People Like Me
There are thousands of interesting student stories at SUNY Canton. Here are a few. #peoplelikeme
Emma Bortnick of Canton knew she wanted to be a nurse from a very young age and continued a family legacy by attending SUNY Canton.
Emma has now completed the first two years of the College’s four-year nursing program and will begin working at Canton-Potsdam Hospital in the medical-surgical unit, while completing her final two-years online.
“SUNY Canton’s renowned [Nursing] program was the perfect fit,” Emma said. “What I did not know is how quickly I would develop incredibly strong relationships with my classmates and professors. I am so lucky to have been a part of this program and I will always remember the people that made me look forward to coming to class every day.”
She said she chose SUNY Canton because she spent a lot of time playing sports on campus. “My three older brothers and my father graduated from SUNY Canton as well,” she said.
In addition to helping Emma launch her professional career, SUNY Canton aided her personally. “When I started classes at SUNY Canton, I had no idea that I would eventually meet my fiancé,” Emma said. “We met while I was working as a supervisor at the Fitness Center and we are currently planning our wedding for August of 2023.”
Emma was one of the nurses to attend the Pinning Ceremonies held Thursday, May 12. The special events were held during #NationalNursesWeek. #PeopleLikeMe #CantonConnetions.
Charliann R. Friedman is a campus leader in her program of study, a senior Resident Assistant (RA), and a Senior Student Ambassador in the Office of Admissions. Originally from Schenectady, she joined the college as a transfer student and is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology and a minor in Applied Psychology.
“Before becoming a RA and student ambassador, I had to overcome many hardships that put roadblocks in my path to success,” Friedman said. “I am a survivor of domestic violence, and I am a huge advocate for domestic violence awareness and mental health awareness.”
She’s a proponent of the college’s Counseling Center, St. Lawrence County Renewal House, and SUNY Canton University Police as resources available to others who might be suffering in silence. “It is very important to me to be able to advocate for survivors and share the resources available to them,” she said.
Charliann attends college with her emotional support dog, Zelda. Charliann is one of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipients this year.
Peter Parrish of Edwards has found his place at Canton on the SUNY Canton Steel Bridge Team.
“As a freshman, joining the Steel Bridge Team gave me friendships and a new community to be a part of. I feel extremely lucky to have gained the support of so many talented people.”
Peter is enrolled in the Engineering Science 2+2 program, which will allow him to begin his education at SUNY Canton and then transfer to another university to complete his bachelor’s degree. “I chose SUNY Canton for the amazing connections we get to make with our professors,” he said.
His favorite class is calculus with lecturer Kevin McAdoo and his favorite faculty member is Assistant Professor Kibria K. Roman from the Mechanical Engineering Technology program.
Peter’s college experience has been highly relatable. “I love the staying late in the library with friends and then getting late night pizza,” he said.
Anthony Propst is a comic book lover who shared his enthusiasm with the entire college during the recent College Comic Con.
“As Special Events Chair for the College Activities Board I was the one spearheading the event,” he said. “I was told that a student who was here for Admitted Student Day made their decision to come to the school based on Comic Con, which gave me a great feeling.”
He said he’s also shared conversations with SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran, who is a fellow comic collector. “I really like older comics,” Anthony said while holding a vintage Daredevil issue.
Anthony originally came to Canton from Mechanicville for the Game Design and Development program but found his home in the Sports Management major. “Dr. Para and Mr. Metcalf both helped me make the change and get into this program and I loved being here ever since,” he said. “I have made some amazing friends and met incredible professors who’ve given me so much knowledge and help throughout my years here.”
He recalled other unique experiences at SUNY Canton, including the 2019 Gunna and City Girls concert. “Getting to see them live my freshman year was a great experience,” he said.
Anthony was also involved with the annual Nicole Fleury Memorial 5K run, which helps fund a scholarship at the college. “Being a part of an event dedicated to the memory of a SUNY Canton student was a great feeling,” he said.
