CENTRAL YORK NEW
THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE & THE AMERICAN DREAM
A VOICE FOR THE WORKING CLASS
A NEW CHAPTER
Working 2012 Coming off one of the worst recessions in our history, America has struggled to bounce back in its economic and spiritual recovery. High unemployment rates, budget cuts, layoffs and a lack of growth have sapped the spirit from a once-booming economy. For many, the hard work and can-do spirit that once brought with them the promise of the American Dream, have only led to disappointment. For others, the dream survives despite the woes of our economy. In an effort to document how the current economy is affecting Americans, we chose to look at the lives of the working (and some unemployed) citizens of Central New York and its surrounding areas. While the region wasnâ€™t as hard-hit as many others, the impact of the recession could be seen at every end of the spectrum. The stories we found were both inspiring and heartbreaking. The people we met along the way epitomized the highs and lows of a nation struggling to get back on its feet.
We appreciate the families, businesses and individuals who gave us access into their lives. Their willingness to share intimate moments and personal stories has given our reports the depth and truth we set out to find. We hope you enjoy our look at what it means to be â€œWorking in 2012.â€?
Contents THE ARTS
4 PAINT PUNKS 10 HE(ART) & SOUL 14
A PASSION FOR ART
20 HANGING ONTO FAITH 26 IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE 30 FAMILY VALUES 34 WORKING FOR CHANGE 40 WORKING TOWARD RECOVERY 46
A VOICE FOR THE WORKING CLASS
ANDREW “AJ” LEE
SAMUEL R. BEYERS
MANUEL J. MARTINEZ
ANDREW “AJ” LEE
50 MILK MONEY 54 INK, INC. 58 DAVID & GOLIATH 62 CHANGING GEARS 66 THE DAILY GRIND
ADAM VAN TREUREN
RYAN J. COURTADE
72 MAKING THE CUT 76 FAMILY CALLS 80 WRITING A NEW CHAPTER DANIEL YOUNG
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ART By Efren Lopez
Dustin Regner, 30, a self-employed carpenter, endures the emotional, financial and physical hardship of his workday to pursue his passion for art at night. His hard work, determination and carpentry skills help him pursue his dreams.
ARTIST AT WORK | One of the projects Dustin Regner works on is the reconstruction of his own house. After a day of carpentry, he often works late into the night on art projects in his home. Despite the chaos, he finds solitude and peace in the quietness of his surroundings. Efren Lopez | MPJ 2012 | 5
TOOLS OF THE TRADE | Battered and bruised from 12 years as a carpenter, Dustin Regner relies heavily on his hands and says he nearly lost a finger to an electric saw.
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ON THE JOB | Restoring an old home in the Near Westside neighborhood of Syracuse, Dustin Regner spends this day hammering away, installing doors.
ustin Regner prepares for work by pulling on his torn and patched Levi’s, a gray sweatshirt, and a green vest that hugs his thin figure. He throws on a winter hat to battle the cold, and puts on a pair of work gloves to protect his battered hands. A typical day for Regner, a 30-year-old, self-employed carpenter, starts at 8 a.m. with a hot cup of coffee and a banana at Kind Coffee, his friend’s cafe. It will end with him working late into the night on his real passion: art. “I’m up till 2 a.m. working on art projects and I still have to begin my days early. There’s no time for a morning meal,” he said.
After his morning coffee, Regner arrives at the Gear Factory, a five-story gray concrete building with overgrown weeds, graffiti and broken windows. The warehouse was developed as a workspace for artists in the Near Westside of Syracuse. Here, Regner rents an art studio/workshop and stores his carpentry tools for his business, Dugo Works Construction. He loads up his handcart and rolls it into to the loading dock, where he transfers the day’s construction materials into his beat-up green Jeep Cherokee. The son of a farmer from Oneida, Regner grew up on more
than 1,000 acres of land, where he was encouraged to explore the surrounding woodland, and spent his free time building forts when he wasn’t helping out at the farm. “I think my early experience in the woods drove my ambition to build structures. It was playful,” said Regner. “My father also did everything himself and most of the time I helped, so I learned a lot from him. I also have always loved the beauty that wood displays. It being the most versatile product out there, working with wood just came naturally.” Regner left his hometown when he was 19 and traveled to northern Colorado. He spent some Efren Lopez | MPJ 2012 | 7
time studying forestry and the arts, but he wanted to see the country and experience life on his own. “I needed the wilderness and the freedom,” he said. In Colorado, Regner started working as a carpenter. That gave him the income and the time to make a living and support his artistic passions. Now, a day of carpentry means leaving the Gear Factory and driving to the latest project. These days he is remodeling an 1870s two-story Victorian on the Near Westside. At the house, Regner uses his skills as a carpenter installing doors. He works alone in an empty building with torn walls, where his only company is a radio playing folk music. Regner chooses to be self-employed so he can have the flexibility to work on his art projects and pursue his passion for art. Regner knows what hard work and determination are, and how heavily his success depends on the integrity of his hands and body. Regner works day and night and takes risks for small amounts of money. He earns about $2,000 monthly, which isn’t enough for him to afford health insurance. He knows the danger of getting injured by a careless accident such as cutting himself with his electric saw could be catastrophic for him and his art. The situation is not ideal, but for now, it’s the reality. For Regner, it’s a risk he is willing to take for his art.
AESTHETIC STRUCTURE | Being a carpenter and an artist allows Dustin Regner to use wood collected from construction projects for his art. He used wood from the interior demolition of an old house to build an art project he calls the ‘Cockpit Beaver Hut.’ “I try to express and display the beauty of simplicity through whatever creative outlet is presented, and I love making something from nothing,” Regner said. 8 | MPJ 2012 | A Passion For Art
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By Kyle T. Ramirez
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SPRAY | OSHA begins laying down the base of what will be a 15-foot-wide mural on the outer wall of a motorcycle shop in North Syracuse. With help from fellow artists, a mural this size takes about six hours to complete.
Urban artists adapt to a changing market as laws clash with demand for outdoor graffiti.
n Syracuse, graffiti is a fact of life and can sometimes be a sign of gang-related activity. As a result, Syracuse Police and the Department of Public Works work diligently to stop and remove graffiti from public and private property. Enforcement of this type adds to the troubles of a local graffiti writer, known as SES. Those three letters — his tag — can be found on hundreds of walls on the Near Westside and Southside neighborhoods of Syracuse. SES, 43, operates as a full-time graffiti writer for profit and has no gang affiliation. Since his teens, SES has built a career on graffiti, despite local laws against such forms of artistic expression. “It ain’t hard to make a livin’ off of doing something like this, man,” said SES. “Once you get goin’ a couple years,
you end up getting most of your business through word-of-mouth.” With his usual attire of a hoodie and ripped baggy shorts, and his skin covered in tattoos, SES could easily be mistaken for a gang member. SES said when people are intimidated by a wall of elaborate graffiti, it usually is because they have no idea about the subculture. “I like what I do. I like the way it looks but most people look at it and are like, ‘What the hell?’ That’s why I gotta’ constantly explain myself, especially when policemen drive by and make me stop. I have to be like, ‘Look, alright? I’m getting’ paid to do this crap. You go talk to the store owner, alright?’ SES and his crew are normally paid between $300 and $2,000 per wall, depending on its complexity. A wall that
has been up for a long time, no matter how gang-related it appears, has probably been paid for by the wall’s owner, said SES. The wall then attracts prospective customers who appreciate the style and then seek the artist directly. The graffiti market in Syracuse is a fresh one, according to SES. Many corner store and restaurant owners in the Near Westside are willing to pay to have an outside wall tagged up with a mural that explains the story of the neighborhood and the business that thrives there. Still, while completing a large job on private property, SES says he’s used to getting glares from confused passersby. Often, SES has to call off work for the day when a persistent bystander accuses him of vandalism. “This one guy rolls up in his little SUV
THEIR OWN STYLE | SES and OSHA are some of Syracuse’s most senior graffiti artists and claim to have pioneered the city’s own local style. The duo was hired to create a mural, shown here at the Gear Factory on the Westside, on the set of the movie, “Adult World.” Kyle T. Ramirez | MPJ 2012 | 11
WALL MURAL | SES puts the finishing touches on a wall mural at a motorcycle shop in North Syracuse. With the shop owner’s knowledge, SES and his fellow artists have tagged up the wall several times in recent years, sometimes just for practice. Property managers at the shopping center have filed complaints with the city out of suspicion that the graffiti is gang-related.
with his two little kids in the back and I’m like, ‘OK. Here we go.’ He gets out and says he’s calling the police. He’s all thinking he’s going to tell me off and starts yelling, ‘Get out of here!’ over and over again. I got right back up in his face and was like, ‘Hey man, what the (expletive) are you gonna do about it? I wanna know. What are you gonna do right now except get beat up in front of your kids? You get back in your little car and drive away.’ “Sure enough, he looks around and gets back in his car and pulls further up the block and turns around. Then he starts 12 | MPJ 2012 | Paint Punks
staring at me while he’s on the phone. I was serious. I was ready to beat the hell out of this guy. That happens all the time, man. The police never showed up.” Still, many of SES’ clients become intimidated when code enforcement officers from the city approach them about the new mural on their outside wall. SES said the rules have always sounded a little murky when it comes to outdoor graffiti. He claims if the artwork looks too gang-related, the city will ask the wall owner to remove the mural completely or face fines. On the other hand, he claims if the artwork is a
20-foot mural of the Coca-Cola logo, the city will have no problem. If the owner refuses to remove the graffiti, it can result in a misdemeanor and forced removal by the city. Removing a five-foot piece on a cement wall can cost $1,000 to $2,000, a fine that gets passed right to the owner. “This happens a lot,” said SES. “I end up being out a lot of cash when someone comes to me asking for their money back because they didn’t know they couldn’t tag up their walls. I really think that’s their problem, but if I don’t give it back, it could ruin my reputation.”
