Billy Campbell

Billy Campbell is pictured in the new Lazer Welcome Center in the Gordon Student Center.
  • Major: Communication Studies
  • High School: Liverpool, class of 2016

Billy Campbell got scared straight during the summer of 2018. Every morning he would put on his jeans and steel-toed boots and go to his job in a sweltering hot warehouse. For 50 to 55 hours a week he would lift and carry heavy items from one end of the large facility to the other. Several of the people he worked shoulder to shoulder with had been part of a parolee release program and served lengthy sentences. “Guys would ask me my gig and I would tell them I didn’t care about school. They’d say ‘You’re an idiot if you don’t go to class. Is this what you want to do for the rest of your life because this is the path you’re taking?’ It turned me around. I told myself ‘this semester I’m getting a 4.0.’”

Campbell returned to the OCC campus for the fall 2018 semester determined to do his best. He took 17 credits and earned five A’s and a B+ for a grade point average of 3.88. He did it while serving the campus community as a senator-at-large with the Student Association.

His success was proof that people can change. Throughout high school Campbell had done the bare minimum. He started college at a four-year school but quit half way through his first semester. His lifelong dream was to be a professional lacrosse player but by his own admission, “I wasn’t any good.”

Campbell would struggle through three semesters at OCC before his summer warehouse experience. He had friends who would make him get out of bed for class. They encouraged him to see a therapist and work through his issues. Their efforts made a difference. “I’m really grateful to the people who believed in me more than I believed in myself.”

This is Campbell’s final semester at OCC. He’s on track to earn his Communication Studies degree in May. He’s only taking 12 credits this semester, but his schedule has never been more full. He’s an officer in the Student Association, serving as the Vice President of Media. Campbell is also interning two days a week in the Corporate Communications office at SRC, Inc. His goal is to transfer to Syracuse University and major in Communications and Rhetorical Studies.

When he reflects on where his life was headed Campbell feels fortunate to have chosen a different path. “In my darkest hours of doing awful in school and not having a plan and no discipline I would think to myself, ‘what am I going to do?’ Where I’m at now I have such a foundation. I can sleep at night thinking, ‘I’m doing what I have to do.’”

Holly Sleeth

Holly Sleeth (with OCC mascot Blaze) in Allyn Hall.
  • Major: Physical Education & Exercise Science Studies
  • HS: Liverpool, class of 2018

Holly Sleeth was prepared to stop playing basketball after high school. Her plan was to go to SUNY Cortland where she would not be part of the basketball team. Everything changed last March when Sleeth and her Liverpool Warriors were winning games during a post-season tournament run. “Coach (Mike) Wheeler reached out to me and I started thinking about playing basketball at OCC, living at home and saving money. It turned out to be a win-win for me.”

Things couldn’t have worked out better. Sleeth is a starter on OCC’s Women’s Basketball team which is ranked among the top five in the nation. She’s also a high-achieving student, having earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average in the fall semester after hitting a bump in the first few weeks of classes. “I was taking Anatomy & Physiology which everyone told me was going to be a lot of work. I failed a quiz and the professor emailed Coach Wheeler through Lazer Success. Coach talked to me about it and I got down to studying.” That early contact between professor and coach helped turn things around and Sleeth earned an “A” in the class.

When basketball season ends, Sleeth will join OCC’s Women’s Lacrosse team which also has a long history of success. She’ll continue to juggle athletics and academics as she works toward her degree in Physical Education & Exercise Science Studies. “I haven’t felt stressed about time management. I’ve been able to get things done in a timely manner, get to practice and games and still have time for a personal life with my friends and family. I made the right choice coming here both academically and with sports. I never wanted to stay home for college but being home has helped me adjust to college.”

Best in Class

These six members of the Women’s Basketball team made the honor roll during the fall semester. Each was named to either the President’s List or Provost’s List. They are (left to right): Nadia Diaz from the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central, Katelyn Karleski from Westhill HS, Karleigh Wucher from Onondaga Central HS, Sydni Eure from East Syracuse Minoa HS, Kelsey Brown from Scotia-Glenville HS and Holly Sleeth from Liverpool HS.

Onondaga Community College student-athletes had an outstanding fall semester in the classroom. Dozens of students achieved honor roll status and were named to either the President’s List (grade point average between 3.70 and 4.0) or the Provost’s List (grade point average between 3.40 and 3.69). Six members of the Women’s Basketball team were among those recognized and half of them achieved perfect 4.0 grade point averages.

