A Gap Year Filled with Learning

Jenn DeRosa, ’16 has spent the last year working at Ichor Therapeutics in LaFayette. In the fall she’ll transfer to Cornell University.

Jenn DeRosa has taken a year off school but her education hasn’t stopped. She’s spent the last year doing research at Ichor Therapeutics in LaFayette, a pre-clinical biotechnology company which focuses on therapeutic inventions for age-related diseases. A grant from the Methusaleh Foundation has supported her work. “It’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve changed a lot and grown in the last year being here.”

Just two years ago DeRosa was Valedictorian of her graduating class at Skaneateles High School. In 2016 she earned a Mathematics & Science degree with a honors minor from OCC. During her final semester on campus the College’s Career Center helped DeRosa find an internship at Ichor. She loved the experience. When the Methusaleh Foundation offered her a grant, she jumped at the opportunity to stay at Ichor for an entire year.

DeRosa’s work has focused on a macular degeneration program. She and fellow researchers have come up with an enzyme treatment which they are in the process of patenting. DeRosa is listed as the co-inventor.

Her Ichor experience has added a level of understanding to DeRosa’s knowledge which she could not have learned in a classroom. “When people here have big ideas I sit in on the thought processes, reduce it to practices and go through the work flow. I’ll be going back to school to become a ‘thinker’ as well so I’ll understand how both sides operate.”

In the fall DeRosa will resume pursuit of her bachelor’s degree at Cornell where she will major in Chemistry and Chemical Biology. She’s convinced her year at Ichor was exactly what she needed. “Working at Ichor during my last semester at OCC, I started to realize just how much I didn’t know. To be able to work here, learn so much and actually contribute, I don’t think I could have imagined things going any better.”


Jonathon Mecomber

Jonathon Mecomber
Jonathon Mecomber
  • High School: Skaneateles, Class of 2016
  • Major: Humanities & Social Sciences with an Honors minor

Less than a year ago Jonathon Mecomber jumped in Skaneateles Lake while wearing his cap and gown in celebration of his high school graduation. This summer he’ll earn his degree from OCC.

Mecomber planned to attend a community college in Pennsylvania but a health condition kept him close to him. Coming to OCC worked out well. “I like it here. I’ve been surprised to learn how many high-achieving students there are here.”

Next month Mecomber will be inducted into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. In the summer he’ll take his final two classes, then transfer to SUNY Binghamton where he plans to major in Political Science with concentrations in International Relations and/or Politics and Law. His career goal is a government position related to Foreign Affairs or Law.

Mecomber is grateful for his time on the OCC campus. “It worked well for me. The pace here was perfect because I have a somewhat clear vision of what I want to do.”


Martha Lynn Laskie, ’03

Martha Lynn Laskie, ’03 is a success in the world of graphic design and illustration. She owns her own company, Martha Lynn Laskie Graphic Design & Illustration.

She also co-founded Alpha Beta Creatives as Creative Director which is located on East 25th Street in Manhattan. Her client list includes high profile companies such as Citibank, Marriott Hotels and Mercedes-Benz. She credits OCC with helping build the foundation for her success. “The College helped me discover what I wanted to do professionally and did so at a cost that was manageable.”

Laskie came to OCC from Skaneateles High School. She was interested in both Art and History, but two Art professors made an indelible impact on her. “Deb Haylor-McDowell and Nick Todisco were very influential in my development. They allowed me to find my voice and style so I could begin to make my own work. Through them I learned to be tenacious while pursuing my dreams. I learned that if I was relentless I would achieve success.”

Laskie earned an Art degree from OCC, then moved to New York City and enrolled in SUNY Purchase’s prestigious School of Art & Design. She loved designing and laying out pages and decided to major in Graphic Design. Laskie began designing resumes and logos for friends. Their enthusiasm for her work inspired her. It led to her designing websites and all of a sudden, a business was created. Martha now offers all manner of services including web design, printing, marketing and full business development.