Gabrielle Gyampoh from Middletown is one of several college student ambassadors who are responsible for engaging with prospective students and providing first-hand knowledge about the SUNY Canton experience.
Gabrielle and her team assist with campus tours and informational events, as well as serve as a resource for incoming Roos.
Understanding that selecting a college is a big decision, Gabrielle said she’s willing to provide guidance about the transition from high school to college whenever it’s needed.
“I enjoy answering questions about the admissions process because I know it can be stressful,” she said. “Having someone like myself offer assistance can be extremely helpful.”
As a tour guide, Gabrielle said she makes sure guests come away with an understanding of all that the College has to offer.
“It is truly a pleasure to show them around our beautiful campus and talk about our amenities and student support resources,” she said.
The National Student Employment Association has designated April 10-16 “National Student Employment Week” to recognize the value of employees like Gabrielle.
“Student workers are an essential part of our daily operations, and their contributions to the College are immeasurable,” said President Szafran. “On behalf of the entire SUNY Canton community, I’d like to thank all of our student workers for their hard work, professionalism and dedication. Well done, Roos!”
Nicholas Abrantes of Lake George celebrates his academic success by passing along his skills and knowledge through his campus job at the Betty J. Evans Tutoring Center.
“Being a tutor gives me the opportunity to help other students,” he said. “I know there were times when I needed support, so being able to pass that on feels good. The other tutors I work with have great advice, and many times I've used it.”
Nicholas is currently in the Engineering Science 2+2 program, which allows him to earn his associate degree and then move on to another university to finish his bachelor’s in an engineering program. His current favorite class is calculus. “Math has always been second nature to me,” he said. “Being good at something makes me like it that much more.”
Despite his aptitude for math, Nicholas said he previously struggled academically. After a previous false start, he has hit his stride at SUNY Canton.
“After giving up on school the first time, many schools wouldn't accept me because of my prior poor performance,” he recalled. “SUNY Canton saw the potential I had and forgave me for the mistakes I had made in prior years. I will always be thankful to the school for that. Since then I have demonstrated my potential by making the President's List last semester.”
Nicholas is also receiving an academic award this spring.
Miranda Mejia’s goal in life is to help families say goodbye to their loved ones. The sophomore said she learns best through hands-on practice, and that she’s found her place in the college’s Funeral Services Administration program.
“I chose SUNY Canton because it is the only college with a four-year degree program for funeral services,” she said. “I am the first person in my family to study mortuary science, so I wanted to go to the best college for it.”
Miranda is also a resident assistant in Rushton Hall and works in the Betty J. Evans tutoring center.
“I kept mostly to myself when I was a freshman, but then I became an RA and it forced me to interact with staff members and fellow students,” she said. “I became more comfortable talking to people and that helped me to make friends in the Funeral Services Administration program.”
She said she liked all her instructors in her major, who have helped her become a better student. “Dr. Penepent is an amazing professor with an abundance of knowledge to share with his students,” Miranda said. “He cares about his students and is dedicated to their learning.”
Other notable memories along Miranda’s SUNY Canton journey include the Rags to Riches fashion show, held through the Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership office.
Sara Lynch of Potsdam is the first recipient of the “Women in Electrical Engineering Technology (EET) Scholarship,” an award created by college alumni and friends to support female students interested in this STEM field.
Sara previously attended Alfred University and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in ceramics. After graduation, she rented an art studio and purchased electric-powered kilns to create commissioned pieces and to teach adult and youth pottery workshops.
“I was troubleshooting electrical glitches myself and needed more advanced instruction than YouTube tutorials to make kiln repairs,” she said. A friend suggested she enroll in the Electrical Engineering Technology program to upskill.
She quickly realized a degree would not only help her keep the kilns running, but would enable her to incorporate technology into her own classes, bringing STEM to kids through the lens of art.
