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Ammerman SGA’s incoming president Sophia Antonelle brings a ‘spark-plug personality’ to a role supporters say she was meant for

Sophia Antonelle has been destined to make a difference from an early age. 

“I was raised in a relatively conservative household where children should only speak when spoken to; women are meant to maintain the home, respecting elders come before all else, and toxic masculinity was king,” she said. “It was a tough upbringing considering I was constantly rebelling against these ideals and trying to find a balance between keeping the peace and educating my family at the same time. 

“However, it was this environment that encouraged me to define my morals and piqued my interest in becoming an activist.” 

The 18-year-old history major will be bringing that mindset to the table when she takes over as the Student Government Association president on June 1. The current senator was elected to a one-year term on April 18.

“I realize for my short stature I am a bit of a strong-willed character, but my main focus as SGA president will be working with the executive board to find the same kind of balance as within my household.”

Fulfilling any role on the SGA board, which serves to advocate for all student rights, responsibilities and freedoms, as well as the general welfare of Suffolk County Community College students, can be a tall task. However, Antonelle said she views the challenge as an opportunity to make a positive impact on her peers and the college.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that everything can always be better,” she said. “Conditions on campus can always be better, and students’ time at Suffolk can always be better. It was in the middle of my first semester when I realized that I wanted to have a direct hand in that improvement.”

Having a role that serves as a direct hand in improving the college is a role that current student trustee of the Suffolk County Community College Board of Trustees, Kaitlyn Gambina, believes Antonelle was meant for.

“Sophia Antonelle is one of our most active members of Student Government,” Gambina said. “She loves helping and meeting new students and is perfect for her new role. I can’t wait to see all of the things she’s going to accomplish and to watch her grow as a leader.”

Antonelle, who currently lives in Holtsville and will be starting her sophomore year in the fall, has several priorities in mind.

“My main responsibility as SGA president, in my eyes anyway, is being the front runner for representing the students at Ammerman campus,” Antonelle said. “ While I also must complete a certain amount of office hours, host the weekly meetings, break ties during voting, as well as a few other tasks, my focal obligation is ensuring that all feel properly respected and represented on campus.”

Antonelle’s former history professor David Hannigan also believes she is perfectly suited for the role. 

“She is the type of spark-plug personality that is perfect for the role of leading the student body,” Hannigan said. “She brings an energy and enthusiasm to every task she is set, and in her approach to life at Suffolk, inside and outside the classroom, has always seemed to me to be an exemplar of what can be achieved in this institution.”

Current SGA President Erin Winn, expressed confidence in Anotelle’s ability.

“Sophia Antonelle is the perfect candidate for President and I am thrilled to pass this role off to her. When Sophia joined SGA as a senator in the fall I knew we would be able to rely on her commitment for many events and initiatives we were planning,” Winn said. “She is always so helpful and willing to support our organization in any way she can. She is an amazing student activist and is constantly standing up for what is right and wants to make positive changes. Sophia is an intelligent, passionate, and hardworking individual who will do whatever she can in her power to best represent the student body. I know having her as the next SGA President will greatly impact our campus and I am so excited to see what she does during her time in office.”

If there’s anything she would like students she will be representing to know about her, it’s that, “I love learning,” Antonelle said. “I am always asking one too many questions and challenging myself. These past semesters I have been looking up to the current president, Erin Winn. While we do have different styles of leadership, I hope to simultaneously cultivate the initiatives started under her presidency as well as work with my elected board to build on our own.”

At ‘Trump’ hot dog stand, political views of all flavors

Hot dogs and politics may not be an obvious pairing for many — and for some, a turn-off — but it’s a passion for Mr. Tony, who has run a hot dog truck decked out in Donald Trump-related photography, stickers and even a cardboard cut-out of the president near on the Long Island Expressway N. Service Road near Exit 63 in Farmingville since 2008.

Mr. Tony, 61, who would not provide his last name out of concern for a potentially negative response from people who do not support Trump, and doesn’t have an internet presence, nonetheless said his Trump paraphernalia “has definitely helped my business.”

While packing up at 5:30 p.m. on Presidents Day, earlier than usual in honor of the holiday, Mr. Tony said, “Every day I have people who come to the truck to discuss politics while enjoying a hot dog during the day. Regulars and newcomers are pulling over on a daily basis.”

