Chicago, Batavia, and the Future

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Dennis Austin

“What is a Batavia, NY”? were among the many questions, family members, friends, and colleagues had asked me as I began to prepare for the move from the glamorous city of Chicago to a region where there were more cows than people.

For most of my life Chicago was home. The people, the culture, the food, the music, and other key characteristics that define our great city, was an everyday experience I had come to know since I was born. For goodness sakes, I was born in 1993, a year the Chicago Bulls accomplished their first three-peat. If Basketball was our religion, Michael Jordan would be God himself. I had made good memories here, met interesting people, and lived a steady life.

Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan

So why leave?

When people from this region would find out about my Chicago origins, I was always asked by default “Why Leave?” “Why Batavia?”

Chicago skyline at night

For me, it was simple. I had grown tiresome of the fast-paced lifestyle that had encumbered my ability to be more flexible as it pertained to seeking opportunity. There was also the reality of friends moving across the country for academic and professional reasons, collapsing my social circle at home. Working in a hospital call-center, albeit with zealous colleagues whom I heap nothing but praise on to this day (except for one individual), was not something I envisioned for myself when younger. If anything, compared to previous years spent travelling across the country campaigning for politicians, this was a rather tedious tenure. While there were several enjoyable conversations with patients and physicians alike, I was beginning to grow weary of my long-term prospects and thus sought an opportunity to change course. In late summer 2017, I began a vigorous search for community colleges with on-campus accommodation housing and respectable tuition fees. At the end of this search were two colleges, GCC being one of them. On November 3, 2017, by way of a 12-hour Amtrak journey I made my way from the city Michael Jordan made famous to Rochester, N.Y. Assisted by my former advisor Lourdes Abaunza, I would register for Spring 2019 classes, spurring a new relationship with this community.

I remember my first day arriving on a cold and wet January vividly. Upon exiting my ride-share, I was introduced to the harsh Western New York weather with heaps of rain pouring down upon my face and luggage. I hurriedly grabbed my bags and began a brief sprint to a room beneath the safety office at College Village. I would be given my keys and a packet for new residents, including an itinerary of weekend activities. Escorted by a tall and lanky Resident Assistant known as Matt, I would find myself standing in the middle of my new home, miles away from the comfortable settings that had become familiar to me. The experience was foreign to me. The absence of 24/7 buses and trains with sprawling downtown buildings that made the city glow, was foreign to me. However, I soon became accustomed with my new surroundings. Learning about the region and inhabitants served as a history lesson. People I saw as strangers would become friends, some of them lifelong.


Getting acclimated to a classroom setting was an entirely different set of challenges. I recall my first class. Math 091 taught by Professor Mark Siena. I remember arriving 25 minutes before class began at 7:45 am.  Awaken by the sound of my alarm at 6:30 am, I began to get ready for my first day of school in nearly five years since dropping out of high school. As the semester persisted, I would eventually find my place academically and socially. While there was hesitation to return, I did the following fall. It has not been easy being in Batavia. My race and sexual orientation as a gay man has proved to be an issue for some people.  However, my brash and abrasive attitude gave it back in kind. Regardless of those struggles, there is some virtue during my time here. It is a theme I have kept coming back to recently.

Resilience has been a major theme in my life. I was born and grew up in one of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Left with a single mother at home who herself combated the issues of education and poverty as a child, me and my other siblings did not have the proverbial “silver spoon” by any stretch of one’s imagination. What we were given in place of the materialistic possessions not affordable to us, was education. My mother did not have the privilege of finishing her education, thus, she worked hard to ensure we would be the generation of our family to break the glass ceiling of the issues that afflicted my mother’s generation. When I left high school, she was obviously disappointed. I was always seen as the “one with potential” and for that to occur was an emotional hardship for the both of us. However, as life would continue for me, I would find myself in the company of high-profile politicians, working on their campaigns. Meeting President Obama was a turning point in my life as I began to realize the potential I truly had. How to revive and sustain it? Well, I set out to try. In 2016, I obtained my GED and the following year returned to work. It was during this time I began to be honest with myself and future ambitions.