In 2008 she started Martha Lynn Laskie Graphic Design & Illustration. As she nurtured her own business on the side, Laskie also worked as a lead designer for multiple creative firms in and around the New York City area. She has also consistently been voted by the “Best of Yonkers” Small Business Awards committee for Design Consultants in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Martha’s expertise is in providing branding development and business consultant services for small and mid-size businesses.

Laskie says it is important for the students of today to keep an eye on the big picture when planning their career. “Even though my focus was on art and creativity, there is a business side to it as well. Take some marketing or business courses. It’s a nice way to complement your degree. Look for courses that will help you advance your major.”

You can follow or connect with Laskie on social media through:

Twitter: @mlaskie
Facebook: @marthalynnlaskiegraphicdesign


Jenn DeRosa

TOP OF STORY Jenn DeRosa 2016 commencement poster pic

In June of 2015 Jenn DeRosa was named Valedictorian at Skaneateles High School. Less than one year later she’ll earn a degree from OCC. When she leaves campus she’ll be on a different career path than she had planned.

“I came here set on being a pre-med student,” DeRosa said. “I wanted to major in biochemistry and do all of the prerequisites for medical school.” During her first semester DeRosa went to the College’s Career and Applied Learning Center and signed up to volunteer at a hospital. “I realized the atmosphere in a hospital wasn’t right for me. It made me rethink what I wanted to do.”

At the same time DeRosa was working on an Honors project with Chemistry Professor Doug Hagrman which focused on utilizing a High Performance Liquid Chromatography machine. Her fascination with chemistry blossomed into an internship with a research lab, Ichor Therapeutics on Route 11 in Lafayette. “The class and everything I was working on changed my future.”

DeRosa is now focused on a career in Chemical Engineering. She built the foundation for it at OCC where she’s a Mathematics and Science major with an Honors minor. Her outstanding classwork led to her induction into international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

DeRosa is the second high-achieving member of her family to attend OCC. Her older sister Stephanie was Skaneateles High School’s Class of 2013 Salutatorian. Stephanie earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average in OCC’s Engineering Science major and is now at the University of California at Berkeley pursuing a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. Stephanie and Jenn’s father graduated from a community college and always told his daughters, “You get a great bang for your buck at a community college and you pay the least for it.”

As Jenn completes her second and final semester at OCC she’s grateful for the opportunities she found on campus. “All of the people here were so willing to lead you in the direction you wanted to go in. I came here with so many expectations and they were more than filled. I’m so excited I got to experience my life here first, otherwise I’m not sure where I would be.”

Summer Learning at STEM Camp

High school students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering or math related fields attended Onondaga Community College’s STEM Camp during the last week of July. Students spent half of each day in class developing a knowledge base of modern manufacturing, robotics design and programming, while adding to team building experiences. During the other half of the day students took field trips to businesses and explored their relation to robotics and automation. Participating businesses included Byrne Dairy, Lockheed Martin, National Grid, Schneider Packaging Equipment and Time Warner Cable News.

Jordan Dudden speaks with STEM Campers about her business, JoJo Rings.
Jordan Dudden speaks with STEM Campers about her business, JoJo Rings.

Students also visited SALT Makerspace (pictured above) located inside the Delavan Center at the corner of West Fayette and Wyoming Streets in Syracuse. “SALT” stands for Syracuse Arts Learning and Technology. The facility provides access to equipment for metalworking, woodworking and 3-D design and modeling. The space is available for local inventors and artists to use.

JoJo Rings uses SALT Makerspace's facilities to turn old keys into rings.
JoJo Rings uses SALT Makerspace’s facilities to turn old keys into rings.

STEM campers toured the facility and saw the 3-D printer and other high-tech devices in action. Students also met an entrepreneur who uses SALT Makerspace regularly in conjunction with her business. Jordan Dudden owns a startup called JoJo Rings. She creates fashionable pieces of jewelry by turning keys into rings. Dudden, who is a graduate of Skaneateles High School and Syracuse University, comes to SALT Makerspace to heat the keys so they can be bent without breaking, sized, cleaned and buffed. JoJo Rings are available in stores in more than 40 states and on the internet. She has sold more than 3,000 rings. Each month she partners with a nonprofit organization, sharing a portion of the proceeds with the charity.

