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Suffolk County Community College

Suffolk County Community College accepted the donation of a 2020 Volkswagen Atlas to its Automotive Technology Program on Sept. 16 as part of Volkswagen’s Drive Bigger initiative. Volkswagen and local dealers are donating vehicles to universities, colleges, and technical and trade schools to develop future Volkswagen-trained automotive technicians.

New York State Assemblyman Douglas Smith, whose district includes Suffolk’s Ammerman Campus, presented certificates of recognition to the assembled Volkswagen dealer and corporate representatives as a thank you for the generous donation.

Photo from SCCC

Suffolk County Community College Interim President Louis Petrizzo thanked the Volkswagen executives for this donation to Suffolk’s program and explained that the College “… is very much aware of industry needs for automotive workers. We are proud of the technicians we produce. They are professionals that are not only going to be skilled auto technicians, but also have the ability and talent to move into supervisory and management positions,” Petrizzo said. “Our students, importantly, are also taught communication and soft skills that we know are important to the industry.”

“We are extremely fortunate to have strong support from our local area dealerships and manufacturer partners. The support they provide allows us to provide quality automotive education for our students resulting in a prepared workforce for their businesses,” said Automotive Technology Academic Chair David Macholz.

NYS Assemblyman Doug Smith, at left, tours Suffolk County Community College’s Automotive Technology facility in Selden on Sept. 16.

“These vehicles will be essential in assisting the next generation of Volkswagen technicians to interact with and learn the latest technology that is part of our exciting model lineup” said John Peterson, Director of Fixed Operations. “At Volkswagen we strongly believe in investing in the next generation and with our growing model lineup, it’s critical we give young technicians the opportunity to be hands on with our vehicles to help ensure we continue to deliver a high level of customer satisfaction in the future.”

Pictured in top photo, from right, Michael Siegel, Dealer Principal Legend VW; Dan Anderson, VW of America; Fixed Operation Manager Northeast Region; Louis Petrizzo, Interim President Suffolk County Community College; Dave Macholz, Academic Chair, Suffolk Automotive Technology; Ed Merman, Smithtown Volkswagen Service Manager; Bill Moran, Donaldson’s Volkswagen Service Director; Suzanne Cochrane, Bayside Volkswagen General Manager; John Peterson, VW of America Director of Fixed Operations Northeast Region;  Joe Romano, Service Manager, West Islip VW.

Suffolk County Community College’s Automotive Technology program is an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Education Foundation certified course of study that is designed to prepare students for employment as automobile technicians and is intended for those seeking careers as employees of automotive service facilities.

All programs have academic as well as automotive classes that fulfill requirements to obtain an A.A.S. degree. Suffolk’s program is also the only at a northeast college to offer the state-of-the-art Tesla START technician training program.

Suffolk County Community College officials said they will potentially suspend students who don’t adhere to social distancing and mask guidelines. File photo

Suffolk County Community College’s unions and the non-union professional staff have agreed to salary cuts and benefit deferments to help offset mounting costs from the coronavirus pandemic. The college’s president announced the news in a letter to the SCCC community last week where he thanked employees for their help and cooperation in overcoming an unprecedented economic downturn.

The majority of the college’s budget is driven by salaries and benefits, Interim College President Louis Petrizzo wrote, and that SCCC must now adjust this area in order to sustain its financial foundation.

“The College continues to employ a very aggressive strategy to ensure that it continues to meet its financial obligations,” he said in a statement, also pointing out that the college has not received 20% of its 4th quarter aid payment from the New York State and is unsure if it will. SCCC stated that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has said that if no federal stimulus money comes to the states, the college can expect a minimum 20 percent cut in state aid for the 2020 -2021 academic year. Suffolk County has continued to meet its obligations to the college for the 2019-2020 Operating Budget.

Members of the Faculty Association, he wrote, will defer retroactive payments from their February 2020 full-time salary increase until the end of the contract term. The members of the Guild of Administrative Officers will take a reduction to their biweekly salaries for one year and longevity payments for both units will be deferred to a future date or upon retirement.

Exempt employees’ biweekly salary are reduced by 5% for one year, and 2021 longevity payments deferred. The Association of Municipal Employees previously agreed to defer longevity payment.