When I was six-years old, my first Presidential Election was George Bush vs Al Gore and while not old enough to properly comprehend the events of that evening it left a small child on Chicago’s south-side awestruck. That feeling never left and would manifest itself over the course of my life. I wanted to be a politician. Which office would I hope to occupy? Senator does sound tempting. However, in order to attain that level of power and prestige, one must obtain an education. A conscious choice I made when arriving at Genesee Community College. Since being here I have been active in various clubs and organizations, winning numerous awards for academic and extracurricular achievement. At present I am working on a lengthy thesis paper, a project that I have come to appreciate for its rigor and challenge.

As for what is next upon departing Batavia? I go back home and then to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, studying Political Science. I will not lie. I am hopeful for the future, but somewhat demurred that as this process continues, I will not get any younger. Comical, I know, however it does present a concern of how long I wish to be in academia. Time will tell. For now, I am excited at the prospects of what my new institution will offer.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus

As I prepare to graduate, I would like to take this time to thank the various professors, faculty and friends for imparting on me wisdom, advice, and friendship through the good times and rather questionable times. More importantly, I am thankful for the opportunity to understand the culture and way of living in this community. I have always believed that getting outside your comfort zone presents an opportunity to grow, and I feel that I have. My advice to those who are younger: Do not be afraid to take risks. The outside world can be intimidating, however, never turn down an opportunity to grow. Whether that process occurs through incidents of failure and frustration, learn to appreciate the journey.

I learned a valuable lesson from two mentors of mine who passed away a few years ago. Life is a like a train station, we all arrive and depart from stops—those stops being certain chapters in our lives. So, enjoy those “stops” along the way and more importantly, appreciate the people you encounter as you venture toward greater opportunities that await you.

Thanks to the many people who left an invaluable mark on me during my time at GCC.

As conductors on Chicago trains say “Doors Closing. Next stop is…”

CTA Train station in Downtown Chicago



Dennis Austin is a graduating Sophomore from Genesee Community College. He will enroll at the University of Illinois’ Champaign-Urbana campus in January.

How I saved hundreds of dollars in the cost of living in the US as an International student.

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For the last one year, I did not pay a dime for heat, electric, garbage pick-up, laundry and gas without any roommates. I am successfully graduating from GCC this fall and I managed to do it by saving hundreds of dollars in the cost of living. Most Americans and International students alike, stare at me in disbelief when I tell them that I pay nothing for utilities and I managed to do so without a roommate. Do I sound too good to be true? I certainly do. Let me show you how I made frugal living a reality in this outrageously exorbitant economy. According to a news report by the national low-income housing coalition, a full-time minimum wage job won’t get you a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in America. A lot of one bedroom apartments in Batavia range between $500-650 plus you will have to pay for heat, electric, Internet, phone bill and fuel separately.

I have spent the first one year at GCC building friendships. I have spoken with everyone and I got to know everyone around me. I am a keen observer of people around me and I am a pretty decent judge of character. It did not take me long to figure out people who would be genuinely helpful to me. I like helping people as well and I am usually extra kind and respectful to elderly folks. I live away from my parents and whenever I come across an elderly person I suddenly miss my parents. South Asian children like me usually live with their parents until their parents pass away. South Asian culture also emphasizes a lot on family values. Very quickly, I got to know a lot of elderly folks with empty houses in Batavia and Oakfield because their children moved out. Many of these elderly, soon to be retired folks were impressed by me and offered me to live in the basement of their large, empty houses to pay off their mortgage. It did not take me long to figure out that it is way cheaper for me to lease one bedroom and bathroom space in a large empty house, instead of, leasing a whole apartment. I pay only $500 for rent without any roommates. Electric, heat, laundry, garbage pick-up and everything else is included with it. I do not deal with electric or fuel companies at all.

