A conversation Quentin Curry had with his father more than a decade ago set him on his career path. “He saw the engineering field growing and knew math and science would be very important in the future. He told me I needed to be ahead of the curve. Through the years he would keep talking about it and I would keep seeing what was happening.”
Curry had a “C” average through high school but believed he could be a better student. He decided to come to OCC and see what he was capable of. “I knew I needed to get myself together. I wasn’t going to go somewhere and pay too much money.”
Curry spent his first year commuting to campus. He struggled initially but survived. As his sophomore year approached, Curry made the decision to move into a residence hall and be part of the STEM Living Learning Community. His grades improved as he continued his steady diet of math and science classes. “When I started here I wasn’t as put together as I am now. I’m more organized now.”
Curry found an inspirational professor in Garth Tyszka who he took Calculus I and II from. “He’s so passionate, very straightforward and intelligent. He really enjoys talking about what he teaches. He wants to keep everyone engaged and can answer every detailed question we ask. He has made me push myself.”
In the fall Curry plans to enroll at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany where he will pursue a degree in nanoscience. His goal is to become a scientist doing bio-related research.
Chidera Joseph came to the United States from her native Nigeria when she was adopted by her aunt. She went through the Jamesville-Dewitt school system and when it came to graduate only one thing was one her mind. “I just wanted to get away from Syracuse because I was having all of these different feelings and felt getting away would help solve all of those issues.” However, Joseph’s aunt, Anthonia Joseph, resisted her impulse and implored her to think about attending a college more local, particularly OCC. “My eventual decision to go to OCC was not mine, it was my aunt’s, because she knew a simple move was not going to be cure all and would in fact only add to my struggles.”
She arrived at OCC in 2014 with the sole intent of coming for one year and then transferring, so her first year only involved her to go to class, work and then back home. When her grades came in her aunt knew she could do better and told her she would need to finish her degree before transferring. It was during her second year, where she began to have a change of heart which in turn led to her transformation. “During my second year I made more of an effort to get involved and I was really surprised on windfall of opportunities that came my way because of it, which totally reversed my initial thought process about attending OCC.”
Joseph would get involved in student government, become a calculus tutor, and participated in the campus’ Race and Ethnicity Conversation Circles and join OCC’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP). With her new found energy and interest came a windfall of opportunities from a host of campus employees, including President Dr. Casey Crabill, which drove her to reach further and dream bigger. “Dr. Crabill, Professor Jerry Farnett, Professor Eunice Williams and Mr. Drake Harrison all had a tremendous impact on my second half success at OCC and during my transfer process to Cornell University. I came calling to their respective doors many times for a multitude of reasons and never once was I turned away.”
She is currently on track to graduate this December with a Communications degree with a focus on pre-law. Recently, Joseph had her honors topic selected, which is a highly competitive feat, so she will be researching and writing her thesis on The Effect of Media on Black Youth in the School to Prison Pipeline. After she completes her studies she plans on attending law school with a focus on family law so that she can dedicate her expertise towards children and women. Ironically, after becoming an attorney her dream is to come back to Syracuse. “I want to work on the South side, and after attending OCC Syracuse will always be home to me, and I feel it is important to come back and give back in the community that invested in you.”
Onondaga Community College’s leaders paid tribute to a fallen student, presenting the family of Rasheed Baker his college degree during the Board of Trustees meeting September 26. “When we lost Rasheed the college’s heart was broken,” said OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill. “I heard from so many people on our campus stories about his incredible personality and the strength and spirit he brought to his education. We wanted to make sure we recognized his family and completed Rasheed’s education.”
Baker was shot and killed in Syracuse’s Valley neighborhood June 5, five days before his 22nd birthday. He was just seven credits away from earning his associate degree and was enrolled in summer classes at OCC. Baker was a 2014 graduate of Jamesville-DeWitt High School where he was a star football and basketball player.
During the Board of Trustees meeting Dr. Crabill presented Baker’s mother, Rasheada Caldwell with three things each student receives at commencement; a diploma, a hood which symbolizes completion and a flower to recognize someone who helped that person complete work toward their diploma.
Following the presentation Caldwell thanked the college and reflected on her son’s life. “I’m honored to be here today and accept this beautiful award for Rasheed Baker who was an amazing individual and an amazing young man who planned to do great things. He just wanted to help and love people. Rasheed always thought about others before he thought about himself. He would say, ‘Mom, how can I help this person? Mom, what can we do for this person? Mom, my sister needs this. Let’s get it for her. Mom, what are you doing for me for Christmas? Don’t do it because my friend really needs it more. Can we help that individual?’ Rasheed Baker will live forever. We have to continue to help our youth live the same way Rasheed lived. To help others, to love others, to be respectful to their parents, have faith and to do great. I’m staying strong because my faith is strong but we struggle daily because we miss him. I miss him saying, ‘Mom I love you.’ I’m gonna do right. I’m gonna do great. I’m gonna be great.’ And he did. I thank everyone in this room and I appreciate everything you have done.”