NEW CLIENTS | With no real location to conduct business, SES uses converted rooms within his own apartment in North Syracuse to meet with clients about possible jobs. Customers pick ideas from different photos SES has on display on his dinner table. He was forced to close down his old tattoo shop, where he used to meet with clients, after his employees decided to move on and find work as freelancers. Kyle T. Ramirez | MPJ 2012 | 13
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HE(ART) & soul By Adrienne Burns
A husband and wife team of artists beat the odds and find a lifetime of success staying true to their artistic voices.
COMPLETE | Darryl Hughto and Susan Roth look over a completed painting in their studio in Canastota. The husband and wife team have worked side-by-side for more than 35 years. Adrienne Burns | MPJ 2012 | 15
DIMENSION | An up-close look at a painting by Susan Roth reveals intricate ripples and waves on the surface of the canvas.
SONG| Darryl Hughto sings and paints in an old farm he and his wife Susan Roth have converted into a studio and gallery. Hughto often paints landscapes and still lifes.
hirty-five years ago a man approached Susan Roth with the largest roll of cash she’d ever seen. Roth was standing in a new designer outfit in the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum in New York City, while her husband Darryl Hughto’s art hung on the walls around her. It was 1977, they were newly married, and it was Hughto’s first big break in the abstract painting world. The man with the roll of money wanted to buy one of Hughto’s paintings 16 | MPJ 2012 | Heart & Soul
and would pay for it in cash and on the spot. For any number of artists, it might seem like an ideal situation. But, for Hughto and Roth, it was a defining moment in what would be lifelong careers as working artists. The outfit Roth was wearing had been bought with her parents’ credit card. She and her husband were strapped for cash. They’d put everything they had into the Guggenheim exhibit. They needed money. Those were the thoughts running through Roth’s head when the man with
the money approached her. But Roth knew she couldn’t sell him the painting, because she didn’t want the value of the painting to be based on the bills that needed to be paid. By limiting the influence of money on their art, Hughto and Roth decided that they would be able to keep their artistic voices more authentic. Clem Greenberg, an American essayist and one of the most influential art critics of his time, once wrote that no matter how hard artists try to distance
DETAIL | Susan Roth places paint, putty, glue, fabric and plastic on her paintings, adding texture and dimension, a trademark of her work.
themselves from the influence of money, patronage or “the rich and cultured,” they always remained attached by “an umbilical cord of gold.” Artists need income in order to continue making art; their craft is not impervious to the basic rules of economy. But, for Hughto and Roth, the money and the art have to be separate. Today, Roth and Hughto say they have a unique system that works for them. As Roth walks across their Canastota property from their house to one of the
old barns they’ve converted into a studio, she explains how they’ve managed to keep the money out of their art. “Darryl deals with money coming in, I deal with money going out. He doesn’t know how much materials cost or what the electrical bill is,” Roth says. “So, when he sets the price for a painting, it is based on the actual value of that painting, not what we need that month to make ends meet.” This ability to balance artistic expression with business sense has
allowed Hughto and Roth to experience a level of success that not many artists are able to reach in their careers. Despite having one of the highest concentrations of artists in the country, the New York State Department of Labor reported 1,100 fine artists working in the state in 2010 — a drop of nearly 100 artists since 2008. If that number seems low, it’s because there are likely more than 1,100 artists in New York. Nowhere is this more evident than in an art mecca like New York City. Adrienne Burns | MPJ 2012 | 17
A March 2011 article in The Wall Street Journal noted the discrepancy in numbers versus reality when it noted that, “It would be easier to count up all the squirrels in New York City than the artists who live [t]here.” However, few artists can count their craft as a primary source of income. The title of artist is harder to earn. With limited gallery space and a limited number of people willing to pay large amounts of money for a piece 18 | MPJ 2012 | Heart & Soul
of work, the art world is a cutthroat community. “Making it” as a working artist is no easy task. As Americans try to recover from the 2008 recession, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened noticeably. The pool of people buying and collecting art is not as large as it once was. It seems that Greenberg was right; the artist is dependent on the “rich and cultured.” There are very few who have the income to keep the art world afloat.
The umbilical cord of gold is as present today as it has ever been. So, how have Roth and Hughto managed to succeed when so many other artists have struggled? By being authentic. “We’re taught all through (art) school to produce something that somebody likes,” Susan says. “But that gets you further and further away from your authenticity, what you have to say.” As Hughto and Roth set to work in
COMMUNITY | Susan Roth and Darryl Hughto minlge with artists, gallery owners, friends and members of the community at the opening of Roth’s gallery show in Brooklyn.
APPRECIATION | Patrons of the Sideshow Gallery in Brooklyn take a closer look at one of Roth’s paintings on display at the “Color and Edge” show, which also included works from Ann Walsh and Lauren Olitski.
their studio for the day, Roth has her long gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, and her paint-splattered jeans and sweatshirt on. She looks across the studio at her husband as he puts some music on. He’s in his painting clothes as well. As a Bob Dylan song starts playing, Hughto dances over to his blank canvas. Roth smiles and starts singing along. “I couldn’t imagine a better life for myself,” Roth said. They love what they do. And they will
continue to do it for as long as they can. Hughto says people who question his choice to be an artist forget one thing: for him, it wasn’t a choice. “I had about as much choice in being an artist as I did in choosing my parents,” Hughto said. “I’ve just always been one.” So, the husband and wife team set to work making more art that expresses what they want to say, not what they think will sell in a gallery. As they dance, sing and make art in their studio, tucked
away below them are dozens of paintings that have never sold. And that’s just fine with Hughto and Roth. While their work might not appear to drive much of the economy, their passion for what they do, their dedication to pushing their limits and bucking tradition are emblematic of the role of art in society. A 2011 study by Americans for the Arts said it best: “As the arts flourish, so will creativity and innovation — the fuel that drives our global economy.” Adrienne Burns | MPJ 2012 | 19
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A Voice for the Working Class By Chris Griffin
Khalid Bey, a newly elected Councilor for the city of Syracuse, embraces the promises made during his campaign to provide a stronger economy for the middle and lower classes.
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PRESS| After speaking at a local church about the importance of voting, Khaild is interviewed by radio station KNN about recent economic developments within the city.
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halid Bey has always lived by one motto: To change the world, all you have to do is change your mind. Bey grew up in the heart of Syracuse and witnessed the economic change in the city. Bey saw a need for job creation and made a personal promise to see his community improve. In 2011, Bey, a 41-year-old father and author embarked on a journey to keep a personal promise to help improve the economy. For the second time Bey ran for Syracuse’s fourth district common counselor, a race he lost in 2005.
Bey defeated green party candidate, Howie Hawkins, by 97 votes to secure his seat as common councilor. During his campaign, Bey pushed the issues of job creation and support for growth in small business in the city. “I personally saw economic development as a strong point for me,” Bey said. “Not only because of personal interest but also because in my opinion it’s the more practical solution for the current economic situation in the city.” Taking advantage of his new position, Bey scheduled bi-monthly town hall
meetings in every district to eliminate the lack of communication between the locals and the elected officials and to assure all complaints and concerns through out the city are brought to light. As a member of the common council, Bey’s primary duty is to propose and vote on legislature brought to the council. When the position for economic chairman opened on the council, Bey was the first to volunteer and accept the responsibilities that came with the job. As economic chairman, Bey has to help decide which projects the city should undertake.
TOWN HALL | Khalid Bey listens to Jake Barrett and Marie Smith discuss education issues at a meeting at West Genesee High School.
EDUCATION | Speaking at a local elementary school, Khalid Bey shared his message about setting goals and the importance of having a positive mindset to have a successful and happy life. Chris Griffen | MPJ 2012 | 23
FATHER | Khalid Bey normally spends Fridays with his three-year-old son, Saif Bey, and limits his work on those days. When there are meetings he can’t miss he brings his son, which is normally an entertaining experience for Bey and audience.
“Eighty percent of government revenue is generated on the backs of the private individuals,” Bey said. “High unemployment means the lack of public funds. So if you don’t have people working, the government is not collecting taxes that could be used for those vital programs like education, health care, and non-profits.” 24 | MPJ 2012 | A Voice For The Working Class
Bey is currently working on the $350 million Inner Harbor Project, the largest economic development project in the city. The project is expected to produce 8,000 new jobs in retail, resturants, and other services. According to Bey, local companies will also expand with the project, including a potential satellite
DEVELOPMENT | A local business owner tells Khalid Bey that guns and violence in front of his store concerns his customers and could inhibit his business in the longterm.