“We are so proud of our student-athletes who work so hard both in the classroom and on the playing fields. Their success is a testament to their perseverance and the outstanding support staff we have here at Onondaga which is dedicated to helping our student athletes succeed,” said OCC Athletics Director Mike Borsz.

A complete list of high achieving student-athletes is below. Congratulations to all!

 

Baseball

  • Ty Abell
  • Joseph Burry
  • Cameron Curtis
  • Bryce Guernsey

 

Cross Country

  • Michael Laszlo

 

Golf

  • Aaron Deluca

 

Men’s Basketball

  • Nathan Abdo
  • Liam Stewart

 

Men’s Lacrosse

  • Michael Brandow
  • Petey Maxwell
  • Kyle Worsley

 

Men’s Soccer

  • David Pinker
  • Liam Raaen
  • Manuel Silva

 

Men’s Tennis

  • Nicholas Jerome
  • Juan Perez Castro

 

Softball

  • Delanie Alberici
  • Natalie Durocher

 

Track

  • Armando Adrian
  • Michael Laszlo

 

Volleyball

  • Lauren Burbidge
  • Devan Burritt
  • Maggie Prusinowski

 

Women’s Basketball

  • Kelsey Brown
  • Nadia Diaz
  • Sydni Eure
  • Katelyn Karleski
  • Holly Sleeth
  • Karleigh Wucher

 

Women’s Lacrosse

  • Marguerite Cuddy
  • Samantha Dixon
  • Katelyn Karleski
  • Holly Sleeth

 

Women’s Soccer

  • Caitlin Barry
  • Elena Fecco
  • Rachel Greene
  • Claire Maring
  • Leah Pawlewicz
  • Augustine Wait
  • Erica Weber

 

Women’s Tennis

  • Jordan Cole
  • Jennifer Lapp
  • Kathryn Lesselroth

Spring 2019 Student Officers

The spring 2019 Student Officers are (seated left to right) Liam Stewart, Calli Giron, Allison Guzman-Martinez, Breanna Cherchio, (standing left to right) Petey Maxwell and Billy Campbell.

OCC’s Student Officers are gearing up for a great spring semester! As campus leaders, they are responsible for providing support for Student Clubs and Organizations, the Student Government Association, the Lazer Lounge, student leadership development and campus-wide activities. Student officers meet monthly with OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill to discuss issues and events happening on campus. One of the students is also a member of the Board of Trustees and is involved in decision making at the highest level. The spring 2019 officers are:

 

Breanna Cherchio, President

  • Home schooled, from Camillus
  • Major: American Sign Language

 

Liam Stewart, Vice President of Clubs and Organizations

  • High School: Saratoga Springs, class of 2015
  • Major: Communications

 

Billy Campbell, Vice President of Media

  • High School: Liverpool, class of 2016
  • Major: Communication Studies

 

Allison Guzman-Martinez, Student Representative to the Board of Trustees

  • High School: Westhill, class of 2017
  • Major: Mathematics & Science

 

Calli Giron, Student Representative to the OCCA Board

  • High School: Chandler HS in Arizona, class of 2015
  • Major: Criminal Justice with a minor in Liberal Arts General Studies

 

Petey Maxwell, Student Representative to the OCCA Board

  • High School: Windsor HS in Colorado, class of 2016
  • Major: Exercise Science

 

The Student Officers are headquartered in the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement which is in room G114 in the Gordon Student Center.

New this semester is a team of Senators-At-Large. Those students are Armando Adrian, Michaela Denson, Paris Graziano, Alexandra Hoffman, Patrick McGuinness and Dawn Penson.

Any student interested in serving as a Student Officer or Senator-At-Large can contact Shawn Edie, Director of the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement at s.l.edie@sunyocc.edu.

The spring 2019 Senators-at-large are (left to right) Michaela Denson, Armando Adrian, Patrick McGuinness, Dawn Penson, Paris Graziano and Alexandra Hoffman.

James Domroe, ’02

James Domroe, ’02 conducts an interview during a video shoot in the Whitney Applied Technology Center. Domroe’s “325 Productions” is a growing and successful content creation and social media marketing company in Central New York.

James Domroe’s career inspiration came while he was watching a classic action and drama-filled movie. “I was 15 when I watched Braveheart. I cried my eyes out. The movie made me feel something. From that moment I knew I wanted to do something with videos and movies.”

Domroe’s father worked at Ra-Lin’s, an appliance store on Burnet Avenue in Syracuse. He seized upon his son’s sudden interest and bought him a digital camcorder. “I went in my backyard every day and filmed ants, bees, trees, grass and put it to music. I started creating.”

