If Jacob Banas is described as something of an over-achiever, it might be well-deserved. The graduating college senior from Delmar, N.Y., near Albany, decided in the spring of his sophomore year to add a second major —organizational communication—to the English degree he was already pursuing. That meant adding a couple of 18-credit semesters to meet requirements for both degrees.
Then he also decided to start training as an EMT so he could begin volunteering for the Branchport-Keuka Park Fire department. By October of 2013, Banas had started his 160-hours of EMT training, even staying on campus over Winter break to continue four-hour class trainings on Tuesday and Thursday nights, that ran through March 2014.
“My Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would get up for my 8 a.m. class, and not stop till 11 p.m. and maybe be up later with homework,” he recalled. “It’s a miracle I survived that semester.”
But by April 2014, Banas had passed the EMT course —which he dubbed a “First Aid class on steroids”— and could begin volunteering as a first responder on emergency calls. Soon after, Banas also joined the ambulance corps in Penn Yan. More training hours were required and Banas was recently awarded the 2014-15 Yates County award for the most individual training hours in EMT service by any medic for the year. According to Banas, the 185 training hours he logged between 2014 and 2015 does not include his 145 hours on duty or additional volunteer hours with the fire department.
“It’s a surreal moment of closure for me as I’m finishing my time here at Keuka College, to be recognized by so many friends I’ve made at both departments,” he said, calling the award “a really nice recognition.”
Banas now holds basic EMT certification, which means there are limits to what he can do or the medications he can administer. At basic certification level, EMT’s can manage fractures, head/neck or back injuries, motor vehicle accidents, cardiac issues, or allergic reactions. However, basic EMT’s are not licensed to carry narcotics or perform emergency intubations to manually open a patient’s airway as a certified paramedic would be licensed, he said.
Banas said he tries to maintain at least one to two shifts a week at the ambulance corps. “Every now and then, there’s an emergency near the College that the fire department will be called to and I respond in my free time,” he said.
According to Asa Swick, director of operations for the Penn Yan Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Banas is often the first on-scene when an emergency call comes in for an incident on the College campus.
“Often, Jake is already there and he’s been able to assess and start a needed treatment and he knows so many of the staff and students, he’s on a first-name basis with most, and has a good handle how to best help them,” Swick said.
“College students make great responders, they’re looking for stuff to do in a new school, it benefits the community— it’s a win-win all the way around. Students are wonderful to work with because they already want to learn. You’re just providing them another opportunity (for an activity) and a skill they can use for the rest of their lives,” Swick said, noting that Banas’s reputation is “outstanding.”
“Jake is a great medic, gets along with everybody, and fits in really well. He’s told us that if he can find a job in his current field, he’d love to stay and we’d love to see that too. I’d love to have 20 college students that are as active, involved and dedicated as Jake. If I could have 20 Jakes, this community would be in really awesome shape,” Swick said.
And how does Banas see his EMT volunteer service fitting in with his unusual degree? It was just another step along his personal journey to discover his passions, he said. While he could see himself fitting into the medical field, patient care is not the strongest pull. When a friend’s mother suggested he consider hospital management, Banas began incorporating the suggestion into his required Field Period™ experiences.
In the winter of 2015, he conducted a Field Period™ in the PR department of the Albany Medical Center, writing press releases and updating a 60-page crisis communications plan, assisting staff who coordinated media interviews for the physicians and even going into the ER with a news crew to observe a patient’s deep-brain stimulation procedure. The news crew had been following the patient’s treatment for Parkinson’s disease so they were permitted in the operating room without violating patient privacy laws known as HIPPA laws.
Then, for spring semester 2015, Banas conducted his 80-hour senior practicum in the Community Services office of Finger Lakes Health in Geneva, so he could get a feel for similar work at a smaller hospital. He assisted staff on wellness programming to teach local schoolchildren better exercise and nutrition habits, ran the social media component of New Visions, an after-school program where high schoolers provide transport and food services to patients, and continued standard PR work writing press releases and maintaining a database of published media clips on Finger Lakes Health.
Between the two hands-on experiences, “it definitely confirmed for me that working in the hospital setting, but maybe not in patient care is where I’d see myself someday,” said Banas, who hopes to pursue a master’s in hospital administration in the future.
Before graduating with his dual degrees May 23, he accepted a position as Marketing and Visitor Services Assistant at the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection in Canandaigua.
Dr. Anita Chirco, professor of communication, has served as Banas’s academic advisor and said he exemplifies the “can-do, hands-on spirit of a true Keukonian.”
“On top of the countless hours he has put in to succeed at the double majors in English and Organizational Communication, the hours of training and volunteer service he has invested in his EMT work in Keuka Park and Penn Yan have enriched our college and community immeasurably. I am so proud of him,” she said.
