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Albion FFA accepts first prize from Medina Parade of Lights

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 January 2017 at 9:45 am

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Provided photo: Jim Hancock, chairman of the Parade of Lights in Medina, presented the first place award to the Albion FFA on Friday. Emilie Barleben, the chapter president at right, is holding the plaque. The FFA also received a $1,000 first place prize.

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Photo by Tom Rivers: The Albion FFA was grand champion of Parade of Lights on Nov. 26. There were 34 entries. The FFA won with a Candy Land themed float that included 10,000 lights.

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Medina woman named NY student of the year by continuing education association

Staff Reports Posted 5 January 2017 at 9:40 am
Maria Castaneda

Maria Castaneda

Maria Castaneda, a Medina woman who is a continuing education student at the Orleans/Niagara BOCES, has been named a “student of the year” by New York Association for Continuing and Community Education.

She was among 21 students state-wide honored during a recent conference in Latham. Nicole Sarratori and Walter Stewart, Niagara County residents in the Orleans/Niagara BOCES program, also were recognized at the annual conference on Oct. 25.

When Maria moved to the United States from Mexico in 1994, she only had a sixth grade education. She and her husband spent eight years as migrant farmworkers following the crops from oranges in Florida, cucumbers in Ohio and apples in New York.

The frequent moves from north to south, with their young daughter in tow, meant Maria’s young daughter would be forced to repeat first grade. Maria insisted to her husband that she would stay behind in New York so their daughter could get a better education and not be forced to change schools so frequently.

While her husband continued the migrant circuit, they had two more children. Maria took a job in a greenhouse and decided to obtain her goal of being an American citizen. She knew the value of education and wanted a better life for herself and her family.

In 2014, at the age of 43, she entered the Orleans/Niagara BOCES program at the World Life Institute Education Center in Waterport and started to learn English and prepare for citizenship. Maria worked hard and moved along quickly in her citizenship class, mastered writing and grammar skills and enthusiastically learning concepts of civics and US history.

Unfortunately, some devastating news and events forced her to withdraw from class temporarily. Maria’s beloved mother passed away in Mexico while she and her husband were going through a divorce. When she returned to class she worked very hard to catch up and received more devastating news that two cousins had been murdered in Mexico.

Despite all the heartache, she focused on her goals and on Sept. 16, Maria stood with citizens from 72 nations at SUNY Brockport and became an American citizen and registered to vote the very same day.

For more on NYACCE and the student of the year winners, click here.

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2016 Person of the Year: Honor Guard

Photos by Tom Rivers: Veterans, including Fred Heschke (center), stand during Memorial Day service on May 30 at State Street Park in Medina. The Honor Guard attends numerous community events each year.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 January 2017 at 12:36 pm
The Honor Guard from Albion-Holley and Medina attend about 100 military funerals each year.

The Honor Guard from Albion-Holley and Medina attend about 100 military funerals each year.

They attend about 100 funerals each year for veterans, providing a solemn and dignified sendoff, sometimes standing for hours in the freezing cold or blistering heat.

The Honor Guard marches in parades, and attends numerous local community services – Memorial Day, the opening ceremonies for the County Fair, Sept. 11 and Pearl Harbor memorial services, and many other events.

There are Honor Guards in Medina and a combined group from Albion and Holley. Each group has about a dozen regular volunteers and they usually range in age from 60 to their early 90s.

The Albion-Holley and Medina groups will often work together for a funeral. They want a good turnout to pay their respects.

World War II veteran Michael Paduchak, right, and George Blakeman, a member of the Marine Corps League in Albion, salute during the flag-raising ceremony in July 2013 to kick off the Orleans County 4-H Fair.

World War II veteran Michael Paduchak, right, and George Bakeman, a member of the Marine Corps League in Albion, salute during the flag-raising ceremony in July 2013 to kick off the Orleans County 4-H Fair.

Holley and Albion have been working in a combined unit for about 20 years. Some of the members in the Honor Guard are World War II veterans in their 90s.

