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AME

Bonahue, above, entering the inaugural ceremony at the Suffolk Federal Credit Union Arena on the Michael J. Grant Campus in Brentwood. Photo by SCCC

On Friday, April 8, Suffolk County Community College celebrated the inauguration of Edward Bonahue as the college’s seventh president. 

Bonahue, who took office in June 2021, was joined by students, educators, community leaders and public officials at the Suffolk Federal Credit Union Arena on the Michael J. Grant Campus in Brentwood. During the event, various speakers had an opportunity to share their respective visions for the community college under Bonahue’s direction. 

Sarah Kain Gutowski, a professor of English at SCCC, delivered the inaugural poem, “A Shared Relief.” Gutowski’s poem reflected upon the setbacks faced by the Suffolk community because of the pandemic and offered a message of reassurance and hope.

“Perhaps memory serves us best when it reveals this: That after the onslaught of illness, fear, isolation and doubt, privation and poverty, empty rhetoric and tenuous polity, something remains,” Gutowski said. “Being together again, communing in this space whether virtual or real, masked or unmasked, standing six feet apart or three, is the way to recovery. Our eyes reflecting shared relief, it says, ‘Good, you’re still here.’”

Among the group of inaugural speakers was Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who commended Bonahue for his leadership qualities and for his unique ability to generate partnerships throughout the community.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, above, spoke during the inauguration. Photo by SCCC

“We are fortunate now to have a seasoned higher education executive with more than 20 years of experience in community college education leading this great institution,” Bellone said. “If the last 10 months tell us anything, it’s that Dr. Bonahue is a proven leader. Throughout the course of his career, he has successfully implemented creative programs and creative, innovative partnerships.” The county executive added that these are “all talents he has brought with him to his role as our new president.”

Bellone also touched upon Bonahue’s local roots, which he considered vital for the continued connection between residents and the community college: “Dr. Bonahue not only has the experience and know-how to lead this incredible institution, but we know he has a special interest in seeing this region succeed as a native Suffolk County resident and graduate of Ward Melville High School.”

Edward Bonahue (left) and County Executive Steve Bellone (right) share a laugh during the inaugural ceremony. Photo by SCCC

Mary Reid, member of the SCCC Foundation Board of Directors and a tax preparer based in Bay Shore, said Bonahue had met with over 100 community representatives from various organizations throughout the county in September 2021. Since that initial meeting, Bonahue has already strengthened the ties between SCCC and its community partners.

“Dr. Bonahue, you and your staff have kept in contact and have begun to implement the suggestions offered that morning,” Reid said. “You have interacted with library directors, with superintendents of schools, labor leaders, civic groups, religious leaders and mothers wanting to attend college who were seeking day care and financial aid,” adding, “We thank you so much for that.”

Reid said jokingly, “Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot leave without asking for something.” Addressing Bonahue, she said, “Today I ask you to add to your to-do list a program that will meet the needs of persons with disabilities, especially those with Down syndrome,” adding, “Also remember to engage in frequent updates to the community groups.”

Representing the student body was Zachary Frost. He celebrated the appointment of Bonahue as president, arguing that Bonahue intends to bring quality higher education opportunities to low-income families throughout the county.

“The first time I met President Bonahue, we spoke about the many resources made available to students to ensure their success,” Frost said. “President Bonahue wanted to streamline access to these resources and make them more readily available to any student who may be struggling. It was in this meeting that I saw President Bonahue’s passion for driving success, especially for those at a disadvantage.” 

Frost described the challenges of growing up in a single-parent household and of being raised by a parent who struggled to make ends meet. “I remember as a young child, probably six or seven years old, my mother didn’t have the easiest time going through college, whether it be financially or her trying to find someone to watch me while she was in class,” he said. “I can’t help but wonder, had she been a student here at Suffolk County Community College and had access to all of these amazing resources, like our food pantry, writing centers, hardship funds and on-campus day care centers, accompanied by caring professors and a great faculty, she probably would have had a much healthier college experience.” 

Dr. Bonahue, on behalf of our three bargaining units, the Faculty Association, AME, the Guild of Administrative Officers, and the executive leadership team, we welcome you, we welcome your family, to our community.

— Dante Morelli

Representing the SCCC employees and the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees was Dante Morelli, professor of communications. He said AME union members are the engine behind the entire operation at SCCC’s campuses and downtown centers.

