WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WKBW) — SUNY Erie Community College students and faculty aren't ready to say goodbye to the south campus. Thursday evening a forum was held at the West Seneca Teachers Association. The purpose of the forum was to bring awareness to the impact they believe the college has on its community. Countless students, retired faculty and family shared their stories hoping it will make a difference.
"I had some bad grades," said Matthew O'hara. "I graduated high school in 2015, dropped out of a couple colleges, had nothing on my record. I applied to Buff State and UB. They both said no. I said alright, I gotta go to ECC then."
Many others shared similar stories to O'hara. Stories of how ECC gave them a second chance when no one else would. TheArthu r Duncan, Esq, shared how ECC made his dream come true after spending three years in federal prison.
"I said let me go back to school so hopefully I can deflect my felony with a degree, so I enrolled in ECC," said Duncan.
Duncan and an old professor, Gene Grabiner made their connection clear. Their faces lit up as they saw each other in the forum. They even shared a hug. Duncan explained how this same professor played a large role in him becoming an attorney.
"He said well being a felon, does that stop you from becoming an attorney," asked Duncan. "And I assumed it did and I said yeah doesn't it? And he said well I don't know, let me check into it for you."
Duncan says Grabiner did check into it for him which ultimately led him to pursuing his juris doctorate.
"Dr. Grabiner wrote me a letter of recommendation to get into law school and he has been there for me all throughout," said Duncan. "I mean he really cared."
Several other retired and laid off faculty spoke to having this same kind of care for their students when they had the chance.
"It's very emotional and its difficult to really express how I feel about these students who have turned their lives around and have used ECC as a springboard to go elsewhere and do tremendous things in their lives," said Grabiner. "Why should people be denied the possibility of going to ECC."