COMMUNITY | In front of his campaign center on South Salina Street, Khalid Bey thanks his supporters for their votes during his election campaign.
campus for Onondaga Community College that will accommodate 4,000 students. “You’re talking 8,000 temporary and permanent jobs, which is major,” Bey said about the Inner Harbor development. “A good bulk of the jobs will be in retail; a good bulk of the jobs will be the maintaining or upkeep of the new property.”
A huge part what will determine Bey’s success in office is how effective the city will be in creating jobs and keeping them in Central New York. “If you leave the city and come back in five years, you will see a different, dynamic city,” Bey said. “My greatest hope is that the employment matches the change – that the change match the improvement.” Chris Griffen | MPJ 2012 | 25
By Andrew “AJ” Lee
After being unemployed for six years, Charles “Chuck” Hanlan works to get his life on track by keeping his strong religious faith and joining the Rescue Mission’s training program.
n Syracuse, poverty is widespread. More than 34 percent of residents live below the national average. As a result, Syracuse is one of the most impoverished cities in New York. Charles “Chuck” Hanlan is one of those residents struggling to get by. Hanlan hasn’t had a job in over six years and currently survives with the support of public assistance. He receives a monthly income of $300 and food stamps. Hanlan currently lives in Gifford Place, the Rescue Mission’s long-term housing program. His rent at Gifford Place uses the majority of his public assistance, which leaves him with barely any money to spend on basic necessities.
To make up for the lack of money, Hanlan volunteers five days a week at the Rescue Mission’s Clothing Outreach Program, which allows him to receive donated items from the program. When he’s not volunteering, Hanlan uses his time to look for work, searching for help-wanted signs and employers willing to hand out applications. He knows his community and his country continue to struggle, but he is determined to find work. Faith has always been a guiding light in Hanlan’s life. Growing up in Belize, his mother and grandmother introduced him to religion. Hanlan admitted his family was a catalyst for his faith. ON THE FLOOR | Sorting sizes, Charles Hanlan organizes a new rack of donated clothes at the Rescue Mission’s Clothing Outreach Program store.
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TRAINING | Charles Hanlan’s supervisor watches over him and another trainee while they fill out training paperwork. If Hanlan passes his training, he will be given the chance to obtain a job at a local Thrifty Shopper store.
HELP | After six weeks of training, Charles Hanlan and his supervisor review his schedule.
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In 1990, Hanlan and his family moved to New York City. While at school in Brooklyn, N.Y., he struggled to remain focused on his studies and prayed to God he would graduate. As he progressed through high school, Hanlan struggled with reading, something he’s had a difficulty with his whole life. Although he knew some English, he was still learning it. When he graduated, Hanlan felt he didn’t have the education he needed to get a job. “I loved high school and wanted to learn,” Hanlan said. “It was so disappointing to graduate without the basic skills I needed to get a job and make it as an adult.” In an attempt to learn more marketable skills, he enrolled in the Cassadaga Job Corps in Cassadaga, N.Y., in 1997. While
there, Hanlan met a woman, which led to a relationship. Two years later he made a decision to relocate with her, which prevented him from graduating the full program. Eventually moving to Syracuse, Hanlan began to struggle in multiple areas of his life. He was unable to find a steady job, and he broke up his off-and-on relationship with his girlfriend while she was pregnant with their second child. While on his own, Hanlan continued to have unstable employment. After finally landing a stable job at Midstate Spring in East Syracuse, Hanlan began a new relationship. It lasted only three months, long enough for Hanlan to have his third child. Following the birth of his third child, Hanlan was injured on the job and suffered a back injury with nerve damage.
FRONT DESK | Working at the front desk of the Clothing Outreach Program, Charles Hanlan checks out a customer. The items at the Rescue Mission store are free to eligible customers.
“HIS TIME” | At the end of the day, Charles Hanlan uses his solitary time filling out job applications, saying thanks to the Lord by praying and reading his Bible. To keep the relationship between himself and God strong, Hanlan goes to the Sunday services at the Mission’s church and also participates in Bible study groups twice a week.
A doctor told him if he continued to work without recovering he could be in a wheelchair for life. Ignoring the doctor’s advice, Hanlan took it upon himself to go back to work to provide for his kids. While at work, he was reinjured and almost lost his hand. The combined injuries forced him to quit his job, give up everything he owned and head back to New York City to live with his mother. “I couldn’t afford rent anymore,” he said. “I was already behind in payments and my injuries made it worse. So moving back to my mother’s where I could recover for a while was the best option.” Hanlan stayed at home with his mother for five years, allowing his injuries to heal. When he arrived back in Syracuse, he was on his own but determined to support
himself. To stay self-reliant, he set a goal of not depending on his mother for help. With the little funds raised before he left quickly spent on food, and nowhere to stay, Hanlan slept at the bus terminal for four nights. On the fifth day, Hanlan ran into a stranger who told him about the Rescue Mission. Not knowing what it was, he headed there with hopes of finding a place to stay for the night. He moved into the Mission’s men’s shelter and eventually into Gifford Place, where he has now lived for more a year. Hanlan has been attending the Mission’s church, and has remained truthful to his faith. Hanlan believes in the mission’s cause, and volunteers five days a week at the Rescue Mission’s Clothing Outreach Program. To Hanlan, working for the
program is a sign of thanks for the blessings the mission has provided him. “At the Rescue Mission, I’ve learned it’s all about giving back,” he said, “and the Outreach Center helps so many people that have been in my shoes.” Now, after six months at the Outreach Program, Hanlan has been given the opportunity to get a job. He’s working in training more than 25 hours a week. To Hanlan, the struggles he’s had in his life were a test from God. He knows that the Rescue Mission has helped him succeed, but he doesn’t only credit the Mission for his progress. “God has opened doors for me to put me in the right direction,” Hanlan said. “I know the Mission has done a lot for me, but God has been making these great changes in my life.” AJ Lee | MPJ 2012 | 29
FAMILY | Tha Phwee, his wife Anna Nu, and their two children, Sunny Moon Flower and Marvelous Joy, have lived in Syracuse for one year. They immigrated to the U.S. from Burma.
Experience By Samuel R. Beyers
Tha Phwee and his family of Burmese refugees, came to Syracuse with hopes of a better life and brighter future.
he Phwees are one of the many Burmese families who have come to Syracuse. More than 14,000 refugees have immigrated to Central New York as a result of leaving behind a dangerous military-controlled government that is in the middle of committing genocide against its people. Tha Phwee was living in a refugee camp near the Burma and Thailand border before immigrating to Syracuse with his wife, Anna Nu, their daughter, Sunny Moon Flower, and son, Marvelous Joy. Phwee saw little opportunity for him and his family and decided to come to the United States. 30 | MPJ 2012 | Immigrant Experience
HARD WORK | Tha Phwee and many other immigrants have found solid employment opportunities at Atlas Healthcare Linen Service. Approximately 40 percent of its employees are Burmese refugees. Xxxxx | MPJ 2012 | 31
“They do not have a future (in Burma). They do not have many children,” Phwee said. “They are not educated. They do not know everything. They go into the forest everyday and hunt so they can eat.” When he was 7, Burmese soldiers came to his village looking for Karen rebels. The Karen soldiers had entered their village to hide from the Burmese soldiers. Phwee’s father told them he did not know where the Karen soldiers had 32 | MPJ 2012 | Immigrant Experience
gone to hide. His father was approached and interrogated for information on the location of the rebel militia. The Burmese soldiers shot Phwee’s father in front of him to make an example. Phwee and his family arrived in Syracuse in December of 2010. He came to Central New York looking to support his family and was able to find a job at Atlas Healthcare Linen Services in Syracuse. Of its many employees, 40 percent of Atlas’ staff are Burmese
immigrants. Atlas is an industrial laundry facility that provides linen services to hospitals and nursing homes through the Northeastern United States. Despite the improved conditions the Phwee family now has by living in the United States, each day is a struggle trying to adapt to American life. “Some families, they live in America and they have a problem,” Phwee said. “They cannot speak English very well, so it is very hard looking for a job. Some
EARLY HOURS | Phwee enjoys bringing his children with him to experience American culture, which includes shopping at local department stores.
CRAZY LIFE | Anna Nu takes care of Sunny Moon Flower and Marvelous Joy during the day LIFE while Tha isNu attakes work care untilof their CRAZY | Anna children are old enough school the children while Phweetoisattend at work. during the day. She attends She attends English lessons English Tuesday lessons onshe Tuesday nights soskills that she can nights so can attain the attain needed for employment. neededthe forskills employment.
jobs are very hard for them.” As Burma’s government continues to persecute and murder its own people, living conditions remain difficult. Survival alone leaves little room for education and families. Luckily, some of the victimized in Burma have been fortunate enough to escape to refugee camps and migrate to the United States. Aye Thidar-Montgomery is originally from Burma and has been living in the United States for most of her adult life.
TOGETHER | Even though Phwee works many hours at the laundry facility, he spends as much time with his family as he can when he gets home.
In her free time, she and her husband lead an outreach program through their church, which teaches families like the Phwees survival English. The group meets Tuesday nights with volunteers from North Syracuse Baptist Church. “They have it very difficult in many ways,” Montgomery said. “In refugee schools they don’t have much money for the teachers. So a lot of people graduate with a little bit of education.” Phwee hopes to one day return to
Burma and visit the people he left behind. But for now, his greatest hope is to provide for his family. Phwee has many dreams, including hopes of one day owning a car so his family can have a means of transportation. He also would like to attend an American school through Onondaga Community College. This may be a small goal for some, but for him, it’s part of achieving what he believes is the American Dream. Samuel R. Beyers | MPJ 2012 | 33
FAMILYVALUES After six days of deep thought in a hospital, Mary Ann Calzada decided to exit the workforce to become a stay-at-home mother.