“It isn’t easy for a union president to ask members to take a salary reduction,” said Guild President Sean Tvelia in a statement. “Especially when many have been working nonstop to support our faculty and assist students. But guild members understand the college’s fiscal challenges and, more importantly, they understand that a Suffolk County Community College education is a bridge to a better life for our community.”

Interim President Petrizzo thanked Faculty Association President Dante Morelli, Guild President Sean Tvelia, Suffolk AME President Dan Levler and the schools faculty, senior leadership and administrators for their help and cooperation and said these agreements will save approximately $2 million and enable the college to better manage its expenses and cash flow.

“These savings are important because our budget remains a work in progress,” Petrizzo said. “We still face financial stress and will need to pay continued attention to our revenue and spending as operations move forward. However, these salary adjustments will enable us to keep full time employees on payroll and covered for their health insurance and in the middle of a pandemic, that is very important.”

Suffolk County Community College officials said they will potentially suspend students who don’t adhere to social distancing and mask guidelines. File photo

Suffolk County Community College welcomed students back for the fall semester Sept. 2 with a combination of online and in person instruction.

The college launched a Return to Campus Guidelines website to outline policies and procedures for this fall’s return. Services including the community college’s libraries and child care centers will be available to students.

In preparation for the new semester, Interim College President Louis Petrizzo said in a release, the college empaneled a Safe Start Task Force that prepared and implemented the college’s SUNY-approved reopening plan. The task force reviewed the configuration of every space that students, faculty and staff may occupy or are scheduled for use and marked them for safe, social distancing. In preparation for the semester the college’s faculty underwent additional training to sharpen their skills for remote instruction. In order to promote equity, SCCC also distributed more than 540 laptops, 300 Chromebooks and 75 Wi-Fi hotspots for student use this fall. Outdoor wireless access was also expanded to parking lots on all campuses.

“We recognize that high-quality child care is important for students who are attending classes,” said Interim President Petrizzo in a release. “Our childcare centers will reopen and be available with new drop off and pick-up procedures in place for health and safety.”

Suffolk was able to distribute more than $3.5 million in student grants under the federal CARES Act to students who suffered financial loss due to COVID-19. CARES Act funding made it possible for many students to return for the fall semester. 

Petrizzo said the guidelines website is the result of months of work by the college’s Safe Start Task force which devised the plan in consultation with New York state and Suffolk County officials to ensure that students, faculty and staff that will come to campuses can do so safely.

The guidelines include a requirement that all students complete an online daily health screening questionnaire before arriving at a campus. Successful completion of the questionnaire will trigger an email to the student’s email permitting access to campus and must be shown to the Public Safety Officer on duty when arriving on a campus. Any student whose responses indicate a risk of COVID-19 exposure will receive an email advising them that they do not have clearance to come on campus that day and should contact a campus dean.

The guidelines further require that students adhere to social distancing and mask requirements. Those who don’t may face suspension.

Students attending classes on a campus will be in smaller groups to reduce density in accordance with physical distancing guidelines.

Instruction for the fall semester will be provided through asynchronous online assignments, real-time synchronous learning and a partly on campus and partly online option. There will be a limited number of face-to-face classes that will require hands-on instruction.

Campus libraries will be open and accessible by appointment. Students can reserve two-hour time-blocks by reservation using an online form. In addition, remote library research assistance will be available by phone, email and virtual chat.

The college also announced the modification or elimination of meal plan fees and credit card convenience fees. The distance education fee has been modified to be a one-time charge per semester, compared to a per-class fee.

Germani Williams, at left, marches at a protest in Huntington earlier this month. Photo from SCCC

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and police department representatives joined 60 Suffolk County Community College students and staff July 13 in a virtual conversation about policing in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. The forum was arranged as part of Suffolk’s The Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding’s weekly forums for students.

Advocacy and Empowerment 101: Protest to Progress was born from weekly virtual gatherings held each Monday evening to empower students as well as provide an open forum to share their thoughts after the death of George Floyd while being detained by Minneapolis police and the subsequent national dialogue about police, discrimination and race. The students also discuss what they can do to effectively and actively bring about change.

Hart shared with students the department’s ongoing efforts to engage with and build community relationships. Hart was joined by Deputy Commissioner Risco Mention-Lewis, Assistant to the Police Commissioner Felix Adeyeye and Inspector Milagros Soto.

