Category Archives: Featured Stories

SUNY Oswego to increase its study abroad program

Submitted by SUNY Oswego

SUNY Oswego has signed on with the newly launched Generation Study Abroad program, agreeing to increase the college’s participation in study-abroad opportunities to 20 percent of undergraduates — 1 in 5 — by 2019.

Citing the challenges of rapid globalization, the Institute of International Education announced the five-year Generation Study Abroad in early March.

Its ambitious goal: bringing leaders in education, business and government together to double study-abroad participation nationally, reaching 600,000 students by the end of the decade.

Oswego joined 150 higher education institutions in 41 states as early partners in the effort, including large universities such as Cornell, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Purdue, as well as four other SUNY colleges and universities.

Joshua McKeown, Oswego’s director of international education and programs, said the help of new short-term options for study-travel, the Global Laboratory summer-research program and other initiatives have increased participation in the last five years to 15 percent of the college’s undergraduates from about 5 percent, and Oswego is poised to make the next move upward.

“I think this is the perfect time to take on this challenge,” McKeown said. “As an institution, we have moved deliberately and strategically towards expanding education abroad over the past decade, embedding it well into the curriculum of all four schools and colleges, creating more experiential programs abroad, research and service opportunities, and ways for our faculty to teach and lead students abroad in every discipline where there is interest. This represents a further growth opportunity that we are ready for as a campus.”

The college has sent students to 40 countries the past seven years, from Argentina to United Kingdom, from Mexico to China.

“We recently made the top 10 list nationally (in Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report) for master’s level study abroad enrollments, regularly are at or near the top rank for SUNY comprehensive college study abroad enrollments, and were cited by the Middle States reaccreditation team for our international programs,” McKeown said.

The Institute of International Education found in its annual study conducted with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that with 295,000 students in credit and non-credit programs abroad in 2011-12, less than 10 percent of U.S. college students participate.

“Globalization has changed the way the world works, and employers are increasingly looking for workers who have international skills and expertise,” said Allan Goodman, president of the institute. “Studying abroad must be viewed as an essential component of a college degree and critical to preparing future leaders.”

Rice Creek lists spring programs

Submitted by SUNY Oswego

SUNY Oswego’s Rice Creek Field Station has unveiled its spring lineup of free nature education programs on Saturdays, including naturalist-led walks, story hours and hands-on science activities.

Rice Creek Rambles beckon the public to the field station’s 400 acres of mixed terrain for guided walks at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 5 and May 10.

“Spring Awakenings” on April 5 will give walkers a chance to observe new appearances in the forests, fields and wetlands as seasons change. “Birds, Bugs and Blooms” will await walkers on May 10.

Call 312-6677 to check trail conditions on the morning of each hike.

The ways of wildlife will engage children at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 26 and May 31, for Rice Creek Story Hour.

“Rainbow Crow” on April 26 will relate the Lenape legend with beautiful illustrations and a lesson of service to others. On May 31, “The Salamander Room” will capture young imaginations while demonstrating what living things need to survive.

The field station will feature Sharing Science at 11 a.m. on three other Saturdays, April 12, May 3 and May 17.

“Composting Fundamentals” will help attendees sort out whether they need a bin, a pile or a tumbler to put such things as kitchen scraps and yard waste to good use in a healthy compost pile. Visitors can hear about Rice Creek’s three-bin system and share their own composting tips.

On May 3, the family-oriented “Wildlife Games and Activities” will present a fun-filled session featuring hands-on activities from Project Wild and other sources that simulate key natural concepts and stewardship of resources.

The May 17 “Rain Gardens” presentation will cover this new edition at Rice Creek and the many functions such gardens serve.

Since program size is limited, the field station is unable to accommodate groups. An adult needs to accompany children.

Visitors may tour the new headquarters of Rice Creek — the 7,200-square-foot, energy-efficient field station — during building hours, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Trails are open for hiking during daylight hours at Rice Creek Field Station; the entrance is on Thompson Road about a mile south of State Route 104.

For information, visit www.oswego.edu/ricecreek or call 312-6677.

SKYWARN spotter training today in Fulton

The Buffalo office of the National Weather Service will be conducting a SKYWARN spotter training seminar in Fulton, at the Oswego County Offices, 200 N. Second St., at 7 p.m. Wednesday March 19 (today).

The training session is sponsored by the Oswego County Office of Emergency Services and will last about two hours. The session is open to the public and there is no cost for the training. 