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By Manuel J. Martinez
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ary Ann and Felipe Calzada had a moment of clarity when sickness struck. In February 2008, Mary Ann was hospitalized with Guillan-Barre Syndrome, a rare but curable neurological condition. During six days in the hospital, she thought about the direction of her life. “When I was sick, I felt I had to reassess what my priorities in life were,” she said. “My career as a school teacher was interfering with giving the attention my daughters Katie and Maria needed.”
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Mary Ann and her husband Felipe decided she would quit her teaching job to be a stay-at-home mom. The decision meant a $60,000 loss in household income and medical benefits. “I used to bring in over $3,000 every month,”she said. “We always had money and did not have to stress over how much money was in the bank.” Felipe Calzada took a second job prepping food at Panera Bread in addition to his job at Olive Garden. His five-day workweek swelled to 70 hours.
“I miss my family but I know our choice is for the kid’s best interest and there is nothing I would not do for them,” he said. Mary Ann has been able to be an advocate for her oldest daughter’s, healthcare. Katie was born with Achondroplasia, a condition that accounts for 70 percent of dwarfism cases. Mary Ann’s job as a stay-at-home mom can be just as demanding as her former job teaching high school Spanish. Her day begins when she wakes the children before 7 a.m. She makes them
ADVICE | Mary Ann Calzada speaks to her daughter, Katie, at their home in Liverpool about her failing grades.
CONCERN | An anesthesiologist speaks with Mary Ann Calzada about her daughter Katie’s surgery at the Upstate University Hospital. Katie was having ear tube surgery.
LOVING | Visting an orthopedic surgeon in Wilimington, Del., Mary Ann Calzada fixes her daughter Maria’s hair while her other daughter Katie listens to music. They stayed at the Ronald McDonald House.
breakfast and prepares them for their tests or quizzes that day. Three days a week, she watches her neighbor’s kids. On those days she drops four kids off at school. “Sometimes all the kids can be a handful,” Mary Ann joked. ”My day just does not end. At 3 p.m., it is time to pick up the kids from school and more trips back if they forget something.” Mary Ann also has taken on an active role in her children’s schooling, and all of their teachers know her. This year, she has requested several parent-teacher
conferences to talk about roadblocks in Katie’s school path. “I have had problems with my oldest daughter’s resource teacher not wanting to help me hold her accountable for her failing grades,” said Mary Ann. “She wanted the teacher to reward Katie’s achievements but also keep her focused on school. Two years ago, Mary Ann’s other daughter, Maria, 10, was having a hard time understanding her teachers. “We needed answers; so we had her tested,” she said. “Finally in September
of 2011, we found out she had Central Auditory Processing Disorder and all she needed was a specific therapy to help her overcome this roadblock.” Mary Ann’s commitment to her girls is reflected in Maria’s improved grades, new found interest in karate and her improved relationships with them. Mary Ann chose her family over money and has no regrets. “The right thing requires exceptional sacrifices by parents,” she said. “But the outcome is a more positive future.” Manuel J. Martinez | MPJ 2012 | 37
FRIENDSHIP | Mary Ann Calzada jokes with her daughter, Katie, while they wait for Dr. William MacKenzie at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital For Children in Wilmington, Del. Katie was born with Achondroplasia, the most common type of dwarfism.
DISCIPLINE | Felipe Calzada counsels his daughter Maria after an outburst, and then consoles her. Calzada is often the household disciplinarian. 38 | MPJ 2012 | Family Values
WORK | Felipe Calzada collapses on his couch at his home during a one-hour break between jobs. Calzada works 70 hours a week at two jobs to support the household. Manuel J. Martinez | MPJ 2012 | 39
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CHANGE By Andrew “AJ” Lee
In search of an income, Robert “Bobby” Magee hits the streets of downtown Syracuse, his fiancée by his side, hoping people will help them as they pass by.
t’s a generally accepted fact that the divorce rate in America is 50 percent. The list of factors that contribute to divorce includes everything from financial hardship, to infidelity, lack of communication, or the fallback “irreconcilable differences.” With all the hurdles a marriage needs to overcome to be successful, Robert “Bobby” Magee
and Michelle Noce, have even more stacked against them. The newly engaged couple, is overcoming addiction, unemployment and homelessness in addition to trying to make their future relationship a success. Magee, who has lived in Syracuse sporadically since 1981, has been jobless since 2005. He had a steady job working for Oneida Foundries,
WORLD PASSES BY | Cars consistently pass by without stopping to give spare change to Robert Magee, 51, as he panhandles on a corner downtown.
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INCOME | While panhandling downtown, Robert Magee gets a few dollars from a local commuter. On many days, Magee has gone a full day earning only few dollars.
when he lost his job due to health problems. Magee suffered multiple brain aneurysms, and was forced out of work. Without a job, and with no way to pay his bills, Magee was forced to live on the streets. For seven years, Magee spent his night sleeping under Syracuse bridges. Alone and destitute, with the stresses of his life spiraling out of control, Magee tried easing the pain through drugs. Once an addict, Magee’s life wasn’t progressing and he remained homeless. “It all started out with me being addicted to certain drugs,” Magee, 51, said. “Then it escalated and got worse. It helped put me in the position I’m in today.” After two years crippled by his addiction, Magee finally took the first step in fixing his life by quiting drugs. In 2011, after meeting the sobriety requirements, he was able to enroll in the
Catholic Charities program, where his health problems allowed him to live in a donated apartment. What he didn’t know when he moved in was that his future fiancée was just a few doors down. “I didn’t find out for about a month that Michelle lived just down the hall from me,” Magee said. Magee had seen her often before, but never got to talk to her. They were both regulars around the Syracuse Rescue Mission programs. “When I first saw her, I said to myself that one day I want to be with her,” he said. “It was like love at first sight for me.” Fortunately for Magee, Noce also shared a fondness for him. “I liked Bobby,” said Noce, 41. “I saw him around a lot and I started to have a crush on him.”
Magee was eventually given the chance to get to know Noce a little better when they saw each other on the sidewalk outside of their apartments one morning. At that point, Noce was on the verge of leaving the roommates she lived with in their apartment complex. “I just wanted to leave, but I didn’t have anywhere else to stay,” Noce said. “There were many problems among the girls I was living with, and I was just done with it. Bobby had caught me on the sidewalk the day I was out and I told him my issue. He asked if I wanted to move in with him and I said yes.” Soon after, a relationship blossomed between the two. Three months after she relocated to Magee’s apartment, Noce was given another opportunity to say yes to another question of his: he asked her to marry him.
WAITING | Whether it’s hot or cold outside, Robert Magee and Michelle Noce get to the Rescue Mission early to secure a spot in line, to get their free meal.
FREE MEAL | Robert Magee and his fiancée, Michelle Noce, eat their free meals at Rescue Mission’s Food Services Center.
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SIDE-BY-SIDE | While Robert Magee is at work “flying signs,” his fiancée, Michelle Noce, stays by his side while reading. Throughout their routine days, they stay together.
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JOURNEY HOME | Without any transportation, Robert Magee and his fiancée, Michelle Noce, head home by foot on a snowy day downtown. The couple is used to walking multiple miles a day to their destinations.
“I said yes again,” she said, smiling. “We had a lot of fun together, we liked many of the same things and he wanted to take care of me.” Being his fiancée wasn’t too much of a change though. Noce got to know Magee better when she moved in and began going out with him to find money to bring home. Magee’s income is unreliable. His workplace is located on the corner of Harold Place and North Franklin St. He “flies his sign” there—a term for someone who panhandles. Standing by the side of the road
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waiting for commuters to donate spare change is one of many things the couple does together. “We do everything together,” said Noce. “I’m right beside him everywhere we go, even when he’s flying signs.” For Magee, his relationship with Noce has been inspiring. “My life was extremely stressful before we met,” Magee said. “So when we got together, it uplifted me and changed my attitude toward my everyday life.” The money he gathers is a daily source of stress that Magee doesn’t take lightly. But he also doesn’t let it bring him down.
“I always go out with the attitude that we’ll at least make a couple of bucks,” he said. Magee covets his relationship with Noce, and makes certain she is safe and taken care of. “Bobby protects me from other people and makes sure nothing happens to me,” Noce said. “He also is the provider and makes sure we have everything we need. Their daily troubles and struggles haven’t bothered them too much because they know in the end they have each other. “We’ve always loved being together,” Magee said. “We’re just focused on trying to make it day by day.”
