When Sarah Ameigh flew to Honduras in August she carried two suitcases and a carry-on bag. The carry-on held her clothes and personal items, while the suitcases were crammed with fabric. Intended for the women of Tegucigalpa, the capital city, the fabric was destined for use in sewing and crafting small items such as table runners, scarves and tote bags the women sell in order to support their families.
In Honduras, poverty is nearly as rampant as the crime caused by roving gangs – primarily fueled by the drug cartels. With many men caught up in illegal gang activity, or busy working harsh jobs, few children see their fathers; often, siblings don’t even have the same mother and father, Ameigh described. As such, education and empowerment to learn skills that can sustain a family become critical. Indeed, each of the 13 other travelers also flying with Ameigh filled their own suitcases with other supplies, medicine or craft materials needed to benefit the schoolchildren and families they came to serve with the “Border Buddies” mission organization.
The myriad of socio-economic issues facing the families and children in Honduras was a fascinating study for Ameigh, who is completing a bachelor’s degree in social work through Keuka College, studying each week at Corning Community College through the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).
“Social work is all about human service. One of the main goals is to be out there and help promote change and social change,” she said, explaining that the primary purpose of the service trip was to add four new classrooms and a kitchen to a school building used for 250 children ages four through 12. The trip was sponsored through Ameigh’s home church, Victory Highway Wesleyan Church in Painted Post, and was the 30th visit in nine years that members of the church have made to that city and its mission outposts, she said.
According to Ameigh, all 250 schoolchildren had been “plastered in” to just six classrooms and most had no place to eat at school, one of the few places that can help counter the poverty at home. Even so, there are few books, but because the children have no better comparison, they are simply happy to be there, she said.
Like many other locales within the city, the school grounds were gated because of the threat of gang violence. According to Ameigh, the threat was so strong that mission team members were not allowed to go near the gates as they worked on the building repairs in order to ensure their safety. The team members heard that gang initiations often require killing another gang member or a personal family member and learned that only one in three children is safe from the threat of assault.
Building school rooms for the kids provides a safe place to learn, so they can get off the streets and have a good job,” said Ameigh, who missed one week of her ASAP classes to participate in the trip, but had the full support of her professors, Susan Grover Vanpelt and Doyle Pruitt.
While Ameigh completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2002, after a brief stint in the banking industry, she switched jobs and started working for the Steuben County ARC. Ten years later, the passion for her work prompted her to enroll in the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) for a bachelor’s degree in social work. Ultimately, she hopes to complete an MSW degree and become a licensed clinical social worker with a focus in counseling, she said.
On the first full day of service, the mission team set to work transforming the shell into new schoolrooms. While Ameigh helped sand walls, then prime, paint and sand some more, others including her older sister Bethany worked on the roof of the building. As the week, and work, continued, the team – which ranged from two 15-year-old boys to adults in their 50s – made visits to other local schools in the afternoons. While a few women would instruct native women in the sewing and craft techniques, others such as Ameigh would keep the children busy playing games such as soccer, or learning their own arts and crafts.
In contrast to Sarah’s two suitcases stuffed with fabric, Bethany Ameigh carried plastic “melting beads” in her two suitcases, Sarah said. Gathered with string, the beads are melted with an iron into fun shapes, Sarah Ameigh said. The two sisters learned that balloon animals were also quite a draw and that Honduran children have a funny habit of coating their bodies with the colored dust from sidewalk chalk decorating the ground.
Citing her course in human behavior, Ameigh said much of life success is impacted by the environment a child grows up in. The missionary couple hosting the team from New York’s southern tier emphasized especially to men in the group “to be sure to spend time with the kids because fathers aren’t really part of their lives,” said Ameigh.
“Unless something intervenes, they’ll end up in the same situation as their family [members],” she said.
Recalling how the missionary couple described the rescue of one young man, previously living a life of crime and violence, Ameigh said the trip helped show her the value of the career she’s pursuing.
“He’d leave after school Friday, party the whole weekend and come back on Monday. But he’s now part of the youth group, has to show up two nights a week, hold to a certain grade standard, and [sell food] around the barrio to make money,” she described. “The missionaries are saving one life of a child on the streets and now these kids are working and going into a trade there,” she said, comparing the trade system of Honduras to the colleges of America.
“The mission of social work is to help empower people to make change in their own lives – we’re not doing it for them,” Sarah said, citing the women and their training in sewing and crafts as one example.
Despite the shock of the extreme degree of poverty and crime, the children were endearing, Sarah said, recalling one little girl named Jamie who brought Sarah’s sister Bethany a sugar wafer one morning – a small treat that must have cost the little girl nearly all she had – but was so distraught she did not have another for Sarah that she ran, crying, all the way to the store, in order to buy a second treat to share.