The first Maple Weekend is this coming weekend

By Debra J. Groom

This coming Saturday and Sunday are the days to get out and visit area maple syrup producers.

It’s the first of two Maple Weekends, in which many producers open their operations so visitors can see how maple syrup is produced. Many also have pancake breakfasts so folks can taste that sweet nectar of the maple tree and have products people can buy.

So far this season, the weather hasn’t been ideal. There were a few days a couple of weeks ago that were warm enough for the sap to run. But then it got cold again.

“We’re scared,” said Kim Enders, who runs Red Schoolhouse Maple in Palermo. “We just boiled for the first time yesterday (Thursday March 13) but we didn’t make any syrup. We haven’t been able to get a string of good days in a row to get sap.”

Maple producers need temperatures during the day in the 40s and lows in the 20s to get a good sap flow. It has just been too darn cold for the sap to flow for a good number of consecutive days.

The temperatures for this week are OK for a four-day stretch in Onondaga County, but cooler in Oswego County, which means it is iffy how much sap will flow this week.

Some producers, like Timothy Whitens who runs Willow Creek Farm of just outside Fulton in the town of Granby, said he did get enough sap to make syrup in late February when there were four days of 40 degree temperatures.

“That first weekend, I made about 75 gallons, mostly medium amber,” Whitens said. “The sap ran again Monday and Tuesday (March 10 and 11) and I was able to make more.”

Feb. 19-23 all had temperatures of 40 or higher during the day and cold nights. But on Feb. 24, it got brutally cold again and shut off the taps.

While the temperatures this year have be too cold, in 2012, it was the opposite problem.

The weather during maple season began fine in January. But by early February, temperatures rose into the 50s. In mid-March, when sap should still be flowing and syrup would normally still be made, temperatures hit near 70.

Cornell University officials said the average temperature for the first 50 days of winter in Central New York is usually 24 degrees. In 2012, it was 32 degrees, the second warmest since 1950.

Anothr problem for maple producers in the Tug Hill area has been the amount of snow. Helen Thomas, executive director of the New York State Maple Producers Association, said with more than 300 inches of snow in some places, producers were having a difficult time getting to their lines and taps.

Enders said she hopes to have enough maple products to sell and offer for tasting during Maple Weekend. Red Schoolhouse Maple is open both days of the weekends, March 22 and 23 and March 29 and 30, and offers pancake breakfast, tours of the sugarbush and boiling area and tastings.

Whitens is open only Sunday, March 23 and March 30, and offers tours.

Maple Weekend hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Go to http://www.nysmaple.com/mapleweekend/ or www.mapleweekend.com for more information.

Maroun Elementary students show wonders of NY to kids in Texas

Submitted by Oswego County BOCES

As students in the Phoenix Central School District are dealing with a relentless winter season, they learned how their peers in Texas were coping with below-average temperatures while interacting with one another during a recent Read Around the Planet videoconference.

Fourth-graders in Rachel Faulkner’s class at Michael A. Maroun Elementary and fourth-grade students at Ada Mae Faubion Elementary School in Cedar Park, Texas, learned about the differences and similarities of their home states.

Students in Texas began the videoconference by performing a skit detailing the history, geography, weather and different animals found in their state.

Phoenix students were amazed to learn schools in Texas even get snow days on occasion.

“We had two snow days this year, but mostly because of the cold,” a Texas student said. “But we did close when we got less than an inch of snow.”

While that statement was met with laughter by the Maroun fourth-graders, the videoconference provided much more than interesting facts and skits as the classes collaborated to write a poem.

Building on an experience the students had last year when children’s poet Kenn Nesbitt came to Phoenix, the Maroun students asked their Texas peers for a list of sports and a list of foods.

Using a rhyme scheme and alliteration, the classes created two poems titled “Playing with your Food.”

The videoconference was part of a distance learning offering provided by Oswego County BOCES.

The program strives to bridge the gap in educational opportunities and enhance learning experiences for students, teachers and community members by providing overall program coordination services, technical support, identification of district needs and connectivity access to school districts and educational institutions.

For more information, call 963-4298 or visit www.oswegoboces.org/web/iss/distancelearning.

School districts ponder veterans exemption

By Ashley M. Casey

Although the March 1 deadline to grant a partial property tax exemption to wartime veterans has passed, local school boards are mulling the decision for 2015.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a law in December 2013 giving school districts the same power as municipalities to authorize a property tax reduction of at least 15 percent to district residents who served in the armed forces during a time of war.

