Delivering Healthy Habits to Guatemala

Students in OCC’s Nursing program spent the holiday season thousands of miles from home helping others. Nine students and two faculty members packed up suitcases filled with medical supplies and traveled to Guatemala. Their service learning adventure brought medical care and knowledge to people who desperately needed it. “This trip was the single most meaningful thing I’ve ever done,” said Nursing student Joshua McGinley (Whitesboro High School).

The green liquid is shampoo Nursing students made for residents of Guatemala.
The green liquid is shampoo Nursing students made for residents of Guatemala. Nursing student Marisa Canuso-Reiner (Jamesville-Dewitt H.S.) holds a bottle while student Amanda Pezzulo (Burnt Hills H.S.) pours shampoo into it.

While in Guatemala, McGinley and his fellow students held community health presentations on a variety of topics:

  • Oral hygiene for children
  • The importance of vaccinations
  • Breastfeeding
  • Prenatal Care
  • The importance of good nutrition while pregnant and breastfeeding

Students also went into homes and brought medical care to people. “The personal home visits and informational meetings we held were very rewarding. People were so thankful for what we were doing,” said Shelbie Pidkaminy (Solvay High School).

Students also helped build fuel-efficient stoves in homes which vented to the outside. Residents were used to cooking inside over an open flame without any ventilation, blackening walls and lungs with damaging particles which contribute to significant respiratory problems. “We worked with a mason who only spoke Spanish. Over time we were able to work through the language barrier. The families watched us work and were very thankful,” said Amanda Pezzulo (Burnt Hills High School).

The trip was coordinated by Assistant Professor Lee Berg. When she was a student she took a similar trip to Vietnam and found it to be invaluable. This was the second year in a row she brought students from OCC to Guatemala. “It was another wonderful experience. We believe generations from now people in Guatemala will be living healthier lives because of the lessons our students taught them,” Berg said.

Along with Berg’s leadership and the assistance of Assistant Professor Dianna Lewis Brewster who accompanied her, the trip would not have been possible without the generosity of numerous businesses and organizations:

  • Welch Allyn contributed lightweight medical equipment such as digital thermometers, otoscopes, headlamps, and blood pressure cuffs which were all very useful during home visits. They also donated two bags filled with beanie babies which the children of Guatemala loved.
  • M&T Bank donated $5,000 toward the trip and also brought our trip to the attention of Northern Safety which donated first-aid kits and replacement supplies for the kits. Students used several ice packs, antiseptic wipes and dressing change supplies on the trip.
  • Johnson & Johnson gave coloring books in Spanish for the children of Guatemala.
  • Wegmans contributed $1,000 which was used to purchase over the counter medicines, vitamins, first-aid supplies and toothpaste.
  • Salvation Army hosted the first fundraiser for the trip and also donated toys for the children of Guatemala.
  • The OCC Foundation, Nursing Department and entire Campus Community also contributed in various meaningful ways.

The Communicator – Kim Colasanti, ’93

Communication is key. That’s the advice Kim Colasanti gives students every time she speaks with them. “You can have as many technical skills as you want but if you can’t communicate, negotiate and compromise it’s hard to go far. If you want to get ahead you need good communications skills.” She shared those words with students when she spoke to members of OCC’s Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program in November 2014 in the Gordon Student Center.

Colasanti is a shining example of the power of OCC. She started her college education ten years after graduating from Syracuse’s Fowler High School. Colasanti worked full-time during the day and went to college full-time at night. “My life was very hectic but I loved my classes, I loved my teachers and I loved going to OCC. I worked very hard on my homework because I always wanted it to be perfect.”

During her time at OCC Colasanti discovered a love for numbers and formulas. “My favorite professors were all of the math professors. When I was in high school I struggled with math. It was a real deficiency. I found a real passion for teaching here. The professors were very involved with students and always helping, and it made a big difference in me.”

Faculty involvement coupled with Colasanti’s tireless work ethic made for the perfect student. She carried a 4.0 GPA while earning a degree in math and science in 1993. Colasanti would go on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from Syracuse University.

RESIZED Colasanti at computer
Colasanti works on a Welch Allyn computer program which allows hospitals to monitor patients vital signs from nurses stations.

In 2000 Colasanti was hired by Skaneateles based medical device maker Welch Allyn where today she is Manager of Quality Assurance for New Product Development. She is responsible for coordinating and harmonizing Welch Allyn’s global software process with national and international standards and regulations, functionally managing a team of quality engineers, and working with new product development teams to ensure that processes and standards are applied effectively and efficiently.

Colasanti is always willing to take time out of her busy work schedule to return to campus and let students know they are on the right path. “I tell them my story and it helps remind them why they are here and what they are working toward. I want them to know all of the hard work is worth it in the end.”

As she flourishes professionally Colasanti remains the College’s biggest cheerleader. “There are two reasons why I recommend OCC. You save a lot of money coming here, and the professors are focused on teaching and helping students. Why spend the money to go to a school where you are not going to get the help you need?”