Bridge to Better Health

OCC Nursing students carry health supplies across a footbridge in the highlands of Guatemala.
OCC Nursing students carry health supplies across a footbridge in the highlands of Guatemala.

They left with a strong desire to help others. They returned with a sense of satisfaction and an appreciation for life here at home. Seven of the College’s Nursing students spent their semester break on an unforgettable service learning trip. They brought medical supplies, provided health care and shared knowledge with the people of Guatemala.

Assistant Professor Lee Berg coordinated the trip for the third year in a row. She planned fundraisers and oversaw the collection of medical supplies. One week before their scheduled departure Berg and the students gathered to pack up their supplies. They filled 16 suitcases as close to the 50 pound limit as possible. When they finished they still had supplies left over which have already been set aside for the next trip.

OCC’s contingent took off from Syracuse December 29. When they stepped off the plane in Guatemala and began making their way to the rural area where they would spend the next 10 days of their lives it was evident they weren’t in the United States any more. “There was a tremendous amount of pollution in the air,” said student Lindsy Coon (Central Square high school). “Everyone there burns there trash. Vehicle emissions are bad too. You would see a van going up a hill leaving a big, black cloud of smoke behind it.”

Once they arrived in the community of San Lucas Toliman the students went right to work. They spent two days in a rural mountain village building fuel-efficient stoves in homes which vented to the outside. Residents were used to cooking inside over an open fire without any ventilation, blackening walls and lungs with damaging smoke which would contribute to significant respiratory problems. Cooking over an open fire in the home also increases the risk of severe burns, especially for children.

OCC students also broke up into teams of two and worked on teaching projects including hygiene, injury prevention and overcoming diarrhea. “We did our best to tailor our donations to what we were teaching,” said Coon. “When we talked about hygiene we gave everyone toothpaste, tooth brushes, body wash and hair products.”

When the topic was injury prevention they gave children donated shoes. “A lot of the children are barefoot. Wearing shoes prevents parasites. We made bringing shoes a priority because it’s a direct health intervention,” said Coon.

Students found natives were actually surrounded by solutions to their health problems. “We used plants to make shampoos and a substance similar to Vicks Vapo Rub,” said Shaowen Chen (Baldwinsville high school). “For diarrhea we worked on rehydration with plants which grow there.”

On January 7 the students said good-bye, boarded a plane and returned to Central New York. “I was so happy to come home. I walked in our kitchen and couldn’t believe everything we have,” said Coon. “It was very rewarding to go there,” said Cheng. “I would definitely do it again.”

A slideshow can be found at the bottom of this story. The Nursing students who went on the service learning trip are:

  • Rita Brush, Henninger high school
  • Lindsy Coon, Central Square high school
  • Shaowen Cheng, Baldwinsville high school
  • Kaylee Hartley, Edward-Knox high school
  • Josh McGinley, Whitesboro high school
  • Hannah Rhodes, Binghamton high school
  • Kira Kelley, Lafayette Junior-Senior high school

Berg and the students would like to thank the following business and organizations whose generosity made this trip possible:

  • M&T Bank
  • Wegmans
  • OCC’s Whole Earth Club
  • The entire OCC Community which generously donated supplies and funds
  • Families and friends of the students who also contributed supplies and fund

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Scholastic Art Show on Campus

ART SHOW top of storyThe halls of the Whitney Applied Technology Center have come alive! They are lined with the impressive art work of local high school students. The photos and drawings are all part of the CNY Scholastic Art Awards. More than 2,200 student artists from nearly 100 local schools submitted nearly 6,000 works of art. Approximately 1,600 of those made it into the Whitney building where they are on display. The gallery includes Gold Key (1st place) winners, Silver Key (2nd place) winners, recognition for honorable mention and special award honorees.

The CNY Scholastic Art Awards began more than 70 years ago and are the largest annual art competition in the country. The show is sponsored by M&T Bank. The art work will be on display through February 27. The exhibit is free and is open to the public.

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Lazers in the Band

OCC students and faculty with the SU Marching Band include (left to right): Alex Brown, Kyle McAfee, John Ireton, Alex Bick and Professor Rob Bridge.
OCC students and faculty in the SU Marching Band include (left to right): Alex Brown, Kyle McAfee, John Ireton, Alex Bick and Professor Rob Bridge.

