- Degree Programs: American Sign Language, Music
- High School: Ogdensburg, class of 2017
A music teacher at Ogdensburg Free Academy changed the course of Alyssa LaComb-Brown's life. She was prepared to drop out of school because she needed to take care of her brothers, but a conversation with Jon Cole convinced her otherwise. "He pushed me and made sure I stayed in school. He was the reason I graduated. What he did for me made me want to be that for other people."
LaComb-Brown decided she wanted to become a Music teacher and enrolled at Onondaga Community College. During her first semester she discovered she had a problem. "I couldn't hear certain pitches in my left ear. I was really struggling in the class. I decided to take an ASL (American Sign Language) class in case I ever needed to use it one day and I fell in love with the language and the culture."
Her growing attraction to ASL led LaComb-Brown to take on a sizable Service-Learning project in 2019 which combined her two majors. She taught ASL to students at Dr. King Elementary School in Syracuse so they could sign a song during the school's holiday concert. "I loved the experience so much. I tell everyone about it and the connections I made with the kids. One of them drew me a picture of a dog which I have hanging on my wall."
In the spring 2020 semester when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, LaComb-Brown put her coursework on the back burner. "I started working more because I was scared I was going to lose my main job. I took as many hours as I could get and had less time to spend on school. And the transition to online was very difficult for all of us. I'm confident the fall semester will go smoother because everyone has had time to prepare for it."
LaComb-Brown will earn her ASL and Music degrees next May, then plans to transfer to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester. She wants to become an interpreter who works specifically with Deaf New Americans. And next summer, depending on the status of the virus, she hopes to return to her part-time position as Assistant Director of Ogdensburg's Marching Band which is directed by Jon Cole, the teacher who inspired her to stay in school. His encouragement, coupled with her decision to come to OCC, have set her on her career path. "OCC was a good place for me to start. The price allowed me the flexibility to figure out what I wanted to do."