students. I’m amazed at my professors’ caliber of qualification, their teaching styles and their effectiveness in the classroom. I’m taking some difficult classes, especially in mathematics. These teachers have made it so easy for me with their support outside of class.”

In November Sasso was inducted into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. He also began a valuable internship coordinated through the College’s Career and Applied Learning Center. Sasso is working at a research lab, Ichor Therapeutics which is located on Route 11 in Lafayette. He’s getting hands-on experience with diagnostic machinery and learning basic procedures for toxicity tests. His internship will go through the spring semester and into the summer.

Sasso’s commitments outside class include working as a Student Ambassador, giving tours to prospective students and their families. In the spring he’ll be especially busy as a member of OCC’s Men’s Lacrosse team. Sasso played two years of varsity lacrosse at West Genesee and hopes to earn a national championship ring with the Lazers. OCC has won seven consecutive national titles, nine in the last 10 years and owns an active 105 game winning streak. Sasso plans to continue playing lacrosse at Cornell as well.