“President Bonahue, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that you probably already know,” Morelli said. “If you really want to know who keeps the college running, it’s the members of AME. It’s the members of AME who are often the first voice and/or a face a student sees or hears when they walk onto campus or pick up the phone to ask for assistance.” He added, “Dr. Bonahue, on behalf of our three bargaining units, the Faculty Association, AME, the Guild of Administrative Officers, and the executive leadership team, we welcome you, we welcome your family, to our community.”

To access our coverage of Bonahue’s inaugural address, click here.

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Joselo Lucero speaks during a Bethel AME Church program about building bridges during Black History Month. Photo from Tom Lyon

By Tom Lyon

Members of Setauket’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church hosted a community forum last Saturday to conclude Black History Month with a time of reflection about violence and its aftermath.

The event was a follow-up to last June’s memorial gathering held just three days after the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Nine people, some related to Bethel church members, died in the church’s sanctuary, yet their families spoke out for healing and forgiveness. Actions resulting from the tragedy included the removal of the Confederate battle flag from many public places across the South.

The 80 audience members reflected personally about the main themes of how we can change in response to tragic events and of building bridges throughout our communities to prevent future violence.

A featured speaker was Joselo Lucero, whose brother Marcelo, an Ecuadorean immigrant, was murdered in a Patchogue hate crime six years ago. Joselo Lucero has since become a champion against hate crimes and for tolerance, and has presented programs to thousands of Long Island students. At Bethel AME, he spoke of his family’s loss and how the village of Patchogue now holds an annual vigil in remembrance of the tragedy.

Jennifer Bradshaw, an assistant superintendent in the Smithtown school district, said, “It was so empowering to be surrounded by people dedicated to not just identify societal problems, but to work actively to solve them … to sit down and talk honestly, yet hopefully about building bridges across differences.”

Susan Feretti, of Setauket, said, “The conversation began here today is the beginning of neighbors and groups building bridges … the root of healing both locally and globally. I look forward to what lies ahead.”

Rev. Greg Leonard added that, “Based upon the very positive responses from the audience, and a questionnaire distributed, a task force is being formed to explore ways to hold more ‘building bridges’ events in the future. All community members are invited to join.”

Tom Lyon is a program director at Lift Up Long Island, a group that teaches leadership skills to youth.

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Bethel AME Church in Setauket. File photo by Alyssa Melillo

“It changed, so how can we?”

That is the question Rev. Greg Leonard of Setauket’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church has asked the Three Village community, and that is the question residents will have the chance to answer at a special service planned for next week. Leonard and more than 100 members of his church hosted a moving ceremony in the aftermath of June’s horrific shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and he said Black History Month was an appropriate time to reflect.

“At the previous meeting, we started to build bridges to one another and we want to continue doing this,” he said. “And with this being Black History Month, Bethel wanted to take leadership and hold an event at which all people — because black history isn’t just for black people — can come together.”

Bethel AME scheduled the gathering for Saturday, Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. at the church, located at 33 Christian Ave. in Setauket.

Rev. Gregory Leonard leads a service at Bethel AME Church in Setauket. File photo by Alyssa Melillo
Rev. Gregory Leonard leads a service at Bethel AME Church in Setauket. File photo by Alyssa Melillo

The event flyer that Bethel AME Church has been distributed promoted the hash tag #PrayForCharleston, which went viral following the June 17, 2015 shooting that killed nine African Americans at a church in South Carolina. The flyer also challenged the Three Village community with moving the dialogue forward to address racial issues and injustice across America.

“The primary issue we’re talking about is change,” Leonard said. “It’s about how this change happens on a community-wide basis, and also on an individual basis.”

North Shore native Leroy White lost his second cousin DePayne Middleton Doctor in the tragedy and said the outpouring of support from Three Village families was overwhelming in the days following the shooting.

“What we saw was a community coming together so well that it was almost unbelievable,” White said in an interview in June. “The response was so overwhelming that we were taken aback by the number of people who showed up. It showed me that this is one of the better communities in America.”

Since the shooting, Leonard said he has already seen strides made across the country to enhance the discussion about race in America. He cited the removal of the Confederate flag outside a state building in South Carolina back in July as a pivotal moment showing what could be achieved through common understanding.

“That was a revolutionary moment,” he said. “I think no matter how people might have felt, the remembrance of the tragedy and also the great grace the people had in terms of forgiveness after the fact can begin to build bridges, even to people who feel they might oppose your stance on any particular matter.”