END OF DAY | Relaxing after a day of work in the cold, Robert Magee smokes as he talks with his fiancĂŠe, Michelle Noce, during a commercial on TV. To save collected money, Magee purchases bags of pipe tobacco instead of packs and uses scrap pieces of paper around the house to wrap his homemade cigarettes. AJ Lee | MPJ 2012 | 45
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RECOVERY By Patrick Ratcliff
Maggie Last, health and wellness supervisor at the North Area Family YMCA in Liverpool, is on a mission to help cancer survivors truly recover, and Livestrong
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MEDITATION | Maggie Last, health and wellness supervisor at the North Area Family YMCA, leads a session of meditation and reflection during one of three weekly meetings of the Livestrong program.
ancer has been a part of Maggie Last’s life for the last three years. Although she has never been diagnosed, Last has coped with the variety of emotions that come with the disease: fear, stress and anxiety. Last, the health and wellness supervisor at the North Area Family YMCA, builds relationships with cancer survivors on an emotional level through the Livestrong program. In the program, Last helps survivors over come the lifechanging adversity with open arms. Each week, she hosts a group meeting for survivors where she listens intently with an open heart and provides a shoulder for each of them to cry on. Last has seen many people come through the program, each with a harrowing story of survival. The YMCA Livestrong program is a 12-week program that focuses on the 48 | MPJ 2012 | Working Toward Recovery
mind, body and spirit. The group of 12 women meet each week, providing a comfortable community for coping with the hardships and emotions that accompany struggles with cancer. “It’s just about being there and having someone there to put their arms around you, support you in what you are going through,” said Last. “You have people that come in, who have just gone through the most life-changing thing ever, and we give them the chance to become stronger.” Survivors are welcome to join the free program at anytime. The initial goal of the program is fitness, endurance and strength training, but building relationships is the biggest benefit to the Livestrong participants. “What I have found is that it is the connection they make as a group that helps build self-confidence and selfesteem,” said Last.
Marsha Vansteenburgh, a retired executive assistant, remembers her experiences with Last and the YMCA. “We’ve all gone through similar experiences so it’s kind of nice to have someone to talk to about it with,” said Vansteenburgh. “It’s made me more comfortable talking about cancer. It’s nice to have a place where you can share and not feel bad about it.” Vansteenburgh believes Last is an integral part of the program. “I think she is wonderful,” Vansteenburgh said. “She cares about everybody in the program.” Other members such as retiree Gladys Stevenson agree. “[Last] is a dedicated person and I think she takes to heart a lot of our problems,” said Stevenson. “Once you tell her about something and she knows about it, she tries to help you out.”
CAMARADERIE | Livestrong group members take a moment to socialize with supervisor, Maggie Last, during a break from water aerobics. EMBRACE | Lin Senko, former Livestrong member, embraces Maggie Last during a group therapy session at the North Area Family YMCA.
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MONEY By Bobby J. Yarbrough
Through modern technology and an ‘udder’ love for agriculture, Dirk Young reshapes his traditional family farm.
MILKING | Twin Birch Dairy Farm milks more than 2,000 cows and produces 100,000 pounds of milk per day.
irk Young’s life has always revolved around his family’s farm. Since he was 6 years old, his family has operated its dairy farm just east of Skaneateles Lake on County Road 117. Throughout high school, Young worked alongside his father milking the 200 head of cattle and working the 500 acres of land. Young fell in love with the lifestyle and knew he wanted to make it his life. “College never interested me,” said Young. “I have always had a strong passion for agriculture. I knew that I would follow in my family’s footsteps and be a dairy farmer.” As the years passed, his responsibilities on the farm expanded. Young’s father Ken eventually retired from the dairy industry, leaving Young to manage the farm. It was a role he had been working toward his entire life.
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PARLOR | A state-of-the-art automatic milking system was recently installed at Twin Birch Dairy Farm to increase the farmâ€™s efficiency. The new system maximizes milking times, while minimizing labor requirements. Currently, the farm milks cows 21 hours each day.
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TECHNOLOGY | Computers play an integral role in the Twin Birch Dairy Farm management plan. The farm uses computers to complete daily tasks including milking cycles and herd management. Dirk Young says he spends approximately two hours a day using computers to complete farm business.
Technology has played an integral part
in the farm’s success. Since taking over for his father, Young has taken risks to keep his farm ahead of the technological curve — installing an aerobic digester, implementing a computerized herdmanagement system, and installing a digital milking parlor. Many of these technologies had expensive start-up costs and were relatively new in the dairy industry when
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Young decided to implement them in his business practices. Although Young admits every idea he has tried has not been profitable, he said he was satisfied with taking the risk. “I have a desire for innovation,” said Young. “Technology is a driving force in the dairy industry. However, some farmers aren’t willing to take risks. I have an urge to keep our farm modern and efficient, and I am willing to take the chance.”
Young’s foresight and leadership have paid off for the farm. Throughout the economic recession, Young’s decisions have shielded the Twin Birch Dairy Farm from the rising costs that plague many farms: grain and feed prices, utility costs and fluctuating milk rates. “Many of our systems have paid off over the last few years,” said Young. “Many people first told us growing our own grain would be more expensive for a farm our
FERTILIZE | An anaerobic digestor converts the manure produced by the dairy cattle into several usable by-products, including a liquid substance called slurry. The slurry is spread on the field to fertilize the farm’s 1,500 acres of corn.
MEETING | Dirk Young regularly meets with farm herdsmen and local dairy farmers to discuss farm operations and for camaraderie.
MANAGEMENT | Herdsman Pat Kehoe conducts a pregnancy check on a heifer. A computerized herd management system monitors the performance of each cow throughout the milking cycle and provides alerts to the herdsman, including when to breed heifers.
size than just purchasing it. However, prices for grain have risen over the last few years and we have saved money.” Young has positioned his farm to be a leader in the farming industry, mixing environmental stewardship with economically successful farming practices. Young continues to install new systems on the farm, including a $300,000 generator that will turn the methane produced by the digester into electricity.
Young is the process of installing the generator, which he expects to be online within the month. The generator will produce enough electricity to power the entire dairy operation. Young said the generator will save the farm approximately $15,000 per month in utility bills. Young believes green technology, such as methane generation, will become a staple of dairy farming. Young hopes
to reduce his emissions levels and lower his carbon footprint, which are already below industry standards. “Farming never has had a predictable rhythm,” said Young. “Farming is always evolving, keeping up with the demands of consumers. The industry is currently producing more milk with fewer cows because of technology. With the pace of technology, it is hard to predict where we will be in the next 10 years.”
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54 | MPJ 2012 | Ink Inc
INC. By Brian Lautenslager
Jeremiah Clifford opened Working Class Tattoo in 2008. Four years later, his shop in Syracuse continues to thrive despite a tough economy.
eremiah Clifford started his small tattoo shop, Working Class Tattoo, during a tough economic period in Syracuse. But, while some small businesses struggle to survive, Clifford’s shop continues to draw in customers through his laid-back, easy-to-talk-to personality and original artwork. In 2008, Clifford left the local tattoo shop he was working for to open his own shop on James Street and South Edwards Avenue. His shop features a main lobby, a tattoo room with two sitting areas, walls covered in original artwork, and an apartment directly over his shop. While working as a tattoo artist in other shops, Clifford saved up enough money to reach his ultimate goal of owning a tattoo shop. With the amount of money he saved, and by keeping in touch with clients he made over the years, Clifford was able to open without an immediate financial burden. “I had clients booked for a month after I opened,”said Clifford. “There was a little bit of remodeling to get the place looking how I wanted to, but it was a pretty reasonable price for a storefront. I didn’t have to take out any loans, or borrow any money, so I opened and immediately started tattooing.” The tattoo industry has been able to survive the tough economy. A report from MSNBC.com shows the industry grosses $2.3 billion annually, a statistic that doesn’t seem unlikely when you consider that a third of Americans ages 18 to 25 have a tattoo. With 14 tattoo shops in Syracuse, how does a small shop like Clifford’s stay in business and thrive? CUSTOMERS | Jeremiah Clifford, the owner of Working Class Tattoo in Syracuse, places a stencil on his customer, Lisa Schmidt. Schmidt requested Clifford for her tattoo after seeing the one he did for her mother. Clifford gets most of his business from return customers and word of mouth. Brian Lautenslager | MPJ 2012 | 55
COLLABORATION | Travis Zaleppa shows Jeremiah Clifford a design idea for a future tattoo. Sometimes customer ideas donâ€™t transfer well as actual tattoos, so adjusting a customerâ€™s idea into a design is important to keep customers coming back.
CREATION | Jeremiah Clifford uses a light table to trace a tattoo stencil before his client arrives for her appointment. Clifford said the actual tattoo session usually takes only a couple hours, but the sketching and designing can take days to get it just right. 56 | MPJ 2012 | Ink Inc
SHARE | Jeremiah Clifford temporarily stores money after being paid by one of his employees. As the owner, Clifford gets 40 percent of the cost for each tattoo an employee applies.
