Dr. Daryll Dykes, ’83 Named National Alumni Award Honoree

Dr. Daryll Dykes, ’83

Onondaga Community College alumnus Dr. Daryll Dykes, ‘83 has been named a 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award winner by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Dykes will receive the award Tuesday, May 1 at the AACC’s annual convention in Dallas, Texas.

Dykes love of medicine started early. When he was a young boy growing up on Syracuse’s west side, he enjoyed visiting his mother while she worked as a nurse. After graduating from Fowler High School in 1980, Dykes joined the United States Marine Corps as a way of paying for college. When he completed his military obligation Dykes came to OCC and majored in Mathematics & Science. “The classes and professors really ignited my passion for learning. The professors saw my talent, invested in it and pushed me to do great things,” Dykes said.

Dykes turned his passion for medicine into his career. Today he is one of the nation’s premier spine surgeons and owns his own practice, Medical and Surgical Spine Consultants of Minnesota.

Dr. Daryll Dykes, ’83

“We are so proud of Dr. Dykes and his accomplishments,” said OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill. “He is richly deserving of this recognition, and we congratulate him. We’re grateful too that in the years since he earned his degree he has been willing to return to campus and speak with students who today sit where he once sat. His message of hard work, perseverance and determination have had a positive impact on those he has spent time with.”

Dykes is one of only three national Outstanding Alumni Award honorees in 2018. He is also the fourth OCC honoree in the last five years joining Dr. Emad Rahim (2017), Laurie Halse Anderson (2015) and John Dau (2014). There are 1,462 community colleges in United States serving approximately 12 million students annually. According to the AACC, Onondaga Community College is the first institution to have four Outstanding Alumni Award honorees in five years.

Congratulations Dr. Daryll Dykes!

Recently we announced a new initiative, “The OCC Effect.” We wanted to hear from our former students about the ways in which OCC impacted their lives. If you would like to join in the conversation please visit our Alumni web site and tell us about your experience. Your success 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 what OCC’s effect has been on you.

Dr. Daryll Dykes, ’83 accepts his award at the AACC National Conference.

Isir and Hamdi Farrah

Sisters Hamdi (left) and Isir Farah (right).
  • Majors: Humanities and Social Sciences
  • High School: Fowler, Class of 2016

Isir and Hamdi Farah are Somali-born sisters whose parents were determined to give them a better life. That’s why a decade ago they walked from Somalia to a refugee camp in Kenya and stayed there until they were allowed to immigrate to the United States in March 2009. Upon arrival one of their first challenges was the English language. “Learning English happened pretty easy,” said Hamdi. “When we came here there weren’t many other Somalians here. We were surrounded by English speaking people. It’s actually taken me longer to learn to write.”

Hamdi is 20 years old, her sister Isir is 19. Both credit Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection with helping them adjust to life on campus. Hillside is a program which helps students overcome the barriers that cause them to drop out and abandon their education. “I made friends through Hillside,” said Isir. “I got to see another side of students who I saw in class. I felt like I grew up because Hillside helped me do activities with other students outside class.”

Both sisters are enjoying their second year on campus. “I really like OCC. It’s the best school for me. It gives me hope for the future. The professors are really awesome and the tutors are great,” said Hamdi. “OCC is very good. I felt coming here was the best choice. Everyone is so diverse here. I feel like we are all the same,” added Isir.

The Farah family includes mom, dad and eleven children ranging in age from 22 to 4. Both sisters are focused on doing well in college and setting a good example for their siblings. “I want my mother to be able to say, ‘your sister did it. You can do it,’” said Hamdi. “I’m going to graduate no matter what happens. We will be the first in our family to do so. I guarantee it,” added Isir.

This year’s Common Read, “God Grew Tired of Us” by former Lost Boy John Dau has caught the attention of both sisters. Dau is a 2005 alumnus of OCC who will be on campus this month to share his story with students. “Even though we never saw the violence he saw we look forward to meeting him,” said Isir. “I am reading his book for two classes and it makes me more grateful for what we went through.”

Common Read Produces An Uncommon Story

Osman Hassan in the Gordon Student Center.

Osman Hassan wasn’t old enough to remember the most harrowing experience of his life but he’s heard his mother tell the story so many times he knows it well. Osman was three years old and living in a house in Somalia. He had just become a big brother. It was bedtime but his newborn sister was crying and keeping everyone awake. As Osman’s mom was calming her down, one of their neighbors rushed into the house and told them they needed to leave immediately. Trouble was on the way.