The “Pride of the Orange” percussion section has a “Lazer Blue” feel to it. Four members of the Syracuse University Marching Band drum line are OCC students under the direction of an OCC Professor. Rob Bridge, D.M.A. is chair of the College’s Music Department. He’s also Drum Line Instructor for the Syracuse University Marching Band. Four OCC students suit up in S.U. colors for each home football game at the Carrier Dome and play percussion. Those students are:

  • Alex Bick, Music major from Whitesboro High School
  • Alex Brown, Music major from Westhill High School
  • John Ireton, Criminal Justice major from Liverpool High School
  • Kyle McAfee, Music major from Central Square

Go Lazers (in orange)!

Learning Through Basketball – Joseph Olsen, ’04

Basketball used to be Joe Olsen’s life. When he realized it would never be his livelihood he used his playing ability to get an education and build a career as a high school teacher.

Olsen graduated from Central Square’s Paul V.Moore High School in 2001. He was the all-time leading scorer and more interested in basketball than school work. Olsen went to SUNY Potsdam and lasted less than a month. He returned to Central New York and stayed busy doing odd jobs.

In between working and playing pickup basketball games Olsen ran into a friend who recommended he contact OCC Men’s Basketball Coach Dave Pasiak about playing there. Olsen took his advice, met with Pasiak and learned he would need to take and pass four courses during the summer to become eligible. Olsen decided to go for it. “I wasn’t the most disciplined student but coach stayed on me about it and it made a difference.”

Joe Olsen scored a College record 1,493 points in his two seasons at OCC.
Joe Olsen scored a College record 1,493 points in his two seasons at OCC.

Olsen spent two years at OCC, became the College’s all-time leading scorer and matured as a student. “I credit basketball with shining a light on the importance of school work. It began with the need to stay eligible and developed to the point where I was starting to become a good student. Coach Pasiak was a huge part of my success. He always stressed to be a good person and teammate, focus on academics, work hard and everything would fall into place. He really inspired me to be a good man.”

Olsen earned a degree in Business Administration in 2004 and transferred to Daemen College.  He played basketball and continued to grow as a student but was unsure about a career path. “I had a friend who was a teacher in Syracuse who kept telling me how much he enjoyed teaching. He thought I would be a good teacher.” Around the time Olsen graduated from Daemen he made the decision to become a teacher.

Olsen got his master’s in education at SUNY Oswego and went to work teaching business classes. He spent a year at Schenectady High School, then a year at West Genesee High School. Olsen had just been hired to teach at Whitesboro High School when basketball led him back to his alma mater. During a pickup game with a current Central Square teacher Olsen learned about an opening there for a business teacher. Olsen applied, interviewed and got the job.

Five years later Olsen is teaching sports management and video design, two business classes he created at Central Square. “If someone would have told me when I was 18 I was going to be a teacher in Central Square I would have laughed in their face. Now I really see the value in it and enjoy helping young people. My goal is to prepare students for what they are going to do after high school. It’s really important.”

Olsen is continuing his education at SUNY Cortland where he is pursuing a certificate of advanced study in educational leadership. When he completes his work he’ll be ready to pursue his goal of becoming an administrator.

Head Coach Dave Pasiak (left) and Olsen in the Allyn Hall Gymnasium.
Head Coach Dave Pasiak (left) and Olsen in the Allyn Hall Gymnasium.

Olsen enjoys the opportunities to come back to OCC for alumni games and golf tournaments. “It’s great to catch up with old teammates, reflect on our time together and hear what everyone is doing now.”

Pasiak has high praise for his former player. When Olsen was inducted into the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame he referred to him as, “Not only the most outstanding player we’ve had at Onondaga but also the hardest worker and a great leader as well. He is a shining example of using the game to further himself as a person.”

“Being the all-time leading scorer here used to mean more to me than it does now,” said Olsen. “I don’t identify myself as ’Joe Olsen the basketball player’ any more. I’m proud of it but I’m more concerned with ‘Joe Olsen the teacher.’”

With his playing days behind him Olsen has become the College’s biggest cheerleader, constantly talking about the opportunities here. “I’m always promoting OCC. I had a great experience here. I can’t say enough good things about it to my students.”

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.