Suffolk County Community College

The sign outside Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus along Nicolls Road. Photo by Heidi Sutton

The coronavirus pandemic has temporarily disrupted life for Suffolk County Community College, but college officials said it hasn’t dampened the spirit and ingenuity of those determined to carry out the college’s mission, make a difference and continue classes and services for students.

The sudden shift of instruction on March 23 from the classroom to 2,903 online classes for Suffolk’s nearly 20,000 students took place in less than two weeks. A herculean task matched by shifting Suffolk’s libraries, advising, counseling, financial aid, and a host of other services to remote operation built on a foundation made by Suffolk’s Information Technology (IT) Department.

“How do you move nearly 3,000 course sections online in only two weeks?” said Suffolk County Community College Interim President Louis Petrizzo. “You ask our faculty to do the impossible and they deliver in record time for our students. We are eternally grateful for the dedication of our faculty, our front-line employees in Public Safety and Plant Operations who pulled together in this time of need.”

Suffolk’s libraries are providing virtual hours, online chat and electronic resources for students.

Counselors and advisors are meeting with students via Zoom, email and phone while Suffolk’s Veterans Affairs resource centers are hosting virtual office hours. Later this month the group will host a virtual meeting and discussion with a World War II veteran who is a Battle of the Bulge survivor and concentration camp liberator. The Zoom meeting is open to all.

The college is also calling every Suffolk student to answer questions and provide direction to resources. More than 13,000 students have been called to date. And, just like all of us, Suffolk students and their families have been affected by the pandemic.

Suffolk’s IT Department distributed more than 300 laptops and dozens of hotspots to students who lacked the technology to log into online instruction and fielded more than 300 technology inquiries from students.

A newly established Suffolk Community College Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Fund has fielded more than 170 students’ applications for support. 90 percent of students who applied cited job loss, as well as family unemployment and related that a family member or members are ill and being treated for coronavirus. Any enrolled student can apply for emergency funds.

“We are here for our students because we’re all in this together,” said Sylvia A. Diaz, executive director of the Suffolk Community College Foundation.  “Our generous donors, our faculty & staff, alumni and corporate partners have all pitched in to help students facing financial hardships because of the pandemic.” 

Contributions to the student COVID-19 Emergency fund are being accepted at: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/sccf-covid19.

SCCC moved activities from its two health clubs online, providing access to a YouTube hosted exercise regimen, and the athletics department is hosting online gaming competitions, while also emphasizing that everyone needs to exercise.

The college’s sustainability department has continued conservation efforts by celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day with the Take 1 Less challenge. Participants are challenged to use one less plastic item a day and document their efforts with photos that are shared on the college’s social media channels. On Earth Day, a virtual nature walk with the Suffolk County Community College Ammerman Campus Environmental Club will take place via Zoom.  

Alexandra Smith on the trail. She hopes to beat 18 minutes going into next year’s cross country season. Photo from SCCC

Her first year in college, Shoreham’s own Alexandra Smith cannot be stopped. In just one season at Suffolk she beat her own record four times in a row.

2019 Champions from left, head coach Matt French Ashley Czarnecki, Nina Bonetti, Taylor McClay, Allaura Dashnaw, Yasmeen Araujo, Alexandra Smith, Stephanie Cardalena, Assistant Coach Miles Lewis. Photo from SCCC

Suffolk County Community College Women’s Cross Country team won its third national title led by Smith, who claimed the individual title in 18:34.03. Smith logged the third fastest time by a female individual champion in meet history and was named National Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the year from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association and National Junior College Athletic Association, Division III. She is SCCC’s first-ever to win that recognition in women’s cross country. 

The Sharks ended up with 27 points, the second fewest scored by a winning team since 2010, which was also 64 points less than the runner-up.

Cross country head coach Matt French said the team this year has been one of the best, with them taking on a mission to hit milestones, and then reaching those goals.

Smith, he said, has been one of the best the school has seen, managing to beat her own personal best four times this season. 

“Once she got that bug, she just wanted to run faster,” French said. 