“I believe the future of education is multidisciplinary, and with the help of this scholarship, I will be able to fuse art with science and technology for area children,” she said.
For Kara DeWeese of Queensbury, horses and the stock market share commonalities. The junior Finance major has used SUNY Canton to help start her career with the end goal of restarting her equestrian enthusiasm.
“I started at a bigger school, but it wasn’t a good fit,” Kara said. “It’s really hard to absorb knowledge in a large lecture setting. Now that I’m at SUNY Canton, I much prefer the way the professors teach. We do a lot of projects and I’ve had a lot of in-class hands on experiences.”
Following extensive work with the college’s Ready Center, Kara has been accepted into the Summer Analyst Program at Goldman Sachs. “I can’t wait to have my first experiences in the finance world,” she said. “I’m definitely going to be learning from the best.”
Her favorite faculty and staff members include Lecturer Sirvan Rahmati, who teaches math, and Assistant Director of Career Services Katie Kennedy, who works with Kara in the Ready Center.
“My favorite class is Business Communications,” she said. “When I take classes outside of math, accounting, or finance I tend to learn a lot and work on my weaknesses.”
As an avid horse rider and enthusiast, Kara has previously worked with Canadian Olympian Kelli Temple, who rode in equestrian events in the 1996 Olympics. She went on to work with two-star show jumper Grant Seger, where she helped manage and groom his horses.
“I collaborated with other professionals to increase the chances of a positive performance from amazing horses,” she said. “I slowly learned that horses were like stocks, they can’t talk but when you manage them super closely you feel like they can.”
She noted that horse riding is a difficult sport because of the financial obligation, but it’s something she would like to come back to in the future.
Junior Chris Gilman of Tupper Lake was originally attracted to SUNY Canton because of the iconic water tower at the front of campus.
“Every fall we would come by SUNY Canton on our way to duck hunt,” he said. “Seeing that big water tower on the way piqued my interest. It is just far enough away from home to make it a great fit.”
As an incoming student, he knew he wanted to work with computers and was looking for something a little different than an Information Technology degree. “The college came out with the Cybersecurity program that year,” he said.
His two favorite faculty members are Lecturer Minhua Wang and Associate Professor Kambiz Ghazinour, who both serve as the primary educators in his program. “They both get so excited and into what they are teaching,” Chris said. “It really draws your attention and helps you learn more.”
He said his favorite class is Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing. Outside of Cybersecurity, Chris takes as many Graphic and Multimedia Design classes as he can. “Graphic Design and 3-D Printing were always things I thought I would enjoy if I could get into them,” he said. “It adds to the abilities that I can bring to a career, personal business or hobby down the road.”
Chris is a Resident Assistant in Rushton Hall, and the experience has allowed him to make new friends outside of his major.
Being the only female student in the classroom is the norm for Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology student Ladonna Smith of Mount Vernon.
She will be the only woman in the program’s graduating class this May and has been outnumbered by male counterparts throughout most of her college journey.
“It can be daunting when you step into a classroom and nobody looks like you,” she said. “I was honestly scared at first, because sometimes you just want to blend in.”
As time progressed, she became more confident. Things started to click when she joined the campus SWE chapter (Society of Women Engineers).
She credits this small, but tight-knit, group with helping to combat feelings of isolation.
Ladonna’s experience has made her determined to leave a space for those following in her footsteps by recruiting newer students to join.
After graduation, Ladonna is eager to work in a field where she can make an impact on the planet.
“I am interested in being out in the field and helping the environment as best I can.”
Senior men’s hockey forward Zachary Ahola of Hancock, MI, said he selected SUNY Canton because the area gave him the feeling of being home away from home.
“When I toured SUNY Canton, it felt like a good fit because the small-town feeling could help me focus on academics and athletics,” he said. “The College has given me four years to pursue my goals along with making lifetime friends in the process. I’ve been introduced to new people from different countries that I would have never met without Canton.”
