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BOCES Everlasting: Many Former Students Now Employed at BOCES

After years of being inspired in the classroom, the students have become the staff at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES as nearly three dozen former students have returned to the organization as employees.

Veteran staff member Dawn Noble first mentioned the high number of former students who were now employed at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES to Director of Human Resources Megan Popkess. Noble has been employed at BOCES for 30 years, and can remember many of her now colleagues, as students.

Popkess then became curious to know exactly how many former students are currently employed. After sending out a survey, Popkess was surprised to discover that 35 staff members (approximately 10 percent of employees) were former students.

“It's very special that these staff members returned to their alma mater to make a difference in the lives of our students,” Popkess said. “I think BOCES is successful in having former students return as staff because people remember the positive experience they had as a student at the BOCES, and they are looking to pay it forward.”

Popkess said when you’re a student at BOCES, you're offered an educational experience that is unique from a traditional school setting.

“You're given an opportunity to be adventurous, collaborative, and solution driven. Staff members are interested in helping all students to explore and discover their greatest potential. 

“BOCES alumni know this first-hand and are great ambassadors for our organization. I think our former students who are now staff are proud of the organization, and it shows in the work they do every day.”

Cosmetology Teaching Assistant Laura Fennessy, who attended the Cosmetology program from 2017-2018, said what she loves most about working at BOCES is getting to see students gain confidence.

“One of the many highlights of working in this program is hearing a student say, ‘I can’t do this,’ and then watching them master that same skill with some time, practice and support from their peers and teachers,” she said.

Similarly, Special Education Teacher Janie Campbell, who attended BOCES from 1983-1984 for Computer Science, said her favorite part of working at BOCES is how each program is designed for students to succeed.

“There is nothing like seeing the smile on a student’s face when they reach a goal,” Campbell said.

Adult CNA Instructor Lisa Bergerstock, who attended the Practical Nursing program from 1979-1981, said watching students build self-esteem is her favorite part of working at BOCES.

“I enjoy helping students learn new skills and build their self-esteem,” she said. “That helps them to believe in themselves and their ability to succeed.”