In 2000 Domroe graduated from Liverpool High School. He came to OCC with the intention of taking his core classes and stumbled upon the Electronic Media Communications program. He transferred into the major after his first semester on campus and found a home. “I learned so much about making videos and was surrounded by people doing the same. In between classes, we loved grabbing cameras, going outside and being creative. Being able to take advantage of all of the facilities here made such a difference. We really challenged each other. The teachers were great and they really pushed me forward.”

Domroe earned his degree and transferred to SUNY Fredonia. “I was so ahead of the game when I got there. What they teach here at OCC is essentially a four-year program. I needed a challenge and started a film club there.” The club was allotted $325 by the Student Activities board which it would use to make an hour-long movie. “That $325 seemed like a million dollars!”

After graduating Domroe and a friend moved to North Carolina to work on movies. His job didn’t have anything to do with shooting or editing video and he didn’t enjoy it. He kept shooting and editing video on his own and eventually moved back to Central New York.

Domroe was at a crossroads. He needed to make money and told his mother he wanted to return to OCC and earn a Nursing degree so he would have a steady income. “My mom told me what I really wanted to do was to make videos. She told me to live at home for one year and make videos every day. After a year if I wasn’t going anywhere, I could go into nursing.”

He took his mother’s advice. Some days he would shoot and edit videos. Some days he would network and get his name out there. Eventually Domroe started shooting and editing rap videos for friends. Over the course of a year he made 200. In 2012 one of his videos made its way to an administrator at an Ivy League school. “Someone knew someone who knew someone who knew someone at Cornell University who saw one of my videos. Suddenly I went from making rap videos to making videos for Cornell!”

It was the break Domroe needed for his company, 325 Productions, which he named after the $325 his film club at SUNY Fredonia was awarded. His list of clients now includes some of the area’s most high-profile institutions: Syracuse University, St. Joseph’s Health, Le Moyne College and most recently Onondaga Community College where he’s returned to campus to produce videos related to the “Believe In Where You Are Going” campaign. “It’s been surreal being back and exciting to work on this project. I really credit OCC with all of my education.”

Domroe’s success story took about a decade to materialize. He’s now 34-years-old and his business is growing every year. His advice to anyone interested in making their dreams come true is to work hard and keep putting yourself out there. “You need to allow yourself to fail to succeed. It’s okay to fail as long as you learn from it.”

You can view a video log, or “vlog” of his shoot on the OCC campus here.

You can learn more about OCC’s Electronic Media Communications major here.

With Love, Palestine

Nujoud Makhlouf is the new entrepreneur-in-residence at “With Love, Palestine.” The restaurant opens with its new cuisine Wednesday, July 18.

Food has always been at the center of Nujoud Makhlouf’s life. She remembers when she was 3 years old and her great grandmother gave her the opportunity to work in the kitchen. “She said to me, ‘you’re a smart girl. I know you know how to peel the garlic.’ She let me peel it, then gave me a mortar and pestil. She let me smash it. She was glowing. ‘Look! She knows how to smash garlic!’ That was my moment. My great grandmother told me I was good and that carried me through.”

Makhlouf also remembers being obsessed with her mother’s baking pantry. She enjoyed staying in there and spinning the lazy susan. “I loved the smell of spices and sitting amongst the different ingredients, taking out my Mom’s mixer and helping make all of our foods. I always had an obsession with food.”

She will have an opportunity to share her obsession with food as the new entrepreneur-in-residence at “With Love, Palestine,” Onondaga Community College’s teaching restaurant located on Syracuse’s North Side at 435 North Salina Street. The restaurant’s cuisine changes with the entrepreneur-in-residence. Previous cuisines have included Pakistan, Burma and Savannah, GA. With Love, Palestine will open Wednesday, July 18.

Makhlouf’s parents are Palestinian refugees. She was born and raised in Central New York. Throughout her formative years food was always the constant. She had four younger sisters and enjoyed cooking for them. She loved cooking with her father and learning new dishes from him. She also cooked regularly for friends from school. “Our door was always open and we were always cooking. The whole concept of ‘families that eat together stay together’ was inevitable with us. We were always eating together.”

After graduating from Liverpool High School in 1993 Makhlouf attended Syracuse University. She earned her degree and became a teacher. Eight years later she put her teaching career on hold when her twins were born. Two more children would follow. Makhlouf stayed home to raise them and continue to cook. “I knew I wanted to cook Arabic food for my children and my husband. I wanted to give them those flavors.”