I know a lot of International students who pay $300-400 for off-campus housing but they are forced to put up with roommates and additionally need to pay for heat, electric and other necessities separately. On-campus housing is extremely expensive and if you are like me who is not at all interested in dealing with roommates, residential assistants then, yes, off-campus housing is for you. Some International students almost get free on-campus housing if they choose to be a residential assistant on campus. However, all students do not get the job of being a residential assistant. International students also do not get financial aid from the US government to live on-campus. Personally, the job of being a residential assistant and dealing with on-campus drama never appealed to me. Never mind, how much you dangle the offer of a free on-campus housing to me. I simply refuse to have roommates. Hence, I never considered applying for a residential assistant job.

Leasing a basement or a separate unit in a large, empty house with no children is the best way to save money on the cost of living, instead of, renting a separate house or one bedroom apartment all by yourself and being responsible for your own heat and electric. I live in a basement of a large house with my own kitchen, bathroom, study room, and bedroom. I have a nice backyard and parking space as well. I almost never see my landlord who lives upstairs. I have my own separate entrance. There is no way I would be charged a separate electric or heat bill as there is usually only one meter per house. However, be respectful. Try to conserve energy and heat. Do not abuse anybody’s generosity and trust. I keep all my lights off when I do not need it and I use as little water as possible. Do not tamper or raise the thermostat. You certainly do not want to upset a landlord who is willing to pay for your heat, electric, garbage pick-up, and laundry.

Thus, the moral of the story is to be nice to people in general. Do not pretend to be nice to people just because you have an ulterior motive. People will quickly realize your motive and turn away from you. If you want to successfully live in a place for a year or two like me, then focus on building a good relationship with your landlord. Good behavior will take you a long way in life. Do a background check and make sure you really know the person you are living with. You will definitely come across good-hearted people who will offer you almost free-housing or housing at a lower cost. I am graduating this fall from GCC and I am moving to another state. I will be a house-aide at an elderly person’s house and I will be paying nothing for rent, electric, heat, garbage- pick up and other expenses. Now, I have decreased my cost of living from $500 to zero dollar. I repeat again, “Be nice to elderly people!”

GCC Cougar Weekend!

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I am excited to announce that GCC Cougar weekend will take place Friday and Saturday, September 21-22, 2018. Everyone is welcome. GCC is pleased to invite the entire community to join Cougar Crawl in Downtown Batavia on Friday, the 21st September, 2018 at 5pm. The Cougar crawl will begin at Ken’s Charcoal Pits at 5pm and features stop at The YNGodness (73 East Main Street), Valle Jewelers (21 Jackson Street), Pollyanna and Dot (202 East Main Street), Eli Fish Brewing Company (109 Main Street) and T-Shirts Etc. (37 Center Street).

The crawl ends at T.F. Brown’s Restaurant (214 Main Street) for the Cougar Crawl Bash including live DJ till 10pm, a buffet and prizes included. Cougar Crawl tickets are only $10 and can be purchased online or by contacting Jennifer Wakefield, GCC assistant director of Alumni Affairs, at 585-343-0055 ext. 6265 or by email at jgwakefield@genesee.edu

Cougar weekend event on Saturday, the 22nd September, 2018 will be held at GCC’s Batavia campus. GCC’s Batavia campus will host a full day activities, exhibits and more! It begins at 10am when the craft and vendor market opens in Richard C. Call Arena. You can also register for Annual Bike and Car Cruise. A chicken BBQ will be available for only $10. You can also view exhibits “Portraits in Trash” by Dion Hitchings in the Roz Steiner Art Gallery from 12 noon through 3pm and “Landscape Interaction/Intervention” photography exhibit on the display in the Stuart Steiner Theatre Lobby.

Five new inductees will be welcomed in the Athletic Hall of Fame at 5pm in the Richard C. Call Arena. Alumni co-ed soccer game starts at 7pm on the campus Turf Field.

Finally, the Alumni bonfire will take place at GCC dorm “College Village” at 8pm. I hope you will join us to have fun!

Come one, come all! Housing Survey!