Many communities struggle to have enough volunteers for the Honor Guard and veterans may come in from outside the community.

Orleans County still has a dedicated corps, but the Honor Guard members worry about that, especially as many of the veterans get older.

“We are always looking for people,” said Jim Freas, who leads the group from Medina.

Freas, 78, said the Honor Guard from Medina has 9 to 14 regular members. They go to about 40-50 funerals a year, as well as many community events.

Freas said the military funerals are a priority. The Honor Guard will fold the American flag and present it to the veteran’s family. They will give a gun salute and play Taps, either with a live bugler or with a recording.

Sometimes they even serve as pallbearers and the chaplain may be asked to pray.

“I’m very proud to do it,” Freas said. “I think every veteran deserves the honor of a military funeral.”

The Honor Guard concluded a program on May 26 at Mount Albion Cemetery when a new plaque was dedicated for Civil War veterans.

The Honor Guard concluded a program on May 26 at Mount Albion Cemetery when a new plaque was dedicated for Civil War veterans.

Every veteran who has been honorably discharged is entitled to a military funeral, free of charge. The Honor Guard detail needs to include at least two members of the Armed Forces. The veteran is also entitled to ceremony that includes the folding of a flag and the playing of Taps.

The Honor Guard provides a presence at the funeral for Frank Sidari on April 25, 2015. Sidari, 90, served in World War II.

The Honor Guard provides a presence at the funeral for Frank Sidari on April 25, 2015. Sidari, 90, served in World War II.

Earl Schmidt, director of the Veterans Service Agency in Orleans County, said the Honor Guard attends about 100 military funerals each year in the county.

“The veterans in the Honor Guard help each other,” Schmidt said. “It’s showing respect for the veterans who served their country.”

Schmidt worries about the Honor Guard in 10-15 years. The group will need other veterans to continue.

“Most of the younger veterans are working and working longer,” Schmidt said. “I’m grateful for the older vets being out there, respecting what America is all about.”

The Honor Guard will be recognized during an awards program in early 2017.

The Honor Guard, including Adam Johnson at right, marches in the Memorial Day Parade in Medina on May 30.

The Honor Guard, including Adam Johnson at right, marches in the Memorial Day Parade in Medina on May 30.

Markeya Lucas-Drisdom of Albion, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, served in the Honor Guard during a Veterans' Day observance on Nov. 11, 2015 in Albion.

Markeya Lucas-Drisdom of Albion, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, served in the Honor Guard during a Veterans’ Day observance on Nov. 11, 2015 in Albion.

The Honor Guard marches along Main Street in Albion on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. The Honor Guard often get the loudest applause in parades with many also saluting the veterans.

The Honor Guard marches along Main Street in Albion on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. The Honor Guard often receives the loudest applause in parades with many also saluting the veterans.

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GCC President appointed Middle States Commissioner

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 December 2016 at 9:51 am
Dr. James Sunser

Dr. James Sunser

Press Release, GCC

BATAVIA – In sports, it’s the MVP or most valuable player. In journalism and the arts, it’s a Pulitzer Prize. Film has its Oscars and Academy Awards, and television has the Emmy Awards. But in the serious business of higher education, standards of excellence and adherence to quality are gauged by the Commission on Higher Education, a voluntary, non-government, regional membership association that assures institutional accountability, improvement and innovation through a rigorous application of standards within a peer reviewed process.

Dr. James M. Sunser, president of Genesee Community College, was recently appointed as one of 26 commissioners (board members) of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which oversees 530 colleges and universities within New York State, as well as Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. He was selected from 85 nominations for just three open seats, and he is one of the few community college presidents to serve as commissioner.

The Commission is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation to accredit degree-granting institutions which offer one or more post-secondary educational programs of at least one academic year. Dr. Sunser joins the team of academic leaders who help define, maintain and promote educational excellence across many institutions with diverse missions, student populations and resources. Prior to his appointment as a commissioner, he served as a chairman or a member of an evaluation team within the peer-review process on more than a dozen occasions over the past 20 years.

