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Once a High School Dropout, Now a High Honor Student in Falk College

As a public school student in Massachusetts, Chevon Janczuk thought she had her life all figured out. “It turned out my teenage self was wrong,” she says. Janczuk dropped out of high school in her sophomore year, but immediately recognized her mistake. She obtained her GED and after earning certification as a nursing assistant went to work in health care.

However, Janczuk couldn’t make ends meet with the salary she was earning. “Dropping out of high school wasn’t the best decision on my part,” she says. “I knew my calling in life was to help people, so I began to search for jobs that appealed to me. I did an internet search for social work degree programs, and Syracuse University was one of the first to pop up.”

Janczuk called University College and spoke to someone in the advising office who told her about the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP). “The next thing I knew, I was applying to college,” she says.

Janczuk has four children—ages two to eight—and two stepchildren. She finds it challenging to balance raising her children, studying and doing homework. “If you want something bad enough, you find the time for it,” she says. “Sometimes it requires waking up before the kids and staying up late. Other times it requires staying extra hours on campus to take advantage of the quiet in the lounge or library.”

man, woman and four small children

She also relies on family, friends or a babysitter to take care of the children for a few hours so she can write a paper or do research. “And sometimes, I involve my children in my homework,” she says. “For whatever reason, helping me with statistics is fun for them.”

Janczuk credits the strong support of her family for her success and recognizes that her husband is her strongest cheerleader. “He is incredible at cheering me on and encouraging me,” she says. “There have been many nights where I’ve made him listen to long scholarly papers that I’m sure he doesn’t want to hear about. I am constantly rambling off statistics and research that doesn’t interest him, but he listens anyway.”

Janczuk is a sophomore in Falk College with a double major in social work and psychology. On April 19, Janczuk, who has a GPA of 3.9, received an Academic Excellence Award at the HEOP Awards Ceremony. She was also selected to address the students, faculty and staff attending the event. “I know that you realize the opportunity to be in the HEOP program is one that would be foolish to turn down,” she remarked in her address. “You have access to a network of individuals—staff at this very college [University College] who go out of their way to make sure you’re successful. From the academic advisors, to the professors to the receptionist at the front desk; from the financial aid advisors to your peers, and even the dean—every person that surrounds you is here to support you. You have been handed that opportunity of a lifetime.”

When she completes her undergraduate degree, Janczuk intends to pursue a master’s degree in social work and perhaps a Ph.D. in psychology. Her interests lie within the criminal justice field, and she hopes to one day be involved in the criminal justice system addressing the mental health needs of inmates. Her goal is influenced by her husband’s profession as a corrections officer. “When you see a pattern of repeat visitors to a correctional facility, you begin to wonder what can be done to help them become more productive members of society,” she says.

“My hope is that I can give my children a better future due to my decision to earn a college degree and set myself up in a successful career,” she says. “As a non-traditional student, it is not always easy. You have to want it, and you have to work for it.”

University College Announces Student HEOP Honors

Syracuse University’s Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) presented its annual academic awards on April 19 in the Schine Student Center.

HEOP is a special admission program for part-time students whose financial and educational backgrounds would prohibit them from regular admission to Syracuse University. Funds from the New York State Education Department enable HEOP to assist students with financial aid and support services to guide them to the successful completion of their educational programs.

University College has the only HEOP program in New York state for part-time students.

Seven HEOP students will graduate in May with associate degrees and five students will graduate with bachelor’s degrees through University College, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Falk College.

Fourteen HEOP students who completed at least 12 credits in 2018 and earned a 3.0 grade point average or above received Academic Excellence Awards.

Perseverance Awards recognize students who demonstrate exceptional discipline in balancing a commitment to their academics and their family responsibilities while improving their academic performance. Four students received the award at the ceremony.

University College Dean Michael Frasciello acknowledged the 50th anniversary of the HEOP program. “You are part of a distinguished group of students who excelled at Syracuse University through the support of HEOP,” said Frasciello. “Through your work, determination, commitment and success, we hope to retain the program for another 50 years, supporting future students who seek knowledge and education to transform their lives.”