Suffolk County Community College 2020 graduate Germani Williams, 28, from Holbrook said she urged the college to initiate the forum with police. 

“I wanted to know what Suffolk was going to do to make students feel safe during this time, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Williams said, adding that watching the news during the last several weeks has brought about a range of emotions from angry to sad and worried and a lot of anxiety. But, Williams said, speaking with the Suffolk County Police Commissioner was “potentially a once in a lifetime necessary conversation.”   

Williams said that while the conversation was a good beginning, more needs to be done.“

There was honesty,” she said. “But it was disheartening to go to a protest in Huntington the next day and witness police officers handing out tickets to protestors.”  

The former student added she will continue to be a voice for social justice and equal rights as she prepares to continue her studies at St. Joseph’s College in the fall.

“The Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding and Suffolk County Community College are committed to providing opportunities for students to connect and openly discuss important issues impacting students’ lives,” said Jill Santiago, director of The Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding. “The conversations the students are having with each other and with the police department are a critical first step if we expect to bring about substantial change in our communities. We expect these conversations to continue throughout the summer and into the fall.” 

The weekly forums open to all Suffolk County Community College students are sponsored by the College’s Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding, the Office of Student Affairs, and the Black and African American Student Success Task Force.

The Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding: Featuring the Holocaust Collection’s mission is to teach about historical events and promote issues of social justice and respect for human dignity through educational programming. The center’s vision is of a world in which each person can live in peaceful coexistence and pursue a life in freedom and dignity, and in which our citizens reflect upon their moral responsibilities. In addition to programs and events, the center offers tours of its Holocaust museum which houses the largest collection of Holocaust artifacts in the region.

From left, National Grid’s Belinda Pagdanganan who is also a Suffolk County Community College Trustee and a member of the Board of Directors of the Suffolk Community College Foundation; Sylvia Diaz, Sylvia A. Diaz, PhD, LMSW, the Foundation’s executive director and Keith Rooney, National Grid’s Director of Customer and Community Management for Downstate, New York. Photo from SCCC

National Grid has made a generous $10,000 gift to Suffolk County Community College’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund. The fund provides critical financial assistance to students at Suffolk County Community College whose lives have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and has supported more than 550 students to date. 

 “National Grid came to the aid of our students when it was most needed” said Suffolk County Community College Interim President Louis Petrizzo. “On behalf of our students, and all of us at Suffolk, we extend our sincere and heartfelt thanks.”

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.

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By Bill Landon

Huntington and Northport girls track members put their best feet forward at the Suffolk County track & field large school championships Feb. 2. held at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. 

Huntington sophomores Ella Siepel and Valerie Rogel finished 5th and 10th, respectively, in the finals at 3,000 meters clocking in at 11 minutes, 35.33 seconds and 11:51.66 respectively. Huntington junior Alicia Brooks tripped the clock at 7.55 seconds in the 55-meter dash for 6th place in the county. Huntington seniors Keily Rivas and Erica Varady finished the 1,500-meter race walk in 7th and 9th place crossing the line at 7:32.75 and 7:38.85, respectively. Rogel’s time of 5:30.69 in the 1500-meter race was good enough for 6th in Suffolk.

Northport senior Margaret Van Laer cleared 4 feet 8 inches in the high jump finals placing her in a four-way tie for 3rd place. Northport senior Sydnie Rohme traveled 17-4 1/2 in the long jump placing her in the top spot of the 2nd flight and her teammate Ashley Curcio leapt 15-5 1/2 to finish in 5th place in flight 1. Curcio finished 3rd in the triple jump with her best distance being 30-10 1/2. 

Huntington’s Grace Mckenna earned top honors in flight No. 1 in the shot put by throwing 30-4.

Both the girls and boys track & field are back at the college Feb. 11 for the state qualifiers where the first gun sounds at 5 p.m.

SUNY students work together with the nonprofit Nechama to repair roofs in Puerto Rico. Photo from Joseph WanderVaag

As Puerto Rico continues to recover a year after Hurricane Maria left devastation in its wake, some college students reflected on lasting memories of their missions to the island to offer help and support.