Clifford said he relies on word of mouth for new customers. When they leave the shop he wants them to love the tattoo and to show it to all of their friends. Clifford also believes that his success comes from his ability to set himself apart from his competitors. Two ways that Clifford tries to differentiate himself from the other shops are in his work and attitude. Returning customer, Liz McCormick, who already has one tattoo by Clifford, would agree. “Getting tattooed by Jeremiah is like visiting a buddy. He is fun to just talk to while getting tattooed and the work is just, just great,”said McCormick. “Some shops around here it’s all strictly about clientele and numbers,” said Clifford. “It’s totally a bummer when I hear that about people’s tattoo experience’s, especially at a shop where they do nice tattoos. It’s just, like — be nice to people dude — do nice tattoos is a given, but be nice, too.” One of the factors Clifford attributes to his success is how he decided to staff Working Class Tattoo. “I like to let it happen organically, and if we get along and they are great artists then it will work out. It’s more who will I like to work with, who is fun to work with and who will do a good job,” said Clifford. The biggest and most rewarding challenge of staffing Working Class Tattoo was bringing in his apprentice, Mike Pilger, said Clifford. “Having an apprentice is not something I take lightly or I allow Mike to take lightly. It’s a very intensive process of training,” said Clifford. Successful businesses usually look to expand, but Clifford is more focused on the present. “One tattoo shop run well is about all I have the energy to offer, and probably about as rewarding as I’m looking to get,”said Clifford. HOME | Living above his shop offers Jeremiah Clifford luxuries that a longer commute does not. After he moved into the apartment directly above his shop, his daily commute went from half an hour to seconds. Brian Lautenslager | MPJ 2012 | 57
By Adam Van Treuren
DART Computer Solutions takes on the retail giants by its focus on building relationships with its customers. Within three years, the business has already expanded to two other locations.
COMPETITION | DART’s home store in Fairmount sits across the street from one location of the retail giant Target. DART competes with businesses such as Target, Best Buy and Staples. Co-owner Ryan Bitter used to work for Staples, and applied a corporate attitude to the small business state of mind.
t was mid 2009, and the United States was in the height of a recession. Luke Behm, 28, of Navarino, was tired of painting houses. He had attended various college programs over the years, and had been running his own painting business, East Coast Painters, to make ends meet. Seven years into painting, Behm’s friend Ryan Bitter came to him with a business proposition. Bitter had been freelancing computer repair service and needed Behm’s business experience.
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CUSTOMER SERVICE | DART co-owner Luke Behm prepares Kristen Costelloâ€™s computer to carry out to her car. The DART team was able to successfully recover the data from this 20-year-old Macintosh SE through a multi-step process. This required hardware and software from multiple decades to convert the data to a format that was readable by modern computers.
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CUSTOMER SERVICE | Showing customer Kelly McInerney what was wrong with her laptop, technician Anthony Parente explains that her power charger was broken. She bought a new charger, but he did not bill her for the diagnosis.
With a sound business plan and only $15,000, the two men opened what is now DART Computer Solutions in Fairmount, a small computer repair service and an authorized Cricket dealer. DART, which stands for Dedicated and Reliable Technology, provides many services such as virus removal, computer repair and data recovery. Within three years, DART expanded to two more locations in Liverpool and Mattydale. When the store first opened, Behm and Bitter didn’t even take a salary. “It was like working for a non-profit,” said Behm. “None of us wanted to touch the register because we wanted the business to flourish.” DART technicians performed their first computer virus removal for about $90 within two days. This helped propel them to become a growing business. Behm always wanted an acronym for
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his business. He jokes that the name, which actually came from Bitter’s girlfriend at the time, speaks to the precision of how their company runs. “It’s about hitting the bull’s eye every time.” Many wouldn’t have expected DART to survive the recession. Large retail chains such as Staples and Best Buy have their own computer service departments. Target, another national retail chain, also has its own computer department, and one of its stores happens to be located across the street from them. These large chains make billions of dollars a year — revenue that allows for extreme price cuts that DART is unable to compete with. So they focus their attention on their customers in hopes that a more personal touch is enough to keep customers coming back. “There is a big increase in people that would rather spend more money and deal
with a Syracuse-based business versus a franchise or bigger corporation like Best Buy or Wal-Mart,” said Behm. “They’d rather deal locally than with the big guys.” Anthony Parente, a DART technician and sales associate, agrees. “There are a lot of people out there that are all about small business,” said Parente. “They’ll spend extra money knowing that they’ll get personal service and. They aren’t just a receipt number.” Businessweek.com reported that Best Buy 2011 revenue was $50 billion. Behm believes that to compete with that kind of buying power, DART has to maintain a more personal touch with their clientele. “There’s a face to the business,” said Behm. “Customers know if they have any problems, they can call us and that’s worth spending 10-15 percent more on a product.” Parente recalled one instance where customer service was key. He had a
customer who wanted a gaming rig to play one of the new Star Wars computer games. After recieving the new computer, he began to notice glitches in the game. Upon inspection, Parente realized the hardware in the customer’s machine that did not meet the game’s requirements. Parente noticed his mistake. “I told the customer that I would build him a system that he could play this game on. Since the new computer did not meet my standards, I upgraded his computer for free,” said Parente. Parente hopes that as DART grows and expands, they are able to maintain this level of customer service. “One of the things I love about working here is how personal I can be with customers,” said Parente. “I would have to say that that level of customer service is enough to steal business from the big franchises.”
CaMARADERIE | Co-owner Ryan Bitter, technician Anthony Parente, and co-owner Luke Behm admire a custom-built computer they designed for one of their customers.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL | Technician Anthony Parente troubleshoots a customer’s laptop in DART’s back workroom. The laptop was fixed the same day it was dropped off. Parente says they like to finish work orders in a timely manner.
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GEARS By Ryan J. Courtade
After bouncing around the bike industry, Jeremy Clay came home to CNY to start a bike shop. His shop has found success in the niche market of triathletes and road racers.
t was February 1997 when Jeremy Clay was told he might never walk again. The day before at Labrador Mountain in Truxton, Clay slid his snowboard into a half pipe to perform a few more tricks before quitting for the day. It was then he felt it happen. Somehow, he managed to stay on his board and make it back to the lodge where he was loaded into an ambulance. Jeremy Clay, 20, a sponsored competitive snowboarder and avid bicycle racer, had severely herniated the disc between his L3 and L4 vertebrate in his back while snowboarding. To his doctorâ€™s surprise, a week later he was up and walking, and within six weeks he was back snowboarding. Clay grew up in Tully, where he started snowboarding competitively at age 17 and racing mountain bikes at age 14. When he was not racing or training, he was working at the Bike Loft in North Syracuse as a bicycle mechanic. A year after recovering from the accident, he took over the role as the lead mechanic and service manager of the Bike Loft. After graduating from SUNY Cortland, Clay said he continued to spend 62 | MPJ 2012 | Changing Gears
his summers working at the bike shop and spent the winters working different jobs in the ski industry. In the fall of 2005, he and his wife decided to move to her home country, France. After struggling to find jobs and depleting their savings, the couple decided to move back to the United States. Less than a year after moving to Europe, Clay accepeted a position as the store manager for one of the largest bike shops in Salt Lake City. Clay said he found himself unhappy working at the bike shop, and found a different job at Reynolds Cycling, in West Jordan, Utah. The company specialized in manufacturing carbon fiber bike parts. As a result, Clay got the opportunity to represent his employer and used his skill as a bicycle mechanic to help the Agritubel team, a French racing team, during the 2008 Tour de France. When he returned home, Clay was laid off in 2009 as the economic recession hit the bike industry. After a short stint as a service manger in a local Salt Lake City bike shop, Clay said his wife surprised him with the thought of returning to Central New York to open his own shop.
BUSY | The Bike Loft East has a constant flow of bikes from opening until closing. The service department takes pride in a 48-hour turn around on routine maintenance and tune-ups. Everyone who has bought a bike from the Bike Loft gets half price tune-ups on their bike for life.
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SPONSORSHIP | Members of the “Max Power,” cycling team talk with Jeremy Clay at Bike Loft East in Manlius. Bike Loft East is one of the race team’s title sponsors, and Clay uses the shop for an after-hours team meeting.
When Clay decided to return to CNY he partnered with his former boss, Lance Stonecipher, owner of the Bike Loft, to open his own bike shop. “It still flabbergasted me to think what we did,” Clay said. “We started a bike shop with $5,000 and within six months we were in the black.” In April 2010, after leaving Utah, Clay, 34, came back to CNY and opened Bike Loft East in Manlius. “I knew that there was a need for a 64 | MPJ 2012 | Changing Gears
good shop. I thought that we would do okay with it, but I did not expect it to do what it did. Right now we’re right on par with where Lance’s store is and it has been there for 30 years.” According to Clay, his shop sold 338 bikes in 2011, which is up from the 102 they sold during their first eight months. The warm winter with an early spring has led to the sales of more then 50 bikes since January this year already. The Bike Loft East carries bikes for all
crowds: mountain, road, triathlon, time trial, cycle-cross, BMX and even bikes designed for children. The bikes range from less than $200, for a toddler-sized bike with pom-poms hanging out of the handlebars, to more than $10,000, for a time-trial bike. Clay said his average bike sale at the Bike Loft East averages just over $2,200. The national sales average, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association is $350 per bike in the U.S. “The shop is doing really well,” said
CUSTOMER SERVICE | Custom fits are a large part of Jeremy Clay’s time. He uses his skills as a mechanic and his understanding of areodynamics to custom fit triathelete Joe Thiel, 45, to his bike.
TECHNOLOGY | Jeremy Clay uses a Blackberry tablet to show Benny Chinailla the different Orbea road bikes available. Chinalla drove from Rochester and was able to compare bikes, go for a test ride and make a purchase that day. Bike Loft East is the only Orbea dealer in CNY.
Derek Perry, a 21-year friend of Clay’s that he credits with getting him into bike racing. “It has a following.” The Bike Loft East sells all kinds of bikes but has become known for its selection of triathlon and time-trial road bikes. According to Clay, people drive from as far away as Buffalo, to have him help them find the right bike, do maintenance on theirs or use his experience to custom fit them on a bike before a race or a training season.
