The Flight Brothers

OCC graduates and CNY Central photographers Matt Landers (left) and Quindell Williams (right) are the first licensed drone pilot operators at a Central New York television station.

Ten years ago, Matt Landers and Quindell Williams were students together in Onondaga Community College’s Electronic Media Communications (EMC) major. Today they’re teammates in flight, becoming the first licensed drone pilots for a Central New York television station. When big news happens they’ll be getting in their CNY Central (channels 3, 5 and 6) news vehicle and responding to the scene with their drone. “When we were asked to launch the drone program it was an honor,” said Williams. “I’m very excited, humbled and honored to be part of this,” added Landers. “It adds a whole new skill set and a whole new challenge.”

Landers (Cicero-North Syracuse HS 2007 and OCC 2009) and Williams (Nottingham HS 2003 and OCC 2008) went through rigorous training before launching CNY Central’s drone operations. They studied relentlessly for a highly detailed written test and also traveled to Virginia Tech for three days of intense, around the clock training. “We really enjoyed working with each other,” said Williams. “We motivated each other. Our close working relationship made this all worthwhile.”

The next time you see drone footage on one of CNY Central’s television stations or its website you can do so knowing it was gathered by two graduates of OCC’s EMC program. “We’re honored. We know it’s up to us to set a standard both for our station and all stations in the viewing area.”

You can learn more about OCC’s Electronic Media Communications program by clicking on this link.

EOP Students of the Month

EOP’s October Students of the Month are (left to right): Jose Ballaguer, Mariamo Mkoma and Brittany Perez.

OCC’s Educational Opportunity Program, or “EOP” as it is more commonly referred to, is starting a tradition by naming Students of the Month. “This award is about rewarding students who are working hard,” said EOP Navigator Shannon Sangster. “They are personable, pleasant to be around and care about school.”

EOP’s October Students of the Month are:

  • Jose Ballaguer          High School: Mexico, class of 2016                    Major: Humanities
  • Mariamo Mkoma     High School: Nottingham, class of 2017           Major: Early Childhood Education
  • Brittany Perez           High School: Baldwinsville, class of 2017         Major: Adolescence Education

All are first-generation college students. “Winning this is great. It’s motivating me to do better,” said Mkoma who came to the United States from Kenya. “This shows people who don’t come from a lot can be something,” added Perez. “It’s good to be recognized and be a good example so other people see it’s possible,” said Ballaguer.

The EOP office provides access, academic support and financial aid to students who show promise for succeeding in college. If students need to use a computer, print documents, get help with their school work or financial advice the EOP office is where they go. The office is located on the second floor of the newly renovated Coulter Hall.

Congratulations to EOP’s three Students of the Month!

Cross Country National Champion!

Abshir Yerow, 2017 Cross Country 5-Mile Run National Champion

Abshir Yerow’s bad break two summers ago turned out to be his and OCC’s good fortune. Yerow had graduated from Nottingham High School in June 2016 and planned to play soccer at OCC. He was preparing for the season by playing in a summer league when he broke his hand. “One of my friends said, ‘Let’s run cross country just to stay in shape.’ I had done it in high school but didn’t like it. I started doing it here and I liked it.”

Fast forward to Saturday, November 4. One day after being named the Northeast Region Athlete of the Year and a First Team All-American, Yerow won the national championship in the 5-mile race at Holyoke Community College in Westfield, Massachusetts. “My thought going in wasn’t to win. I was running against people who had beaten me in other 5K and 10K races. I was thinking, ‘Just go out there, run your race, stay with the top guys and see how it goes.”

Yerow runs for the National Championship in the 5-Mile Run.

In the weeks leading up to the nationals Yerow had struggled in conference and regional competition. “Those courses had a lot of hills and were tough for me. There weren’t a lot of hills on this course so I didn’t get that tired.” Yerow performed better than he expected, took the lead and crossed the finish line first, beating his nearest competitor by just 1.1 seconds. His winning time of 26:24.8 was his personal best. “It felt great to win. All that summer training paid off!” During the summer he ran 30 to 40 miles a week and competed in 5Ks, 10Ks and marathons.

Yerow is a native of Kenya. He came to the United States in 2009 along with his parents and older brother. He will earn his degree in Criminal Justice next May. Congratulations Abshir Yerow!

