By Natalie St. Denis
Kiersten Decanio is a senior at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Queensbury branch, located on the SUNY Adirondack campus.
She graduated high school from Lake George High School. After attending a college in New Jersey for a semester, she realized it wasn’t the right fit. Decanio then decided to attend SUNY Adirondack and got her associate’s degree in criminal justice. She began to further her education at the Plattsburgh branch in Queensbury because of how close it was to home.
Decanio describes her freshman self as “a lost little puppy.” She said she had no idea what she was going to do with herself in the workforce. But once she began taking criminal justice classes, she knew that was what she wanted to pursue.
Rachel Seeber, a professor of Decanio’s, had her in five of her classes. Seeber said Decanio told her that her courses have allowed her to see criminal justice through a new lens. Many students think criminal justice entails being a law enforcement officer or attorney, but Decanio, like others, realized there are many more opportunities available.
Decanio started getting heavily involved in extracurriculars her third semester. She has been a representative on the College Activity Board for two years and is also its vice president. She is a board member of the Faculty Student Association for SUNY Adirondack and the chair of the Community Involvement Committee. Additionally, Decanio is a student ambassador for the admission office on-campus. She has held two separate positions in the student senate at SUNY Adirondack.
Decanio’s academic adviser, Emma Bartscherer, first met her as the lead adviser overseeing the Plattsburgh Activities Committee. PAC is governed by the SUNY Adirondack senate. Bartscherer observed Decanio mentor a new student filling a vacancy in a position for PAC.
“Kiersten is a joy to work with,” Bartscherer said. “She’s down to earth, passionate about serving the campus community. She’s a student leader, and I would say a go-getter.”
Seeber said Decanio motivates others to get involved, and you don’t always see that level of commitment and care from students.
“She definitely has gone above and beyond to represent not only her school but her community,” Seeber said.
Decanio has benefited from networking opportunities through the different positions she’s held. She has met many students, faculty, administrators on-campus, legislatures and law enforcement off campus. Decanio has met many friends through her involvements, which feeds her extroverted personality.
Her hard work in her leadership positions has paid off. Decanio earned the Campus Impact Award this past academic year. Additionally, she earned the Senator of the Year Award.
Decanio’s involvement goes beyond the campus community. She organized a fundraiser event called Festival of Hope for Tri-County United Way. Tri-County United Way is a non-profit organization that works with agencies and charitable organizations to fundraise and provide support. The event started with a car show featuring about 40 cars that participants paid to bring. Later there were arcade games, prizes and bounce houses. More than $2,400 was raised for Tri-County United Way. The organization then distributes the money to smaller organizations in the community.
SUNY’s Got Your Back is a volunteer program Decanio also participated in. Volunteers pack bags of toiletries and hygiene items to donate to local domestic violence survivors.
Bartscherer mentioned she has discussed with Decanio the delicate juggling act required to be a successful student leader and academic student, but she has seen her exercise time management to achieve that balance.
“A general challenge that many students face when they’re actively involved in multiple leadership roles is that life gets busy as a college student,” Bartscherer said.
Decanio applied for a selective internship for the summer. She hopes to use her degree in a government job like the FBI, CIA, or U.S. Marshal.
“I know that it’s not going to be easy to get there, but I’m willing to put the effort forward and the work forward because I know that it’s going to be worth it,” Decanio said.
Seeber sees her determination and has no doubts about her success in the future.
“She will be not only an excellent alumni from our Plattsburgh Queensbury Program, but I think more importantly just an incredible human being who cares about those individuals that she’ll be working with and for,” Seeber said.