STEM Camp’s primary sponsor is Time Warner Cable (TWC) as part of its Connect a Million Minds program, a philanthropic initiative to address America’s declining proficiency in STEM-related fields. Using its media and employee assets, TWC creates awareness of the issue and inspires students to develop the STEM skills they need to become the problem solvers of tomorrow.

Scholarly Sisters

Stephanie DeRosa was the Salutatorian of Skaneateles High School’s Class of 2013. She had the grades to go to college wherever she wanted. As she began the process of choosing a school she kept going back to advice her father had given her. “Dad graduated from a community college. He always said ‘you get the best service at a community college and you pay the least for it.’” DeRosa took a long look at two and four-year colleges, examined the bottom line and made her decision. “When I compared the financial costs it made sense to go to OCC.”

Stephanie DeRosa (center) was named the top student in OCC's Engineering Science program by College President Dr. Casey Crabill (left) and Professor Brian McAninch (right).
Stephanie DeRosa (center) was named the top student in OCC’s Engineering Science major by College President Dr. Casey Crabill (left) and Professor Brian McAninch (right).

DeRosa enrolled in OCC’s Engineering Science program and also pursued an Honors Minor. She earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average and was invited to join international student honor society Phi Theta Kappa. DeRosa was named the top student in the Engineering Science major and earned her degree in May 2015. The foundation she built at OCC traveled thousands of miles with her to the prestigious University of California at Berkeley where she is now majoring in electrical engineering and computer science.

Two years after Stephanie made the decision to come to OCC it was her younger sister Jenn’s turn. She had done her sister one better in high school, being named Valedictorian of Skaneateles’ Class of 2015. “I always thought I wanted to go far away for college. When I started crunching numbers and speaking with professors at four-year schools, I realized I was going to get the same education at OCC and spend a lot less money. In the end it was an easy choice to be smart with your life and make conscious decisions rather than emotional decisions.”

Jenn is now a freshman at OCC, majoring in Mathematics and Science with an Honors Minor. She’s hoping to have the same experience at the College her sister had. “I loved my time there,” said Stephanie. “Every professor was willing to talk about the material outside of class, they were always available during office hours and they always responded to emails. That isn’t something you will find everywhere.”

SUNY Student Art Awards

Five OCC students will have have their art work on-display in the New York State Museum this summer. It’s part of the annual Best of SUNY Student Art Awards which were handed out June 9 at the New York State Museum in Albany.

The Best of SUNY exhibit features 84 works of art chosen by individual art departments across SUNY’s campuses. It includes drawings, paintings, photography, sculpture and digitally produced works. The SUNY system includes 64 college and university campuses.

OCC’s five students whose work can be viewed at the museum are:

  • Michael Currier, Tully High School
  • Greg Minix, Marathon Central School
  • Zachary Ross, Skaneateles High School
  • Daniel Sanchez, Moravia High School
  • Ameilee Sullivan, Chittenango High School

Sanchez’s untitled art work is at the top of this story.

Simulating Danger

Students Tom Albring (near) and Chris Richards (far) test the drunk driving simulator in the Gordon Great Room.
Students Tom Albring (near) and Chris Richards (far) test the drunk driving simulator in the Gordon Great Room.

“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.” A large sign bearing those words greeted students in the Great Room of the Gordon Student Center December 3rd. The sign was part of a drunk driving simulator set up for students to use so they could see first-hand the dangers of operating a vehicle while impaired.

Each simulator included a steering wheel, foot pedals, and a large monitor which positioned student motorists on a two-lane road with oncoming traffic. The simulators were altered to mimick driving conditions for a person with a blood alcohol content level of .10. Response times were slowed making it a struggle to keep the vehicle in the proper driving lane or able to stop in a timely fashion. When students finished driving they received citations listing the laws they would have broken were they actually on the road.

