Sydney Jennison ’20 of Homer, N.Y., grew up seeing firsthand what helping her community meant.
A daughter of Robert Jennison, a captain in the City of Cortland Fire Department, and Sandra Jennison ’96, a teacher at Appleby Elementary School in Marathon, N.Y., Jennison watched as her parents exemplified selflessness.
So, when it was time to choose her own career, Sydney Jennison took the next logical step: why not do both?
It’s a decision requiring an above-average work ethic and a seemingly endless amount of energy, but it’s all in a day’s work for the recent Red Dragon alum.
Jennison is now a physical education teacher at Appleby Elementary School, alongside her mom, while balancing a second life at the Marathon Volunteer Fire Department. She’s volunteered there since she was 16.
“When you love something, you find time for it,” Jennison said. “I never wanted to choose between careers, and it is so nice that I don’t have to. I get to be a volunteer firefighter and teach and coach! I wish I could make more activities for the fire department like training and meetings, but I try my best to make the things that I can and that my schedule allows.”
In both jobs, Jennison credits children with being a major inspiration that keeps her going despite the hectic schedule.
“The best part about the school day is the kids,” Jennison said. “I love playing with them and making physical activity as fun as possible so that they are active for the rest of their lives. … I get to show young girls that they can become firefighters, too. Less than five percent of firefighters are females. If someone doesn’t show them that girls can be firefighters, too, then they will never know.”
She even had a recent opportunity to bring her two jobs together. During a lesson on fire safety, her students visited the local fire station and they got to see Jennison wear her firefighter gear.
That may sound exhausting, but it’s only part of Jennison’s day. As any teacher knows, talking in front of a whiteboard is only a small part of the job. A member of the golf team while at SUNY Cortland, Jennison now takes time to coach modified girls’ soccer and boys’ varsity golf, oversees the scoreboard during basketball and wrestling competitions and learned to drive a bus to transport her teams.
And that’s all while she acts as a morning club advisor, archery club adviser and recently received emergency medical technician certification for the Marathon Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps. It’s a lengthy list of responsibilities, but it suits Jennison just fine.
“If you had asked me in high school what my dream job was, my answer would have been to be a P.E. teacher and coach soccer and golf and that is exactly what I am doing,” she said. “I truly have the best job.”
It doesn’t hurt that Jennison’s family has a long history of ties to Cortland. Sandra also graduated from SUNY Cortland with a teaching degree, going on to teach Sydney at Appleby Elementary. Jennison’s great-grandmother, Christine Dennison, was also a teacher who preceded them both as a Cortland Normal School grad. Now a family tradition of using a Cortland education to enrich the Central New York Community is being continued.
“I find it extremely satisfying to help the kids from my hometown,” Jennison said. “I had great teachers and coaches and now I have that opportunity to give back just like my teachers did for me.”