Within the past year she gave substitute teaching a try but continued to have an overwhelming passion for cooking. At her church she enjoyed teaching and organizing cooking classes and events. “One of the last cooking parties I threw, I got a lot of positive feedback from people who had recently come here from Syria. They said, ‘I haven’t had anything like this since the old country! How do you make it? Can you teach me the recipe?’ It was a major affirmation.”

When Makhlouf heard “With Love” was looking for its next entrepreneur-in-residence she decided to pursue it, aced the interview and was selected. “I’m approaching this like a six-month internship. I don’t know why this door has opened for me but this is my opportunity and I’m taking it.

The With Love, Palestine menu will include Makhlouf’s chicken dish, flipped rice dish and vegetable dish. Customers will also be treated to za’atar. It’s similar to an artisan flatbread and the recipe includes wild thyme, toasted sesame seeds, ground sumac, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. Makhlouf already sells  za’atar at local farmer’s markets. Her other products include pink hummus infused with beet juice and handcrafted yogurt cheese which you can either put on top of something or use as a dip. She sells under the brand name, “Small Mountain Za’atar.”

The July 18 opening of “With Love: Palestine” will also signal the beginning of expanded hours. The restaurant will be open for lunch (12-2 p.m.) and dinner (5-8 p.m.) Tuesday through Friday.

Sephra Ross

  • Major at OCC: Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counseling
  • High School: Liverpool, class of 1999

Nearly two decades after graduating from high school, Sephra Ross decided to give college a try. “I had wanted to go to school before but I had this mindset that, ‘I’m not going to be good at it. It’s been so long and I’m going to be so old.’ I was making excuses. I met someone who said, ‘You should just try it. What’s the worst that could happen?’ So I did.”

In the summer of 2017 Ross started taking classes at OCC. The results were not what she was expecting. She was taking English and turned in her first paper. “I didn’t think I did well on it. I got the paper back and the grade on it was an A+. I looked at it and said, ‘Wait a minute. Is that mine? Oh wow it is mine!’”

That “A+” was just the beginning. It was followed by a series of “A’s” on other papers and it continued into the fall. In the spring 2018 semester her continued excellence resulted in her induction into OCC’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. “I was shocked and it was so exciting. I don’t usually have things like that happen to me.”

What makes Ross’s story remarkable is the life she led between high school and college. She battled with substance abuse for 15 years before turning her life around. “I feel lucky to be alive. You have no idea. I’ve lost so many friends. I didn’t think I would make it past age 27.”

Today she’s 38-years–old and has been in recovery for four years. Her major is Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counseling. She wants to help those who are living the life she once lived. “I feel everything I’ve been through has led me to this. I feel like I’m on the right path and am doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  I’ve taken for so long. Now it’s time for me to give back.”

After she earns her degree from OCC, Ross plans to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees on the way to becoming a counselor. “Part of me wishes I would have done this sooner but I realize everything happens when it should. I never thought I would fit in at a college but now I realize I do.”

Lazers Join The 1,000 Point Club

Samantha Britton (left) and Tyler Sullivan (right) joined the 1,000 point club on the same day.

When a basketball player scores 1,000 points at the community college level, it’s quite an accomplishment because student-athletes only have two years of eligibility. When two players from the same college reach the milestone on the same day it’s the rarest of feats.

Onondaga Community College’s Samantha Britton and Tyler Sullivan both went over the 1,000 point mark on February 3. “To be able to do it in two years is my single biggest accomplishment. Basketball is such a big part of my life. It means a lot,” said Britton. “I did it in high school in four years,” added Sullivan. “But to do it in two years here is good.”

Britton is a Human Services major from Kenmore West High School in Buffalo. She entered Saturday’s game needing 17 points. She scored 18 in the first quarter, surpassing 1,000 points on a layup.

Sullivan played scholastically at Liverpool and is majoring in General Studies. He was 19 points away going into Saturday’s game. A 3-point shot in the second half pushed him over the top.

While both players are proud of their individual accomplishments, it’s team success they care most about. Both the Women’s and Men’s team won their games against Corning Community College Saturday. “It definitely means more that it happened in a win,” said Britton. “I probably wouldn’t have cared if I got it in a loss,” added Sullivan.

Britton and Sullivan both were named Region 3 and Mid-State Athletic Conference Players of the Week. Sullivan was also named the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Player of the Week.

In April, Britton was named Honorable Mention All-American and Sullivan was named All-American. He is just the second All-American in Men’s Basketball history, joining Joseph Olsen who earned similar honors in 2004.

