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.

Programmed for Success – Jesse Peplinski, ’15

Jesse Peplinski is a self-starter whose passion is working with computers. The Liverpool High School graduate came to OCC in the fall of 2013, enrolled in the College’s Computer Science major and two years later received the Curriculum Honor Award before graduating. Peplinski is pictured at the top of this story receiving his award from OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill and Timothy Stedman, Chair of OCC’s Computer Studies department. “Jesse carries himself with a maturity beyond his years,” said Stedman. “His drive and focus are exceptionally rare. He thrives when challenged, not just waiting to be pushed, but seeking out additional opportunities for growth. New ideas and difficult problems cause him to dig deeper and work harder and he actually enjoys it.”

Peplinski faced one of his biggest challenges in April 2015 when he participated in Hack Upstate, a 24-hour event which brings together engineers and developers who collaborate and build products in a limited amount of time. “I heard about Hack Upstate through Professor Stedman,” said Peplinski. “I had no idea what to expect but signed up for it right away.”

Jesse Peplinski
Jesse Peplinski

The experience wound up being a game changer for Peplinski. “I can honestly say Hack Upstate changed my life. I collaborated with some incredible people, met a ton of awesome folks and above all else I learned so much. As soon as I got home I had a drive to learn all about new technology I wouldn’t have known about.” During Hack Upstate, Peplinski performed well while being matched against people of various skill levels. “Jesse held his own against grad students and professionals,” said Sheila Sicilia, one of his professors in the Computer Studies major at OCC. “His maturity, intelligence and passion for learning are outstanding. He asks insightful questions that show he’s constantly thinking about how to apply the concepts to more complex problems.” The next Hack Upstate event is scheduled for October 3 and 4. Peplinski will be participating and encourages others to attend.

In the summer of 2015 Peplinski’s learning continued during a 10-week long internship at Kishmish, a Syracuse company which provides businesses of all sizes with innovative solutions in IT, data, voice and digital marketing. The internship was coordinated through the College’s Career and Applied Learning Center. Peplinski’s main role was as a content specialist and providing general support for the team. “Kishmish inspired me to start my own web design business on the side. I would highly recommend Kishmish to anyone at OCC looking for a great internship.” Peplinski’s business website can be found here. It is currently under development. He also has his personal website here.

Peplinski is now a student at SUNY Potsdam. He’s majoring in computer science with the goal of becoming a software engineer or web developer. His future is bright thanks in large part to a foundation built at OCC. “My time there helped me confirm what I wanted to do. OCC truly helped me develop a passion through helpful professors, advisers and peers.

You can watch video of Peplinski at Hack Upstate here. He first appears 1:15 into the video and is wearing a maroon “Potsdam” sweatshirt.

Jennifer Townsley, '13 participates in the Vocal Alumni Sing-In. Townsley is now a student at SUNY Fredonia.

Vocal Alumni Summer Sing-In

The sounds of skilled vocalists practicing their craft filled the air on a hot August night on the OCC campus. The beautiful music came from the Recital Hall in the Academic II building where graduates of the College’s Music program reunited for the “OCC Vocal Alumni Summer Sing-In.” The event was planned by OCC Vocal Professors Jean Loftus and Dr. David Rudari as a way to show off the new and modern home of the College’s Music Department. “When we started this event in 1984 I held it at my home,” said Loftus. “Last year we moved it into the Recital Hall and created more of an alumni event. We contacted former students by phone, email and Facebook.”

Evelyn White, '13
Evelyn White, ’14

The Summer Sing-In was highlighted by vocal performances from 16 graduates, many of whom are now singing professionally, teaching music or pursuing a higher degree. Evelyn White, a 2014 OCC graduate, returned for the event. When the Academic II building opened in the fall of 2013 she sang at the ribbon cutting ceremony. White has since moved on to Syracuse University where she is studying music therapy. “I couldn’t wait to come back. Hearing people sing and seeing how it impacts others is what really makes me so passionate about music!”

John Halpin, '96
John Halpin, ’96

Class of 1996 member John Halpin also enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the Summer Sing-In. When he was a student the College’s Music program was located in the Gordon Student Center. Halpin was excited to spend time in its new home and get reacquainted with old friends. “The look of the building, the great Recital Hall and the private practice rooms are tremendous upgrades.” After graduating, Halpin transferred to SUNY Postdam’s prestigious Crane School of Music. He is now teaching music in the Cicero-North Syracuse School District where he has spent the last 16 years.

