As colleges and universities gear up for the Commencement season, several institutions involved with the Veteran Regional Consortium are paying special tribute to their graduating veterans. Cayuga Community College, Jefferson Community College, Le Moyne College, Onondaga Community College, and Syracuse University are distributing red, white, and blue cords to graduating students in recognition of their service to the country.
“Our veteran students enrich classroom discussions and campus life,” said Sarah Yaw, interim director of the Academic Support Center at the Cayuga CC Fulton Campus who chairs CCC's Veterans Working Group and initiated the consortium. “Veteran students face unique challenges when they return to campus, but their experiences also raise the bar for their classmates. The red, white, and blue cords not only recognize these students for their contributions to our country, but also symbolize our commitment to them. Through the Veteran Regional Consortium, we aim to maximize the role higher education will play in connecting veterans with area resources, helping them reintegrate into civilian life, and supporting student veterans' educational pursuits so they can achieve the success we know they're capable of. It's important to our veterans, and it's important to our region.”
The participating colleges have extended invitations to the more than 235 graduating veterans to wear the special cords at their respective Commencement ceremonies in the coming weeks:
- Cayuga Community College, 1 p.m. Sunday, May 20, Spartan Hall, 197 Franklin St., Auburn
- Jefferson Community College, 7 p.m. Friday, May 18, McVean Center Gymnasium, 1220 Coffeen Street, Watertown
- Le Moyne College
- Graduate Student Ceremony: 6 p.m. Friday, May 18, Henninger Athletic Center, 1419 Salt Spring Road, Syracuse
- Undergraduate Student Ceremony: 10:30 a.m. Sunday, May 20, Thomas J. Niland Jr. Athletic Complex, 1419 Salt Spring Road, Syracuse
- Onondaga Community College, 1 p.m. Saturday, May 19, SRC Arena and Events Center, 4585 West Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse
- Syracuse University, 9:30 a.m. Sunday, May 13, Carrier Dome, Syracuse
While the majority of students will be able to wear the cords during the ceremony, one graduating veteran from Syracuse University happily received his cord in Afghanistan, where he was recently deployed. He sent employees in the Veterans Resource Center a thank you message as well as some photos of himself with his unit, according to Peg Stearns, director of the center.
At Jefferson Community College located in Watertown near Fort Drum, campus leaders extended the recognition to include both veteran and active-duty graduates, as more than one-third of the College enrollment is active duty military and reservists, family members, veterans, or retirees.
For some of the graduating veterans, the special cord represents their college's support of veterans during their time on campus.
“I have found a wealth of knowledge, understanding, advice, and brotherhood within the Veterans Department at OCC,” said Clancy Coonradt, who is graduating from Onondaga Community College with an A.S. in math and science and is transferring into Le Moyne to pursue a bachelor's in history. “Without this resource I believe my experience at this school would have been much more difficult. I would like to thank the Veterans Department counselors Paul Holzwarth and Keith Stevenson, along with, the veterans' point of contact in the schools advisement department, Tim Singer, for all their support and guidance through the maze of higher education and life.”
Jodi L. Rogers, a graduating student at Cayuga Community College in Auburn and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, said the administrative support and the addition of services for veterans has grown during her time at the College.
“The College has done a great job with supporting veterans in the creation of the Veterans Club at both the Auburn and Fulton campuses,” said Rogers, who earned an A.A.S. in business administration and plans on earning a bachelor's degree at Excelsior College in the fall. “By honoring the veterans in this special way, it is an additional and meaningful thank-you for our military service and our decision to continue our education. I think that it extends the College's commitment to honoring the veterans that pass through its doors every day.”
About the Veteran Regional Consortium
In January 2012, Cayuga Community College took the lead on a establishing a Veteran Regional Consortium, which includes representatives from 20 academic institutions, Fort Drum, the Department of Veterans Affairs; federal, state, and local lawmakers and offices; and several organizations that support veterans. The group is a collaboration of higher education and other regional stakeholders dedicated to supporting veterans. The goal of the consortium is to facilitate a comprehensive and coordinated response to veteran reintegration to our region. The consortium is committed to: advocacy, resource and information sharing, and outreach to veterans returning to the region.
A Snapshot of Graduating Veterans from the Region
Victor Chavez, a U.S. Army veteran, is a 2012 graduate of Le Moyne. He will receive a bachelor's degree in psychology with a dual minor in Childhood/Special Education (Grades 1-6). He is the married father of two young boys, who assisted other veteran students during his time at Le Moyne as a work study student attached to the Office of Continuing Education. He hopes to teach elementary school in the Central New York area.
Clancy Coonradt, a U.S. Army veteran, is a 2012 graduate of Onondaga Community College. He earned an A.S. in math and science and is transferring into Le Moyne to pursue a bachelor's in history. After leaving the service, he said he struggled to find civilian employment and needed to give his resume a boost with some new credentials. His long-term goal is to teach history in a college setting.
Yolanda Flowers, a U.S. Army veteran, is 2012 graduate of Le Moyne College. She is a working mother of three boys and member of the Le Moyne Education Honors Society. Through her campus job, she assisted other veteran students during her time at Le Moyne. She will receive a master's degree in education with a dual specialization in adolescent/special education (Grades 7-12). Her goal is to teach in the Central New York area.
John H. Newsome Jr. of Watertown, a U.S. Army veteran, is a 2012 graduate of Jefferson Community College. When he walks across the stage and receives an associate of applied science degree in individual studies, it will be the culmination of many years of hard work and dedication. He began taking classes at Jefferson in the 1990s, working toward a computer-related degree and taking a couple of classes each semester as time allowed. After a nearly decade-long break, Newsome, who is in his 60s, came back to college in fall 2007 to complete his degree. He is currently employed by Kay and Associates Inc. and works at nearby Fort Drum, home to the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).
Jodi L. Rogers of Red Creek, N.Y., a U.S. Air Force veteran, is a 2012 graduate of Cayuga Community College. She will receive an A.A.S. in business administration and plans to transfer into a bachelor's program at Excelsior College in the fall. For Rogers, one of the biggest challenges of attending college was getting used to the "relaxed and unregimented atmosphere." But she said her military experience gave her the leadership and management skills from which she is able to build a strong business administrative career.
Josef Szymczyk, a U.S. Army Knowledge Management Officer, is a 2012 graduate of Syracuse University School of Information Studies. He will receive an M.S. in Information Management and has already started putting his education to use in helping Afghans establish a functional logistics system and get on the path to self-management. He is currently serving in Afghanistan on a NATO Training Mission. His plans for the foreseeable future are to continue to serve his country in the Army.