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SCCC students embrace Black History Month

Photo: Xavia Simmons a Communications in Journalism major at Suffolk Community College. Photo by Jacob Alvear

For students at Suffolk, Black History Month held many meanings.

Trenton Cockerl Patrick, a language major who has a combination of Jamaican, Native American and Irish heritage, said Black History Month “is just another reason why all blacks should come together and celebrate, work hard, and ultimately succeed greater because at the end of the day we all are one body.”

Kwabena Shine Jr., a business major who recently moved from Africa, Black History Month means that “the lives of black people are not taken for granted anymore and our ancestors’ struggle to victory are celebrated and appreciated.”

Kwabena Shine Jr. is a business administration major at Suffolk who recently moved from Africa. Photo by Jacob Alvear

For Xavia Simmons, “To me it means showing our culture our excellence and what we as a culture bring to the table that table being America. Also, just embracing, which I believe at this time in history is extremely important….”

Simmons says she and her family tend to look at February as just another month in the year.

“We don’t have any traditions in particular; we just celebrate it by acknowledging the fact that it’s Black History Month. But generally, we celebrate it every month and by that I mean for us it’s every month. We tend to embrace it all year round.”

Business major Zach Aberg, who has German and Hungarian roots, likes to watch documentaries that shine light upon great black leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

To Aberg, “Black History Month is an important month to recognize black history and black excellence. It is important to share cultures and understand each other’s history.”


Balancing college, work, family … argh!

Photo: Steven Gerasamovich former SCCC baseball team captain and pitcher, who found balancing school work and other responsibilities a real tough order. But he continues to study hard. Photo by Courtney Nigro

Some may think being a student at a community college like Suffolk is easier than going away to a four-year college or university. But attending a commuter school often brings on more responsibilities for students.

Many students who attend SCCC not only have to study, but also work at least one job. Between work, school, family, a social life, and whatever else students are involved in, it can be a lot to balance.

Steven Gerasimovich, 20, a liberal arts major, was a pitcher on the baseball team for the maximum of two years until 2017. While on the team, Gerasimovich had to take 12 credits a semester, so he was going to school full time,  playing baseball and working part-time at Planet Fitness in Centereach.

“There were definitely some nights where I was up past midnight doing homework because I didn’t have time during to get my work done, but in the end, I got everything done on time,” Gerasimovich said.

Julia Riggs, 18, an engineering major,  who works full time at Pandora in the Smith Haven Mall said he work and school schedules were particularly hectic .

“My manager was usually understanding of my school work — my professors didn’t seem to care, which was OK with me. I knew what I was getting myself into and what was expected of me at school,” Riggs said.

When by students how much they should spend studying, adjunct business professor Rob Ferrara said, “At least the same amount of time spent in class should be spent out of class if you want to do well.”

When he was playing baseball, Gerasimovich only worked on the weekends, and his Planet Fitness managers would schedule him for 6-9 a.m. so he could be out and make it to practice or a baseball game on time. His days started with an 8 a.m. class and were fully scheduled until 6 pm. He found time to study between his classes. There was also the added pressure of keeping his grades up to keep his spot on the team.

“I think school would have definitely been easier if I didn’t have a job, but I try not to let outside things affect my schooling,” Gerasimovich said.

Riggs is a full-time student who needed to work to pay for tuition.

“I didn’t have the option of only going to school and focusing my time on that,” she said.

Working 40-plus hour weeks, she found time to study on her breaks at work. After her 12-hour shifts that ended around midnight, she would try and study but found it hard to retain anything.

“If I didn’t have to work, I would be able to stay on top of my school work and feel like I actually had a life,” she said.

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.

Silent no more: Student finds her voice at Suffolk after six years

If you had never met 19-year-old Katie Digena before, you would never be able to tell from her bubbly personality that just two years ago she was nearly mute.

Digena has struggled with a stutter since she first was able to speak at two years old. Bullied heavily in elementary school, Digena entered junior high school looking for a way to avoid speaking and being bullied any further. An English teacher suggested that she try communicating through a whiteboard and marker, which went on to become Digena’s voice for most of the next six years at school. Although it was a salvation from having to use her voice, it didn’t prevent bullies from targeting her.

“There were a few times when someone would take my whiteboard—break it, throw it away,” Digena said. She only spoke to her parents at home and a few close friends.

After high school, Digena entered Suffolk knowing that she would have to start speaking to get through everyday adult life. She slowly started speaking little by little in her first semester.

“I started to talk in my English class a little, and I realized I was able to not stutter as much. I thought, ‘I can do this, in this one class.’ Then I did it in a second class. I started talking more and more,” she said.

Digena also went to therapy to help with the social anxiety she felt about public speaking.

“I was told to just talk, just forget everyone’s around. If you stutter, just keep pushing through it, just keep going,” Digena said.

Now in her fourth semester, when Digena speaks, her stutter can barely be found.

“It’s a world of a difference. I don’t even remember her stuttering her last time I saw her or the last dozen times I’ve seen her. I think she became much more confident in herself and who she is,” said 19-year-old Spencer Ross, Digena’s friend since junior high.

Digena hopes to become a teacher or even a public speaker at schools and colleges in the future.

“I want to be the voice for other people when they can’t talk because they’re terrified. I would be terrified to go to school, terrified to get up in the morning. I wanted to kill myself—I tried it. It was such a horrible time in my life. I just want to be that voice for other people,” Digena said.

Suffolk student Kimberly Ramirez, 19, has been Digena’s friend since third grade and says she is proud of Digena and is happy that speaking has become easier for her.  

“Having a stutter is something that a lot of people don’t realize the effect that it can have on someone, and also the way that other people perceive it and treat you as a result of it. I don’t think people fully understand the impact that that can have on someone’s life,” Ramirez said.

For others going through something similar, Digena has some advice.

“If I could speak to my junior high self, I would say, ‘This is all for right now. Your entire world is this school — for right now. But when you’re older, you won’t even think about these days. You’re going to look back and you’re going to think,  ‘Wow, I spent all that time worrying about what people thought when I could’ve been doing something that made me so happy.’ And right now, I want to take back that time, and do as much as I can with it,” she said.