Mr. Tony has run a hot dog truck near on the Long Island Expressway N. Service Road near Exit 63 in Farmingville since 2008. The truck has lots of paraphernalia promoting President Donald Trump. Suffolk Sentinel/Gerard Placido (Feb. 17, 2020)

But not all of Mr. Tony’s guests agree with his political views.

“Not a day goes by where I do not get the middle finger stuck up at me or profanity getting shouted my way from passing cars,” Mr. Tony said. “There has even been an incident where I have had my truck shot up by a paintball gun.” 

Nasir Stoval, a 20-year-old customer from Stony Brook, believes that there is a time and place for politics to be discussed; a workplace is not one of them — even if it’s at a hot dog stand.

“Letting one political view be what is represented by a business could inhibit a diverse workforce and limit ideas as well as creativity from people with differing views,” he said. 

Justin Muller, 21-year-old customer from Yaphank, viewed Mr. Tony’s decision to promote Trump so visibly with more of a business-related mentality.

“I think business should not allow their political views to be displayed. Businesses need to attract the most amount of people as possible. If a business is advertising for one political party, I think they run the risk of not attracting the other.”

No matter what political belief one has, with the race for the next president in full swing. Trump is leading the Republican ticket once again, and politics as a whole is almost unavoidable. 

Mr. Tony said he makes sure his presidential passion does not affect his treatment towards customers. 

“I respect and attempt to understand both sides of the political spectrum,” he said. “My business has been home to customers of any political belief before President Trump and will continue to be one after him.”

Holocaust survivor Ruth Minsky-Sender recalls close calls with death. But is still searching for her brothers.

Holocaust survivor Ruth Minsky-Sender speaks to a packed room in the Southampton Building. Photo by Mike Gaisser (April 25, 2018)

Holocaust survivor Ruth Minsky-Sender came to the Ammerman campus on April 25 — her 92nd birthday — to share her experiences during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

She was brought to Auschwitz as a teenager and avoided the lethal gas chambers by being a “fortunate one.” She was sent into a shower instead.

But she didn’t realize she was fortunate at that moment. “When we came into the barracks, there was a woman running around screaming, ‘Your families are being murdered’,” she told a packed room in the Southampton Building.

Minsky-Sender said she regrets not believing the woman at the time.

She said her group could “smell and see the stench and the smoke and everything” happening around it.

Minsky-Sender also had two other close calls with death at the labor camps in Mittelsteine and Grafenort, as she explains in the audio above.

Her mother, Nacha, and younger brother, Laibele, weren’t so lucky. Minsky-Sender would later find out her mother died after being taken away during a Nazi raid in the Lodz ghetto.

Laibele died of tuberculosis in the ghetto. Minsky-Sender doesn’t know what happened to two of her other brothers, Motele and Moishele, after arriving at Auschwitz because men and women were separated.

“I still search for them,” she says. “I get different organizations all over the world trying to reunite families, no matter how they were separated … they tell me to hold on to hope. Maybe we’ll still find them.”

She was reunited with her older siblings, Chanele, Yankele and Mala in Germany after the liberation. They had fled to Russia before the Nazi invasion of Poland.

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Minsky-Sender has written three memoirs about her experience: The Cage, To Life and Holocaust Lady.

Minsky-Sender stressed that historians and teachers must teach the Holocaust accurately and not sugar-coat anything.

“No matter how much it hurts, you can’t twist history. You have to tell what it was and how it was,” she said.

As an example, she says that people didn’t know they were going to Auschwitz, as they were told they were simply being “resettled.” But a tour guide at the Museum of Jewish Heritage implied that they knew where they were going.

“If you do research, make sure that you have complete research,” Minsky-Sender said. “I hope that people who teach [the] Holocaust prepare themselves for the pain and tell the pain, and not just twist around which makes it smoother.”

SCCC institutes new ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ alert message

Baycan Fideli talks to journalism practicum students about the change in the emergency alert message Photo by Mike Gaisser. April 23, 2018

Suffolk Public Safety Director Baycan Fideli spoke about recent protocol changes, such as a new phone alert message, and other plans to improve public safety during a visit to the ENG 175 Journalism Practicum class on April 23.

Fideli, a seven-year veteran at SCCC, the previous message would simply alert students to “shelter in place.”

After events like school shootings, it was clear that an active campus like a college should have a broader defensive approach to an emergency, Fideli said. The new message advises students and faculty to either shelter in place, or to “run, hide, fight.”