Osman with his mother.

Moments later they heard gunshots and people screaming. Osman’s mother grabbed him and his sister and headed to the nearby woods. Osman’s father went in a different direction with the rest of the children. As they looked back they saw homes burning and people being murdered.

Eventually they were chased into the woods. Osman and his mother crawled on the ground so they wouldn’t be seen. His mother breast fed his baby sister to prevent her from crying. Occasionally she would stop to pray, asking Allah to help them survive. After several days they reached the Kenyan border. They were exhausted. Their clothes were in tatters and they were covered in dirt and mud. They were placed in a refugee camp. A couple of weeks later they were reunited with their father and one brother. Amidst their joy of being together again they learned three children had not survived.

One year later Osman, his baby sister and his parents moved to the United States. His older brother chose to stay in Kenya. Osman would grow up in Syracuse, graduate from Nottingham High School in 2016 and come to OCC.

New American Citizen Osman Hassan with Supreme Court Justice Deborah Karalunas.

He recently shared his remarkable story in English class. Students were required to read the book ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed as part of this year’s common read, then write about their own transformative journey. “I wanted to share my story with everyone and let them know what I had been through.”

Today Osman is a full-time student majoring in Human Services. His dream is to become a counselor and work with refugees. “I want to help people. I know what refugees have gone through and I can help them.”

Osman celebrated another milestone last month when he became a United States citizen. Now he’s focused on helping his mother learn the English language and become naturalized. “She’s the best mom I could ever have. I survived because of her. She had to run through the crisis. She held me in her hands and carried my sister on her back. What she went through brings me to tears. I feel like I should do more for her but it will never be enough. I want to repay her by working hard and doing good in school. One day I’d like to take her to Kenya to visit my older brother there.”

Below is the story Osman wrote in his English class. Ironically his story of survival shares many similarities with the book which has been selected for the 2017-18 common read, “God Grew Tired Of Us” (pictured at right) by OCC alumnus John Dau.



Osman’s Story

For me a transformative journey is something that totally changed my life forever. My name is Osman Hassan and I am from Somalia. My family and I lived in a small village away from the city in Mogadishu. I was 3 years old and I had 4 siblings, 2 older sisters and 2 older brothers, I was the youngest in the family. My brothers and sisters would always play with me and teach me how to farm, sometimes they would teach me what they learned from school and that made happy that I got to learn from them. We were poor farmers living our lives trying to survive by growing our own crops in our back yard. It was hot tropical weather; it was always sunny and hot outside. Water was hard to find around our neighborhood because we never had water pikes out in our village. Water was only found in the city.

My dad would walk 20 miles every week into the city and sell vegetables, buy us food, water, extra seeds to plants, sometimes clothing. Buying clothes would be like once a year when he had enough money. I only had 2 outfits that I would wear my entire year until my dad bought me a new one. My 2 brothers would always play with me when our dad went out. My sisters would always help our mom cook and clean all day into night until mom fell asleep. I never went to school because my family didn’t have enough money, so I always stayed home helping my parents with the chores in the house whenever my siblings went to school.

I only had two friends that I barely got to see. My family and I are Muslims. We practiced our religion and had faith that one day we would live a better life. Our house was made from bricks and logs from trees. On the roof are Long leaves, bags, and straws. Whenever a storm would come to our village, my family would cuddle together hoping and praying that we would live through it if the house shook and feel apart. When the storm went away, we would go out and fix our house trying to improve the roof by tying it with ropes, and getting more bags to cover the roof top from the rain. We always gathered buckets, jars, cups, and pots, set them outside whenever rain would fall from the sky to get water.

As months went by, my mom became pregnant and gave birth to my little sister. We had one doctor in our village, he wasn’t as good as the doctors in the city but that’s all we had. He helped us deliver my baby sister. We thanked him and tried to give him what we had left, but he refused and said we need the money, food, and water for ourselves. He also told us to pay him whenever we were ready. We thanked him and paid him back later. We all loved our little baby sister and we were always close to her, cuddling against her cheeks, that made us happy.