First came the stories. A year ago, fifth-graders in the Penn Yan Elementary School classroom of Terry Test ’73 met three times for interviews with Keuka College “authors” in the introductory English course “Literature in the Wider World” to craft stories from the perspective of each child. Now, colorful images bring an extra punch to the words on each page.
The project, dubbed “Who is Penn Yan?” was the brainchild of Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, Dr. Jennie Joiner. The goal was to provide both college and elementary students with a hands-on learning experience in story development and characterization.
Rather than an exercise in creative writing, the assignment emphasizes “the power of story,” Joiner said. “It’s catered to the child, and goes back to the narrative form and what it means to take someone’s story in your own hands and be responsible for it.”
This year, the collaboration took on new dimensions with the addition of an illustration component, provided by students in the book illustration course taught by Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and design. A group of college artists were assigned to produce illustrations spanning a wide range of artistic styles and mediums.
Both the stories and illustrations came together over several weeks during the fall semester. College artists met first with each child, to discuss what they had in mind. The fifth-graders borrowed books from the library to use as examples of styles they liked. The College author teams then spent three weeks meeting with fifth-graders at the elementary school to hear how the children envisioned their stories unfolding, jotting down notes each time to take back and work into drafts in progress. College artists then collaborated with authors to determine what key story element to illustrate for each one.
According to Test, the Keuka College students made quite an impression on her class.
“To have fifth-graders see a college student sit down and write and take notes—well, this year’s class was impressed. They mentioned it after the first day and I see much better note-taking than there was before,” she said, adding that she was also seeing improvements in their writing too, particularly in response to literature.
And it’s not just the tangible improvements that have Test thrilled.
“They see that real people go to college and how it’s do-able. In talking with their authors, they realize they have to get good grades, finish high school, and they have to plan for it,” she said.
Just before Thanksgiving break, College authors brought near-finished drafts of each fifth-grader’s story to the school to read them aloud and gather any additional feedback. More than a few were waiting with bated breath. Take Elysia Robbins ‘18, for example, who teamed with “Jack” on a story about his character facing football tryouts.
“I was really nervous coming here this morning, but this is so rewarding!” Robbins said after hearing Jack rave over the results. “Coming down here is such a unique experience.”
In another corner of the room, “Tiffanie” listened to Katie Crossley ‘16 read through the story of her character’s experience fast-forwarding through life with a magic remote control.
“I kind of like the end more,” Tiffanie explained. “My character finally realized she didn’t need to live in the past. She can live in the now.”
At another table, Ian Ault ‘17, an adult student, sat with “Johnny,” reviewing a detailed tale of Johnny’s exploits as a superhero known as Lizard Ninja. As far as Ault was concerned, far more than mere fantasy happened in the tale.
“It’s a matter of taking a concept, such as good versus evil, and recreating how you view it, and with kids, they make up a story and that’s how they decide what decisions they’ll make,” Ault said. “For some, like Johnny, you create the story and the concepts, and that’s how you learn.”
Similar revelations unfolded when the artists returned to the elementary school on December 1, visiting Test’s classroom to unveil final paintings, drawings or multimedia works to each child.
“It was challenging, because it wasn’t just my fifth-grader’s vision, but it had to fit the author’s vision too,” said Courtney Knauber ’17, who illustrated two different stories of a dog named Pug-Popo for “Christy.”
According to Prof. Newcomb, creating different pieces in different styles and mediums for each child stretched her art students outside their comfort zones, and provided personal experience in working with a “client” just as they could encounter as a professional.
The sustained interaction with Keuka College students was maturing Test’s classroom in new ways too, she said.
“You had 17 ten-year-olds discussing art for 40 minutes in hushed, gallery tones,” said Test.
Back at campus, College authors made final revisions to each “Who is Penn Yan?” story, turning them in to Joiner as part of the final project for her English course. Then over winter break, artist Jesse Ninos combined all of the elements into the second volume of the “Who is Penn Yan?” collector’s book for his senior Field Period™. The finished books rolled off the press just days before Test’s entire class made a special visit to Lightner Library where the new College mascot, Kacey, waited with Joiner, Newcomb and their students to celebrate the book’s release.
Flanked by special guests from the Keuka College Executive Alumni Association, which co-sponsored the field trip for the fifth-graders to come to campus, the Wolfpack mascot gave each child a hug before handing him or her their book.
“Beautiful job, you guys,” Dr. Paul Forestell, provost and vice president for academic affairs, told the fifth-graders as he got a first glimpse of the special edition and praised them for sharing their great ideas.
“What’s really interesting is to realize how much you as fifth-graders have taught our College students, and other way around. That’s a really important learning adventure, so thank you for being willing to join us and share it so well,” Forestell said.
Speaking above the laughter and excitement of her class as they downed cookies and punch, Test added her thanks to each Keuka College student for “the amount of time you invested into 10 year-olds.”
“We have a fifth-grade class that now loves writing and it’s an honor to say that,” Test added.