Honoring Our 2017 Alumni Faces

OCC President Casey Crabill with the 2017 class of Alumni Faces (left to right): Ed Riley, Janet Riley, Marthe Ngwashi, Deirdre Hunter and John DelVecchio.

They returned to campus with their stories of success. There was a real estate developer, a nurse, a professor of engineering, a television director and an attorney. What brought them together was a common bond, Onondaga Community College. OCC paid tribute to these five former students on the night of November 1, recognizing them as distinguished Alumni Faces during a ceremony in the Recital Hall. “Each one of them has gone on to make their mark in Central New York and beyond with notable careers, service to community and living a life that exemplifies the importance of giving back to others,” said College President Casey Crabill during her opening remarks.

The Class of 2017 is:

John DelVecchio

John D. “JD” DelVecchio, ‘79

  • Major: Radio & Television (now Electronic Media Communications)
  • Profession: Television Director for the Golf Channel
  • High School: Corcoran, class of 1977

DelVecchio is an Emmy award-winning television sports director who has overseen coverage of some of the world’s biggest sporting events. Today he works for the Golf Channel. His resume includes the Olympics, College Football, Saturday Night Live, David Letterman and the Cosby Show.

 

Deirdre Hunter

Deirdre N. Hunter, Ph.D., ‘02

  • Major: Engineering Science
  • Profession: Professor of Engineering
  • High School: Jersey Village High School in Houston, class of 1998

Hunter fell in love with science and engineering while working on cars with her father in his auto repair business. She earned degrees from OCC, Syracuse University and Virginia Tech. She was one of the few women in her educational field and received many accolades for her research. Today she is a Lecturer of Engineering Design at Rice University in Houston.

 

Marthe Ngwashi

Marthe Ngwashi, Esq., ‘03

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Profession: Lawyer
  • High School: Nottingham High School, class of 1994

After earning her associate degree at OCC and her bachelor’s at SUNY Empire State College, Ngwashi worked in the State Attorney General’s Office where co-workers encouraged her to pursue a law degree. She took their advice and today practices law in her firm, Ngwashi & Associates PLLC in Buffalo.

 

Ed and Janet Riley

Edward M. Riley

  • Major: Architectural Technology
  • Profession: Developer
  • High School: Christian Brothers Academy, class of 1972

Riley is a nationally renowned developer. In 2016 he completed one of the hallmark projects of his career when he restored the old Hotel Syracuse. It reopened in August 2016 as the Marriott Syracuse Downtown.

 

Janet H. Riley, ‘74

  • Major: Nursing
  • Profession: Registered Nurse
  • High School: Bishop Ludden, class of 1972

Riley was a Registered Nurse at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital, a Triage Nurse at Syracuse University Health Center, and held several nursing and management positions at SUNY Upstate Health & Science Center prior to her retirement.

Earlier in the day the honorees spent time with current students enrolled in the majors in which the alumni earned degrees. They told students about their journey from the OCC campus to where they are today, offered career advice and answered questions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In conjunction with the Alumni Faces being on campus the College announced a new initiative, “The OCC Effect.” We’re asking former students to share their stories with the tens of thousands of people who make up the OCC community. If you attended OCC please take a moment, visit our alumni web page and let us know how your time at OCC impacted your life. Your story 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 about OCC’s effect on you. We’ve assembled a few stories about our alumni which we hope will inspire you to share your story with us.

Marthe Ngwashi, ’03

  • Major at OCC: Business Management
  • High School: Nottingham, class of 1994

Marthe is living the American dream. She’s the child of African immigrants, has her own law firm in Buffalo and is a proud mother who balanced her career and life challenges so she could give her son the stability and support he needed. She says she came into her own during her time at OCC. “I was in EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) and I got help at the Tutoring Center. My counselors and the faculty saw something in me I didn’t see. They really made a difference.”

Please take a moment, visit our Alumni web site and tell us how OCC impacted your life.

2017 Alumni Face Honoree Marthe Ngwashi, Esq., ’03

Marthe Ngwashi at her law office in Buffalo.

Onondaga Community College annually recognizes distinguished graduates by naming them “Alumni Faces” for their accomplishments and contributions to the community. The 2017 class will be honored during a ceremony November 1 at 5:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall which is located in the Academic II building. One of the graduates we will honor that night is Marthe Ngwashi.