The message of shelter in place works very well, if you are in high school, Fideli said, but Suffolk is a very active campus, and if there was to be an active shooter or assailant, you could either be in class, walking in between classes, or entering or leaving the campus while an emergency is in progress.

In high school, you spend all day in a classroom besides the three minutes you get in between periods to change classes. That’s why shelter in place can work in a school system like that, Fideli said.

In a free-flowing campus like SCCC, it’s much harder to have everyone shelter in place, which led to the new message, he said.

As teachers use other tools, students find they are not using their textbooks

Photo: Mike Gaisser (April 11, 2018)

SCCC students are finding themselves not using textbooks they purchased at the beginning of a semester as more professors move to using presentations or other resources as replacements, according to numerous interviews.

Samantha Manco, 18, and Kelli Alfredson, 18, both in their second semesters, get their textbooks from the SCCC campus bookstore, where students can go to buy and return textbooks.

Alfredson has four textbooks. But she finds herself only using her laboratory book.

“I looked on the syllabus and then I bought them and then I found out that I didn’t need them,” she said. “Everything’s PowerPoint and online.” She has kept her books but said she is going to rent more next semester.

Manco also owns four textbooks. In the past, she found that she did not need some of them and returned them to the bookstore within the “first two weeks” because professors put the information on a PowerPoint.

“I don’t think they’re needed,” Manco said of the books. Now, she said, “I wait to buy them [and if the teacher] doesn’t say anything, I’m not gonna buy them.”

Kelly Lynch, one of the textbook managers at the SCCC campus bookstore at Ammerman said students  “typically” return textbooks at the end of the semester.

“We have a standard return policy that’s on their receipts. They have a week or two in the beginning of this term and then after that, they only have a couple of days. And then they should check in their books at the end of term if they rented them,” Lynch said.

They are other places students could go to get their textbooks, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Danny Mazariegos, 18, who is currently in his second semester, opted to get his from Amazon. But he feels he “wasted money for no reason” for his classes last fall.

“Last semester, I bought four books and I didn’t use any of them,” he said. “All the assignments were online.” This semester, the only book Mazariegos uses is an English book.

Rosa Gambier, a biology professor at the Ammerman campus, said she doesn’t think students read the books that much in introductory-level biology courses. And while she does assign books, she admits students can get away with not using them if they pay attention to the lectures, which includes PowerPoint and YouTube videos, along with study questions.

“If you grab the materials in the lecture without reading the book, it works for you and you can pass the test,” Gambier said.

But Gambier said students will not pass the more advanced biology courses if they don’t read the books. Even with good lectures. But the textbooks are “really readable and interesting,” she said.

“You’re a college student. You’re supposed to read the book,” Gambier said. “In most bio classes, you have to memorize a lot of terminology.”

Currently in his second semester as well, Alex Mecklosky, 19, is using two textbooks he got from the bookstore.

“They’ve served a purpose,” he said. The professor is saying “go to the book.” However, last semester wasn’t the same situation, as Mecklosky has more books and didn’t use them as much. “We read one of the books in my class and other book, we didn’t get to.”

When students register for classes, the SCCC website will tell you what books are needed for a particular course. “If [we] don’t need it, then don’t put it on their site,” Manco said.

‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’: Spreading awareness about oppression

A group of students who participated at the event, walking through and looking at the signs posted on the walls. Photo by: Maria Camila Hernandez. (April 10, 2018)

On April 10, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, together with Campus Activities and the Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding, held an all-day interactive workshop about forms of oppression and stereotypes in society.

The event, “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,”  was part of a month-long series of activities called “Equal Justice for All” held college-wide. April 10’s event was an experience-based activity, where groups of students could walk between two walls, and look at signs about different forms of discrimination and oppression that were displayed.

Subjects such as racism, immigration, anti-Semitism, sexism and ableism  — discrimination against disabled people — were explained to students in form of graphs, charts, pictures and news. Students at the event could relate to some of the terms, as was the case of Laura Garcia, a liberal arts major and president of the Student Government Association.

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Signs, pictures, news and charts were among the elements displayed on the walls.

Garcia comes from a Mexican immigrant family. Even though she doesn’t have to deal with the remarks of oppression, her family does. “My parents or family members who don’t speak the language very well, do face more discrimination when going out. So the event did hit close to home in that instance,” said Garcia.