Congratulations to Samantha Britton and Tyler Sullivan!

Career Focus: ReBecca Hoffman Blanch ’95

Blanch pictured with her first camera gifted to her by her father.
  • Liverpool High School
  • Major at OCC: Photography

ReBecca Blanch was destined to spend her life shooting pictures. She grew up with a photo studio and darkroom in her home. “My father was a photographer and I have very fond memories of him taking pictures, watching him in the darkroom, and helping him in the studio. I became familiar with the work and all of the equipment at a very young age.” It wasn’t until she got to Liverpool High School and took her first photography class that she truly fell in love with the profession. “I was fascinated by the camera’s capabilities, the darkroom, and the creative process. Learning about photography in the classroom took my interest in the field to a much deeper level. I knew becoming a professional photographer was what I wanted to do.”

Blanch with her father Edward Hoffman.

During her junior year she opened her own business, ReBecca’s Photography, a business she still owns and operates today. After graduating from Liverpool, she came to OCC and majored in Photography. “All of the courses were beneficial and engaging. To this day, I still use what I learned in several classes, including Art Theory. It’s where I learned how colors impact each other and basic principles. I keep these in mind while designing marketing material or explaining to clients what they should wear prior to every shoot. It allows me to create the best portrait for my client.”

Blanch would go on to earn a degree from Syracuse University as she continued to develop her portfolio of clients. Besides her very successful wedding business of 19 years, ReBecca has branched out to find work in the corporate field. Her portfolio to date includes such businesses as the American Dairy Association and area schools. “Being an entrepreneur is challenging and time consuming but it’s equally rewarding. It’s a great feeling to look back and see my accomplishments from building my photography business from the ground up. I’ve reached a point where I can choose which projects I want to take on.”

Despite her busy schedule, Blanch is always willing to speak with local students about career options. She remembers when she was a student and was on the receiving end of valuable advice. “I was always appreciative of anyone who took the time to talk with me about my interests and dreams. I’d like to give-back and be able to provide the same guidance and encouragement to today’s students.”

Her experience and love for speaking with students led her to enroll in Marist College’s Integrated Marketing Communications Master of Arts program. She’s hoping to both enhance her business, provide herself the option of becoming a teacher, and do more work in the corporate world. Returning to school is a continuation of a passion she discovered at Onondaga. “My love for education began at OCC. It was the right choice for me from not only an educational standpoint, but for a love of learning as well. My positive experience at OCC started me on the right path to think about my future and how I can continuously set myself apart from the competition to be successful.”

College to Career: Jesse Peplinski ’15

Jesse Peplinski, ‘15

  • Major: Computer Science
  • High School: Liverpool, Class of 2013

 

When Jesse Peplinski started taking classes at OCC in the fall of 2013 he didn’t have a career mind. Thanks to guidance from faculty and the College’s Career Center, Peplinski is now well on his way as a Technology Associate at AXA Equitable, an insurance company in downtown Syracuse.

Peplinski’s journey to a career began in one of Professor Tim Stedman’s Computer Science classes. “He, like most faculty at OCC, was great and always took the time after class or during his office hours to talk about class work and my career interests.” During his sophomore year, he received an email from Stedman promoting Hack Upstate, an event where developers, designers and engineers gather to share ideas, form teams and build projects. Peplinski is a four time attendant, and enjoyed it so much he now serves as one of its organizers.

Peplinski also found the help he needed at OCC’s Career Center where he received assistance with his resume, cover letter and interview skills. Lessons learned there helped him earn a summer internship at Kishmish, a Syracuse company which provides businesses of all sizes with innovative solutions in IT, data, voice and digital marketing. He created websites for clients using HTML, CSS, and WordPress. “The Career Center is the major reason why I landed that internship. It allowed me to get valuable experience while earning money.”

One month before earning his degree from OCC, Peplinski was named top student in the College’s Computer Science major. He transferred to SUNY Potsdam and earned a bachelor’s in Computer Science. He also served as the president of the ACM chapter, and co-founded Hack Potsdam. During his time there OCC’s Career Center contacted him with information about another internship at AXA. Peplinski applied, was awarded the internship and turned it into a full-time job. He credits the Career Center with keeping him in mind after his time on the OCC campus had ended. “Working with the Career Center was one of the best choices I ever made. For them to stay in touch after graduation is something I’ll always be grateful for.”

The OCC Career Center is located in Coulter Hall in room C110. It is open for job-readiness appointments for both students and OCC alumni Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.