Marthe Ngwashi is living the American dream. She’s the child of African immigrants, has her own law firm in Buffalo and is a proud mother who balanced career and life challenges so she could give her son the stability and support he needed. “My son is the best thing that ever happened to me. I am so proud of the man he has become.”

Marthe (pronounced MART) Ngwashi (pronounced n-GWASH-shee) came to Onondaga Community College from Syracuse’s Nottingham High School. Life circumstances made OCC the obvious choice. She had a son, Bupe (pronounced boo-PAY) whom she wanted to raise with the help of her family.

Ngwashi came to OCC twice but her first attempt at being a college student lasted only one year. Despite her short stay she learned invaluable lessons. Ngwashi engaged in a medical internship which helped her realize she didn’t want a career in a health field. She also was one of the first hires at the Content Tutoring Center which was brand new at the time. “My time working there provided a professional foundation for future success. I learned a great deal about management, hiring, business organization and budget strategy that would carry over into my career.”

Despite the lessons learned Ngwashi took time off from college. Eventually her parents convinced her to return to campus by stressing the importance of education. “This time I was ready to be a student. I stayed after class to get to know my professors, I was in EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) and I got help at the Tutoring Center. My counselors and the faculty saw something in me I didn’t see. They really made a difference.” Ngwashi would earn her Business Management degree from OCC in 2003 and continue on to SUNY Empire State College where she received a bachelor’s in Business, Management and Economics.

In 2007 Ngwashi was working for the State Attorney General’s Office when her career took an unexpected turn. Ngwashi was serving as a Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist, communicating with people in the district and bringing their concerns to deputy attorney generals for their review. Through her work she realized how much she enjoyed the law. Her co-workers urged her to consider it as a career path. “The attorneys I was working with encouraged me to go to law school. It hadn’t crossed my mind to make the transition, but the more I thought about it the more I liked it.”

lawschoolNgwashi followed her dream, attending Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, PA. She reentered college at the same time her son was starting college. They found themselves working on college applications and financial documents at the same time.

After graduating Ngwashi returned to Syracuse and worked as an Onondaga County Deputy County Attorney. “I really enjoyed my time there. I found a constant resource of attorneys from all walks of life to talk to and gain knowledge from whether it was in government, business, criminal or private work they had all done at one time or another.”

In 2016 Ngwashi made the decision to go out on her own. She moved to Buffalo and launched a law firm with an emphasis in municipal and government law. Ngwashi is proud of what she’s accomplished and knows she couldn’t have made it without the support of those closest to her. “I’m fortunate to have such a wonderful son and a loving family. I could not have done this without my parents and siblings.”

Alumni Faces Class of 2017

The etchings of Alumni Faces honorees are on display in the Academic II Building (above) and the Gordon Student Center.

Five former students have been named 2017 “Alumni Faces” honorees for their professional achievements and contributions to the college and the community. They will be honored for their accomplishments during an induction ceremony Wednesday, November 1 at 5:30 p.m. in the Academic II building’s Recital Hall. The honorees are:

 

DelVecchio

John D. “JD” DelVecchio, ‘79

  • Major: Radio & Television (now Electronic Media Communications)
  • Profession: Television Director for live sports events
  • High School: Corcoran, class of 1977

JD DelVecchio is an Emmy award-winning television sports director who has overseen coverage of some of the world’s biggest sporting events. Today he works for the Golf Channel. His resume includes Olympic Games, College Football, Saturday Night Live, David Letterman and the Cosby Show.

 

Hunter

Deirdre N. Hunter, Ph.D., ‘02

  • Major: Engineering Science
  • Profession: Professor of Engineering
  • High School: Jersey Village High School in Houston, class of 1998

Dr. Deirdre Hunter fell in love with science and engineering while working on cars with her father in his auto repair business. She earned degrees from OCC, Syracuse University and Virginia Tech. She was one of the few women in her educational field and received many accolades for her research. Today she is a Lecturer of Engineering Design at Rice University in Houston.

