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Two 'Nontraditional' Cayuga Students Win SUNY Chancellor's Award

DATE: 04-27-2009

Christopher Kennedy

Two members of the Cayuga Community College class of 2009 have received the highest recognition given annually by the State University of New York to students across the 64 SUNY campuses. Representing Cayuga among the 238 statewide recipients of this year's Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence are Weston Eldred of Skaneateles and Kimberly Patch of Auburn.

At a SUNY awards ceremony in Albany on April 7, Eldred and Patch each received a medallion to wear at the 2009 Cayuga Commencement. They will arrive at that milestone by very different paths, yet their stories have striking parallels.

Both are "nontraditional" students, earning college degrees several years after graduating from high school. Both study at the Auburn campus, have consistently earned Dean's List honors, and have served as tutors for other Cayuga students. In May, both will receive associate degrees in Liberal Arts/Mathematics and Science, Eldred with a concentration in chemistry and Patch with a concentration in biology. In fall, both will transfer to SUNY campuses in Syracuse.

Eldred, a 2003 graduate of Skaneateles High School, attended Cayuga for a semester after high school, then postponed college to help oversee his family's farm. In 2007, he returned to Cayuga as a full-time student while working part-time at the farm. This fall, he will enroll in the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry as a Bioprocess/Chemical Engineering major. After completing a master's degree, Eldred says he plans to work with renewable energy technology and start "a consulting firm to implement and troubleshoot new technologies" for bio-refineries.

Patch, a 1989 graduate of Tioga Central High School, enrolled at Cayuga years later, after her third child was born. "It was not an easy decision," she says, but "this has been the best decision that I've ever made." In 2008, Patch was elected vice president of the Student Government Organization. This fall, she will enroll in the Radiation Therapy program at Upstate Medical University. With hopes of continuing her education beyond her bachelor's degree, Patch plans to become a radiation therapist and a "professional college student."

Statewide, the grade point average of the 2009 award recipients is 3.77 out of a possible 4.0. Created 12 years ago by the State University of New York, the Chancellor's Award recognizes outstanding grades and significant accomplishments within the campus or community. Nominations from the campuses are reviewed by a SUNY committee before final selections are made by the Chancellor.

"It is my pleasure to congratulate this year's recipients, their families and the campuses for their remarkable achievements," said SUNY Officer-in-Charge John J. O'Connor in announcing the awards. "These students are truly the best of the best at SUNY today."