With vocal alumni coming back to reconnect and perform each year Loftus sees the Academic II building bringing new energy to graduates. “The Recital Hall is the perfect venue for gathering and performing,” she said. “I hope to keep this tradition going for many years.”

The Music department would like to recognize Leslie Kraus for all she did to help make this event a success.

Mark your calendar for next year’s event! It will be held Thursday, August 11, 2016 in the Academic II building’s Recital Hall. For more information on alumni events across the campus and information on how to reconnect with OCC please visit or contact Russ Corbin at

Participants in the 2015 Vocal Alumni Sing-In pose for a group photo on the Recital Hall stage.
Participants in the 2015 Vocal Alumni Sing-In pose for a group photo on the Recital Hall stage.

Meet the Faculty: Jennie A. Sabo

Jennie Sabo, American Sign Language
Jennie Sabo, American Sign Language

Jennie A. Sabo
Associate Professor and Program Coordinator, American Sign Language

Hometown: Carthage, NY

Education: B.S., Empire State College; M.S., SUNY Potsdam

History at OCC: My dream was fulfilled the moment I was hired as a full-time assistant professor in the fall of 2007. Prior to that I had worked 18 years as a certified interpreter for the deaf and as an American Sign Language (ASL) adjunct instructor and mentor. I am currently the program coordinator of ASL at OCC and am most fortunate to have a position where I get to love what I do and do what I love.

Favorite Student Story: It is incredibly rewarding when students get in touch with us to express how we have positively impacted their life. One student in particular contacted me to say that she was chosen to interpret for President Obama’s first Inauguration. I am passionate about teaching and blessed to be part of a community college that truly cares about students and their success.

Little-Known Fact: Before deciding to pursue a career in signed language interpreting and eventually teaching, I worked with my husband in a family-owned business for over 18 years.

Meaningful Experiences Outside Education: I am most fortunate to have been involved in performance interpreting. I have interpreted for many artists in the music industry and have done numerous performance interpreted shows such as my most memorable one, “Les Miserables.” I am married to a wonderful man and we have a lovely daughter who has blessed us with a granddaughter and grandson.

Signature Music Camp

Dick Ford leads students through a sight reading class during Signature Music Camp.
Dick Ford leads students through a sight reading class during Signature Music Camp.

The next generation of student-musicians spent part of their summer on campus attending the prestigious Signature Music Camp. Students interested in pursuing higher education and a career in music came to OCC from as close as Central New York and as far away as California.

Camp attendees received training in both small and large groups. High school-aged students participated in a two-week session, and middle school-aged students enrolled in a one-week program. The entire staff was made up of former campers, several of whom now teach music in public schools. Instruction was based in the new Academic II building anchored by the College’s Music program. The structure spans a nearly 60-feet high gorge and contains a 150-seat recital hall, an instrument and choral rehearsal room, practice rooms, and smart classrooms. Campers lived in the College’s modern, air-conditioned residence halls.

“Coming here was a great way to grow musically,” said Molly Ross, a high school sophomore from Danbury, Connecticut. “You were surrounded by people who were as excited about music as you. It was a wonderful experience!”

Liam Lipsky, a senior from Tully High School, attended his fifth Signature Music Camp this summer. “I enjoy coming every year and meeting new people. Everyone wants to be your friend. We all have great relationships with each other. It’s a fun time and a great environment.”

The OCC campus and Academic II building were very popular with students. “It was really amazing here. We were all so excited to be here and see the facilities. It’s a beautiful building and college,” said Sarah Meemken, a junior at Averill Park High School in the Albany area.

Signature Music Camp was founded by Dick Ford, a former school superintendent who opened a music studio on Syracuse’s Near West Side to help local high school students. In the camp’s 22 years, more than 300 alumni have pursued music in college, and many are now teaching music throughout the country.

“Onondaga Community College is highly respected in New York State by music educators,” said Ford. “The College’s Music program has a long history of educating students and preparing them for transfer to outstanding schools like SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Fredonia, Ithaca College, and Syracuse University, where they can pursue a baccalaureate degree. With its new Academic II building, OCC is now a showcase for students and parents considering a high quality, undergraduate education.”

More information on Signature Music Camp is available at or by calling (315) 478-7840.