 

Ngwashi

Marthe Ngwashi, Esq., ‘03

  • Major: Business Administration
  • Profession: Lawyer
  • High School: Nottingham High School, class of 1994

After earning her associate degree at OCC and her bachelor’s at SUNY Empire State College, Marthe Ngwashi worked in the State Attorney General’s Office where co-workers encouraged her to pursue a law degree. She took their advice and today practices law in her firm, Ngwashi & Associates PLLC in Buffalo.

 

Riley

Edward M. Riley

  • Major: Architectural Technology
  • Profession: Developer
  • High School: Christian Brothers Academy, class of 1972

Ed Riley is a nationally renowned developer. In 2016 he completed one of the hallmark projects of his career when he restored the old Hotel Syracuse. It reopened in August 2016 as the Marriott Syracuse Downtown.

 

Riley

Janet H. Riley, ‘74

  • Major: Nursing
  • Profession: Registered Nurse
  • High School: Bishop Ludden, class of 1972

Janet Riley was a Registered Nurse at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital, a Triage Nurse at Syracuse University Health Center and held several nursing and management positions at SUNY Upstate Health & Science Center prior to her retirement.

Congratulations to our Class of 2017! You can see a list of Alumni Faces honorees here.

Mission Accomplished

The NASA Lazer-Nauts at the Johnson Space Center include (left to right): Nathan Johnson, Brian Richardson (kneeling), Natalia Montilla, Doug Weaver, Allan O’Mara and Neil Minet. Also pictured (green shirt) is Tamra George of NASA.

Six months of planning prepared OCC’s NASA Team for its “Houston we have a problem” moment. The “Lazer-Nauts” worked through the crisis and capped off a spectacular journey to Texas. Ultimately the device they designed worked. NASA will store information about it in its digital archives for future consideration. “We’re so excited. This was a huge opportunity for us,” said team co-leader Natalia Montilla (Nottingham High School). “If what we designed was ever implemented it would be a huge honor for the school and for us.”

OCC team members explain how their anchoring device works during a poolside meeting with astronauts.

The Lazer-Nauts journey to the Johnson Space Center in Houston began in October when team co-leader Brian Richardson (Liverpool High School) received an email from NASA. OCC was being invited to submit a design for a tool or device which would be used during exploration. A team was formed under the leadership of Chemistry and Physical Science Chair Dr. Fred Jaquin. They submitted a proposal for a manually operated anchoring device, along with a community outreach plan and a budget which would cover manufacturing costs. In December the Lazer-Nauts learned their plan had been approved. They were one of nearly three dozen schools chosen to participate in the intellectual design competition and one of only three community colleges. The rest were prestigious four-year institutions like Cornell, Purdue and Columbia.

During the semester break and throughout the spring semester the Lazer-Nauts held regular team meetings, worked on their anchoring device which they built using a 3-D printer and did presentations in the community about their upcoming trip. In late May they packed up, boarded a plane a flew to Houston. “It was so exciting to get there. We said, ‘we’re here. We finally made it,’” said Montilla. “After all this work we’re finally here at the Johnson Space Center,” added Richardson.

The view from Mission Control where OCC’s Lazernauts give instructions to astronauts working underwater.

Before the Lazer-Nauts anchoring device would be tested underwater in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, the team was required to go through the Test Readiness Review process. “We went up in front of a room filled with engineers and they grilled us,” said Richardson. “They asked, ‘have you thought of this, have you thought of this, have you thought of this?’ We got a lot of constructive criticism and feedback.”

The Lazer-Nauts learned they needed to make modifications to their anchoring device and they found what they needed during a late-night trip to a Home Depot. They bought rolls of duct tape, mesh and material they would use to attach handles to the device.

With their newly improved device in hand the Lazer-Nauts headed to the Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab, home of a six-million-gallon, 40-foot deep pool where astronauts train for space missions in a weightless environment. OCC’s team had exactly five minutes to speak with astronauts at the edge of the pool about how their device worked. Then the astronauts dove into the water and OCC’s team went upstairs to the control room. “We said, ‘we’re ready to test as we spoke with divers in the pool,” said Richardson. The Lazernauts gave step-by-step instructions while keeping their eyes on monitors showing them live, underwater pictures of what was happening.

Astronauts test OCC’s anchoring device underwater.

