Onondaga Community College hosted its 55th commencement Saturday, May 12 in the SRC Arena and Events Center. Dr. Casey Crabill presided over the ceremony at which nearly 1,100 students were eligible to receive their degrees.
Student speaker Andrea Capodagli addressed fellow graduates. She came to OCC in 2009 after graduating from Bishop Grimes High School. She quit after a semester-and-a-half but returned to the College in 2016. Capodagli became an outstanding student, earned a degree in Communications with an Honors minor and will transfer to Syracuse University where she will major in Public Relations. During her speech she asked classmates to think of challenges they face as tools and inspirations to propel them forward, to take advantage of educational opportunities and to be selfless. She also implored fellow students to take chances in life. “Be brave! Do something that initially scares you because when you do something that terrifies you, you are going to be challenging yourself. You will be utilizing the skills that you have learned here, and you are going to exceed all potential! Never give up on yourself, because you have more power to transform your life than you realize.”
During commencement the College handed out four honorary doctorate degrees to individuals who have exhibited professional excellence, meritorious and outstanding service, and whose accomplishments serve as examples of the SUNY system’s diverse student body. The recipients were:
Evelyn C. Carter, Director of Community Relations, Wegmans
Mary Beth Frey, Executive Director, Samaritan Center
Michael F. Melara, CEO, Catholic Charities of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse
Wayne O’Connor, Regional Executive Director of Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection
OCC’s commencement ceremony will be rebroadcast on WSYR TV’s “MeTV” channel Saturday, May 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. MeTV can be found at 9.2 with a digital antenna, Spectrum Cable channel 1240, Verizon Fios channel 470 and New Visions cable channel 23.
OCC students and employees spent a day giving back to the community as part of the annual Onondaga Day of Service. More than 70 students chose to volunteer off campus by assisting at Salvation Army, Rescue Mission, Samaritan Center, Van Duyn Center and Jubilee Homes Southwest Community Learning Farm. There was also an opportunity for students to volunteer time on campus by making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Samaritan Center, Thanksgiving Cards for Meals on Wheels recipients, Thank You cards for Veterans and by making dog toys. Onondaga’s 2017 Day of Service enjoyed record participation. A total of 178 students, faculty and staff volunteers chose to donate their time to the community. While much of their work off campus couldn’t be quantified, on campus outputs included:
184 Thank You cards for veterans
283 Thanksgiving cards for Meals on Wheels recipients
60 dog toys for Helping Hounds dog rescue
160 PB&J sandwiches to be distributed by the Samaritan Center.
A committee of College employees organized the event including Meghan Peryea, La’Kesa Allen, Mike Borsz, Liz Goldschein and Maria Malagisi, Assistant Director of Service-Learning. “We are so proud of everyone who was willing to come together and make a difference as a collective unit,” said Malagisi. “The word ‘community’ is our middle name. We are always willing to do what we can for our neighbors.”
Over 50 OCC students gathered in the Academic II Recital Hall on the morning of October 24 to prepare for the first annual Onondaga Day of Service. Students donated their time from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to assist 12 organizations throughout the City of Syracuse. Projects ranged from planting trees and cleaning up area parks to preparing and sorting food at area distribution centers. The Day of Service was coordinated by Service Learning and Volunteer Coordinator Maria Malagisi along with the Student Association, Athletics and Residence Life.
One organization receiving help was the United Way of Central New York. It needed more than 400 books sorted and organized in time for the Children’s Book Fest at Destiny USA the next day. OCC student volunteer Selena Gancasz wanted to help the United Way because of her love of books. The sophomore Humanities major is a strong believer in its Success By 6 program which gets children interested in reading. “I love reading to children and hope my efforts can make a difference in their lives by getting them the books they need at the Book Fest.”
Joan Boyle, ’96 serves as the Vice President of Community Impact and Executive Director of the Success By 6 program at the United Way. She was very appreciative of the student’s help. “This makes me feel great. It is wonderful to see young excited students giving back to their community, especially students who are going to the same place I went. There is still that wonderful feeling that I had when I was attending OCC of really connecting with my community.”
Gancasz agrees. “I feel really lucky. I want to make a difference in the world. The first step is volunteering in your community because I feel that can go a really long way in making a difference.”
Students participating in the Day of Service volunteered at several other organizations including the Food Bank of Central New York, Meals on Wheels, the Samaritan Center, St. Camillus and the Ronald McDonald House.
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.