The runner, whose going to SCCC looking toward a career in special education, said she felt great this season, and though she hoped to break 18 minutes this semester, she still has three other semesters to make it there. She added she hopes to break her high school record of 4:49 in the 1,500 in the next year and a half.

“It was great to come to Suffolk and have such a great team and coach,” she said. 

French also took home top coaching honors as 2019 National Women’s XC Coach of the Year from the USTFCCCA and NJCAA Division III.

Jill Santiago

Suffolk County Community College announced Aug. 6 that alumna Jill L. Santiago of Middle Island has been named executive director of the Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding: Featuring the Holocaust Collection.

A graduate of Suffolk County Community College, with a bachelor’s in sociology from Stony Brook University and a master’s in history from Queens College, Santiago launched her career at the Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding as a student volunteer more than a decade ago. During that time she has been involved in the development of educational programming and expansion of community outreach to significantly grow programs on and off Suffolk’s three campuses. Santiago also teaches courses at Suffolk about the Holocaust and Western civilization.

The center, whose mission is to educate the community about historical events and to promote cultural understanding and respect for human dignity, now reaches more than 8,000 participants each academic year.

The center is located at Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus in Selden, in the Huntington Library, 533 College Road, Selden. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. when classes are in session. For more information, call 631-451-4117.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks about the expansion of the VetsSuccess on Campus program to Suffolk and Nassau community colleges at a press conference in Selden April 4. Photo from Lee Zeldin

Students who have served and their families are receiving some transitional support.

U.S. Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford) announced the expansion of the VetsSuccess on Campus program to Suffolk and Nassau County community colleges. The initiative, through the Department of Veterans Affairs, helps veterans, service members and their qualified dependents succeed in school using a coordinated delivery of on-campus benefits assistance, including referral services and peer-to-peer counseling. The program is intended to lead students to graduation and prepare them to enter the workforce in viable careers.

Services may be accessed by:

  • Service members and veterans eligible for any of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs educational programs, including Post 9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill
  • Service members and veterans attended training through the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program
  • Eligible dependents of veterans who are in receipt of VA education benefits, including spouses attending school through the Post 9/11 GI Bill and eligible children

“Our nation’s servicemen and women put their lives on the line to protect us, and when they return home, they have earned nothing less than our unwavering support when transitioning back into civilian life,” Zeldin said during an announcement of the program’s expansion at Suffolk County Community College April 4. “The expansion of the VetsSuccess on Campus program means local veterans here at Suffolk and Nassau will have access to an even wider rage of tools at their disposal to help them transition into their new lives after military service.”

Suffolk County is home to the largest number of veterans in the state. SCCC serves more than 700 military-connected students annually across three campuses, and NCCC serves more than 300.

Students like retired Air Force Master Sgt. Olivia McMahon benefit from the program, and she said she’s thrilled to hear that what she was once provided remote access to will now feature a more personal connection to resources and benefits.

“As a single working parent and veteran, I cannot stress enough the importance of this program,” the SCCC student said. “It allows us to reach our educational goals and further educate our community.”

VetsSuccess on-ampus counselors provide:

  • Adjustment counseling to resolve problems interfering with completion of educational programs and entrance into employment
  • Vocational testing
  • educational and career counseling
  • Expedited VR&E services
  • Support and assistance to all veterans with VA benefits regardless of entitlement, benefit usage or enrollment status

Christopher Holder, the VetsSuccess on-campus program counselor, was at the April 4 press conference to talk to veterans about his position in the program and share firsthand experience with re-acclimating to society.

“As a veteran, as a disabled veteran, I have made the transition these students are making now,” he said. “I hope that my experience on both sides, as a veteran and as an administrator, will help these veterans make theirs.”

During the event, Zeldin and King presented SCCC Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Christopher Adams, with an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the expansion of the program and to honor the veterans it serves.

“Suffolk County Community College has a long history of assisting student veterans and maximizing their benefits and achieving their educational goals,” Adams said. “They deserve it and we are honored to be able to recognize their service to our country in this way.”

VetsSuccess on Campus began as a pilot program in 2009 at the University of South Florida in Tampa and has expanded to such an extent that SCCC and Nassau are now two of 99 colleges in the nation with the program.