The Eaton’s Neck Room in the Babylon Student Center was packed each hour, as different groups of people went in to live the experience. Around 30 people were led to sit in a circle for the activities following the walk through the walls. They were given random labels attached to their backs, and then they had to guess the label by stereotyped expressions associated with the word.

“We want to create awareness, to enhance communication with others. It is important now, because with the Internet, people are constantly communicating with others from different cultures. The world is diverse, and we need to learn how to connect better,” said Malika Batchie Lockhart, assistant of the Multicultural Affairs office.

Malika Batchie Lockhart
Malika Batchie Lockhart, assistant of the Multicultural Affairs office, talks to the attendees about labels and what they mean for a person.

In addition, students were shown a video regarding microaggression, generally defined as indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group. In this way, students could understand such term and the effects it has in the process of communicating with others.

“People are treated differently and given privileges depending on who they are. We have to see from different perspectives to all the alternatives to look at things,” said James Banks, college coordinator of Multicultural Affairs.

All the information and the subject matters of the program were intended to leave students with a sense of respect and tolerance towards others. As Batchie Lockhart said, “People don’t walk around with labels, so you don’t know who are you hurting with the things you say.”

 

Suffolk’s Diaz appointed to Mather Hospital board

Sylvia Diaz, Suffolk County Community College’s director of college foundations, was appointed to Mather Hospital’s board of directors in January.

Diaz grew up in the crime- and poverty-stricken South Bronx, where she discovered a passion was to help others.

“My interest in helping people probably emanates from very early childhood experiences in the South Bronx. It was a very difficult time and I was growing up in an area where there was a lot of crime, poverty and addiction,” Diaz said. “These experiences had a deep and personal effect on me and I specifically recall feeling tremendous compassion for the less fortunate. I knew I wanted to have a broader impact on the community.”

Diaz has worn many hats after receiving a doctorate in social welfare, a master’s in social work and a certification in parish social ministry. A few examples of her many hats include chief deputy commissioner for the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, special assistant for minority affairs for Suffolk, regional vice president for the American Cancer Society, and owner of Pathways Renewed Inc.

Diaz said being appointed to Mather Hospital’s board of directors could open some promising doors for SCCC. Mather Hospital, the newest edition to Northwell Health, is also known as a teaching hospital.

“One obvious connection is through our highly regarded nursing program. Our nursing students are well trained and highly sought after. There are also partnerships possible through our PTA, OTA, Human Services and EMT programs.” Diaz said.

The relationship Diaz brings between Mather Hospital and Suffolk County Community College is fairly new, but has potential for strategic advancements within the community , she said.

“Mather Hospital is smaller to compare with Stony Brook and this could be a crucial benefit for students because smaller groups of students have a greater possibility to learn more,” said Marta Popek, a nursing student at SCCC.

Mather Hospital under the control of Northwell Health would have astounding benefits to Mather’s teaching programs.

“I have never personally had the opportunity to work with Sylvia, but the work she does for the college is vital within the community,” said Jeanne Durso-Gunes, a professional assistant at SCCC for the continuing education department. “I believe the impact a potential relationship between Suffolk and Mather’s would be a life-changer for our healthcare students,” she said.

‘Snacks, Not Meals’ policy takes effect

If you’re looking for a place to eat lunch on campus, the Huntington Library is no longer an option.

At the start of the semester, SCCC students were notified about a new ‘Snacks, Not Meals’ policy that only allows vending machine bag-sized chips and drinks in sealed containers (i.e. lids, bottle caps).

While there is no actual penalty to enforce the measure, students who slip in meals are asked to finish eating outside the building, and signs reminding students about the policy are plastered around the library.

The initiative started out of a focus group of nine students that campus head librarian Susan Lieberthal conducted last December to consider ways to improve studying at the library.

The group found a common issue: the number of meals being brought into the library. The students were handed index cards and logged everything they found lying around that was food-related. The results included bags from Moe’s Southwest Grill filling up the trash can, sushi near the computers, sandwiches and boxes of Cheez-Its. They even came upon a live birthday party with cakes and balloons.

“We don’t have any boundaries anymore,” said Lieberthal, noting that she and the focus group noticed food was a major distraction in the library and that it was becoming a second cafeteria. “You have your phone, your laptop, your work and your food. You’re not really studying anymore with all these distractions.”