One night, we all fell asleep, but I couldn’t sleep because the baby was crying, so I went over and woke my mom up to calm down the baby. A few minutes later we heard noise coming from outside. Someone came rushing into our house right through the rags with a torch of fire in his hand. My mom and dad were scared until they saw it was one of our neighbors saying we needed to leave because there were bad people coming through our village killing people. Not moments later, we heard gunshots, my parents and I rushed outside and saw people screaming, yelling, and running into the woods trying to get away from the criminals.

My dad told us to run into the forest and hide in the woods until we found somewhere safe. My mom said what about our children who are still inside? My dad said I’ll take care of them, you run with the baby and son; we will be right behind you. We had to split apart and put our trust in Allah (God).  My mom wrapped the baby on her back with a blanket and held me by my hand and started running into the forest. We were really frightened and shivering with fear of death. When we looked back from a far distance, we saw the criminals shooting people, chopping people heads off, killing them with machetes, and burning down their homes. It was like a nightmare that we could get up from. We didn’t know who they were, they just appeared out of nowhere and started killing people without a warning. On top of that we didn’t wanted to stand in front of them and ask who they were because they were just killing anyone in sight. People ran past us and other was still behind us so we waited for a bit, but we never saw the rest of our family.

Then the criminals started going after the people that fled away into the forest, hunting them down one by one. We heard screams in the tall grass. My mom held me and pulled me on the ground crawling through the mud, wooden needles, and sharp cutting grass. Whenever she heard someone speaking near her, she would stop, tell me to keep my mouth shut and breastfeed my baby sister preventing her from crying or being heard by the criminals. I was really scared, tears flowing out of my eyes without making any sounds. This continued and went on for days. We ran and hid to the point of being hungry and tired. Then we would stop and eat leaves, grass, tree plants and tree branch just to stay alive. We had no other choice, it’s either death or survival through our tragedy; we were all alone, no one was around us to help us because everyone was separated and that others a better chance to survive. My mom would be afraid to stand up and look around because she didn’t want to be spotted. She was always on her knees, hands, belly, and elbows crawling her way out. Sometimes she would sit still and breastfeed my baby sister, then raise her hands up to her face and pray to Allah (God) asking her to guide her through the situation.

As days went by, my mom, my baby sister and I finally reached the Kenya borders. We were held up by officers who guard the gates to the entrance of Kenya. They looked at us covered with dirt and mud, a bad coming smell coming from us that attracted flies all over our heads, and no shoes. We were barefoot with dirty clothe that had so many holes. My baby sister was crying from hunger on the back of my mom. My mom was standing there, covered with mud, ripped pants from knees to ankles, shirt filed with holes, dried red eyes filled with dust. I didn’t even feel like a human being at that moment.

We were accepted and let into Kenya after being investigated for couple of minutes. Since we were let in, we were not allowed to go back out, so we ask if any other people from our village were let in the refugee camp. They replied saying that some people fled and ended up in the refugee camps and if we had any family members missing we should see if we could find them in the camp. If not, we would have to wait until more people come through. My mom and I with the baby on her back went around the camp searching for our siblings and father, but we couldn’t find them so we sadly waited feeling depressed.

We were put in refugee camps and guarded night and day. We had shelter, food and water to drink. Every day, people who ran away from the crisis would come in to the refugee camps in Kenya and we would look to see if they were our family members. This went on for days. After a couple of weeks, we finally got to see our dad and only one of my big brothers in front of the gate. My mom and I rushed towards them and held them tightly. We cried happy that they were still alive. Without my dad having to tell us what happened, my mom already knew that the rest of the kids did not survive. We stayed in the refugee camp for how many years and then we were chosen and given the chance to come to the United State. My mom and dad accepted, but my brother chose to stay and help one of our neighbors who lost their only child. My mom, dad, baby sister and I came into the United States, but my big brother stayed. He is still alive and happily married with 2 beautiful children.

I relate my life experience to the book called “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. I went through difficulties growing up as a 3-year-old, not knowing anything and having to lose almost all my siblings, traveling to a new country to be safe, seeking education and trying to further my knowledge to help people who are going through life situation. Many people out there in the world are being targeted and have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. This opened my eyes and mind and I have a deep understanding of how I view the world. I think to myself that there must be a way for me to make a difference and restore peace throughout the world, this is what I want after college. Try to help poor people and make the world a better place for people to live in peace.

National “Outstanding Alumni Award” for Dr. Emad Rahim

Dr. Emad Rahim speaks with students in OCC's Summer Bridge Program in August 2016.
Dr. Emad Rahim speaks with students in OCC’s Summer Bridge Program in August 2016.

