How far would you travel for the opportunity to improve your life? For Susan and Ater Lay who were living and working in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, the answer was 'the other side of the world.' "I was working in a restaurant and he was working in a spa," she said. "We wanted to show people where we came from what we could do."
In 2017 the Lay's immigrated to the United States. The married couple came with a list of things they wanted to accomplish; learn English, pass their GED exams, work full-time, become American citizens, and earn their college degrees.
When it was time for the Lay's to pursue their college degrees, Susan went first and enrolled at Onondaga Community College in 2020. "OCC was very affordable and I had all of the support I could want. My favorite place was the Learning Center where I could get help with classes and the Gordon Student Center where they helped me with my finances."
Susan completed her Interior Design degree in 2022, setting the stage for her husband to go to school. "When I started college, he supported me. Now it was my time to support him and his life goal."
Ater also chose OCC. He had joined the New York Air National Guard a year earlier. His service provided him the opportunity to benefit from the College's Office of Veterans and Military Services. "Mister Steve (Steve White, Assistant Director of Veterans Affairs) helped me a lot. He made me more knowledgeable and helped me understand things."
Ater enrolled in the Electrical Technology program. He struggled initially but never gave up. "I learn from failure. It gives me more experience to survive. I am not scared of failing."
He became such a good student, he was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. In May he will complete his degree and plans to transfer to SUNY Poly where he will pursue his bachelor's degree in Electrical Technology. His goal is to become a pilot in the United States Air Force. "I want to do something different, something special in the future."
"I'm very proud of how far he has come," said Susan. "We came here for a better life and we have found it."