Armed with their research, they knew what had to be done. They considered banning food altogether, as the new library at the new Grant campus library has done. But they opted for something in between o help some students.

More than a month into the semester, the policy is quickly being adopted by students.

“I feel like this had to be done for a good reason, but it really doesn’t bother me,” said Matt Walsh, 19, a liberal arts major.

Some students say they understand the reason for the policy, but also see why students have brought food to the library.

“I understand it and it makes sense as to why they don’t want meals near equipment. But people have full days and a very limited time to eat,” said 19-year-old liberal arts major Skylar Shagan.

According to Lieberthal, there hasn’t been any big incidents since the policy was announced and really hopes this does improve the quality of studying for Suffolk Students.

“I just want what’s best for the students and the library,” Lieberthal said

Students find ways to support blood drive

Shannan Schmidt, a 21-year-old liberal arts major in her last semester at SCCC, had given blood at various events in years’ past, but never at Suffolk. So when she found out about last week’s blood drive in the Babylon Student Center, she was all for it.

“I think blood drives are a great idea,” said Schmidt. “It brings students together, it brings the school closer to the community, and it’s an amazing thing you’re doing. I wish I knew about this event last year so I could’ve participated in that one as well.”

The blood drive was organized by Health Services and held Feb. 22 from 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. in Montauk Point Room 212.

Anyone who isn’t comfortable with donating blood or is unable to can participate in other ways.

Jon Panetta, a 19-year-old student here at SCCC, said he’s “not the greatest with needles” and always manages to pass out in the doctor’s office immediately after getting blood taken.

“However,” he said, “I do support and agree with what blood drives are trying to do.” He found the event so important that he told almost all of his friends on campus about the drive and urged them to stop by to donate between classes or during breaks. He also spoke to students the day of the drive “just to get the word out so people know what [was] going on.”

Email scam targets SCCC students’ tuition refunds

An email phishing scam aiming to steal student tuition refunds has targeted SCCC students, according to a warning sent by the college’s Information Technology Services department earlier this month.

Rochelle Tharpe, a 20-year-old criminal justice major at SCCC, received the phishing scam email, which sought to trick students into entering their school account information, but fortunately did not fall for it. She said she the experience was nonetheless unnerving.

“It was from that moment on that I began to fear for my cybersecurity,” Tharpe said.

SCCC student, Rochelle Tharpe, showing the phishing email scam warning she received from Suffolk on Feb. 14. Photo courtesy of Paula Schultz.

“The email looked like it came directly from the Suffolk IT department. It states that you must enter your student email and password in order to have access to your tuition refund,” Tharpe said. “Thankfully, I was too busy and did not go through with entering my information. This whole mess made me question if student information is really that safe from cyber-crime.”

Tharpe said she received a warning from Suffolk information technology department before she fell for the scam.

On Feb. 2, students attending any SUNY institution were informed about a phishing scam that has targeted SUNY students through email. By Feb. 14, an updated email announcement informed Suffolk students the email scam had reached them.

Just how many students were affected is not yet known.

In the most recent email, students were instructed to delete the scam email and empty their trash folder.

The email that SCCC sent out to students, warning about the active phishing email scam. Photo courtesy of Paula Schultz.

“Phishing scams seem to have become a commonplace in educational institutions these days and they have increased over the last year or so,” Steve Rios, the educational technology specialist on the Ammerman campus,  said in an emailed statement. Rios has worked for the college for 28 years and is in charge of setting up and maintaining the classroom technologies.

“Most of the time it’s a group of people trying to scam users’ information for many different illegal reasons, like stealing money from someone’s bank account,” Rios stated. “Scammers send out hundreds and even thousands of emails to try to get someone to email their logon and password or other information that will allow the hackers to penetrate the user’s computer, work or home network, and or bank information.”

For cybersecurity concerns such as this, the Office of Information Security at Suffolk works to analyze trends in cybersecurity and keep student and school data protected. Information security officer Jason Fried makes it clear that protecting student information is an ongoing effort.

“We strive to continuously enhance our controls, policies, procedures, and training. The National Cybersecurity Alliance is one of many organizations that provide free training and materials that guide people through making good decisions about their online activity,” Fried said.

“I encourage students to review the Information Security Policies on the College Website …. Also, please regularly install security patches on your personal computers and mobile devices,” Fried advised.