To earn and retain accreditation through MSCHE, each institution of higher education undergoes a multi-stage accreditation review process every ten years that begins with an intensive self-study.

The institution appoints a steering committee and working groups, and organizes campus-wide discussions to prepare a comprehensive Self-Study Report focused on specific accreditation standards. The Report also helps frame the three-day site visit by an assigned evaluation team made up of members from peer institutions.

After careful review of the Self-Study Report and numerous on-campus interviews, the evaluation team chair compiles an Evaluation Report summarizing the team’s overall findings. In the end, the commissioners of MSCHE can affirm accreditation, require follow-up action, or remove accreditation.

Ironically, Genesee Community College is currently undergoing its decennial evaluation and is in the final stages of completing its 150+ page Self-Study Report with its MSCHE site visit scheduled April 2-5, 2017. (To avoid all conflicts of interest, the commissioners recluse themselves from all discussions involving their own institutions of employment.)

President Sunser is a native of Syracuse and has spent the majority of his professional career in higher education. He is a graduate of Onondaga Community College, earned his BS degree from Syracuse University, an MS from SUNY College at Brockport, and a Certificate of Advanced Study and his Ed.D. Degree from the University of Rochester. He came to GCC in 2011, after working at Onondaga Community College in several capacities including as the bursar and vice president for finance, and vice president for continuing and extended learning.

“I am truly honored to be a part of such an important organization within higher education,” President Sunser said of his new appointment. “Accreditation is the lynch pin that holds higher education together. From setting policy to the self-assessments, team reviews during on-site visits, Middle States has imparted leadership in higher ed throughout its nearly 100-year history.”

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GCC honors top students and instructors of the fall semester at Albion, Medina centers

Posted 29 December 2016 at 8:39 am

Press Release, GCC

The Albion and Medina Campus Centers of Genesee Community College are pleased to announce the Fall 2016 Students and Instructors of the Semester. Each semester, one student and one instructor at each campus center are awarded the honor for outstanding academic or teaching performance.

Albion Campus Center

Holley Dawson

Holley Dawson

Holly Dawson has been chosen as the Instructor of the Semester at the Albion Campus Center for the fall semester. She teaches History at the Albion and Medina Campus Centers, and also teaches at Erie Community College. Holly graduated from North Tonawanda High School and earned degrees from Niagara County Community, the University at Buffalo and Canisius College.

Students who nominated Holly mentioned that her teaching is, “planned and well thought out,” and she “encourages us to dig deeper into history.” Students also walk away with lessons that extend beyond the classroom and one student shared that, “she challenges us to seek out the truth and to not be afraid to ask questions.”

When asked about her experience at GCC, Dawson said, “GCC is a positive place to work; everyone is kind, helpful, and happy to be here.” She advises new instructors the same advice that was given to her, “have fun!”

Holly resides in North Tonawanda with her husband of 32 years, two sons, and Snowball, her west highland terrier. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys outdoor activities including biking and walking and assisting with the Boy Scouts. She also loves to read and counts the Harry Potter series and the works of Stephanie Evanovich among her favorites.

Elena Mergler

Elena Mergler

Elena Mergler has been selected as the Student of the Semester at the Albion Campus for the fall 2016 semester. Elena will be finishing her degree in Teacher Education this spring. She plans to transfer to Nazareth College and pursue a Bachelor’s in Art Education. Her long-term goal is to become an art teacher.

The instructor that nominated Elena shared that, “Elena produces exceptional work, on time and on task. Her presence also had a positive influence in class and she is a mature contributor, as well as a caring listener.”

In her free time, Elena enjoys art, spending time with her family and many different outdoor activities including hiking, camping, kayaking, horseback riding, zip-lining and sky diving. She credits her family (mom, dad and two sisters) as a major influence in her life. She resides in Albion.

Medina Campus Center

Patrick Seidel

Patrick Seidel

Patrick Seidel has been selected as the Instructor of the Semester at the Medina Campus Center for the fall 2016 semester. He teaches Responding to Emergencies and Fly Fishing and also teaches Physical Education and coaches at Lockport High School, along with being a New York State Coaching Instructor. His most rewarding teaching experience was being named the Western New York Wrestling Coach of the Year.