The Fulton City School District board of education first discussed the issue at its Feb. 11 meeting.

Director of Finance Kathy Nichols and Superintendent Bill Lynch told board members that based on data from Oswego County, veterans or their spouses own 774 parcels of land in the Fulton district.

Under the new law, $13,851,354 could be exempt from the district’s assessed value if the board authorizes the veterans’ exemption.

“We had received notification (of the law) in early February,” Fulton board president David Cordone said. “There wasn’t a lot of time for us to investigate … the majority of the board felt we didn’t have enough information to vote for the March 1 deadline.”

If boards did not pas a resolution to grant the exemption by the March 1 deadline, they can consider the matter again next year.

Cordone said the Fulton board decided to gather more data in order to “be prepared to vote next year.”

“It’s up for discussion, but we need community input,” said Erin Hess, president of the Hannibal school board. “It’s really not so much for the board to decide — it’s up to the community.”

Hess echoed a concern that Fulton board member Christine Plath voiced in February.

“The only big question about it is the exemption gets picked up by other taxpayers, so it’s up for debate,” Hess said.

In February, Plath told her fellow board members she didn’t “see how certain households (in the Fulton district) can handle an increase in the tax rate.”

“It is going to be an impact (on the other taxpayers),” Mexico school board president Jim Emery said.

“With, for example, the STAR program, the state reimburses the districts. With this … it leaves it up to the district to shift the cost to other taxpayers. It puts the school board in an unenviable position.”

Emery said Mexico and other rural, lower-income districts would have a harder time distributing the cost of the veterans’ exemption to other taxpayers.

Across the state, school board members seem to have their reservations as well.

According the New York State School Boards Association, 69 percent of board members in an informal poll opposed the veterans’ exemption.

“School board members strongly support our veterans, but they believe that reimbursement for the veteran’s exemption should be covered by the state rather than by other local taxpayers,” school boards association Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer said in a press release.

“The law as is presents school boards with a dilemma,” Kremer said. “If they adopt the exemption, that would increase taxes for other taxpayers in their district. If they do not adopt the exemption, they could be viewed as not being supportive of veterans.”

In Oswego County, several municipalities have authorized a similar property tax reduction for Cold War veterans.

In 2009, the county legislature passed “Cold War Veterans Property Tax Exemption Act,” which granted a basic 15 percent reduction to veterans. Combat veterans receive an additional 10 percent exemption, and those with service-related disabilities receive even more.

Donna Kestner, director of the Oswego County Veterans Service Agency, said the following municipalities granted exemptions to Cold War vets: city of Fulton, Amboy, Minetto, Oswego Town, Palermo, Parish, Sandy Creek, Schroeppel, Volney and Williamstown. The city of Oswego and Scriba have not approved the exemption.

“I think it’s excellent,” Kestner said of the potential exemption from school districts. “I’d love to see our vets get school tax exemptions.”

Kestner said she could not make it to the Fulton board meeting Feb. 11 but thought the Fulton board was “in full support of the veterans, and I appreciate that.”

“Some places, they’re not as supportive as they are here,” she said.

Salon specialist, cancer survivor, gives back to others fighting cancer

Oswego County Opportunities’ Cancer Services Program Partnership has a new community partner to help clients whom are diagnosed with cancer.

Liz Lucas, an ovarian cancer survivor, wants to help others that are faced with a cancer diagnosis and the treatment side effects.

“I will help anyone I can regardless of their type of cancer!  I want to give something back now after my journey with cancer,” said Lucas.

Lucas, a salon specialist at Hair We Are on 201 Academy St., Fulton, is volunteering her specialties and offering free hair cuts, make up applications; including how to draw on eyebrows and eyelashes during chemotherapy treatments, wig fitting and/or finding wigs online.

“I have learned so much throughout my journey and I know how challenging every day can be during cancer treatment.  I want our community to know that I am there for them and I am willing to assist them with anyway I can,” says Lucas.

OCO’s Cancer Services Program is funded by the New York State Department of Health and the Susan G Komen of CNY Foundation and offers free cancer screenings including clinical breast exams, mammograms, pap/pelvic exams and colon cancer screenings for community members that do not have health insurance and are between the ages of 40-64.

In addition the program offers diagnostic services and has a treatment program for men and women that are diagnosed with breast, cervical, colon or prostate cancer.