Former OCC student Dr. Emad Rahim will be recognized in April by a national education association, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Rahim will receive the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award at the AACC’s National Convention in New Orleans, LA.

“The AACC Outstanding Alumni recipients showcase the quality and diverse plethora of the nation’s community colleges programs and services,” said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus. “They are shining stars that exemplify the great value of a community college education and we are honored to recognize their accomplishments.” Rahim is one of only five honorees nationwide this year.

“Dr. Emad Rahim’s life story is truly an inspiration and we at Onondaga Community College are proud to have played a role in his journey. He is richly deserving of this award and we congratulate him on his accomplishments. We are also proud that for the third time in four years the AACC has chosen to recognize a distinguished member of our family,” said OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill. OCC alumna and bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson received the award in 2015. Alumnus and Human Rights Activist John Dau was honored in 2014.

Dr. Emad Rahim
Dr. Emad Rahim

Rahim is a survivor of genocide in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. While in a concentration camp his father was executed and his older brother died of starvation. After fleeing to the United States, Rahim’s family lived temporarily in Brooklyn and ultimately found a home on Syracuse’s west side. He attended Fowler High School, earned his diploma in 1997 and began attending OCC a short time later.

“Many of my peers saw community college as a stepping stone towards their career. As a first generation college student, my experience at Onondaga Community College not only provided me with the academic foundation I needed to find my footing in higher education, but also helped me develop the skills I needed for career advancement,” said Rahim.

Rahim went from OCC to Empire State College where he was diagnosed with dyslexia. The discovery opened up a world of possibilities for him. Rahim earned a Doctorate in Management from Colorado Tech University and continued his education at Tulane University, the University of Maryland and Harvard University.

Today, Rahim is an Endowed Chair and Director for the Project Center of Excellence at Bellevue University in Omaha, Nebraska. He works remotely from his home on the west side of Syracuse just a few blocks from where he grew up. Rahim also works closely with inner-city organizations and refugee programs. His life story is the subject of a documentary titled Against the Odds.

Congratulations Dr. Emad Rahim!

Phi Theta Kappa Induction Ceremony

OCC student honor society Phi Theta Kappa held its fall induction ceremony November 3 in Storer Auditorium. The College’s chapter, Alpha Sigma Zeta, inducted 135 new members. Students selected must have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 and maintain a high academic standing throughout their enrollment at OCC.

Alumnus John Dau, ’05 was the guest speaker. Dau is a former “Lost Boy” who was forced from his home in the South Sudan and spent five years in refugee camps before immigrating to the United States and settling in Syracuse. Dau graduated from OCC and Syracuse University. He is president of both the John Dau Foundation and the South Sudan Institute. His foundation raised enough money to build a medical clinic in South Sudan, bringing services to people who previously did not have access to them.

In April Dau received the American Association of Community Colleges 2014 Outstanding Alumni Award. He was one of only six recipients in the nation. During the PTK induction ceremony Dau was named an honorary inductee of the organization.

PTK's Student Leadership Team and Advisors pose for a photo after the induction ceremony. Front row (left to right): Jonathan Clark, PTK VP for Leadership; Cathleen McColgin, OCC Provost; John Dau, '05, honorary PTK member; Casey Crabill, OCC President; Gregory Guevara, PTK President. Back row (left to right): Stephanie Putnam, PTK Advisor; Annie Tuttle, Faculty Advisor;  Marlia Douglas, PTK VP for Scholarship; Alena Cerro, PTK VP for Public Relations; Melissa Siravolo, PTK VP for Service; Jerry Farnett, Advisor; Jackie Barstow, Coordinator; Maria Malagisi, Advisor.
PTK’s Student Leadership Team and Advisors pose for a photo after the induction ceremony. Front row (left to right): Jonathan Clark, PTK VP for Leadership; Cathleen McColgin, OCC Provost; John Dau, ’05, honorary PTK member; Casey Crabill, OCC President; Gregory Guevara, PTK President. Back row (left to right): Stephanie Putnam, PTK Advisor; Annie Tuttle, Faculty Advisor; Marlia Douglas, PTK VP for Scholarship; Alena Cerro, PTK VP for Public Relations; Melissa Siravolo, PTK VP for Service; Jerry Farnett, Advisor; Jackie Barstow, Coordinator; Maria Malagisi, Advisor.