Mary Eggers, a triathlete who will be challenging Lance Armstrong to a one-on-one charity-swimming event at the end of April, drove all the way from Rochester, N.Y., in a snowstorm, to have Clay adjust her new bike to fit her body. According to Perry the success comes from Clay’s tendency to be a workaholic, and at times a perfectionist. Clay partially agrees but adds it’s about the customers and their experience. “We take care of our customers,”
Clay said. “We treat our customers like friends and when they come in here and experience that — they like it. They like that we know who they are and we remember who they are next time.” Clay said the reputation of his shop has spread by word of mouth. “The bicycle industry is more word of mouth than anything,” he said. “I think the fact that we did what we did and we take care of our customer like we do, word spread really quick.” Ryan J. Courtade | MPJ 2012 | 65
RELAX | Patrons at Recess Coffee House and Roastery find tables around the coffee shop to finish homework, read a book, or play a board game with a friend.
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the daily By Justin Stumberg
With the perfect blend of local flavor and great coffee, Recess Coffee House and Roastery brews an atmosphere that keeps customers coming back. ecess Coffee House and Roastery in Syracuse is a far cry from the mass commercialization of coffee associated with Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. And for owners Adam Williams and Jesse Daino, that is exactly how they want it. For them, their coffee shop isn’t about blending in — it’s about standing out and attracting new business. Covered in tattoos, Williams and Daino aren’t your traditional entrepreneurs. They do not wear suits and neither has a college degree. Each day, they come to work wearing their favorite heavy metal band T-shirts and rely on their personal experiences to guide their business decisions.
YOU GOT SERVED | Co-Owners, Jesse Daino and Adam Williams, opened Recess Coffee House and Roastery in 2007.
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SUNSHINE | Russell Daniels, College of Environmental Science and Forestry masters student, studies on the front porch at Recess Coffee House and Roastery.
Before opening the coffee shop, Williams worked at local retail business including the Syracuse Real Food Co-op. Daino was living with Williams while touring the United States with his heavy metal band. Williams received an offer to buy the coffee shop in 2007 and asked Daino to help him run it. The previous owner of Recess had a change of heart and offered to sell the shop for a decent price. “I had a few grand saved up,” said Daino. “I thought about it for awhile and figured that it would be a fun thing to do in between tours.” After the first year of business, Williams and Daino realized that if they worked hard they could be successful. For both, the idea was not a new concept. Growing up, each of their grandparents ran businesses. At a young age, they were each instilled with a strong work ethic and a will to succeed. For Daino and Williams, turning Recess into a profitable business has taken time. Before they owned the shop, the two had little experience with inventory, responsibilities, and finances, which are crucial to keeping a business running smoothly. “The first couple of years were really important,” said Williams. “We really didn’t have a lot of experience and we were learning while working,” 68 | MPJ 2012 | The Daily Grind
Williams and Daino admit they are certainly not pros at owning a business, but believe they are getting better. If not for the large sign hanging from the second floor, you wouldn’t even know Recess was a coffee shop, tucked inside a quaint, two-story home on Westcott Street. Once inside, the smell of fresh roasted coffee and homemade baked goods instantly puts any visitor at ease. Music ranging from classic rock, soft rock, or alternative plays softly through the speakers in the corners. The music is sometimes drowned out by the sounds of the most recent drink order. One can hear the clanking of the portafilter locking into place under the brew head or the slow drip of concentrated espresso flowing into a small silver-cup. If it’s a cappuccino, latte, or breve the noise isn’t over yet. Next comes the whistling and hissing of the submerged steam wand as it steams, or froths, the milk. This is the type of atmosphere that keeps people like Tarcy Cherlin, Syracuse University biochemistry sophomore coming back. Cherlin first heard of Recess from her older sister who attended SU before her. “This was my sister’s favorite spot to come,” said Cherlin. “She just shared it with me and it stuck.”
BUSY | With all of Recess Coffee House and Roastery’s products produced in house, space in the kitchen becomes scarce when it comes time to restock and fill the shelves.
BAKING | Co-Owner, Adam Williams, prepares blueberry muffins for the oven.
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CUSTOMER SERVICE | Kevin Finerghty, parttime employee, takes cash from a patron. With Recess Coffee House and Roastery so close to Syracuse University, a majority of the customer base is comprised of college students.
ROASTING | Co-Owner, Jesse Daino, monitors freshly roasted coffee beans. All of Recess Coffee House and Roastery’s coffee is roasted in house from organic fair-trade beans.
Cherlin said the comfortable atmosphere and enjoyable setting gives her a place to get away from campus. Recess has more of a unique feel to Cherlin than a chain coffee shop like Tim Horton’s. For others, it’s the quality of Recess’s coffee and baked goods. “Every time I try something new here, it’s the best,” said Nicholas Oliver, an East Syracuse native. “I would say that the sugar cookies are hands down some of the best I’ve ever had.” Building such a rapport with customers is one reason why Recess is successful. In the beginning, Recess would go through about one 150-pound bag of coffee every two weeks. Today, that number has quadrupled. Recess goes through almost eight bags of coffee per month. They are selling more baked goods, too. “I used to bake twice a week,” said Daino. “Maybe some cookies but there was no rhyme or reason. Now I bake every single day that I’m here.” The duo plan to keep growing the coffee shop and continue to give their clients a relaxed atmosphere in a busy world. “When you can make people happy and keep them coming back,” said Daino,“that’s what it’s all about.” Justin Stumberg | MPJ 2012 | 71
CUT By Daniel M. Young
Due to the economy, more people are hoping to enlist in the Navy. The recruiters’ mission is to enlist the highest qualified people, but some applicants are rejected because the organization is changing as a whole.
JOINING | Chief Navy Counselor Ryan Connell enters Patrick O’Connor’s information into the computer as Patrick’s father, Sean O’Connor, watches in the background. Patrick wants to serve in the Navy just like his father did, to further his education and build a career.
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WAITING | Future sailors enlisting into the Delayed Entry Program gather for mentoring at the Navy Recruiting Station. The program is designed for people who are joining the Navy but are not ready to leave for basic training. Daniel M. Young | MPJ 2012 | 73
FITNESS | Petty Officer 2nd Class Reginald Dunn, who is a recruiter in Syracuse, watches as applicants who enlisted for Navy Special Forces complete a physical fitness test. The test includes swimming, running, situps, pushups and pullups.
n 2001, Ryan Connell, a Chief Navy Counselor in Syracuse, went to a high school senior’s house to talk with him and his parents about the Navy. Connell met Brian Smith at a high school in Pittsburgh, where Connell was a recruiter. He remembers walking into Smith’s house and how everything looked upside down. “It was a rough environment for Brian,” said Connell. “He wasn’t the sharpest looking kid either, but his desire to join the Navy was there. So he passed all the tests and he was excited to join.” 74 | MPJ 2012 | Making the Cut
Several months later, Connell received a phone call from Smith saying he was home on leave and wanted to see him. “When he came in, he was in his dress blues and all squared away,” said Connell. “He came up to me and I reached out to shake his hand, but Brian actually wanted to give me a hug and thank me for everything I did for him and for changing his life.” Connell, who is the leading Chief Petty Officer at the North Syracuse recruiting station, has been in the Navy for 16
years and has been recruiting for more than nine years. He said his mission as a recruiter is to not only enlist the highest qualified people, but also provide others with a chance to serve their country. “It is not just about a number, it is about manning the fleet with the highest quality we can and making a difference in an individual’s life,” said Connell. In 2011, the Navy, as a whole, enlisted 33,400 sailors, which is a drastically smaller number compared to the 53,520 active duty recruited in 2001.
RECRUITING | Petty Officer 1st Class Andrea Padias, who is a recruiter in Syracuse, talks with students at Corcoran High School about joining the Navy. Currently, no one from the school has been qualified to join the Navy.
GOALS | Chief Ryan Connell reviews the recruiting goals for the month of February. Each recruiter has to meet a specific goal every month.
“We have every type of applicant you can think of trying to join now,” said Machinist Mate 1st Class Andrea Padias, who has been recruiting in Syracuse for almost two years, “from seniors in high school to college graduates with degrees who can’t find a job.” There is no limit for people applying, but the Navy is changing as a whole, which has made the requirements to join increase, said Padias. “The Navy has a higher standard now,” said Logistic Specialist 1st Class
STANDARDS | Chief Ryan Connell conducts a body fat measurement on an applicant’s waist to see if he is within the Navy’s standards.
Shane Graf, who is also a recruiter in Syracuse, “The Navy is working more towards quality and not quantity,” In the two years Graf has been recruiting, he has seen goals change. “It changes every week for the most part,” said Graf. “I have seen diversity in the Navy be a priority and then it not, then come back again. I have seen minimum requirements to join go up.” Danielle Scott, 25, joined the Navy after graduating from LeMoyne College with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.
