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Jefferson holds 52nd Commencement Ceremony

Jefferson Community College held its 52nd annual spring commencement ceremony on Friday, May 20 at 7:00 p.m. in the McVean Gymnasium. Jefferson’s class of 2016 is comprised of 447 students who are candidates for graduation in May or August of 2016 pending satisfactory completion of coursework. Seventeen students will receive more than one diploma and/or certificate, bringing the total number of degrees and/certificates awarded to 464.
Approximately 48% of graduates are adult learners, aged 25 years or older. Jefferson continues to be a strong educational partner of Fort Drum with 42% of the class of 2016 comprised of active duty soldiers and their family members, veterans, retirees or members of the Army Reserves. Jefferson’s active duty and veteran students, along with faculty and staff veterans, were distinguished during the ceremony by red, white and blue cords worn in recognition of their service to our country.

This year, in another special component of the evening’s ceremony, seven Keuka College students received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice through Keuka’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program through Jefferson’s Higher Education Center.  In addition, four SUNY Cobleskill students who earned a bachelor of science in early childhood studies by taking classes through Jefferson’s Higher Education Center took part in Jefferson’s commencement ceremony and received their diplomas from SUNY Cobleskill. Nearly all of the Keuka College and SUNY Cobleskill graduates are also alumni of Jefferson Community College who have continued their programs of study at the baccalaureate level through the Jefferson Higher Education Center.

Jefferson Community College alumna Dr. Carla B. Overton, Class of 2003, delivered the commencement address. Overton is a pediatrician at Trust Pediatrics in Fulton, NY and an associate professor of pediatrics with both Golisano Children’s Hospital and Crouse Hospital in Syracuse. She holds an associate in science degree in mathematics and science from Jefferson, a bachelor’s degree in human biology, health and society from Cornell University, and a doctor of medicine degree from SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Dr. Overton is a Watertown native whose time at Jefferson provided the foundation for her successful educational and professional career. While a student at Jefferson, Overton received many awards including the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. Spending a spring break in the Dominican Republic traveling with physicians in a mobile clinic was an experience that further reinforced her decision to enter the field of medicine.

After earning her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, Dr. Overton taught 5th grade students in a low-income area in Baltimore, Maryland, through the Teach for America Corps Program and pursued graduate work in education at Johns Hopkins University.  She returned to New York to complete her medical degree at Upstate Medical University.  During her time at Upstate, she studied abroad in underserved areas of Peru and Costa Rica and locally, volunteered her time at the Samaritan Center and Peds Relief, both in Syracuse. Dr. Overton then completed a three-year residency in pediatrics at Upstate Medical University in 2014.

The student commencement speaker was Megan E. Hill of Lowville. Hill is graduating with an associate in applied science (A.A.S.) degree in early childhood. When Hill came to Jefferson as a freshman, she already had 6 credits on her college transcript from participating in JCC’s concurrent enrollment program, EDGE (Education Demonstrating Growth and Excellence), offered to qualified high school students. She received the College’s 2016 Outstanding Early Childhood Student Award and the Jenelle Amedeo Berry and Christina McKenzie Berry Memorial Scholarship. Hill earned Dean’s List honors while a student at Jefferson and completed an internship at Lewis County Head Start where she received high praise for her work ethic, commitment and dedication. Utilizing her leadership skills, Hill worked as a student ambassador in the Welcome Center where she provided assistance to campus visitors as well as her peers and led campus tours for prospective students. She plans to transfer to SUNY Cortland in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in early childhood/childhood education.
During the ceremony, President Carole A. McCoy and Scott A. Gray, chair of the Board of Trustees, presented the Jefferson Citation to the Watertown Vet Center.  James R. Miller, team leader, and James M. Sheets, counselor, accepted the award on behalf of the Watertown Vet Center.

The Jefferson Citation was established by the Jefferson Community College Board of Trustees to “recognize an individual or organization whose leadership and actions have demonstrated outstanding commitment to education and the vision and mission of Jefferson Community College.”  The Watertown Vet Center is an agency that provides a continuum of high-quality, caring services free of charge to veterans and families within our surrounding civilian community. Through collaboration with the Watertown Vet Center, Jefferson is able to bring diverse service offerings to its veterans and students that provide support and mitigate barriers to degree completion. Additionally, the Watertown Vet Center holds on-campus weekly group sessions and individualized counseling to assist veteran students with the transition from active duty to college life and to help veteran students overcome challenges and attain life goals.  

Several students, faculty and staff were recognized with academic awards and honors during the commencement exercises.

Two candidates for graduation were recognized for receiving the State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence earlier this year. This award acknowledges students who have best demonstrated the integration of academic excellence with other aspects of their lives: community service, athletics, creative and performing arts, leadership and career achievement. In April, Cailey M. Burrows, Watertown, and Michael E. Pitts, Theresa, were chosen by SUNY for the 2016 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.  Ms. Burrows is graduating with an associate in science (A.S.) degree in mathematics and science with a concentration in allied health. She plans to transfer to D’Youville College. Mr. Pitts first graduated from Jefferson in May 2015 with an A.S. degree in individual studies and will be graduating again on Friday with an A.S. degree in business administration.
Mark A. Patrick, Watertown, and Kouma S. Semenya, originally from Lome, Africa now residing in Watertown, were recognized as members of the All-New York Academic Team for Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the international honor society for community colleges.  To be chosen for the All-New York academic team, students must have a grade point average of at least 3.25 and have a history of scholarly achievement and outstanding service to campus or community.  Additionally, Mr. Patrick was further recognized as a 2016 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Bronze Scholar, one of only fifty students across the nation to receive this honor.  

The Jefferson Community College Honors Program offers students with exceptional academic skills the opportunity to receive enriched instruction and four graduating students completed this program. Honors program students elect three courses and enhance them as Honors Options by choosing a project for each and working directly with a faculty member to provide a unique and rewarding educational experience.  Class of 2016 members who graduated with Honors Program designation are:  Cailey M. Burrows and Patrick Louis Crane, Watertown, associate in science degree in mathematics and science, Tameeka M. Farrell-Blunte, Fort Drum, associate in science in business administration, and Amber Marie Lobdell, Watertown, associate in applied science degree in chemical dependency.    

Six members of Jefferson’s faculty/staff were recognized as recipients of the SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence. The Chancellor’s Awards recognize extraordinary achievement and encourage the continuation of excellence. Carleen S. Huxley of Watertown, assistant librarian, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Librarianship; Thomas N. Moran of Evans Mills, network manager, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service; Stacy E. Pratt of Sackets Harbor, assistant professor of English, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching; Barbara D. Romano of  Dexter, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching; Deborah S. Steinberg of Calcium, associate professor of psychology, received the  Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service; and Sharon L. Zaffarano of Gouverneur, building maintenance mechanic, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service. Chancellor’s Award honorees received their medallions at the College’s Recognition Ceremony held on May 6, 2016.  Additionally, one faculty member was recognized for earning SUNY Distinguished Faculty Rank this month. Joel F. LaLone of Watertown, professor of mathematics and research director at the Center for Community Studies, received the SUNY Distinguished Service Professorship.

Jefferson held its Fall Commencement ceremony in December 2015 for 201 students who were candidates for graduation, combined with Spring Commencement held on May 20, the number of candidates for graduation for the 2015-2016 academic year total approximately 648.