University College offers a variety of online and residential degree and certificate programs. For more information, visit parttime.syr.edu/ or call 315.443.9378.

English Language Institute Students Win Contest and Trip to United Nations

four students standing outside in front of row of international flags
English Language Institute students visited the United Nations where they took a tour. From left are students Mengyao (Wendy) Wang; Junhui (Carol) Yang, Miwa Mashiko and Haohui (Nate) Pan.

Five English Language Institute (ELI) students were among the winners of the Pan Global Challenge, a project sponsored by Blackstone LaunchPad to address the issues of cultural and language barriers between domestic and international students. Students were asked to develop innovative solutions that could be products, services or technologies that lead to better global communication.

ELI students Junhui (Carol) Yang and Haohui (Nate) Pan won first place for proposing that students receive academic credit for joining and participating in Syracuse University clubs and organizations.

ELI students Miwa Mashiko, Mengyao (Wendy) Wang and Merve Gencturk won third place for their idea of creating a Syracuse University dictionary app. The app would allow international students to ask questions about common names or terms on campus, such as “What is HBC Gifford?”

First place students received a monetary award and several winning ELI students traveled to New York City in March for a tour of the United Nations.

Wang says the experience was magnificent, especially seeing the 193 flags on display outside the United Nations building. “I was so proud when I saw my country’s flag,” she says. “I learned a lot from the tour guide, but also from the Syracuse alumna who met us in New York City.”

The students also had the opportunity to view the art collection. Each country is allowed to bestow one gift to the United Nations. The collection represents a diversity of cultures and periods in history. “Gifts included a Peace Bell from Japan, a Buddha statue from Thailand and artwork representing significant and historical events that took place throughout the world,” explains Pan.

Yang was most impressed with the general assembly hall. “Delegates from all over the world gather there to negotiate for the same goals; for peace and a better future,” she says. “In that hall, nobody is mediocre; everyone is equal.”

The English Language Institute (ELI) provides intensive English instruction to international students and visiting professionals at all proficiency levels.

Following in His Mother’s Footsteps, As She Leads by Example

woman and her son standing next to her
Angela Gunn and her son, Ronnie Holmes III

Ronnie Holmes III knew by fourth grade that he wanted to pursue a career in engineering. And he knew that the Syracuse City School District’s Say Yes to Education program would make it possible for him to earn the college degree needed to achieve that dream. After attending five different schools in the district, Holmes graduated from the Syracuse Academy of Science in 2016 as class salutatorian.

Holmes says that he strived to be the best student he could be and was motivated by his own personal desire to succeed. “But the majority of my motivation comes from my mother, who is earning a degree in political science through University College,” he says.

Holmes saw firsthand the struggles and challenges his mother overcame as she worked full time while raising a family and attending college as a part-time student.

In May, Holmes will be in attendance when his mom, Angela Gunn, graduates from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School. “I feel a great sense of pride knowing that, against all odds, she was able to persevere and conquer such adversity. It is difficult to describe how I will feel when I watch my mom walk the stage,” says Holmes.

Like her son, Gunn looked for an affordable way to attend college. She found it through the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program, which provides access to Syracuse University for economically and educationally disadvantaged students from New York State.

“You face many challenges as an adult student,” said Gunn in a 2016 interview for the UC Priorities newsletter. “A heavy workload, chapters to read, papers to complete, lots of studying and being in classes with students the age of your children can be intimidating.”

But throughout her academic career, Gunn always put her children first. “Ronnie and his three sisters are what keeps me motivated,” says Gunn. “I want them all to make the most of what purpose they have for being here on this earth. Their talent is not for them, but to help or assist someone else.”