Board of Trustees Vice Chair Melanie Littlejohn is a longtime friend of Caldwell and her family. “I had the opportunity to see him as a little boy playing basketball with my children and I feel enormously fortunate to have had the opportunity to let him know how proud I was of him and all of his achievements and who he was as an individual. He will live with us forever in our spirits and in our hearts.”
Baker’s murder remains unsolved. Anyone with information is asked to call Syracuse Police at (315) 442-5222 or (315) 442-5223.
OCC students Ifrah Hassan and Sidrat Rahman enjoyed transformative learning experiences this summer. They participated in paid internships at SUNY Binghamton as part of the Bridges to Baccalaureate program. Rahman focused on chemistry, Hassan on psychology. “I loved the opportunity of being in a lab and getting real hands-on experience,” said Rahman. “I loved my research,” added Hassan. “I learned a lot about psychology and myself. Being around people from other schools made me more outgoing. I’m more confident now when it comes to engaging in conversation.”
The Bridges to Baccalaureate program supports under-represented students interested in pursuing careers in biomedical sciences. The program is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Health and is a collaboration between SUNY Binghamton and three community colleges, including OCC.
Both students have similar life and academic backgrounds. Hassan is from Kenya. She moved to the United States in 2003 and graduated from Utica’s Proctor High School in 2016. Rahman’s parents are from Bangladesh. She was raised in Montreal before coming to the United States. She graduated from Jamesville-Dewitt High School in 2016. Both are Mathematics & Science majors with Honors minors, members of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa and strong believers in the college’s Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP). “I was a little lost when I first came to OCC,” Rahman said. “Once I found the C-STEP office everything worked out. C-STEP is my family!”
During her internship Rahman worked in a lab, trying to figure out how to make a compound more soluble. “I found I really liked the process of figuring things out. Research is definitely a career I am considering now.”
Hassan found the internship also had a significant impact on her. The research she conducted focused on how ethanol impacts the brains of adults and adolescents. “More than anything I learned any part of life can be researched, not just science. Now when I have a thought about something I think, ‘I should do research on that.’ I used to be afraid of research but now I like finding answers myself.”
Hassan will earn her degree this December. During her final semester she’ll serve fellow students in the Learning Center, tutoring calculus and biology. Rahman is on track to earn her degree next May. She’s planning to work as a Student Ambassador with C-STEP throughout the academic year, sharing her success story with fellow students and guiding them. “I know people think community colleges aren’t academically challenging but OCC is. I’m glad I came here and I saved money too!”
Decision time had arrived for Celine Rahman. It was 2008 and she was about to receive her diploma from Jamesville-Dewitt High School. What would come next? She didn’t have a plan. That’s when her mother told her Onondaga Community College would be a great place to start.
Rahman took her mother’s advice, came to campus and felt at home. She was a full-time student who worked three part-time jobs. One of her jobs was at the College’s Career Center. “My time there was really helpful. The people there taught me how to explore my passions and transfer them into actual jobs. I felt very fortunate to work alongside them and to take advantage of their expertise.”
A class Rahman took with Communication Professor Katharine Rumrill-Teece wound up setting her on her career path. “The class inspired me and I learned about myself. I wound up majoring in Communication because of it.” The experience in Professor Rumrill-Teece’s class led her to start an online blog, “Cup of Rahman” in 2009. The inspiration for the name came from the similar sounding Ramen Noodles. On her blog Rahman billed herself as a millennial artist highlighting fashion and photography. “I am a child of the 90s. I would post a lot of images from that time and attach quotes to encourage women to express their feelings, to live free and not to be afraid of who they are.”
Today Cup of Rahman can also be found on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook and has its own YouTube channel. She has more than 30,000 followers. Rahman’s success has resulted in her leaving a job in New York City and returning to Syracuse to focus solely on furthering the brand and social media presence of her project. “It was not easy to leave New York. I felt if Cup of Rahman was going to be anything, I needed to dedicate the necessary time to it in order to give it a chance to succeed.”
Rahman credits her time spent at OCC with propelling her to where she is now. “I learned a lot about pursuing my passions. I learned to work hard both in school and with my craft. I am committed to seeing this through.”
OCC’s signature Music department is one of the staples of the College’s long and distinguished history and on the night of December 4 it was on display in, of all places, Johnson City, Tennessee. On the campus of East Tennessee State University students, faculty and community members were invited to a jazz series concert titled, “OCC-TECH.” The concert featured three people with Central New York connections:
Joe Riposo on alto sax. Riposo is a legendary jazz educator, performer and alto saxophonist. He is a former instructor at OCC and director of music education in the Liverpool School District for more than 30 years.