He noted some of his favorite staff members include Katie Kennedy, Assistant Director of Career Services and Bryan Parker, Fitness Center Director.
Zach is a Finance major who enjoys Real Estate Finance and Investment Process. He said his future plans include launching a career in the finance sector.
Aspiring graphic artist Charlotte Baldwin of Potsdam has ignited her creativity in SUNY Canton’s Graphic and Multimedia Design program.
While excelling in photography, drawing, and design, Charlotte said her favorite mode of artistic expression is digital illustration and primarily uses an iPad to create her work.
“My favorite class was Professional Creative Practices with Lecturer Seth Nixon,” she said. “It gave me a lot of leeway to explore my own creativity. Instead of having a set direction, I was able to make art with themes I had not tested. I also really enjoyed Digital Storyboarding with Professor Matt Burnett because I was able to draw all the time and see the natural progression of my artistic style.”
Charlotte decided on SUNY Canton after attending Clarkson School. She selected the college based on affordability and program value. “Here, I’ve been able to make a portfolio to help establish my art career and further challenge my skills as a traditional and digital artist,” she said.
Despite drawing connections with GMMD, Charlotte said her favorite faculty member at the college was her father, Associate Professor Brandon J. Baldwin, who teaches in the college’s Automotive Technology program. “…He also pays my bills,” she added.
After graduation, Charlotte said she plans on becoming a freelance artist, and is already working to establish her style and brand.
Online student Stephanie Washington of Syracuse said SUNY Canton, and her family, have given her the support she needed to work toward advancing her career at SUNY Upstate Medical University Hospital.
The Healthcare Management major currently works in the finance department as a healthcare reimbursement specialist. “I love what I do,” she said. “I am looking to climb up the ladder and work my way into medical coding.”
As a non-traditional student with more than 20 years of experience in the healthcare field, Stephanie has a rather unique perspective on the program. “I’m married with two adult children,” she said. “My favorite class is Women and Aging because I have learned an extensive amount of information about myself, my daughter, my mother, and my grandmother.”
Stephanie received support from her advisor Professor Marela M. Fiacco, Ph.D., who she said is always available to answer questions. She also gets help from Business and Accounting Lab Coordinator Robin Palm.
“I disliked all math courses before meeting Robin,” she said. “She taught me how to take a deep breath and embrace what I need to learn.”
Being an online student, Stephanie provided a photo of herself at home with her dog, Ace.
Miqueas Guerrero Martinez
Miqueas Guerrero Martinez was born in the Dominican Republic and moved with his family to Yonkers in 2013. He chose SUNY Canton because of his love of the outdoors and rural environments.
As a nature enthusiast, he is committed to doing his part to keep the planet clean.
“I want to start my own company that specializes in eco-friendly construction,” the Civil and Environmental Engineering Technology major said.
He is an avid photographer and painter, and he enjoys capturing the natural beauty of campus and surrounding area.
Aside from his creative pursuits, he’s been involved with the College Activities Board (CAB) for the past two semesters, and currently serves as Vice President. In this role, Miqueas helps plan weekend movie showings on campus and assisted with larger events like Family Weekend and the Halloween Lock-In party. He said CAB is closing out the semester with a winter holiday celebration.
Quran DuBois is a third-year Health and Fitness Promotion major from Niagara Falls who wants to become a physical therapist after graduation. He is also a guard for the Roos men’s basketball team.
“My favorite SUNY Canton story is winning the NAC Championship in February 2020,” Quran said. “We were the first team to go to the NCAA tournament. It was an unreal feeling.”
He said his favorite class is Advanced Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries with Associate Professor Janet Parcell-Mitchell, and that he’s received support from Men’s Basketball Head Coach Shiva Senthill.
Quran chose SUNY Canton because it was good distance away from home. “I also wanted to make an impact on the basketball court immediately after high school. “I think this school was one of my best options for me to play right away.”
