March 4, 2013

SUNY Empire State College Students Garner Statewide Awards

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – March 4, 2013) Two SUNY Empire State College undergraduate students have garnered prestigious statewide recognition. One was recognized as a senior honoree and the other as a rising star, one of 40 under 40.

Linda C. James, of Rochester, a student at the college’s Genesee Valley Center, was selected as this year’s senior honoree for New York’s African American Public Service Awards and Sandra Barkevich, of Amsterdam, a student at the college’s Center for Distance Learning, was selected as one of “2013 NY’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars” by The Hispanic Coalition NY, Inc.

“My congratulations go to Linda James and Sandra Barkevich for earning these prestigious awards,” said Acting President Meg Benke. “Both women successfully manage a very busy life, which is typical for the college’s students, but Linda and Sandra are remarkable for their ability to form creative solutions to challenging problems. Empire State College helps these remarkable women to pursue their education by providing the flexibility to study where and when it suits their needs. The entire Empire State College community takes great pride in the accomplishments and recognition of Linda and Sandra.”

Genesee Valley Center student Linda James honored by New York State with the African American Public Service Award

Linda C. James

After one of James’ two daughters was murdered she found herself coping with grief and caring for two grandchildren, a two-year old and an infant of five months. They are now 23 and 25 years old.

Since losing one of her children, she has devoted her life to helping other grandparents who have found themselves caring for their grandchildren. Since 1997, James has been working as the community-based supervisor for the Skip Generations Program, providing supportive and educational groups for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

James was recognized at a recent event hosted by the state Office of General Services.

“I was really overwhelmed and overjoyed about receiving the award because I know so many people who have done such good work in the community and it was an especially great honor to be chosen by the state,” said James. “Everybody has the ability to succeed, but often this ability needs to be nurtured in order to grow and to be realized. I always say if I can help somebody along the way, if my story can help somebody, then I am always willing to share it.”

Barkevich’s work as editor of the college’s student-run newsletter, The Student Connection, was cited as a primary reason for her selection as a rising star. Married with two young children, she is on track to graduate with her bachelor’s degree this spring.

Barkevich will be honored at The Hispanic Coalition NY, Inc. upcoming rising stars event.

“The email came in while I was enjoying a wonderful early Valentine’s Day dinner with my husband and two close friends. I was shocked, excited and very much humbled. I just couldn’t believe it and I had to read the email out loud twice,” said Barkevich. “I can’t even put into words how honored I am to be counted among so many inspirational leaders within the Hispanic/Latino community.”

About Linda C. James

Currently, James is the community-based supervisor for the Skip Generations Program, which is based in Rochester and part of the Family Resource Centers of Crestwood Children’s Center, an affiliate of the Hillside Family of Agencies. 

In collaboration with the University of Rochester’s Geropsychology Postdoctoral Fellowship Department, James developed the mentor-training manual and facilitated a 15-week training program for grandparents to mentor their peers in the community.

She co-authored a chapter on this program in the book “Resilient Grandparent Caregivers; a strengths-based perspective,” edited by Dr. Bert Hayslip, Jr. and Dr. Gregory C. Smith.

A board member of the National Committee of Grandparents for Children’s Rights, James is the recipient of numerous regional and statewide awards and has garnered national recognition for her years of services within Family Resource Centers.

In addition to this year’s African American Public Service Award, James received the Casey Family Excellence for Children Award as a kinship caregiver in 2012; the HERO Award from the New York State Caregiving & Respite Coalition in 2011; and the Excellence in Child Abuse Prevention for Kinship Care Service Provider award from Prevent Child Abuse New York in 2008. 

In March 2007 she was awarded the Public Citizen Award of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers and in February of that year James was awarded the Kinship Advocacy Award by the Child Welfare League of America at their national conference for demonstrating exemplary work in the area of kinship care. 

James’ many other awards and recognition date to 1998.

Center for Distance Learning student Sandra Barkevich was named one of 40 under 40 by the Hispanic Coalition of New York

Sandra Barkevich

About Sandra Barkevich

The married mother of two young children, Barkevich is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Business, Management and Economics and anticipates completing her degree in the spring of 2013. 

She volunteers as a peer tutor and academic coach for other students, serves as a representative on the student advisory group, edits the college’s student-run newsletter, The Student Connection, serves on the college’s Student Affairs Committee as a student representative for the Center for Distance Learning and maintains a 3.7 GPA.

In addition to shuttling children to swim practice five nights a week and meets on most weekends and helping with homework, Barkevich also is pursuing publication as a novelist and is an active member of Romance Writers of America.

Up until a recent lay-off from her job of 10 years, she was a full-time employee and managed to balance the needs of her family, work and education.

The daughter of a Puerto Rican and Spanish mother, Barkevich plans to pursue a Master of Arts in Learning and Emerging Technologies with the college after her anticipated graduation this spring.

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career. Students engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to learn at the time, place and pace they choose

The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in New York state and online. Its 66,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more. More information about the college is available here.


Media Contact: David Henahan, director of communications

518-587-2100, ext. 2918

518-321-7038 (after 5 p.m. and weekends)