Gunn’s children have many individual talents, and Holmes found his talent at an early age. “I knew that Ronnie had the potential to do something big,” she says. “I used to buy him different types of toys that he would have to put together and sure enough, he would. I wasn’t surprised that he decided to make a career out of it.”

man seated in chair doing homework

Ronnie Holmes III

Holmes also began his career at Syracuse University as a part-time student at University College. And, like his mom, he works full time while attending college. Holmes works as an assistant manager at Finish Line.

“Studying part-time made it easier to balance working and attending college,” he says. “The time I spent as a part-time student helped me familiarize myself with what college is like and gave me a chance to get comfortable with the academic environment on campus.”

After two-and-a-half years at University College, Holmes is now enrolled full time in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, working toward a degree in aerospace engineering. “A STEM career has always seemed the best fit for me due to my curiosity and desire to understand the world around me and how things work,” says Holmes. “As an aerospace engineer, I will be responsible for the development of aircraft and space craft. I am intrigued by the idea of being a part of the development of what we put in the air in the near future.”

The pair motivate each other to succeed. “My mother inspires me to never settle for less. I have seen how hard she has worked to get where she is today and I would like to do the same in my own life,” says Holmes.

Gunn has dreams of her own as well. “I would actually like to go graduate school and pursue a career in law,” she says. “That’s my dream job.” Gunn says that having a college degree means she won’t have to place any limitations on what job she can have in the future.

“People should know that their plans are not impossible and their goals are not out of reach,” added Holmes. “I’ve conquered what I would otherwise have thought impossible by having faith.”

A family affair: Three generations of Flanagans at SU

Flanigan Family portraitValerie Flanagan had been away from school for 37 years when she made the decision to redirect her life by earning a college degree. She was working full time as a health care assistant, but envisioned a career as a social worker, teaching parenting skills to teenage mothers. Valerie enrolled in classes at Onondaga Community College and was awarded an associate degree in Human Services in May 2017. Her next step was to enroll at Syracuse University as a part-time student through University College. “Acquiring a degree at this point in my life when I am actually close to retirement requires passion and determination,” she said at the time. Tragically, Valerie would never witness the fulfillment of her dream. She died last September after a brief illness.

The Flanagan family has an impressive history at Syracuse University. Valerie was proud of her family connections to the University, and wanted their story told. In a message to University College last April, she outlined her message. “Three generations of my family are attending college, have graduated, or are working at Syracuse University,” she said. “I think it’s a story that will inspire others to realize a college education is possible.”

Valerie’s son, Kemet High, is currently enrolled in the master’s degree program in magazine, newspaper and digital journalism at the Newhouse School of Public Communications, after graduating last year from the College of Arts and Sciences. During his time at Syracuse, Kemet made the most of every opportunity to become involved and expand his skillset. He did internships at Atlantic Records and Revolt TV, a digital cable music network founded by Sean “Diddy” Combs. Kemet also interned at The Fader, a New York City magazine that covers music, style and culture. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and he was a founding member of Mixtape magazine, the University’s first and only magazine devoted to Hip Hop.

Valerie’s niece, Angela Flanagan, was the oldest of four children in a household where education was highly valued. All four earned bachelor’s degrees, and three went on to earn master’s degrees. Angela was determined to finish her degree despite numerous real-life responsibilities. In 1996 she was a single mother to son Brendan while working at Newhouse as a production assistant. “I had the good fortune to get a job that provided tuition benefits for employees, so I enrolled as a part-time student through University College. It was a great start for a better future,” Angela says.

It took many years, and it wasn’t easy, but Angela persevered semester after semester. “Attending college as an adult can be intimidating,” Angela recalls, but she was focused on her son and wanted to be a role model for him. She completed her degree in 2002, and her good intentions have come to fruition. Brendan is enrolled at Syracuse University as a part-time student through University College, pursuing a degree in psychology. He works part time at Kinney Drugs, and is weighing future career options, including being a psychologist.

Brendan’s aunt Valerie won’t be here to see him graduate, but her words resonate in the educational path he has chosen.

“I see some very bright young minds being developed at Syracuse University,” Valerie said, “and I know they will make a difference in the world.”