He’s also an RA, which has been an experience that took him out of his comfort zone. “I only saw myself being a student and an athlete,” he said. “Being an RA made me open up more. I’m glad I did it because I think it has made me more mature.”
Jaydelynn Tamblin, a first-year Applied Psychology major from Gouverneur, said she was apprehensive to start college. She was able to overcome her fears with support from her friends, and the faculty and staff at SUNY Canton. She provided some advice for those thinking about starting their education.
“Don’t let the idea of ‘college’ get in your head,” she said. “I think it’s how everyone talks about it that makes it scary for people. If you try and reach out and get all the help that’s provided, you’ll more than succeed.”
Jaydelynn said her favorite staff member is Assistant Director of Career Services Kathryn (Katie) Kennedy who she met through the Jump Start summer program. She took a few classes during the summer before the fall semester started and became acclimated with the campus.
“I picked SUNY Canton for the support systems, the encouragement, academic choices, and being able to stay close to home,” she said. “I also love the unique aspects about it here and how I always feel welcome.”
She said when she joined TRiO she realized she wasn’t alone and that other students were scared about coming to college as well.
“It felt like we all had something in common and could relate to each other,” she said. “We also realized that we weren’t alone and had someone to talk to when we were having the same feelings. It made the whole transition easier for me.”
In our first installment of the “Pets Like Me” series, meet Dimitri, an emotional support dog who lives in Rushton Hall with his owner, Victoria Hanna of Malone.
This is his first semester on campus, and Victoria said he is adjusting to college life very well.
“Dimitri absolutely loved SUNY Canton when he arrived,” she said. “He enjoys playing with his Rushton family in the common area. He also likes to go to the grass field next to the turf field and play fetch.”
As a Miniature Australian Shepherd, Dimitri is classified as a herding dog – highly intelligent, adaptable and social. He even has a few besties on campus: Zelda the service dog and Paisley, who is a full-size Australian Shepherd.
Although his breed suggests he’s from down under, Dimitri’s never seen a real kangaroo, but he is looking forward to meeting Roody someday.
If Dimitri were a student, Victoria said his major would likely be Applied Psychology.
“He loves to make everyone's day better and loves to cheer people up. I've had many students tell me how Dimitri has helped them with homesickness and helped boost their mental health.”
Benjamin York of Auburn is a leader on the award-winning Student Steel Bridge Team.
The team competes annually against some of the largest schools in the country to build the most structurally sound scale-model bridge in the fastest time. The college won a national championship in 2009, and Benjamin and his teammates are continuing a legacy of excellence.
This past spring, they persevered through COVID restrictions to finish ninth place at the national competition.
Now a senior in the Mechanical Engineering program, Benjamin said he is actively recruiting new members to whom he can pass the baton. Among the many criteria required to join this elite group is a willingness to work hard.
“We are looking for people who are enthusiastic about competing and ready to take on a challenge,” he said.
Although they are in a rebuilding year, Benjamin said he is optimistic. Recent Bridge Team alumni are pitching in as advisors, and 1972 graduate Don Garrett pledged $50,000 over the next five years to help with expenses.
“This year’s competition is going to be a challenge, but I’m excited to see what happens,” he said.
Chelsey Raven of Ogdensburg is a Nursing major and a forward for the Kangaroos women’s basketball team. She said she chose SUNY Canton because it gave her the opportunity to stay close to home while studying nursing and playing basketball.
“My favorite instructor is Anne Petroccione and my favorite part of the nursing program is going to clinical and being able to practice hands-on care at local hospitals,” Chelsey said. “My favorite staff members are my coaches, Chris and Katie Klassen. We worked extremely hard during the pandemic to prepare for this upcoming season.”
Chelsey said that the strength and conditioning portion of her basketball practice routine has been particularly rewarding. “Working with our assistant coach has helped the whole team’s overall physical fitness. She has made us all a lot more comfortable with lifting.”