“I hated to take it, but they said you should so that these children can learn the empowerment of giving, too,” Sarah Ameigh said. “It was weird coming back because of what we saw. It’s dirty, it’s dangerous and you come back and you’re in culture shock. You look at your house and say, I don’t need this. I don’t need that. It changes you.”
Juan Jones, an admissions specialist at Corning Community College (CCC) in Corning, was recently named winner of the Joint Presidential Scholarship. This partnered award from Keuka College and CCC provides a full-time CCC employee a tuition-paid degree through Keuka College’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP). Jones is the sixth recipient of this scholarship award, and plans to begin his education this August.
Jones currently holds an A.S. degree in humanities and social science from CCC and plans to further his education with a B.S. in organizational management from Keuka College. He first started school at the CCC Elmira campus, which used to house a Head Start program. Since then he has spent more than 20 years working with the local Elmira community. Whether it is volunteering at his local library, helping with the Chemung County Head Start program, or volunteering in the Elmira City School District. Jones looks forward to using the new skills he’ll gain by acquiring a higher education.
Kimberly Morgan, director of admissions for ASAP, said that Jones is held in such high regard “it was like he was the mayor,” and at least 20 people came to the ceremony to honor his achievement.
Embodying the ideal of service and giving back, Jones is planning on using the scholarship to better serve his community and said he was “truly honored” to receive it.
The B.S. in organizational management program at Keuka College features an accelerated format; students attend class one night a week and complete their degree requirements in less than two years.
Keuka College offers seven degree programs through ASAP: four bachelor’s degree programs (criminal justice systems, nursing, organizational management, and social work) and three master’s degree programs (criminal justice administration, management, and nursing). Classes are offered at some 20 locations in New York State, including Corning Community College.
For more information on ASAP, contact the Center for Professional Studies at 866-255-3852 or asap.keuka.edu.
Just before Christmas, Lisa Makarick finished a course in community health. Just after Christmas, Makarick discovered a profound contrast between the classroom and Cabarete, Dominican Republic, where she traveled with 11 others from Keuka College to bring health education to some of the youngest residents of the community.
“It’s one thing to do a windshield study on [community health] and it’s a whole other beast to do a service project, to get down there with the people and work hand-in-hand with them,” said Makarick, a Hammondsport resident.
Makarick is pursuing her baccalaureate nursing degree through the College’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP). She attends classes at Corning Community College, one of 2o ASAP sites around the state. Nine other nursing students from cohorts in the Syracuse, Elmira, Ithaca, and Utica areas, and one occupational science major from the home campus in Keuka Park, also traveled to Cabarete.
From January 2-9, the Keuka College group, led by Patty Mattingly, associate professor of nursing, assisted the Mariposa DR Foundation, which invests in sustainable solutions to end generational poverty, serving girls as young as 8-years-old. By battling barriers that keep the poor vulnerable and limited, and offering support such as access to quality health care and education, the Mariposa DR Foundation seeks to educate, empower and employ girls in Cabarete to ultimately give back to their community.
The students presented a workshop on dental hygiene and hand-washing, gave a first-aid presentation to parents, and made home visits to assess safety risks and recommend follow-up by Foundation staff. In addition, students also toured a public hospital and an HIV clinic in the area. The trip also fulfilled Keuka College Field Period ™ requirements for the students. Typically, a Field Period ™ enables a student to explore professions, other cultures, or even provide community service for others, but usually, only one of those elements happens at one time. However, the 2014 Keuka College team accomplished all of the above.
According to Makarick, a maternal service nurse and mother of five who will finish her nursing program in April, the trip was an “amazing experience” that she hopes to repeat. The team worked with 15 girls, ages 8 -11, providing encouragement with extracurricular activities that included simple games and health-care instruction. In that region, children only attend a half-day of school and often lack positive alternatives to “just wandering around all afternoon,” said Makarick.
Thanks to one of her daughters, Makarick said she was educated on the threat of sex trafficking and modern slavery facing these young girls. According to New Friends, New Life, a human rights agency seeking to raise awareness, 13 is the average age at which American girls, particularly those vulnerable to poverty, are trafficked into the sex industry. For the poor and vulnerable from developing countries, where legal protection is nearly nonexistent, sexual exploitation and forced prostitution may happen even earlier. As such, Makarick said the impact the team could make was clear.
“I was absolutely not disappointed,” said Makarick. “You can see the effect fairly quickly, even small, little [things] of having someone encourage them … they just bonded with us, and we learned from them, too.”
