Bulletin News

Lieutenant Governor talks service with students


New York Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado visited SUNY Cortland recently to hear from students about the university’s wide-ranging community service efforts and how they can help inspire a new statewide initiative.

Lt. Gov. Delgado spoke with 17 Cortland students representing nine student organizations ranging from student government to multicultural groups to the student-run emergency medical services squad. That student input will help inform the early development of New York’s Office of Service and Civic Engagement, a state office announced by Governor Kathy Hochul in January that Delgado is tasked with developing.

“We were honored to host Lieutenant Governor Delgado for a visit and join an important statewide conversation about service and civic engagement,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum of Lt. Gov. Delgado’s Feb. 28 visit. “I was particularly impressed with the number of our Cortland students who showed up to share their experiences related to community service. They represent some of our brightest minds, and I am very happy they were able to share their ideas with the lieutenant governor.”

The initial focus of the lieutenant governor’s new initiative involves building partnerships with SUNY institutions to help create an inaugural class of the Empire State Service Program, which will provide paid work opportunities to college students as a way of serving their community.

“I think service is the most organic and most natural way to get us back to understanding what it means to care for each other, to love each other,” Delgado told students.

During the informal roundtable discussion, the lieutenant governor spoke candidly for more than an hour with student leaders in a Student Life Center classroom.


He shared his own background and his winding journey to politics: growing up in a working-class family in Schenectady, engaging in activism work at Colgate University, attending Harvard Law School and then pursuing an unconventional career in rap music before eventually starting a career in corporate law.

In that legal work, Delgado said he felt detached from his earlier commitment to service, which ultimately led him to pursue elected office.

“Service is about figuring out where you best fit in,” he said.

The lieutenant governor asked Cortland students about their individual service projects, how they build strong ties with the community and their potential needs in the future.

Current undergraduates offered several examples of the type of work that they lead:

  • Student Government Association President Joe Mascetta and Event Coordinator Emily Gallagher described SUNY Cortland’s Big Event, an annual day of community service that routinely sends hundreds of student volunteers into the local community to help with clean-ups and other local needs. This year’s event is scheduled for Sunday, April 21.

  • The university’s Minority Male Initiative was recently renewed to help SUNY Cortland’s men of color defy national trends that show large percentages not completing their degrees. President James Escolastico described the groups engagement efforts through career development, mentoring and social events.

  • The Institute for Civic Engagement intern Mackenzie Carroll discussed how the institute is leading work to help educate students on becoming involved in elections and government. An event on Tuesday, April 9 also focuses on active listening and how it can encourage positive dialogue and civic success.

  • SUNY Cortland Emergency Medical Services (SCEMS), one of the nation’s longest-running student emergency response agencies, relies entirely on student volunteers to handle more than 200 calls each year from the campus community. Chief Angel Alicea-Morales and Assistant Chief John Davie spoke on behalf of the organization, which also manages the requirements that come with Department of Health certification.

  • SUNY Cortland Black Student Union President Khyla Diggs described how the group promotes student advocacy and serves as an additional resource for anti-racism efforts. The club also leads the Black Out for Justice March in the community each year.

  • Six representatives from the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) described how they participate with Red Dragon teams in more than a dozen service initiatives throughout the year, including educational outreach to local schools. Representing SAAC were President Maris Seabury, Vice President Dylan Houseknecht, Lexi Bloss, Zac Boyes, Kareem Lubin and Josh Osae.

  • New York Public Interest Research Group representative Sasha Machmuller discussed the group’s participation in important advocacy work ranging from voter registration to reducing food insecurity.

  • Habitat for Humanity President Bradyn Wood and Vice President Justin Gottlieb described how members provide hands-on labor in various ways at local builds, often finding that Cortland student interest exceeds the number of volunteer workers requested.

“It’s really encouraging to be in a room full of college students who are so mindful and so aware of your own power and who are committed to giving of yourself in real ways,” Delgado said.

“What we do for each other, what we do for our communities, really is where the gold is. And to see that all of you are so plugged in, right now, doing that kind of work, I just want you to know that you have a partner at the state level.”

After the conversation with students wrapped up, the lieutenant governor was asked by a local news station about the programs and projects being led at SUNY Cortland. He was quick to recall the example of the university’s Big Event.

“I think if we had that kind of model across the state where every single campus, on one specific day, was making this outreach to the surrounding communities, I think the impact of that can be profound,” he said.