Time management has become particularly important for Chelsey. “Between lectures, labs, clinicals, practices and lifting, I’ve learned effective planning is significantly important for success.”
Cassidy Asiamah of the Bronx has just become one of SUNY Canton’s newest student leaders. She was selected to serve in the first class of SUNY Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Ambassadors and will be one of 20 individuals statewide to advocate for her peers.
Her appointment comes at the same time as a SUNY-wide comprehensive plan to expand EOP and add 1,000 more spots for students, increasing student financial awards, and expanding academic resources.
Cassidy selected SUNY Canton to major in Criminal Investigation and minor in Forensic Science.
“My story started in March 2019 when I came up to Canton to view the campus for the bus trip,” she said. “I immediately fell in love with the nature and the beautiful views.”
She said she chose SUNY Canton for the stability, the financial support, and the help faculty and staff provide to make certain that students are successful. “My favorite class was chemistry with Associate Professor [Rajiv] Narula,” she said. “I enjoyed how well his class was structured and he was available for contact. My favorite staff members are EOP Counselors Taylor Charles and Scott Quinell. They have always advocated for my best interests and pushed me to stay focused with their words of encouragement.”
Cassidy also received the SUNY Canton College Foundation’s Promises Kept Pathways scholarship designated for high-achieving Black scholars. She said she was especially grateful for the funding as a first-generation college student. “I don’t want to be just another number in the system, I want to succeed and make way for others like me,” she said.
In 2019, Esports Management major Daniel DePhilippis from Galloway, N.J., quit his job in tech support at a cable company to pursue his love for gaming.
“I knew my job wasn’t going anywhere, so I made a commitment to attend community college and fix my grades,” he said. “I made President’s and Dean’s list with a 4.0 GPA, and then submitted applications to four schools. I was accepted to all of them.”
He selected SUNY Canton over other larger, more prestigious colleges after seeing the Game Design Lab and Esports Arena. “I could tell that the college took esports seriously,” he said. “It was my top choice.”
Around the same time, Daniel struggled with health issues and made up his mind to change his diet and get physically active.
“My story shows that sometimes you can push a reset button in life, just like video games,” he said.
As a Student Ambassador for the Admissions Office, the customer service skills he learned working in tech support helps him interact with prospective students and families on campus tours.
“I focus on creating a fun, positive experience so that hopefully they will see SUNY Canton the way I see it.”
After graduation, Daniel wants to manage an esports team and be a part of the future of esports.
“I hope to see it become a global phenomenon and maybe one day be an Olympic sport.”
Gyniah Jenkins of Harlem is the President of Beta Sigma Zeta Sorority Inc. and a Criminal Investigation major. She recently received an American Red Cross scholarship after her sorority helped orchestrate a campus blood drive with the Wellness Promotions office.
Gyniah was the second student from her sorority to receive this scholarship. This semester’s drives will be held Tuesday, Sept. 28 and Wednesday, Sept. 29 in SUNY Canton’s Dana Hall gymnasium.
She said her favorite class was Introduction to Forensics, taught by her advisor, Assistant Professor Kelly R. Peterson, but she also enjoys most classes in the program. “My major is very much hands-on, and I love the atmosphere, energy, and help that all the teachers and students bring to the table,” she said.
Her time at SUNY Canton has been challenging for personal reasons, but she has been able to overcome those trials with help and support of her friends and staff at SUNY Canton.
“I lost my mom my second semester of freshman year,” Gyniah said. “Instead of letting that stopping me, it pushed me more. I am the only child to ever go to college and this was something that I told myself I was going to finish. I’ve grown close with the SAIL [Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership] office. Without them, college probably would have been harder or even impossible.”
She said she also received a lot of support from her sorority. “I was truly going through a lot especially since I lost my mom,” she said. “These things gave me the push that I needed to not only keep my grade to a certain point but to also keep going with college.”
For Karly Rothvoss, flexibility was important when she decided to enroll in the Agribusiness Management program.
