As she sat at her table for the annual scholarship dinner awards ceremony at Finger Lakes Community College in September 2017, Althea Jones-Johnson made a promise to herself: One day she’d do what she could to help future students of color join the list of honorees.
“I was just so grateful,” she said. “I remember saying to myself that I want someone else to be able to experience that.”
Fast-forward to the present: Having recently embarked on a master’s degree program in higher education, Althea has partnered with fellow FLCC alumna and graduate student Samantha Maniscola to establish a new scholarship for African-American students.
The George Floyd Memorial Scholarship awards $1,000 to a deserving student in the memory of the Minneapolis man who was murdered by police during what should have been a routine misdemeanor arrest.
The scholarship is inspired by a desire to bring change and a challenge by North Central University President Scott Hagan who on June 4 announced the creation of the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship at his institution and called on every university president in the country to follow suit.
Standing at the head of the casket of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jacob Habecker thought of little other than his assignment, to serve and protect.
That, and the silence: As a member of the federal police, he’d grown accustomed to the buzz of dispatchers and fellow officers on his radio. Standing under the portico at the top of the Supreme Court steps in a frozen salute, Jacob was struck by the quiet and the long, snaking line of mourners.
Over the course of two days last month, Jacob was among a select group of federal officers chosen to serve in the honor guard while Ginsburg lay in repose at the Supreme Court where she served from 1993 until her death on Sept. 18 at age 87.
“It’s a memory I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life. I’m very proud of it,” said Jacob, a Palmyra native and alumnus of the criminal justice program at Finger Lakes Community College.
Jacob and fellow honor guard members, clad in their navy blue uniforms and matching face coverings, alternated in 15-minute shifts at the head of the flag-covered casket while mourners paid respects on Sept. 23 and 24.
Jacob could tell when a dignitary had arrived because they were escorted to the front of the line. He was working when Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez came through.
Shortly after the pandemic hit, Finger Lakes Community College student Kim Dey heard from a friend who works as a nurse at an area hospital and was worried about the shortage of masks.
“She said, ‘Kim, can you help?’” Kim remembered of that call in March.
Kim quickly organized a Facebook group, We Are In This Together – Sew Away Corona Upstate NY Palmyra/Macedon. It drew those who could sew, provide mask materials or support the effort with donations or connections. In the seven months since, the group of mostly Wayne County residents has made over 30,000 face coverings that have been donated to medical centers, police departments, schools, soup kitchens, Meals on Wheels, migrant farm workers and Native American communities.
FLCC is among the latest in a list of recipients that includes dozens more organizations, businesses and individuals as far away as Florida. Kim and her daughter, Emily, also an FLCC student, donated 1,000 face coverings to be handed out to students, faculty and staff.
Finger Lakes Community College has received $141,000 in National Science Foundation grants to study methods for extracting mushroom sugars with therapeutic properties in partnership with a Henrietta company.
FLCC faculty and students will collaborate with Empire Medicinals to find the most effective way to produce complex polysaccharides, or sugars, from mycelium, the fibrous root-like parts of mushrooms that are often below ground or in trees.
“This is a great opportunity for students to work with an industry partner and learn how to set up experiments,” said FLCC professor James Hewlett, coordinator of the college’s biotechnology program. “For the college, it could lead to more partnerships and long-term partnerships with industry.”
Hewlett is also founder of the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI), a national effort to teach scientific principles and skills through research. CCURI promotes collaboration among community colleges on projects to expand the number of students who have an opportunity to engage in research early in their higher education experience. FLCC will work on the mycelium project with faculty and students from Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pa.
The grants will enable FLCC to conduct experiments and pay four to five students as undergraduate researchers. In addition, FLCC scientists plan to learn from members of the Funguschain consortium in Europe, a global leader in developing products from mushroom byproducts.
Empire Medicinals cultivates organic mushrooms for the food and restaurant industry under the brand name Leep Foods. It currently grows the mushrooms on hardwood pellets, much as mushrooms in the wild derive nutrients from trees, explained Christopher Carter, co-founder of the company.
For this project, the company is hoping to use another growing medium: whey. Whey is a waste product of the dairy industry but rich in lactose, another kind of sugar. The goal is to grow the rootlike mushroom mycelium in the milk waste and turn it into a food additive.
“We want to show we can use this waste to create a food product, dry it into mycelial flour and use it in foods,” Carter said. The complex mushroom sugars are prebiotic, meaning they promote beneficial gut bacteria, and could be used to improve the health profile of a wide range of foods.
FLCC and MCCC researchers will conduct experiments to determine the most productive ways to grow and extract the sugars. For example, Hewlett said, they will try producing the sugars with different strains of mushrooms under varying temperatures and nutrient conditions.