“I am ecstatic to continue to increase the resources we have available to our community and applaud Liz for her efforts to share her experience with others,” said Cancer Services Program Coordinator, Carolyn Handville.  “Feeling good about yourself and being confident is a key component when fighting this disease and I cannot thank Liz enough for offering her services to others.”

For more information on the many cancer screenings available through the Cancer Services Program Partnership, or to make an appointment, contact Carolyn Handville at 592-0830.  Don’t wait, early detection saves lives!

Helping senior citizens to be fed

Oswego County Opportunities’ Nutrition Services is asking Oswego County residents to be a part of its annual March for Meals campaign by being a part of the many events that they will be hosting during the month of March.

OCO’s annual March for Meals campaign helps to raise the awareness of senior hunger in Oswego County and serves as a fundraiser to help support the agency’s Home Delivered Meal Service.

To celebrate their March for Meals Campaign, OCO Nutrition Services has planned the following community events:

** Wednesday, March 19 (today), Fundraiser from 4 to 9 p.m., at the Bake Shop Eatery, 3281 Main St, Mexico. A total of 15 percent of all proceeds will be donated to OCO’s Nutrition Services to support the Meals on Wheels program.

** Wednesday, March 19 (today), Mayors For Meals Day. To raise awareness and to encourage action at the local level, Oswego County dignitaries will participate in the campaign by delivering meals to homebound seniors or by serving meals at one of OCO’s eight senior Dining and Activity Centers.

** Date to be announced, Pinewood Derby, at the Sandy Creek Dining and Activity Center from 11 a.m. to noon. Judy Parker, center manager, has invited special guests and local dignitaries to build and race pinewood derby “meal delivery vans” to see which guest can deliver the meals the fastest on the derby track.

Lunch will be served at the center after the race. Reservations are requested. For more information and to make reservations contact Judy Parker at 298-5020 or via e-mail at jparker@oco.org

** Meals on Wheels Collection Vans.  Look for donation boxes shaped as delivery vans at senior centers and in local places of business for the month of March. All donations will be used to support Meals on Wheels participants and to provide special events at OCO’s Senior Dining and Activity Centers.

“In this tough economy, the food and human contact we provide to seniors in this community is needed more than ever,” said Bridget Dolbear, program services coordinator with OCO Nutrition Services..

“We need community members to come out and support our March For Meals events. Their support will help us continue feeding senior citizens in our community.  Our clients are counting on us. We can’t let them down,” she said.

The Meals On Wheels Association of America created the March For Meals campaign in 2002 to raise awareness about senior hunger.

‘We Are Meals On Wheels, so no senior goes hungry’ is the continuing slogan for the campaign. Senior citizens across the country go hungry every day and one in seven seniors is threatened by hunger.

The older population is increasing at a staggering high rate with an increase of more than 20 million senior citizens from this decade alone. The goal of Nutrition Services and other Meals on Wheels programs is to end senior hunger by 2020 and you can help.

The OCO’s Meals on Wheels program delivers around 1,000 meals each day to homebound seniors. There are no un-served areas in the county.

Typically, the Meals on Wheels driver is the only person that the homebound participants see for days at a time.

“Our participants have said that it makes them feel better to have someone check on them and they enjoy the conversations as much as the meals,” said Distribution Supervisor Allen Wert.

While the program does have nine paid employee routes, Wert said it is the volunteers that are the driving force behind the Meals on Wheels program.

“We have 19 volunteer routes for our home delivered meals. Our program relies heavily on the assistance we receive from our volunteers. We couldn’t do it without them,” said Wert.

If anyone is interested in delivering meals or helping out at one of our Dining and Activity Centers please call us at 598-4712, we would love to hear from you.”

In addition to the Meals on Wheels program, OCO Nutrition Services has eight senior Dining and Activity Centers located in Constantia, Fulton, Hannibal, Mexico, Oswego, Parish, Phoenix and Sandy Creek. The centers feed about 100 senior citizens daily and offer fun activities and friendly conversations.

Dolbear said updates on OCO’s March for Meals campaign as well as photos from the events and activities at OCO’s Dining and Activity Centers would be on the agency’s Facebook page at OCO Senior Centers.  “I encourage community members to like us on Facebook.  Our goal is to have 300 likes by the end of March!”

For more information on the March for Meals campaign and to learn how you can help put an end to senior hunger, contact Bridget Dolbear at OCO Senior Nutrition Services, 598-4712, ext. 1813 or via e-mail at bdolbear@oco.org.