As fifth-graders and college students turned the crisp, new pages of their shared book, exchanging hugs — and autographs—praise for the project continued. Seated next to author Anna Kramer ’18, “Marley” demonstrated how the book flips open in the middle —right to her story.
“Oh, I like it! Two thumbs up!” Marley gushed.
Holding his copy of the work, Ian Ault ‘17 gestured to the schoolchildren beaming smiles.
“The book is cool, but the experience of doing it — you can’t put that on paper. This makes the college experience deeper.”
Editor’s Note: Where can a Keuka degree take you? This is the fourth in a series of snapshot profiles on members of Keuka’s Class of 2013.
Erica Ruscio ’13 graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and visual and verbal art. The Middlesex resident will be pursuing a master’s degree in English with a concentration in children’s literature at Kansas State University this fall. Ruscio landed a graduate teaching assistantship where she said she will “earn her keep” by teaching one section of expository prose, similar to Keuka’s freshman composition course, in the fall and two sections in the spring.
Ruscio said she believed the Field Period experience she could include in her admission application, particularly one Field Period working with the children’s librarian at the Penn Yan Public Library, helped showcase her as a desirable candidate. Keuka’s Field Period is a 140-hour annual internship or exploratory study required each year for undergraduates.
During her time at Keuka, Ruscio participated in the annual Red Jacket Literary journal, the Arion Players theatrical presentations, wrote a College blog for incoming freshman, and showcased several paintings, mixed media and photos in the senior art show. She said Keuka provided her the ability to explore what she really wanted to do with her life through its internships, small class sizes, and “awesome professors and advisers.”
“If it hadn’t been for Keuka, the Field Period [program], and my first advisor, Ms. Harris, I may have been stuck writing press releases instead of studying literature, making art, and doing what I really want to do,” Ruscio said.
Students who enrolled in Assistant Professor of English Jennie Joiner’s Traditions of Literature course this spring expected to delve into a collection of works set in New York state.
What they didn’t expect was an Empire State history lesson.
The running joke in class is that maps are now a regular part of Joiner’s routine, as students traverse a literary route from east to west across the state, exploring different regions of New York in works that include Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers, the Erie Canal Reader, 1790-1950, and Walter Edmonds’ Rome Haul.
Joiner acknowledged that her dependence on maps has been to emphasize that New York was the only state with geography sufficient for construction of the Erie Canal, and with the canal, linked the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, bringing commerce and other boons of civilization further west.
“You think the biggest thing that happened to the state was New York City, or you’d think New York City was the heart of the state, but it’s not. The Erie Canal was. I’m not from here so it’s interesting to know,” said junior Annie Smith, a New Jersey native. “I never heard of the Erie Canal, so to see how much went on during the Erie Canal [era] and now in the 21st century … We wouldn’t have Auburn, Geneva, and all those places if it wasn’t for the canal. It played a major part in what’s 20 miles north of us and east or west.”
Sophomore Marie Cozzi calls Long Island home, and said she never realized how much history was prevalent in Upstate and Western New York.
“Reading through the stuff, it’s cool to see how the history is [represented] in the novels. I never thought there would be a history of Upstate New York in the books. One thing leads to the next. They all relate to the other.” (more…)
For Jake Banas, the month of January was all about journalism.
The Keuka College sophomore and Delmar resident spent most of the month writing for The Spotlight, an independent news organization headquartered in his hometown, near Albany. Spotlight News produces five weekly editions in Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga counties, with a combined circulation of more than 45,000, according to its website.
Each Keuka undergrad conducts a 140-hour internship, known as Field Period, every year en route to a bachelor’s degree. An English major, Banas had begun to write for the Keukonian, the student newspaper at Keuka, and decided to learn more about journalism by pursuing an internship with his hometown paper.
Banas started by proofing pages for grammatical errors before the paper went to press for a Thursday distribution. From there, he began writing short event announcements submitted by local organizations, and gradually worked his way into full-scale, bylined articles—transitioning from shadowing reporters to being a reporter himself.
“The first day I walked in, everything was very hectic, because it was a Wednesday and they were trying to finalize the paper and get it out [the next day]. People were yelling back and forth and I was kind of scared, not sure what was happening,” Banas said. “The next day it was all quiet because everyone was out doing assignments and getting ready for the next issue.”
His first major assignment was an interview with the owner of the Junk King garbage removal company for the paper’s regular “Spotlight on Business” feature. Other assignments found Banas at the local school district board of education meeting, or taking hundreds of photos of different town locales. As each article went into print, Banas said it was “incredible” to have something he wrote published. Most of his work ran in the Bethlehem Spotlight, he said, while a few articles ran in other editions.
“There’s a lot more to journalism than people think. I expected it to be so simple, [thinking] you just hear a story and write about it but I learned you want to keep your ears open for specific things,” Banas said. “You have to go out and work with people and gather information and there’s a lot more to take away from it than just sitting there, writing the news.” (more…)