Joe VanderWaag helps to repair a roof in Puerto Rico. Photo from Joseph VanderWaag

This past summer more than 650 State University of New York and City University of New York students along with skilled labor volunteers helped to repair homes on the island through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative, according to the governor’s website. During a 10-week span, five deployments of volunteers worked on the island with the goal of repairing the roofs of 150 homes. By the end of the summer, the volunteers fixed the roofs of 178.

Peter Velz, SUNY assistant vice chancellor for external affairs, said since October 2017 the university system was working on engagement with Puerto Rico. On March 16 students from SUNY Alfred State and Geneseo went down for a week.

He said he believes the interaction with the homeowners was probably the most impactful for the students, and the residents they met in Puerto Rico tried to pay them back the best they could.

“It wasn’t paying them back financially,” Velz said. “Kids would make them bracelets or kids would make them pictures or the families would make them lunch. I really think that was probably the most lasting impact for the students, was working in the homes with the homeowners and providing them shelter.”

Rebecca Mueller, one of 21 Stony Brook University students who volunteered, traveled to the island in July, as did Joseph VanderWaag, who attends Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus.

“I wish there was more that we could do. But I think that the main goal for the organization, while we were there, was to make it livable at that point.”

— Rebecca Mueller

Mueller, 23, of Coram, a graduate student working toward her master’s in social work, said when she received an email from SBU looking for students to travel to Puerto Rico she knew she had to help.

“I knew things there still weren’t that great from hearing different stories, and I felt like not as much help was given to them as it should have been,” she said. “So, when I saw an opportunity where I could actually help to do something, I knew I couldn’t pass it up.”

VanderWaag, 20, of Smithtown, who is in his last semester at SCCC, echoed those sentiments.

“It was so devastating to see that these were our citizens not really getting any help,” he said.

Traveling to Catano and surrounding towns where her group was working, Mueller said she saw houses with no roofs, windows or doors. She worked on three homes during her stay, and said the students would climb to the top of roofs and roofers with the nonprofit NECHAMA — Jewish Response to Disaster showed them what to do.

Rebecca Mueller, above right, and a friend get ready to patch leaks with cement. Photo from Rebecca Mueller

Two of the buildings she worked on had second stories before Hurricane Maria, but the upper levels were destroyed by the storm, and the volunteers had to turn what was left into roofs by scraping up tiles, finding cracks, grinding them to open them up and then sealing with cement. The volunteers then primed and sealed the new roofs to make them waterproof.

“I wish there was more that we could do,” Mueller said “But I think that the main goal for the organization, while we were there, was to make it livable at that point. Because they couldn’t even live in the houses because every time it rained water was pouring through the ceiling.”

Mueller said she also helped to clean out one man’s bedroom that was unlivable after water damage from the storm. The room had mold and bugs, and his bed, clothes and other items needed to be thrown out.

VanderWaag said the homeowners he met didn’t have a lot of money so whenever there was a leak they would go to the hardware store for a quick fix to patch the roof. When the students weren’t working, he said they would talk to community members about the hurricane’s devastation and the response from the U.S.

“They are a mixture of upset, angry and feeling just almost betrayed,” he said.

VanderWaag said he’ll always remember how appreciative the homeowners were and how one woman cried after they were done. Her husband who was in his 70s would try his best to fix the leaks by carrying bags of concrete up a ladder and patching the leaks.

“It was a huge burden lifted off their shoulders,” VanderWaag said.

“They are a mixture of upset, angry and feeling just almost betrayed.”

— Joseph VanderWaag

Mueller said one family cooked lunch for her group and others working on the house next door every day. She said the students had time to sightsee, and when one tour guide heard what they were doing, he offered to take them on a free tour of the south side of the island. Both she and VanderWaag also visited Old San Juan and saw historic military forts during their trips.

“It really was a life-changing experience,” Mueller said. “Even the people I met from the other SUNY schools, we became so close so quick.”

Pascale Jones, SBU international programs coordinator, joined students for a week to help out. She said when she saw the students in action, she was amazed at how much they already knew about construction and found the whole experience to be humbling.

Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jones said she is used to seeing a certain level of devastation but was surprised to see the state of some of the homes.

“It’s Puerto Rico and these are U.S. citizens,” Jones said. “So, I did not expect this devastation so long after the hurricane’s passing. To think, U.S. citizens are living in a way that I would almost equate to a third world country.”

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.