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Alumni Return to Give SUNY Plattsburgh Students in Need CareerEdge

Alumnus David Zebro ’72 set out to give back to his school — again — and to acknowledge some amazing students.

The $7,000 gift from the principal and executive chair of Strategic Investments & Holdings Inc. — combined with the efforts of five other alumni — resulted in a program that Vice President for Institutional Advancement Anne Hansen called “nothing short of amazing.”

That program was CareerEdge, an intensive three-day workshop for students in the college’s Educational Opportunity Program, which supports motivated students who have the potential to earn a degree but have faced significant academic or economic disadvantages.

Developed by volunteer and EOP alumna Pamela Hewitt ’74, EOP Director Kyla Relaford, Counselor Amy Daniels and Career Development Center Director Tracey Cross-Baker, CareerEdge offered lessons about communication, professionalism, goal setting, preparing resumes, networking, interviewing and more.

Hewitt, a human resources professional who has held senior-level positions with corporate giants like Clorox and Quaker Oats, even gave each attendee a copy of “Getting from College to Career” by Lindsay Pollak.

Giving Students an Opportunity to Be Professionals

Zebro and Hewitt were joined by EOP grads Steven Gadecki ’00, now the director of digital marketing for SONY Pictures, and Keisha Fleming ’08, a special education teacher from Brooklyn, who was crowned Miss Black New York 2013. The four led workshops, participated in a panel discussion and conducted mock interviews with the students. They were joined by yet two more EOP grads, Nadera Bhuayan ’11 and Habiba Braimah ’12, who helped form industry round tables.

The chance to meet with successful alumni who could provide immediate feedback filled a definite need, according to EOP Director Kyla Relaford.

“It is imperative that we give students the opportunity to practice becoming the professionals and leaders they hope to become,” she said.

Off-Campus Venue Crucial to Program Success

By allowing the event to be held off-campus, Zebro’s funding took it to another level, according to Hansen. Being together, away from campus distractions, provided the students with a chance to focus on practicing skills and building plans for their future.

Gadecki said he was amazed by the effort put into the event.

“Colleges need programs like this,” he said, adding that they serve as a bridge, helping students find the right path after college.

That’s what the program did for EOP student Rashiida Richardson, who graduated in May. Richardson said that the weekend helped address her fears about transitioning from college.

“Much of what I had assumed about a career was limited only to the knowledge and scope of the life of a student,” she said. “Now I have a toolbox and newly sharpened skill sets that will help set me apart and push me forward with the edge that is needed for any career and field I choose.”

Hopes for Repeat of Program’s Success

CareerEdge was a watershed moment that needs continued financial support, Hansen said.

“Our focus for the future is to secure funding, so that this will become an annual event,” she said. “Our dream would be to offer similar programs for every major academic program at SUNY Plattsburgh.”

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