OCC’s anchoring device was supposed to drill down into sand but initially things didn’t go well. “Our auger was straight up and down and it wasn’t working,” said Richardson. The Lazer-Nauts quickly regrouped and suggested the astronauts try the auger at a 45-degree angle. It worked! “We learned how well we worked in a stressed environment,” Montilla said. “Even though we’d been working together for the last seven months, working together on the testing was a whole different story. We worked so well as a team in that environment, we were very proud.”

It was the ultimate “Mission Accomplished” moment. Seven months of hard work had paid off. “It was such a great experience,” said Montilla. “At NASA we got to meet so many engineers, scientists and mathematicians. It was an awesome environment to be in. We were told by NASA to treat it as a job interview. We were the first team there every day. We are so proud of what we accomplished for ourselves and the college.”

Congratulations to our Lazer-Nauts!

  • Natalia Montilla, team co-leader
  • Brian Richardson, team co-leader
  • Nathan Johnson
  • Neil Minet
  • Allan O’Mara
  • Doug Weaver

“Serving Students” on our Podcast

Our latest edition of podcast “Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College” is focused on the services we provide our students.

Watts

We’ll introduce you to Marcus Watts, Director of our Educational Opportunity Program. His staff works hard every day to help improve the academic performance of Central New York’s historically underserved students.

Montilla

You’ll also meet Natalia Montilla, a 2015 graduate of Nottingham High School. She came to OCC as a very intelligent but very shy student. Her involvement with numerous support organizations here helped her blossom into a top student and vocal leader on campus. Later this month she will help lead a team of students to NASA in Houston as part of a nationwide competition.

Enjoy the latest edition of Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College!

 

Husband and Wife Graduate Together

Yajha (center left) and Deyquan (center right) Bowens received their college degrees together in May 2017. They are pictured on campus with their daughter, Ahjay (left) and their son, Deyquan Jr (right).

They’ve been inseparable for 15 years. Now Yajha and Deyquan Bowens have earned their college degrees together. They met in church, became high school sweethearts, married and started a family. On May 13, 2017 they received their college degrees during OCC’s 54th commencement ceremony. “I consider this associate degree to be like a master’s. This is what I set out to do and I’m finishing what I started,” said Dayquan. “I know some people think, ’it’s just an associate degree.’ I’m treating it like it’s top notch. It was a struggle for both of us,” said Yajha.

Religion brought Yajha and Deyquan together. They met at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church on Oakwood Avenue and began dating in 2002. They continued dating through high school despite attending different schools. Yajha graduated from Nottingham in 2006, Deyquan from Corcoran the same year. That fall both began taking classes at OCC.

The Bowens are interviewed by CNY Central TV prior to commencement.

When it was time to choose a major Deyquan struggled with conflicting advice from his parents. “My dad encouraged me to do what I wanted to do but my mom wanted me to, ‘do something that made money.’” Deyquan took his mother’s advice and chose Computer Engineering. “It wasn’t my passion and I couldn’t stay focused.” He flunked out, then tried what his father suggested. Deyquan had played music his entire life. He followed his heart into OCC’s Music major with a specialization in Piano. He loved it but by that time had lost financial aid and needed to take classes part-time.

Yajha faced similar struggles. She too lost financial aid and had to become a part-time student while making ends meet. She would eventually earn an Early Childhood certificate in 2009, then decided to pursue a degree in Human Services. “The major would allow me to do what I like and work with children. With marriage and children and life I wound up being in school longer than expected.”

As they continued pursuing degrees Deyquan and Yajha married in 2012. One year later they started their family. Today Deyquan Jr. is 4 and Ahjay is 1. As Deyquan and Yajha have worked toward their degrees they have also established themselves in the community. Deyquan owns his own business, Kue Music and Entertainment and also teaches Gospel Choir at SUNY Cortland. Yajha is in her third year teaching a class titled “Building Women” to 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Lincoln Middle School.

Deyquan and Yajha have an appreciation for what they’ve accomplished together and the people they have become. “I’m much more mature now than when I started. I took financial aid and life for granted. Now I’m more focused than I’ve ever been. For us it was good to go to college as long as we did and later in life,” said Deyquan. “It’s important we finish to show our kids although you have stumbling blocks you can still be successful,” said Yajha. “You shouldn’t let anything stop you. Persevere!”

On the night of commencement CNY Central aired a story on the Bowens in its evening news. You can view the story here.