“This is called ‘proof of concept,’” Hewlett explained. “A lot of startups do not have large budgets for research and development, so they partner with institutions.”
Sarad Parekh, who teaches Introduction to Biomanufacturing II as an adjunct instructor at FLCC, also works as a consultant with Empire Medicinals. He helped bring the company and the college together. Both Parekh and Carter see potential for biotechnology to grow in the Rochester and Finger Lakes region.
“There is an up-and-coming cluster of companies doing biomanufacturing in the Rochester area,” Carter said. Empire Medicinal’s focus on using biotechnology to innovate within the food industry makes sense in a region with major companies like Wegmans and LiDestri, he added. Involving local colleges is critical to build a biomanufacturing workforce. Major companies, Parekh said, “are very interested in getting students trained in this area.”
FLCC previously collaborated with Cheribundi to help the company learn whether storage conditions such as temperature and light could degrade the beneficial compounds in its tart cherry juice.
Students interested in learning more about FLCC’s biotechnology program or how to apply for a research position may contact Hewlett at James.Hewlett@flcc.edu.
Area food pantries answered a call to help FLCC students dealing with food insecurity – in a big way.
To prepare for the start of the fall semester, Student Corporation leaders recently reached out to local pantries. Just a few days later, Student Affairs staff were busy sorting more than three college van loads of food and necessities, everything from peanut butter and green beans to shampoo.
“To state that these organizations showed up to help FLCC and this initiative in spades is stating it mildly,” said Student Life Director Jennie Erdle, who spent Aug. 11 collecting and delivering the donations to the main campus.
The Salvation Army of Geneva and Twin Cities of Manchester each donated hundreds of items. A third organization, the Canandaigua-based Community Churches in Action, donated 28 pre-packaged bags filled with snacks, canned goods, free milk coupons and more.
Teresa Daddis, student services counselor, joined Jennie to sort and inventory the donations, which will be offered to students who participate in the free drive-in chicken barbecue at the main campus on Sept. 9 from noon to 5 p.m.
To learn more about emergency student support services, click here.
Finger Lakes Community College has provided free training in online teaching to about 100 educators from 20 school districts in Ontario, Seneca, and Wayne counties as well as Monroe and Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES.
With the switch to remote learning in the spring and local districts’ plans for remote and hybrid learning this fall, FLCC began planning training for high school faculty who teach FLCC courses in their home districts via the Gemini program. Gemini allows high schoolers to earn college credit before high school graduation, thereby reducing the total time and expense of college.
FLCC’s training in course design and best practices for remote learning was then expanded to include other teachers.
“FLCC’s willingness to provide training sessions on best practices in remote learning is evidence of the strong partnership they share with area districts, such as Seneca Falls. Working with an institution that has experience in connecting with students virtually, sharing pedagogical practices and planning techniques is a huge benefit to teachers who are moving forward quickly to provide the best instruction possible for K-12 students,” the Seneca Falls Central School District said in a statement following the trainings. “These training sessions not only helped individual educators progress, but strengthened our existing collaborative efforts in educating the whole child and achieving at a high level regardless of the instructional model.”
Finger Lakes Community College will host a silent reading event in support of racial justice on the birthday of Ida B. Wells, a black journalist and activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
FLCC Pages for Peace will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 16 in the Arboretum and Serenity Garden on the grounds of the main campus at 3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua.
Attendees are asked to wear masks and practice social distancing. Restrooms will not be available due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The event will begin with brief opening remarks by organizers and FLCC Student Corp. President Erik DiPasquale.
Then, attendees will quietly read books, poems and other works about racism and the African-American experience written by and about people of color.
“Our plan is to sit quietly and read,” said Maureen Maas-Feary of Rochester, a professor of humanities at FLCC. “Those who would rather not attend are encouraged to join us by reading a book, poem or other work from the comfort and safety of home.” Continue reading “FLCC reading event supports racial justice”
A screen shot of the online ceremony to mark the new transfer agreement.
Finger Lakes Community College and SUNY Empire State College today announced a new agreement allowing guaranteed admission of graduates from FLCC who have earned an associate degree in networking and cybersecurity to SUNY Empire’s new bachelor of science in security studies program. SUNY Empire’s bachelor of science in security studies will help prepare qualified professionals to meet the national and global security challenges of the 21st century in high demand areas such as homeland security, emergency management, disaster relief, and law enforcement.
The agreement was celebrated with a online signing ceremony that included FLCC and Empire faculty and staff as well as SUNY administrators.
The SUNY Impact Foundation recently announced it will match every donation the FLCC Foundation receives for student emergency funding by June 30 up to $50,000.
FLCC began its COVID-19 Emergency Response campaign in April to help students through the financial crises that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.