The group split into two teams of six to conduct home inspections in the neighborhoods where the girls lived, and, in some cases, the level of poverty was “pretty overwhelming,” Mattingly said, describing scenarios where rat poison was left where children could come in contact with it. One student described barbed wire “clotheslines” so low to the ground that children’s bodies and faces bore cuts from running into it. Other elements of culture shock were encountered in el barrio (the ghetto) and the local hospital, which had just five beds in its Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and where equipment and staff practice was like “turning the clock back 30 years,” said Makarick.
James “J.T.” Pitcher, head men’s lacrosse coach at Cayuga Community College (CCC) in Auburn, recently received the Keuka College/CCC Joint Presidential Scholarship.
Pitcher will begin pursuit of a Master of Science degree in management through Keuka College’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) in February.
Pitcher is part-time lacrosse coach at CCC and works full-time as project manager at D&W Diesel. A graduate of Auburn High School, he holds a degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.
The M.S. in management program at Keuka College features an accelerated format; students attend class one night a week and complete their degree requirements in less than two years.
Keuka College offers seven degree programs through ASAP: four bachelor’s degree programs (criminal justice systems, nursing, organizational management, and social work) and three master’s degree programs (criminal justice administration, management, and nursing). Classes are offered at some 20 locations in New York state, including CCC.
For more information on ASAP, contact the Center for Professional Studies at 866-255-3852 or asap.keuka.edu.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series of Q&As with new, full-time faculty members.
Kevin Murphy of Elmira, assistant professor of social work, is teaching traditional and ASAP courses this fall, including Social Welfare Policy and Service I & II, Ethics and Diversity in Social Work, and Generalist Social Work Practice I. Come spring, he is scheduled to teach Group Processes I & II, Social Work Research Methods, Generalist Social Work Practice I & II, and Social Welfare Policy & Service I.
Last book read: Dr. Sleep, by Stephen King.
Favorite quote: Non decor deco (Latin for “I am not led, I lead.”)
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be and why? No one. I like my real life too much.
What makes teaching fun? Seeing the passion the students bring to the table, and being privileged enough to be a part of their transformational journey.
What do you do for fun? Time with the wife and kids, campfires in my backyard on weekends, reading, writing, and obstacle course racing.
Guadalupe Morales-Gotsch, visiting assistant professor of Spanish, is teaching Intercultural Studies, Introduction to Spanish, Spanish for Communication, and Latin American Short Stories.
Last book read: Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Favorite quote: “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge,” by Albert Einstein.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be and why? Dora the Explorer, because she loves to engage herself with new friends and situations, making the best of those situations and her new friends.
What makes teaching fun? Students and their desire to learn.
What do you do for fun? Travel, meet new people and learn about their culture, reading for pleasure
Nicholas Koberstein, instructor of child and family studies, teaches Introduction to Human Development, Development in Middle Childhood, and Psychology of Adulthood and the Aging.
Last book read: Go Dog Go, by P.D. Eastman. My daughter, Harper and son, Wyatt, read every night before bedtime. Go Dog Go is a great book that helps them develop skills in language, learn colors, numbers, and orientations, all with some subtle humor. It is a mainstay on our bedtime bookshelf.
Favorite quote: “My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me,” by Winston Churchill. My wife, Kristen, is the cornerstone of our family. I have never met a more gorgeous, intelligent, kind-hearted, and hard-working woman.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be and why? Indiana Jones, the ultimate renaissance man. If nothing more than to have some flashy, three-piece tweed suits. Jones lives a fascinating life of exploration and adventure. He always escapes danger and fights for what is right and just.
What makes teaching fun? Influence. To make a positive change in a student’s life or to teach them something that changes their world view. Learning is an experience that is more than the information that is taught in the classroom. It is a culture that is co-created and shared by the students. Every new class is a different than the last.
What do you do for fun? I love to explore with my family. Every weekend my family and I try to experience something new. Since we moved to the area in August from Connecticut, there is plenty of exploring to do.
Betty Morris-Mitchell, Assistant Professor of Social Work in the Accelerated Studies for Adults (ASAP) program, is teaching Social Work Practice III (SWK 351) & Social Welfare Policy & Services II (SWK 401).
Last book read: The Good Dream by Donna VanLiere
Favorite quote: Character is found in how you treat people who can’t do anything for you.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be, and why?: I would be Ivorie from the book, The Good Dream. Ivorie, a single woman, rescues and raises an abused young child despite talk and opposition from members of the community.
What makes teaching fun: Helping students achieve their God-given dreams; helping them to understand that they were created to soar.
What do you do for fun? I read. I enjoy reading fiction, non-fiction, self-improvement books, and biographies. I also write short-stories when I have the time.