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housing batavia

Hey y’all! It’s time to participate in something. Let your voice be heard in this online survey. Basically, it’s a survey given by Genesee County and they’re trying to decide what type of housing and additions to add to Batavia!

If you or someone you know would like to participate in helping the town of Batavia develop and grow, please fill out this short 11 answer questionnaire given in the link below. It has to be in by the 17th of November.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XZBVSXP

Thanks and have a great day!

Student Support Services Visit Local Business

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By: Christi Lotempio

Celina and Erin from Student Support Services arranged a tour of T-Shirts Ect in Batavia. This is a T-Shirt company located at 37 Center Street in Batavia, or mytshirtsect.com. The company offers screen printing, canvas prints, wall graphics, embroidery, Decals, Banner and so much more. The owner, Brian Kemp, was a graduate of SUNY GCC.

Our group was able to walk through the entire business to view the printing and the embroidery being completed at the time of our tour. We learned about everything from taking a customer’s order, how the T-Shirt is printed or embroidered, and their checks and balance system. Mr.Kemp was very informative and gave us many tips on running an effective business. Some of the most important things he noted were networking, providing great customer service and being honest (The Golden Rule). He was able to share with us some of his marketing ideas, such as the wooden coin (if you find one and you return it to T-Shirt Ect – you get a free T-shirt!) and the logo printed on the sleeve of the left arm of a shirt. He was able to give us a complete outline of being an entrepreneur, and encouraged to think outside of the box to make your company stand out.

Not only was the tour fun but we all got our own shirts. Thanks for the T-Shirts Mr.Kemp!!

Three Things To Visit On Your Summer Break Near Batavia, NY

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What: Jell-O Factory Museum

Where: Leroy, NY


UntitledBirthplace of JELL-O

Original Advertising Art • Molds •Spoons • Toys •Collectibles • Recipe Books• Canadian Advertising Magazine Ads •  Package Inserts • Memorabilia

Why visit?

The Jell-O factory is a great place to learn about local history, and it is worth a visit to see what such a small town can hold.

What: Darien Lake Amusement Park

Where: Darien Center, NY

kWhy visit?

Darien Lake is full of fun rides and entertainment for all your summer needs and is a great way to fill up your day and get outdoors. They also host many concerts in the summer!

lWhat: Genesee Country Village and Museum

Where: Mumford, NY

Why visit?

Genesee Country Village & Museum features costumed interpreters in restored historic buildings, breathing life into an authentic 19th-Century Country Village. One of the largest living history museums in the country located just outside of Rochester, NY, in Mumford, it is also home to the John L. Wehle Gallery (following a major remodel) and a nature center. It’s a great way to get some interactive history knowledge

GCC: Home To Teachers Who Care

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Professor Messenger, one of the many teachers who makes GCC a great place to learn and succeed!

Why choose Genesee County Community College over any other college? The answer is simple, because of the teachers. GCC is the third college I have attended and I can say for certain that it has the best teachers out of the three! They care more about the students and actually want them to succeed. If a student has a problem (family/medical), or just doesn’t understand how to do homework, they will work with you until you understand, because they care.

GCC faculty also learn of job openings and share them with their students, keep in touch to see how students are doing, and share their personal experiences to help everyone learn. They also support their students when looking for employment.

For one of my classes I had to do community service. Not being from Genesee County, I had no clue where to look for a community service opportunity. I went to my teacher and asked for their help, they were very understanding and gave me places to look into. After being turned down from three different places, I almost gave up on passing the class. But, I eventually found a place very late in the semester and the teacher was willing to work with me. I was able to hand in my volunteer hours after the deadline without a penalty; they even let me do an extra paper for the hours I wasn’t able to complete at my request!

In my experience other colleges I had been to would not have been so nice. They would have just said, “not my problem, you had all semester to find a place.” Just one reason as to why you should pick GCC as your school is for the teachers, there are many reasons, but the teachers are the best!

This blog was contributed by Kristina Yadloczky.