Abdi Maalo ’18


Abdi Maalo ‘18

Major: Human Services


Abdi Maalo arrived in America, the age of 5, from a refugee camp in Kenya to escape the civil war in his homeland of Somalia. His first stops were in New Hampshire and then California before arriving in Central New York. When his family settled in Syracuse he attended Nottingham High School in 2012 and graduated four years later. Despite all of his travels, one thing was always constant for Maalo; his love of soccer. “It has always served as an escape for me by letting me put aside difficulties and struggles while allowing me to be me.”

While at Nottingham, Maalo was first exposed to Onondaga Community College (OCC) through a soccer camp where Lazer men’s coach, Corey Fonseca, encouraged him to attend OCC. In addition to Fonseca, OCC’s Liberty Partnership Program Coordinator Heather Niver and Audiovisual Technology Coordinator Kelly Larrivey were instrumental in providing him with the support and encouragement he needed to take the next step in his athletic and academic careers. “Everyone at OCC was such a great help to my success, but those three will always stand out in giving me the early and sustained confidence to succeed.”

Maalo in his Syracuse FC jersey at Wilbur Field.


He enrolled in 2016 as a General Studies major, but quickly switched to Human Services. The decision was easy, “I want to help others, particularly refugees, and return the favor from how others helped and supported me.” Maalo tallied 7 goals and 10 assists on the season for the Lazers. He was also named to the United Soccer Coaches All-American team, was a 1st Team NJCAA All-Region player and a 1st team all Mid-State Athletic Conference player. Maalo’s success on the field led to invite from the semi-pro soccer summer team, the Syracuse FC, where he scored a goal in his first game.


Maalo will transfer next fall to Keuka College to pursue his bachelor’s in social work and plans to play soccer there as well. He credits his success to Allah and to his parents, who, because of their hard work and sacrifice, brought him and his brother to America for a chance at success.

Natalia Montilla

Natalia Montilla
Natalia Montilla
  • High School: Nottingham, Class of 2015
  • Major at OCC: Engineering Science

Natalia Montilla’s college experience started while she was attending Nottingham High School thanks to the Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP), an organization which provides assistance to students who may be at risk or underprepared for college or a career. “Through LPP I was able to take summer classes here for free. LPP helped me get my feet wet so when I became a student full-time I was more prepared.”

Montilla enrolled in the College’s Engineering Science major and was accepted into the STEM Scholars program. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Montilla’s area of study is one of nine STEM-related majors the College offers.

Montilla’s support system on campus includes the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP) and Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Program (L-SAMP). “Both have provided me the opportunity to meet students with similar mindsets. I’ve made a lot of friends who have similar classes so there is always someone I can ask if I need help with a project.”

In September 2016 Montilla was honored by the community-wide Hispanic Heritage Month Committee for her accomplishments while in high school and college. She received an award at the opening ceremony for Hispanic Heritage Month, La Casitas “Balcon Criollo.”

Montilla will earn her associate degree in 2017. She plans to pursue both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering. She credits OCC and the organizations she has been a part of with helping her build a strong foundation. “I’ve felt so comfortable here. There is always someone available who can help you.  Every new connection I make is so helpful. You can really succeed at OCC as long as you are willing to put yourself out there.”

Jobs for Students and Alums

TOP OF STORY Job & Experience Fair 009

OCC Student Beatrice Faida
OCC Student Beatrice Faida

Beatrice Faida came to OCC’s Job & Experience Fair April 20 in search of a job. Faida took her time going through the Allyn Hall gymnasium, perusing the 90 employers who had set up displays and hung their banners in search of employees. “It was great the way there were so many businesses in one place,” Faida said. “You could never visit all of them in one day if they weren’t here.”

Nearly 400 job seekers attended the fair which was organized and presented by the College’s Career and Applied Learning Center. It was the headliner in a series of events which began in March, all aimed at helping students and alumni find jobs. Related events focused on resume and LinkedIn profile writing, good and bad things to say to a prospective employer and how to dress for an interview and work. The Center collected donated professional clothes for students and alumni to utilize for interviews and jobs.

Professional clothes collected for students and alums.
Professional clothes were collected for students and alums.

As for Faida, she’s a second semester student who is a native of Tanzania. She’s involved in the Liberty Partnerships Program which provides assistance to students who may be at risk or underprepared for college or a career. Her goal is to find employment assisting others. “I want a job where I can help people from other countries who have gone through a transition to the United States like I have.”

The College’s Career and Applied Learning Center is open year round to help students like Faida and alumni. You can learn more by contacting the center at (315) 498-2585 or calcenter@sunyocc.edu.