Frank Grosso on tenor sax. Grosso is a graduate of Jamesville-Dewitt High School who was taught by Riposo at OCC. Grosso spent more than a quarter-century working as a public schools music educator.
David Champouillon who directed the jazz program. Champouillon is a graduate of Cicero High School and a former student of Riposo who earned his AAS in Music in 1979 from the College. Champouillon is now the Director of Jazz Studies, Professor of Trumpet and Jazz Studies and Bach Artist/Clinician at East Tennessee State University.
“Concert attendees were treated to some of what Central New York and OCC has contributed to music and jazz throughout the years,” said Champouillon. “For me it has been almost 40 years since I have played for Joe Riposo! To get to perform for Riposo, along with long-time friend and classmate Frank Grosso, will be a cherished memory.”
Chidera Joseph dreams of returning to her home country of Nigeria and using her education to help people learn how to empower themselves. “The job of a woman there is to be pretty, get married and have children. I want to create a program that will help females at a very young age learn to own their own business and be career driven so they’ll be able to stand up for themselves and speak for themselves.”
Joseph’s inspiration is her own difficult childhood. She was orphaned at a young age by the death of her parents. In 2007 at the age of 11, Joseph moved to the United States with her brother. They were adopted by their aunt, a chemistry teacher at Nottingham who Joseph now refers to as her mother. “From the moment we arrived she told us the value of learning the English language. She bought us ‘Hooked on Phonics’ and constantly reminded us what we needed to do.”
Joseph graduated from Jamesville-Dewitt High School in 2014 and came to OCC that fall. Today she’s a Business Administration major and is on track to graduate in May 2016. She’s also involved in both the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement and in the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP). “I’ve enjoyed my time here. OCC is a really good school. You have to make the best of your opportunities. The professors here challenge you to think for yourself, analyze information and work on your critical thinking skills.”
Spend 10 minutes with Stormy Dancil and you will be amazed by what she has overcome and her outlook on life. She is as resilient and inspirational a person as you will ever meet. Dancil is a 35-year-old full-time student majoring in Nursing and Liberal Arts & Sciences. In October she was inducted into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa, a designation she achieved after recording a perfect 4.0 GPA in the spring 2015 semester. Her road to OCC has been a long and somewhat unbelievable journey. Through it all she has refused to identify herself as a victim.
At age 15 she became an emancipated minor. “In the culture I came from it was unacceptable to have dark skin. I was abandoned for looking ‘too black.'”
She spent her childhood living in 15 different states with different family members. “I think there was a blessing in that. I got to be around different types of individuals from different types of backgrounds. I was able to learn and adjust it to my surroundings and apply it to my everyday life.”
Married young and had four children. Domestic violence led to the end of the marriage.
Suffered a brain aneurysm and needed two years to recover from it.
During her first semester at OCC the home she was living in was destroyed by a fire. During that same semester Dancil learned one of her children had a life-threatening illness.
Dancil freely speaks about the challenges she’s faced and loves to share her wisdom with whomever will listen.
“In life there are obstacles and fences. The ability to deal with then and still create something positive is not an easy task.”
“So many people encounter things and they give up. I want to show them that I constantly fought and I never gave up.”
“Education is more than just opening a book. I feel it’s learning from the thoughts, beliefs and morale systems that people institute within these books and being able to apply it to yourself.”
“It’s not what people call you that matters it’s what you answer to. I will not answer to anything less than what I deserve.”
Failure gives me the strength to pursue things again from a different angle.”
“The things I’ve experienced have helped me become the person I am today.
“It doesn’t matter how many times I fall. What matters is how many times I get back up and keep pursuing my dreams.”
There were 17 years between the time when Dancil graduated from Jamesville-Dewitt High School and started taking classes at OCC. She’s proud to be a non-traditional student and hopes others will do the same. “No matter how late in life you have your college experience you can always work to develop into the person you truly are.”
Onondaga Community College honored four distinguished alumni by naming them 2015 “Alumni Faces” for their professional achievements and contributions to the College and community. The ceremony took place Wednesday, October 28 in the Recital Hall of the Academic II building.
The 2015 honorees are:
Anne Marie Abt, DPT, ‘75
Major: Mathematics & Science
Profession: Physical Therapist
Anne Marie Abt came to OCC from Bishop Grimes knowing she wanted a career in physical therapy. She earned her associate degree and graduated from Upstate Medical Center two years later. Today Dr. Abt is a physical therapist in the Jamesville-Dewitt School District where she works with students with diagnosed disabilities. Dr. Abt is also an adjunct instructor in the Physical Therapy Education Program at SUNY Upstate Medical University, teaching a pediatrics therapy course to doctoral students. She is a board certified pediatric clinical specialist and is part of the Fitness Inclusion Network affiliated with Upstate, which promotes inclusive fitness for children and adults with disabilities.