“I live about 4 hours away from Canton and didn’t want to leave my children to finish school,” she said. “Online learning allowed me to stay at home while bettering myself.”
After graduation, she plans to use her degree to help farmers develop and market products that make their businesses more profitable.
“Agriculture is in my blood and deeply rooted in my area,” she said. “I want to see farmers thrive and be able to carry their farms on through their families.”
Karly said she takes pride in being among the first to complete the program. She will be graduating Summa Cum Laude this Saturday.
“Online learning was both a demanding and rewarding experience,” she said. “I hope my success inspires others to pursue careers in agriculture.”
Justin Brooks, a sophomore in the Esports Management program, found the same camaraderie on the college’s esports team as he did growing up playing football in Syracuse.
"I have a long history with sports, and because I decided not to play football in college, esports fills the competitive spirit I’ve always had. It’s not something I can get anywhere else."
Justin, better known by his gamer tag "theduelest1," is the Captain of the "Valorant" team. Because of his extensive experience in competitive gaming, he landed a paid internship with LeagueSpot, a company that assists colleges and other organizations run gaming tournaments. He’s responsible for game administration, assisting new clients, and content creation. He also shout-casts the college’s esports games via their Twitch channel.
"I like to think this was a position I got because of the hard work I put in assisting the team, as well as the resume I built in high school. It’s an exciting opportunity."
In a few weeks, senior Briannah Isaac will be the first in her family to graduate from college.
Without a roadmap to follow, the four-year journey to finish her Graphic and Multimedia Design degree and minor in Marketing Management was something she did mostly on her own. Briannah said she often had to work two or three jobs simultaneously while taking classes full-time.
“Today, I look at how far I have come and understand pursuing a degree was one of the best choices I ever made,” she said. “College will not only broaden your horizons, but connect you to endless opportunities.”
Even with so many demands on her time, Briannah always believed in helping others through her work as a Resident Assistant, Student Ambassador, or Library Learning Associate.
“Whether listening to someone grieve about the loss of a loved one, helping to eliminate a conflict, or assisting with academics, I have developed many relationships on campus by being whatever kind of support is needed.”
Sirena Alvarez, a sophomore in the Health and Fitness Promotion program, was born in Helsinki and was raised in Jyväskylä, Finland. As an international student, she said she selected SUNY Canton after being recruited by Coach David LaBaff.
“My favorite class I've taken so far has to be either Dr. Wolfe's Psych 101 last year, or Professor Boyd's Human Development class. They are insightful and I like the way both of them lecture. Shelly Thompson and Erin Lassial from the International Programs Office take such good care of us and truly make Canton feel like home.”
She also mentioned that Canton has the prettiest sunsets she’s ever seen.
Robert Akomezogho, an international student from Gabon, wants to help a North Country hospital defend against hackers this summer.
Robert, a Cybersecurity major, will use what he’s learned in the classroom to protect patient privacy. He is applying to several area medical IT departments to assist their cyber experts during the break. His favorite course so far was “Cybersecurity Defense and Countermeasures” (CYBR 356) taught by Minhua Wang, the college’s authority on internet crime.
He said he is enjoying his time at SUNY Canton and in the U.S. He has built strong friendships with fellow international students, and his favorite memory so far was a group trip they took in 2019.
“We went New York City during Thanksgiving break and saw Times Square, the Empire State Building and other places,” he said. “I was with students from Hong Kong, South Korea and Vietnam. We visited a karaoke club and sang ‘We Are the World.’”
Brigit Tejada is a Veterinary Technology major and animal lover from Manhattan, New York. She said she selected SUNY Canton because it was one of the only four-year programs in her field.
“SUNY Canton was the perfect match for me especially because I wanted to be far away from home to experience independency,” she said. “I also currently live in the pet wing at Mohawk Hall. This is one of the only colleges that I know of that allows students to bring their pets on campus. I was able to bring my cat and hamster with me.”