Pat earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Physical Education from The College at Brockport and also obtained a Master’s degree in School District Administration from Niagara University. He enjoys how close and personal GCC and the Medina Campus Center are as an institution.

He was nominated by multiple students that promote him as very interested in how students are doing and as someone who makes sure students are getting the correct information and that it is being understood.

In his personal time, Pat enjoys golfing and fly fishing and notes that his favorite book is Fail Safe. He also enjoys watching the New York Yankees and reading Newsweek. Pat is married and has two children, 11 mini horses, five cats and one dog. He resides in Gasport.

Dennis Wakula

Dennis Wakula

Dennis Wakula has been selected as the Student of the Semester at the Medina Campus

Center for the fall 2016 semester. He is a non-traditional student majoring in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Studies and plans to complete his internship at Hope Haven in Batavia this fall. After graduating from GCC, he plans to transfer to The College at Brockport to further his education.

Prior to attending GCC, Dennis worked in the restaurant industry for over 20 years. He decided to pursue his degree as a means to help people recover from substance abuse, as well as spend more time at home with his wife, Beth. Dennis expressed that his wife and son, Tyler, as well as many good friends and the faculty and staff at GCC are major influences in his life, with regard to pursuing his education.

The instructor that nominated Dennis praised him for being an “A” student, who is, “always the first one to class, ready to work.” When asked about his strengths as a student, Dennis stated, “I try to attend all of my classes so that I don’t miss anything. I don’t procrastinate, and I try to stay ahead in all of my classes. This way, I don’t stress myself out.” His advice to new college students is to pay attention in class, stay current with homework assignments, and most of all, ask for help if you need it.

Dennis has always felt that his GCC instructors and staff really care about student success. Dennis resides in Holley.

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Orchard Manor LPN wins ‘Caring Hearts Award’

Staff Reports Posted 20 December 2016 at 11:44 am
Provided photo: Desiree Braham is pictured with Martin MacKenzie, Administrator at Orchard Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, after she won a “Caring Hearts Award” from the New York State Health Facilities Association.

Provided photo: Desiree Braham is pictured with Martin MacKenzie, Administrator at Orchard Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, after she won a “Caring Hearts Award” from the New York State Health Facilities Association.

Desiree Braham, an LPN at Orchard Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Medina, has received the New York State Health Facilities Association District 10 Caring Hearts Award.

She was nominated by Orchard Manor Family Council members as a “Caring Heart” because of her exemplary dedication, skills, and compassion towards residents.

Braham was honored in December at this year’s Holiday Awards Reception at Fox Valley Country Club in Lancaster. She has followed her mother, aunts and grandmother in becoming a nurse.

Braham worked for two years as a nurse at an assisted living facility in Williamsville prior to coming to Orchard Manor two years ago. She started at Orchard Manor as a Med Nurse and is now a Unit Manager.

“She likes helping others and the medical field interests her,” said Jamie Murphy, activities director and a spokeswoman for Orchard Manor. “From day one, she’s always been willing to pitch in and help her staff or anyone as needed—she’s not above any task.”

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Kludt again tops NY in corn yields

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 December 2016 at 10:10 pm
Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from Aug. 3 shows a field of corn while the sun is setting in Gaines.

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from Aug. 3 shows a field of corn while the sun is setting in Gaines.

KENDALL – Matt Kludt from the Kludt Brothers Farm in Kendall is a repeat champion in New York’s annual corn yield contest.

Kludt recorded a yield of 298.5 acres in the No-Till/Strip-Till Non-Irrigated Class. The winning entry was grown with Pioneer seeds, P0843AM, the National Corn Growers Association announced today.

Kludt also won the title last year with 319.74 bushels per acre. Kludt also had the second biggest yield in 2016 at 264.55 bushels.