Richard Delmonico, Ph.D., ‘77
Richard Delmonico is a graduate of Liverpool High School who credits OCC’s Counseling Department with helping him decide on a major, consider career options and complete applications for bachelor degree programs. Delmonico also earned degrees from colleges in California, Connecticut and Missouri. Today he is the chief of neuropsychology at the Kaiser Permanente Rehabilitation Center in northern California where he specializes in working with people with neurological disorders such as traumatic brain injuries. Dr. Delmonico is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Brain Injury Association of California and the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Neurological Society.
London Ladd, ‘95
London Ladd is an illustrator who creates the visuals that help tell the stories of some our nation’s most historic figures. The Corcoran High School graduate came to OCC as a Computer Science major, switched to Art and developed into a nationally renowned children’s book illustrator. He’s worked for some of the nation’s largest publishers including Scholastic, Disney/Hyperion and Lee & Low Books. His subjects have included Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglas. In between projects Ladd remains active in the community, serving as a facilitator for Syracuse’s Say Yes to Education after-school program. He is a member of the Syracuse Public Arts Commission.
Dinyar Vania, ‘99
Profession: Opera Tenor
Music always played a significant role in Dinyar Vania’s life, but he didn’t realize his greatest gift until he became a student at OCC. Vania graduated from Marcellus High School with the dream of being a percussionist. OCC’s Music faculty discovered he had enormous potential as a vocalist and worked with him to enhance those skills. After graduation Vania went to New York City, performed in several choral ensembles and earned principal roles on the main stage for the New York City Opera Chorus. Vania is now one of the most sought after talents in opera throughout the United States and Europe.
During the ceremony each recipient delivered brief remarks. There was also an outstanding performance of Brindisi from LA TRAVIATA. It was performed by 2015 Alumni Face honoree Dinyar Vania, OCC Student Vocalist Brittany Montpetit (Cicero-North Syracuse High School), the OCC Concert Choir and Pianist Katharine Ciarelli under the direction of Conductor David J. Rudari, D.M.A. You can view the performance here:
Earlier in the day the Alumni Faces honorees spent time on campus interacting with students in the disciplines they majored in. It was a wonderful opportunity for students to interact and receive valuable career advice.
You can see a complete list of the College’s Alumni Faces honorees here.
Students in OCC’s Nursing program spent the holiday season thousands of miles from home helping others. Nine students and two faculty members packed up suitcases filled with medical supplies and traveled to Guatemala. Their service learning adventure brought medical care and knowledge to people who desperately needed it. “This trip was the single most meaningful thing I’ve ever done,” said Nursing student Joshua McGinley (Whitesboro High School).
While in Guatemala, McGinley and his fellow students held community health presentations on a variety of topics:
Oral hygiene for children
The importance of vaccinations
The importance of good nutrition while pregnant and breastfeeding
Students also went into homes and brought medical care to people. “The personal home visits and informational meetings we held were very rewarding. People were so thankful for what we were doing,” said Shelbie Pidkaminy (Solvay High School).
Students also helped build fuel-efficient stoves in homes which vented to the outside. Residents were used to cooking inside over an open flame without any ventilation, blackening walls and lungs with damaging particles which contribute to significant respiratory problems. “We worked with a mason who only spoke Spanish. Over time we were able to work through the language barrier. The families watched us work and were very thankful,” said Amanda Pezzulo (Burnt Hills High School).
The trip was coordinated by Assistant Professor Lee Berg. When she was a student she took a similar trip to Vietnam and found it to be invaluable. This was the second year in a row she brought students from OCC to Guatemala. “It was another wonderful experience. We believe generations from now people in Guatemala will be living healthier lives because of the lessons our students taught them,” Berg said.
Along with Berg’s leadership and the assistance of Assistant Professor Dianna Lewis Brewster who accompanied her, the trip would not have been possible without the generosity of numerous businesses and organizations:
Welch Allyn contributed lightweight medical equipment such as digital thermometers, otoscopes, headlamps, and blood pressure cuffs which were all very useful during home visits. They also donated two bags filled with beanie babies which the children of Guatemala loved.
M&T Bank donated $5,000 toward the trip and also brought our trip to the attention of Northern Safety which donated first-aid kits and replacement supplies for the kits. Students used several ice packs, antiseptic wipes and dressing change supplies on the trip.
Johnson & Johnson gave coloring books in Spanish for the children of Guatemala.
Wegmans contributed $1,000 which was used to purchase over the counter medicines, vitamins, first-aid supplies and toothpaste.
Salvation Army hosted the first fundraiser for the trip and also donated toys for the children of Guatemala.
The OCC Foundation, Nursing Department and entire Campus Community also contributed in various meaningful ways.
When you support Onondaga Community College, you are making a statement that you believe in the importance of quality affordable education for everyone. You are creating new opportunities and new beginnings for students and our greater community.