“I was working as a sub-in while I was looking for a full-time job, but I realized it wasn’t going anywhere,” said Scott, who graduated in December 2011. She said if she could go back, she would have joined the Navy after high school and avoided $90,000 in loans. “If the economy was the way it is now back when I was in high school, I never would have gone to college,” she said. “The military is the best option for me right now because the job market is chaos and I want to do something productive.” Daniel M. Young | MPJ 2012 | 75
FAMILY: Matthew Schwock and his wife, Caresse, play with their son, Lucas, 1, after an Easter egg hunt. 76 | MPJ 2012 |Family Calls
By Venessa Hernandez
Army Corporal Matthew Schwock missed the birth of his son, the first nine months of his babyâ€™s life and two anniversaries with his wife. With less than a year left in the military, he is under pressure to secure a job that will allow him to support his family and still serve the public.
MILITARY: Matthew Schwock performs military honors for veteransâ€™ funerals as a full-time job, including weekends and holidays. He recently returned from Iraq where he served with an Army National Guard Military Police unit.
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CANDIDATE: Matthew Schwock reads a letter from the Rome Police Department telling him he passed the officer candidate written exam. Schwock has dreamed of being a police officer since he was a kid.
STRENGTH: Matthew Schwock prepares for the police candidate physical agility test.
atthew Schwock, 24, is a corporal in the Army National Guard 105th Military Police Company in Buffalo, N.Y. National Guard troops serve part-time, one weekend a month, and some units deploy to combat zones for up to 15 months. Schwock is serving on active orders as the area coordinator for the Syracuse Military Forces Honor Guard. Schwock performs military honors for veteran
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funerals as a full-time job. Providing honors is “the least the country can do for a veteran who has given up years of his or her life for their country,” Schwock said. As the Army downsizes due to post-war budget cuts, Schwock, like many soldiers, is at a crossroads in his life. The current economic conditions and the hardships of his job impact the choices he’s making for his wife and son. Schwock and his wife, Caresse, married
about two years ago. He was on orders at Fort Bliss, Texas, when his son, Lucas, was born March of last year. “I couldn’t come home to see his birth so I watched it on Skype,” he said. “I got to go home on Easter for about six days.” Schwock deployed to Iraq soon after his son was born. He didn’t see him again until he was 9 months old. Missing important moments in his family’s life has made Schwock think
POLICE: While visiting with his buddy, Utica Patrolman Patrick West, Matthew Schwock learns to search the police database.
about a stable career outside of the military. He is working to become a police officer in the Rome Police Department and recently passed both the written exam and the physical agility test. “If I get hired I won’t have to deploy again, and that’s my wife’s biggest fear.” Aside from the benefits of having a steady paycheck and health coverage for his family, Schwock said being a cop has been a lifelong dream.
“I’ve wanted to be a police officer since I was about 4 or 5,” he said. Schwock said he’s not the type of person who can sit in an office all day. “I would rather be serving people as best I can. And what better way than to help people in need or in trouble?” Although Schwock feels ready to leave the Army, he has fears of the unknown. “All I’ve known for the last five years is the military,” he said. “It’s the only job I’ve had.”
Schwock admits family is his top priority. He said both the unstable economy and military life are making him uneasy about his future. “If I don’t get hired by the Rome Police Department I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Schwock. He said if he doesn’t get the police job he might be forced to re-enlist. “I have a family to take care of and the scariest part is not knowing.”
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DEPLOYED | Moments before a combat patrol in Baghdad, Iraq, Sgt. Robert Baumgartner relaxes in his Humvee. Baumgartner was one of thousands of soldiers who deployed to Iraq in support of â€œThe Surgeâ€? in 2008 (courtesy photo provided by subject).
Writing a new chapter By Ben Hutto
One year after leaving the active duty Army, Sgt. Robert Baumgartner struggles with earning a college degree in English and transitioning to the Army Reserves to help support his family. 80 | MPJ 2012 | Writing A New Chapter
DIFFERENT | Robert Baumgartner, an Army combat veteran,sits apart from his classmates as his professor speaks during their class at Buffalo State University. Baumgartner, who was a journalist during his time in the Army, is majoring in English and journalism. Baumgartner admits the age difference and gap in life experience prevents him from developing friendships with his classmates.
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COMMUNICATION| Robert Baumgartner speaks with a fellow student during their poetry class at Buffalo State University. Baumgartner admits that his age and life experience as a combat veteran make communicating with his younger classmates difficult.
obert Baumgartner returned to his hometown of Buffalo with high hopes after he left the activeduty Army last August. After five years of being an Army journalist and with a combat deployment to Iraq under his belt, Baumgartner felt he had done his duty for his country and was eager to begin his new life with his wife and two children. After his first year of college, there are days he questions his decision. “The hardest thing is trying to still feel relevant,” he said. “In the Army, I was accustomed to ‘being somebody’ and having a real-life purpose... Now, my only responsibility is what I make for myself.” He said he expected the change from being a soldier to a student to be jarring.
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“I was nervous about getting out of the Army, but was excited about earning my degree,” he said. “I assumed that college would be the logical next step.” Like thousands of veterans before him, Baumgartner decided to use the Chapter 30 Montgomery G.I. Bill to return to college. The bill has allowed him to attend college full-time without forcing him to find a part-time job. “The New York state system pays 98 percent of my in-state tuition, while my lack of income allows me to qualify for a Pell Grant which easily covers the remaining two percent with money left over,” Baumgartner said. That excess money allows him to help his wife Jennifer, an Air Force reserve
officer, with the family finances and bills. Before Jennifer started working for the Air Force reserve center in Buffalo, Robert said money was very tight but his college benefits covered their expenses. “I could, and did, go to school fulltime when my wife wasn’t working, but it wasn’t ideal,” said Robert. “We were ‘house poor’ in the sense that all of our bills were paid, but it left very little left over for discretionary spending.” As Jennifer transitioned from her career as a full-time Army officer to an Air Force reservist and civilian employee, it allowed her husband to devote himself fully to being a college student. He admits, it hasn’t been an easy transition. “College isn’t as fulfilling as being a
PREPARATION | Robert Baumgartner, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, prepares his Army gear for his first Army Reserve drill weekend.
FRUSTRATION | Robert Baumgartner texts his wife before getting on the road. Baumgartner says joining the Army Reserves has put some strain on his family.
soldier,” he said. “I miss having that sense of purpose. I miss the camaraderie. I miss being a professional. College is very good about teaching theory, but I’m finding more and more that I miss the actual realworld experience of being a journalist.” Even with his frustrations about pursuing his education in tow, Baumgartner has pushed through his first year at Buffalo State University and is set to earn a dual degree in journalism and English in three years. “It’s all ‘check the box’ and a ton of knowledge that I’ll never use, to be honest,” he explained. “I think with my life experience, many of these classes feel like a waste of my time.” Jennifer understands her husband’s
frustrations, but does not fully agree with all of his opinions about Buffalo State. “The only ‘challenges’ he faces are in his own mind,” Jennifer said. “He has to stop thinking of school as a waste of time, check in the block process and glean as much as he can.” Baumgartner has been able to use the time management skills he learned as a noncommissioned officer to maximize his study time and attain a good grade point average in his first semester. “The degree will be worth the effort,” he said. “It is just hard now…Being a student and being a soldier are two different jobs. It is not realistic to expect the same sort of job satisfaction.” In order to fill the void left by leaving
active duty, Baumgartner recently rejoined the Army Reserves and has been assigned to the 305th Military History Detachment in Pennsylvania. He thinks the choice will offer him more money and a chance to experience the things only the Army can provide as he continues his education. “I’ll have to manage my time a little more efficiently, but I think it will help focus me,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d miss the Army as much as I have. The reserves will be a good opportunity to tell stories and help give me some of that motivation. There are a lot of roles I play: husband, father, student, provider. They are all very meaningful, but I’ve missed being a soldier.”
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Samuel R. Beyers U.S. Marine Corps Winona, Minn.
Adrienne Burns U.S. Army Calabasas, Calif.
Ryan J. Courtade U.S. Navy Traverse City, Mich.
Christopher Griffin U.S. Air Force Havelock, N.C.
Venessa Hernandez U.S. Army Bellevue, Wash.
Ben Hutto U.S. Army Aiken, S.C.
Brian Lautenslager U.S. Marine Corps Carrollton, Texas
Andrew â€œAJâ€? Lee U.S. Air Force Kent, Wash.
Efren Lopez U.S. Air Force Phoenix, Ariz.
Manuel J. Martinez U.S. Air Force Espanola, N.M.
EDITORS Design Editors Ryan J. Courtade Kyle Ramirez Adrienne Burns
Kyle Ramirez U.S. Marine Corps Austin, Texas
Patrick Ratcliff U.S. Navy Denver, Colo.
Justin Stumberg U.S. Navy Sherman, Texas
Copy Editors Adrienne Burns Bobby Yarbrough Ben Hutto
FACULTY Tony Golden | Nancy Austin | David Sutherland | Sherri Taylor | Thomas Kennedy | Ken Harper | Deb Pang Davis | Emily Kulkus |
Adam Van Treuren U.S. Army Fayetteville, N.C. 84 | MPJ 2012 | Storytellers
Bobby Yarbrough U.S. Marine Corps St. Joe, Ark.
Daniel Young U.S. Navy Leavenworth, Wash.
Photo Editors Christopher Griffin Efren Lopez Justin Stumberg
MPJ Director Deputy Director Photojournalism Graphics Photo Editing Web Design Web Design News Writing
DOD POLICY: This project represents the combined efforts of the Department of Defense Visual Information specialists training at Syracuse University. The training these students received will soon be applied in support of DoD missions around the world.