“The contest provides farmers more than just an opportunity for friendly competition; it generates data that impacts future production practices across the industry,” said Brent Hostetler, chair of NCGA’s Stewardship Action Team. “The techniques first developed by contest winners grow into far-reaching advances, helping farmers across the country excel in a variety of situations.  Our contest emphasizes innovation both from growers and technology providers, thus enabling us to meet the growing demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber.”

Kludt and other state and national winners will be invited to the 2017 Commodities Classic in San Antonio. For more on the contest, click here.

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Mad Scientists from Orleans win award at UR competition

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 December 2016 at 11:38 am

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Provided photos

ROCHESTER – Members of the Mad Scientists, a First Lego League team from Orleans County, are happy on Sunday after the team won the research award for top project among the 147 teams in the Finger Lakes region.

The Mad Scientists include, from left: Zachary Neal, Deegan Bragg, coach Erik Seielstad, Aiden Miller, coach Marlene Seielstad, Emma Foote, Bryce Wilson and Josh Bovenzi.

The Mad Scientists are one of three Lego teams from Orleans County in the 4-H program. The Mad Scientists advanced to Sunday’s championship finals, featuring the 40 top teams in the region.

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Aiden Miller holds the trophy for the research award. In winning the award, the Mad Scientists developed a prosthetic leg for a dog.

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In creating the prosthetic, the team used CAD to design a prosthetic and then made one with a 3-D printer. The design can easily be modified depending on the size of a dog.

The team was motiviated to create a prosthetic after hearing about a three-legged dog at the Olde Dogge Inn in Albion. The dog was from Puerto Rico but was receiving care and love at the Olde Dogge Inn so he could be adopted to a family. The dog visited the 4-H Team and tried the prosthetic, which seems to work for the dog named Bary.

The prosthetic can be made for $15 with a 3-D printer, compared to buying a customized one from a company for $400 to $600, Mrs. Seielstad said.

The team has been meeting three times a week for about three months. George McKenna, a veterinarian in Barre, also met with the team and had advice on how to size the prosthetic. (Dogs might lose a leg due to cancer, being hit by a car, nerve damage or a birth defect.)

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The team gets its robot ready to complete different tasks. Team members programmed the robot to use different attachments to for challenges on the course. The Lego program is open to students in grades 4 through 8.

The program started five years ago in orleans County. Sunday was the first time an Orleans team won one of the major awards in the finals.

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Albion native honored in Florida for educational excellence

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 December 2016 at 8:23 pm
Demetrius Revelas

Demetrius Revelas

An Albion native was one of eight educators honored by Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Dec. 6 with the Shine Award, given for making significant contributions to education.

Demetrius Revelas, a member of Albion’s Class of 1979, is principal at Murdock Middle School in Charlotte County in the Fort Myers area of Southwest Florida.

In the past two years, over 700 Microsoft certifications have been earned by students at the school. Revelas also is the recipient of the National After School Association “My Principal Matters” Award, according to a news release from the Gov. Scott.

Revelas is also a graduate of Brockport State College in 1983. He is the son of Gus and Barbara Revelas.

“As a veteran educator I want to share my experiences with others,” Revelas said in a phone interview today. “As an educator I am always here to grow.”

In Florida, the school districts are organized by counties. Revelas works in a district with about 16,000 students.

He tries to bring small-town values he learned at Albion and Brockport to his career, making relationships and personal connections a priority.

“The Shine Award is presented to outstanding teachers like these who go above and beyond in the classroom to educate Florida’s future leaders,” Gov. Rick Scott said on Tuesday when the awards were presented. “I applaud these educators for continuing their professional development with this demanding program and preparing students for Florida’s workforce.”

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Albion youth wins sectional PP&K event

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 10 December 2016 at 7:38 pm
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Contributed Photo – Amari Jones from Albion won first place honors in the 10-11 year old division at the Sectional Championships of the NFL’s Punt, Pass and Kick competition held today at the Buffalo Bills Field House. Previously, Jones had won the local event at Bullard Park in Albion. He is pictured here with Buffalo Bills first round pick Shaq Lawson.