Student Tom Albring (Jordan-Elbridge) tried the simulator and was surprised by the results. “It felt like I had less control. I’m definitely not going to drink and drive.” Student Chris Richards (Skaneateles) had a similar experience. “I noticed I could get in an accident a lot easier. There is no way I’m going to drink and drive.”

The Learning Center

The Learning Center has work spaces for groups of all sizes.
The Learning Center has work spaces for groups of all sizes.

The most popular freshman on campus isn’t a star athlete or someone with movie star good looks. It’s the Learning Center, the new home for OCC’s tutoring services. The Learning Center is located in the Gordon Student Center next to the cafeteria. It’s filled with spaces for students and tutors to work either one-on-one or in groups. “We’ve been thrilled with the response and the number of students who keep coming back,” said Kathleen D’Aprix, Assistant Vice President of Academic Support Services who is in charge of the Learning Center.

RESIZED Learning Center signThe main entrance to the two-level facility grabs your attention. On one wall of the lobby is a Learning Center sign which changes colors. On the opposite wall is a huge photo of Albert Einstein with the saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

The Learning Center employs more than 120 tutors and that number constantly changes. “We’re always adding tutors as we learn there are more and more courses students need help in,” said Ted Mathews, Coordinator of Course Specific Tutors. The tutors come from all walks of life: there are current OCC students, alumni, students and professors from nearby colleges, retired professors, retired public school teachers and people working in various industries. “We have a National Grid employee who works during the day and tutors at night in Electrical Engineering Technology and Mechanical Technology. He has the practical experience and can say to students ‘this is the why you need to know this,’” said D’Aprix.

Student-tutor Corrine LaFrance (left) tutors Nick Simmons (right) in calculus.
Student-tutor Corrine LaFrance (left) helps Nick Simmons (right) with calculus.

The Learning Center isn’t just for students who need help. Sophomore Mathematics and Science major Nick Simmons (Skaneateles High School) comes to the Learning Center every day despite the fact he’s a member of OCC’s student honor society, Phi Theta Kappa. “It’s always quiet here. I enjoy the atmosphere. If it turns out I do need help with something I can find someone who can answer questions for me. I feel like my grades wouldn’t be as high as they are without the Learning Center.”

On this day Simmons needs help in calculus and he finds Corrine LaFrance (Skaneateles High School), an OCC sophomore majoring in Business Administration.  She works at the Learning Center four hours a week and enjoys every minute of it. “I love tutoring in math. I’m very good at it and I enjoy helping others,” said LaFrance.

Ted Mathews and Kathleen D'Aprix oversee Learning Center operations.
Ted Mathews and Kathleen D’Aprix oversee Learning Center operations.

Learning Center administrators are working to add workshops to their list of student offerings for the spring 2015 semester. “We’re learning a student may be assigned a project which requires a PowerPoint presentation but doesn’t know how to create one, so we are designing a PowerPoint workshop,” said D’Aprix. Workshops will also be added to help students learn how to use Microsoft Word and thumb drives.

The Learning Center is open Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Nick Simmons


Nick Simmons’ dedication to physical fitness unexpectedly helped him find his passion and become a standout student. By his own admission Simmons was a very average student when he graduated from Skaneateles High School in 2012.

Simmons came to OCC, started in a major which he didn’t think was right for him, and stumbled upon his future one day when he was working out at the gym. “A friend told me he was interested in physical therapy. At the time I didn’t know much about it so I started looking into it.” He realized he was very interested in how the human body worked and decided to take a biology class. “I loved it and changed majors.”

Simmons became a Mathematics and Science major and his newly found interest motivated him to excel academically. He became a member of student honor society Phi Theta Kappa, the College Science and Technology Entry Program, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, and the summer Bridges program which provides a five-week paid research internship in the Biological Science Department at SUNY Binghamton. Simmons spent part of the summer of 2014 there researching the effects of alcoholism in rats.

Simmons will leave OCC after the fall 2014 semester and transfer to SUNY Binghamton where he will study neuroscience. After graduating from Binghamton he will pursue a degree in physical therapy.