Students Represent College at Prestigious Honors Conference

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – In April, seven SUNY Orange Honors Program students represented the College at the prestigious Northeast Regional Honors Council Conference in Philadelphia, Pa. It marked the first time any SUNY Orange students had been selected to make presentations at the annual conference. During this year’s three-day student-centered event, a mix of more than 250 papers, interactive sessions, posters and roundtable discussions were led by students.

Representing SUNY Orange were: back row from left; Maggie Damken (Middletown), Nick Zazzi (Newburgh), Molly McNeely (Middletown) and Jessica Bruehert (Washingtonville); and seated from left: Kayla Volpe (Middletown), Megan Cutone (Port Jervis) and Joanna Dykeman (Montgomery).

PHOTO: Honors Program Students

Presentation Topics

Single Sex Schools, individual presentation, Kayla Volpe
In the past two decades single-sex schools have surged in popularity. Today, there are twenty-five same-sex public schools in the nation. Since the George W. Bush Administration enacted the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, in the city of Philadelphia, and various cities across the United States, an ongoing debate has been developing as a result of single-sex education becoming a public school option. Those who support single-sex public schools say that it should be an option for boys and girls to have an educational system that is inclusive of only their respective sex: a liberty all should be entitled to in order to pursue a future of happiness. Various feminist and human rights groups find this “option” gender-discriminatory and take a stand strongly against the idea of same-sex education stating that “separate but equal” is illegal and would, conversely, inhibit the pursuit of happiness for young students. If there is still an option of choosing a coeducational public school within the same school district, why then is this choice of alternative education a problem? By the same token, will the mainstreaming and availability of single-sex public schools to the general community increase the gender segregation beyond the classroom? Many angles to this debate, including the long term effects of single-sex education, the issue of “separate but equal,” and the option of a student to choose his or her own educational path, will be brought to light in this discussion.

Poverty, individual presentation, Molly McNeely
In a democratic republic such as the United States, the people have a voice and with it, we impact policies. Individual perceptions become beliefs, which solidify into convictions and thus voting behavior. If people have misplaced perceptions of lower-income citizens, it limits our policies and programs for dealing with poverty. As a nation, we hold pre-conceived notions of the make up of the American poor, in particular in regards to race, and this can inhibit the policy actions taken to benefit lower income citizens. For example, Martin Gilens, Professor of Politics at Princeton, has found that the second most powerful indicator of opposition to welfare spending was a perception that poor African-Americans are “lazy” (Gilens, 1999). In Philadelphia, like many cities in this great democratic experiment, an inherent economic inequality exists between those who have and those who have not. In order to achieve life, liberty and equal opportunity for the pursuit of happiness for all, we must move past the belief that the poor only wish to take from the wealthy. This paper will address issues of economic inequality and perceptions of poverty and explore ways to increase awareness and combat discrimination.

Funding The Arts, individual presentation, Joanna Dykeman
Over the past few years, severe budget cuts have affected public schools across the United States. Nearly 300,000 jobs have been lost in the education sector, and schools have been forced to reduce spending, and cut many extracurricular programs. The majority of these schools have turned to removing art programs, such as drama, music and the visual arts. The deletion of art classes and programs has many adverse effects on students and their involvement in society. Participation in visual or performing arts is an outlet for children and teenagers to enjoy and express themselves. Without this opportunity, many young people have engaged in gangs, drugs, and other unethical activities. This is especially the case in underprivileged or urban areas, in which these negative influences are prevalent. Philadelphia, the eighth largest school district in the nation, has experienced these same monetary and arts programming difficulties. In this poster presentation, I will discuss the effects these cuts have had on the crime rate among young people, different budget options schools could consider, as well as the true necessity and value of these programs. Artistic education and activities are a method for students to express themselves and pursue happiness, and should not be considered expendable and disposable.

The Importance of Service Learning, individual presentation, Jessica Bruehert
In order to achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, one must exercise rights to education, basic human rights and a responsibility to help others protect those rights. Philadelphia is home to many firsts, including the almanac, banking, public libraries, etc. A city with such rich achievements is the perfect setting to emphasize the importance of civic responsibility through community service. Volunteering within a community is multi-purposed, often instilling a sense of responsibility in children, teaching discipline, aiding in the development of morals and values (honesty, humbleness, gratefulness, respect, sincerity, non-judgmental), expanding perspective, and ultimately creating a sense of human unity. Service not only brings a person closer to his or her neighbors, but also emphasizes the idea that recompense in gratitude is far more humbling and rewarding than receiving money. Service learning is an integral aspect of the honors program at SUNY Orange. It facilitates valuable academic and experiential learning, reinforcing and expanding what can be achieved in a traditional classroom.
I will explore the pros and cons of service a service learning requirement, addressing the intrinsic values of service to the individual, the program, the college and the various communities they serve and ultimately discuss why service learning should be a requirement at all two and four year institutions.

Standardized Testing, roundtable discussion, Nick Zazzi and Megan Cutone
Standardized tests, including the SATs, ACTs, and GREs nationally, the New York State Regents and other localized exams have been the focus of political, economic, social, and cultural debate, at local, state, regional, national and even international levels. Testing has been tied to basic academic standards, college acceptance for students, program funding, and even faculty retention, evaluation and tenure. This interactive workshop will focus on the controversial issue of standardized testing, looking at various sides of the debate. At the heart of discussion will be how these tests affect students psychologically, often following them throughout their lives, and how they impact teachers and education nationally. Other aspects will include: teaching to the test, the impact of drops in national scores, and accusations of score inflation and cheating. We also will explore how standardized testing and other forms of teaching and assessment are more successfully implemented in other countries. Our goals are to explore the issue fully and seek possible resolutions to this consistently raised controversy as it relates to freedom (academic and otherwise) and the pursuit of happiness.

Problems with Fracking, poster presentation, Maggie Damken
Scientists have turned to researching alternative sources of energy to meet our current energy demands. Among these alternative sources is hydraulic fracturing, a process by which chemically treated water and sand are pumped underground to fracture bedrock and shale to release natural gas. While hydraulic fracturing is considered an economically viable choice that could create jobs and energy for the future, given the abundance of natural gas trapped in the shale, it is not without its consequences. Opponents cite environmental ramifications, such as the destabilization of bedrock and the contamination of waterways. Hydrofracking is a process that uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of clean water, but once this water is subjected to chemical additives, there are minimal opportunities to treat and purify it. This wastewater contaminates groundwater, aquifers, rivers, streams, and other bodies of water by spreading highly toxic, carcinogenic chemicals. The life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of people and ecosystems is compromised by these hazardous side-effects. This paper will explore the tension created by the emphasis on economic benefits versus the value of a stable environment, healthy neighborhoods, and reusable resources. Hydrofracking, which is already utilized in Pennsylvania, is a process that directly affects those who live in the Northeast, and its consequences should be weighed before it is deemed a permanent source of energy for our country.

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940