Brigit enjoys her class experiences because almost every lab in her program gives her an opportunity to work with animals.
“We primarily work with dogs and cats,” she said. “But for some labs we work with farm and laboratory animals. My two absolute favorite labs were Large Animal and Small Animal Medicine & Therapeutic Techniques. For our Large Animal lab, we got to go to our instructor's farm to work with her horses, cows, and sheep. We also had another instructor bring in his rabbits, goats, and chickens. For our Small Animal lab, every student gets the opportunity to prep and assist for surgery.”
Luis Torres Rivera
Luis Torres Rivera from Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, is a Health and Fitness Promotion major and a pitcher for the men’s baseball team. He said he chose SUNY Canton because it gave him the opportunity to become more independent and study what he loves.
“I had to adapt to a new language, a new environment, new friends, and being far from my family,” he said. “I got the opportunity to work and meet amazing people. I had the chance to play the sport I love and get a degree.”
His favorite class is Strength and Conditioning. “Although I had to take it online because of the pandemic, it was a great class and expanded my knowledge in the field of fitness. Janet Parcell Mitchell has always been a great professor, easy to understand and you notice the passion that she has when she teaches. When the pandemic began, she went out of her way to make things better for me. She was always there and willing to help me in any capacity. She even asked me if I needed any supplies.”
Luis works in the college’s admissions office as a Student Ambassador. He’s currently looking into master’s degree programs in nutrition with the end goal of starting his own business.
Thomas Contino of Henderson is putting the finishing touches on the college’s newest mural in Nevaldine Hall South. Tom is a prolific painter in the Graphic and Multimedia Design program and an avid musician.
“I have a variety of interests and have found it difficult to figure out how to build a career while pursuing my passions in art and music. I first got an Associate of Applied Science Degree from Onondaga Community College, majoring in music performance. From there I planned to continue my education at SUNY Fredonia, majoring in music therapy. My first semester showed me that this wasn't the program for me, and I took some time away from college to work part time jobs by day while playing music by night with a variety of cover bands. During this time, I also worked on developing my skills in visual arts and started to seriously pursue marketing my artwork. Eventually, I decided that I needed to go back to school to challenge myself to learn new ideas and skills, as well as building my professional network. I chose to pursue a bachelor's degree in graphic design because it allows me to take all my many interests and combine them into a career path.”
Tom’s next steps will be to get a job in graphic design and to continue developing his art and music ventures. “I am uncompromising in my pursuit of freedom, creative expression, and community,” he said.
Judson Foote of Hermon decided to become a nurse because people told him he couldn’t. The 36-year-old father of four has been a commercial truck driver, is an ordained minister and a private pilot.
“I have been a truck driver for the last 12 years,” he said. “I have even been an ice road trucker. Currently I'm a full-time nursing student and work for Casella waste whenever I'm not studying to provide for my family. When I told people I wanted to be a nurse, many would always say the same thing; that I would not make a good nurse because I was too rough around the edges. So, I decided to become a truck driver. After we started having children, I decided that I was going to follow my dreams and provide a better home environment and a better future for my wife and kids. Helping people has always been my passion. I believe that as a nurse I can make a difference.”
Judson’s wife, Courtney, is a 2007 SUNY Canton graduate.
Felicidad Christensen picked SUNY Canton's Funeral Services Administration program because she wanted to go into a field where she could help people and be involved in her community.
“I’ve long had an interest in cemeteries and mourning practices,” she said. “When I started classes here it immediately clicked. I am due to graduate this upcoming fall. I've made some of my best friends here, especially in the program. The latter half of my time at college is looking way different than I expected it to be, but I'm glad to be here at Canton and I'm especially glad I got to help out in the field back in April and May. It always takes some adjustment coming up here from the city, but that just makes it easier to focus on academics.”
Felicidad was one of the students to assist with operation “Hands with a Heart” where she volunteered to help funeral homes in New York City during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.