To date, the combined support of alumni, faculty, staff, and community members has raised over $25,000. If the campaign gets to $50,000, the FLCC Foundation will be able to max out this challenge grant to make a total of $100,000 available for student emergency needs.
FLCC’s student emergency funds include the food cupboard and emergency loans, as well as specially designated funding for students facing crises as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the last academic year, 54 students borrowed over $26,000 in FLCC Foundation emergency loans and 171 students used the Food Cupboard at least once. In addition, FLCC students have received a combined total of over $8,000 in emergency grants and COVID-19 response funds thus far.
The Foundation welcomes both new and repeat donors in the final days of this campaign.
Click here by June 30 and your gift will be doubled!
The intent of the SUNY Impact Fund’s emergency program is to help students experiencing temporary set‐backs such as: medical emergencies, job loss, housing changes or threats of eviction, backup transportation, backup child care and computer repair.
The FLCC and SUNY community share the following messages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
A Message from FLCC President Robert Nye
Dear FLCC Community,
Over the past several days our nation and our communities have experienced the anger, rage, sadness and grief as a result of the terrible loss of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The inhuman and callous treatment of George Floyd is not an isolated incident, but a long continuation of sad
and unnecessary loss of human life that lays bare the social inequities and social injustices that linger across America.
We cannot ignore it, and we must address this issue. Since 2016, I have asked our College community to treat everyone we encounter with dignity
and respect. Dignity helps us to value individual identity and self-esteem. Respect helps us value others for who they are as individuals. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, in our world today, and even at times on our own campus, this does not always happen or hold true.
It is the reason that all across America and even in our own communities in the Finger Lakes, we are observing not just peaceful demonstrations, but also civil unrest as a result of years and years of both pernicious and outright visible social inequity and social injustice.
Our College serves as a dynamic learning resource, empowering all our students, and all of our faculty and staff to succeed as unique individuals who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. When we do so, it is only then, that we may truly contribute to both the cultural vitality and economic vitality within our community. We educate students from all walks of life,
from all races, origins and gender.
By recognizing and appreciating diversity at FLCC, we can make ourselves stronger and provide an example for others throughout the Finger Lakes to
emulate and to counter social inequity and social injustice.
Diversity is strength – I believe this, and I ask that all of us at FLCC dedicate ourselves to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion in everything we do at the college, and to never look away when we see acts of social inequity and social injustice, because substantive change will not come until we stand together, support each other, account for each other, and learn from each other. Now more than ever, we must join together to make a difference, to engage our students, to engage each other, to help bring an end to the despair of social inequity and social injustice wherever it is present in order to make a difference for our College, our community, and our society.
Sincerely,Robert K. Nye, Ph.D.
A Message from SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson
To the SUNY Community:
As so many of you have, I viewed the killing of George Floyd by the police—without reason, without due process, and without a shred of humanity—with a sense of both outrage and helplessness.
While we mourn this senseless cruelty to one man, protestors around the country are reminding us that what we just have witnessed is, in fact, an example of systemic racism in the United States.
Despite the beauty of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the force of law is still regularly applied unequally and with malicious and disproportionate impact on people that are black, brown and LGBTQ. The injustice is intolerable, and it is compounding the anguish being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that has followed. It is easy to feel that our nation is experiencing an existential crisis.
What, can we, as an academic community, do in this moment of horror? Let me assure you that together and with a little focus on an unyielding moral compass, we are neither hopeless nor helpless.
We can’t instantly remake our divided society or divisive politics.
But we can demonstrate some of the same resolve and sheer focus on what’s right that this community has demonstrated in such abundance during the pandemic.
In fact, the compassion, bravery, and ingenuity SUNY people have recently shown in battling COVID-19 gives me hope that there might be answers to our societal miseries.
At SUNY, we were founded in 1948 in part to eliminate discrimination in higher ed, and our mission requires us to be “fully representative of all segments of the population.” When we see something that disadvantages students on the basis of race, ethnicity, economic hardship or gender, we
fix it—including a huge gap between the demographics of our students and the faculty who teach and mentor them. With PRODiG—Promoting Recruitment Opportunities for Diversity and Inclusive Growth—we set a goal last year of hiring 1000 underrepresented minority faculty and women in STEM by 2030, and we are off to a great start.
We are a community that does its best to welcome all, to offer opportunity to all, and to understand that there is power in embracing our differences and joining forces to do great things. At its best, the United States, too, stands for equality of opportunity. At its worst, it refuses to recognize and
repair the history of slavery and the mistreatment of minorities of all kinds.
As an academic community that educates hundreds of thousands of young people every year, we have an opportunity to explore and communicate both the worst and the best of history, and to shape new generations of citizens whose impulses to solve problems, to use their knowledge to help
others, and to serve the greater good no matter the personal costs, can help us to build a more just and caring world and ensure that George Floyd will not have died in vain.