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SARATOGA SPRINGS – Home Made Theater (HMT) has been awarded the title of “Best Community Theatre” by NY Theatre Guide, as part of their 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards. Voting was held online, with thousands of ballots cast from across New York State.

“There are so many theater companies that are worthy, so we are certainly very honored,” said Stacie Mayette Barnes, Producing Manager at HMT. “It’s recognition of all the hard work we put in. The work of our 180 volunteers each year, the work of directors and designers – everyone involved put together a product we’re very proud of.”

According to NY Theatre Guide, the awards are designed to honor local performing arts, entertainment and education organizations for their creativity, talents, and contributions across New York. Home Made Theater was one of five theaters nominated for the award. Other nominees included Central New York Playhouse in Syracuse, Clocktower Players in Irvington, Olean Community Theatre, and Ghent Playhouse.

Now in its 31st season, HMT got the news about the award during the opening week of their production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Barnes noted how HMT will be using their status as “Best Community Theatre” to raise awareness for HMT’s shows and draw to attention to what the company is all about.

“We’re very excited about this award. There must be people out there who believe in us and took the time to vote,” continued Barnes. “HMT is a unique blend of professionals and those working in theater for the first time. We try to give everyone involved a great experience. We’re proud of the quality of the work we do and proud to give our audiences some terrific entertainment. I want to thank everyone for voting for us, and invite everyone to come check us out in the state park – you won’t be sorry!”

Going on right now at HMT is their production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams. Show times are February 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 8 p.m. and February 21 and 28 at 2 p.m.


For more information about Home Made Theater, visit homemadetheater.org

Published in News
Friday, 24 October 2014 11:25

Ebola: Are We Prepared?

SARATOGA — As the United States deals with its first cases of the deadly Ebola virus, New York State government and local hospitals are taking steps to prepare for potential infected persons. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Ebola, formerly called Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and serious infection caused by the Ebola virus. 

The virus was first discovered nearly 40 years ago in the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Outbreaks usually begin with a wild animal, such as a bat, infecting a person and from there it is spread via human-to-human contact. 

Over the past four decades, occasional outbreaks have been recorded in Africa, but the virus was usually contained to small, rural villages. With approximately 9,200 cases and over 4,500 casualties worldwide, 2014 marks Ebola’s largest recorded outbreak. This is also the first time it has been diagnosed and transmitted in the United States.

Ebola is not airborne (like the flu) and you can’t get it from casual contact, such as merely being in the same room as someone. It can only be transmitted through close contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids (blood, sweat, vomit, etc.). If someone is exposed to infected secretions, early symptoms such as fever, headache, and severe abdominal pain may appear anywhere from two to 21 days later. 

Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for an Ebola infection; treatment generally involves keeping fluid levels stable and giving the immune system time to beat the virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines, but two potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.”

In an October 16 press release, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he has designated eight hospitals statewide to treat potential patients with Ebola. Four of those hospitals are in New York City, two are on Long Island, and the remaining two hospitals are located in Rochester and Syracuse. 

The press release also states that, the “State Department of Health has issued a Commissioner’s Order to all hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, and ambulance services in New York State, requiring that they follow protocols for identification, isolation and medical evaluation of patients requiring care.” 

Regional Department of Health staff have been tasked with visiting hospitals and clinics to inspect for preparedness including: ER triage procedures, infectious disease training, and the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) e.g. HAZMAT suits, gloves and face masks. 

Thus far, Saratoga Hospital has not received any infected patients, but nonetheless, they are taking the virus very seriously. 

Ellen Kerness, the hospital’s Manager of Marketing and Communications says, “The New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) issued guidelines last week and Saratoga Hospital intends to follow them fully.” She continues, “Like most New York hospitals, we conducted a drill a week and a half ago and did very well.” 

While the hospital does not employ its own infectious disease doctor, they do have an infection control specialist (who is also a registered nurse) on staff. This specialist has instructed staff on proper protocol based on guidelines issued by the NYS DOH and the CDC. The guidelines, which were updated by the CDC on Monday, Oct. 20, focus on identifying and isolating patients in a single room with a closed door and a private bathroom, limiting the number of healthcare workers who interact with the patient, ensuring sufficient training on how to wear and properly remove PPE and disinfecting surfaces that may have come in contact with infected body fluids.

If an individual arrived at Saratoga Hospital and exhibited symptoms and risk factors, Kerness says, “There’s an isolation room in our ED [Emergency Department]; anyone with probable symptoms would be isolated and would be in contact with a very limited number of health care workers.” 

The patient would not receive prolonged care here in Saratoga, rather they would likely be sent to one of the eight New York State hospitals dedicated to accept Ebola patients. Kerness noted that guidelines are constantly evolving as more about the Ebola virus is discovered. 

To stay-up-to date, Kerness reassures, “We are in constant contact with CDC and State Department of Health.”

At Glens Falls Hospital, Laura Stebbins, the Emergency Preparedness and Patient Safety Director confirms, “We are following the CDC guidelines and monitoring them on a daily basis as things change. We’re also following the list of requirements provided by NYS DOH. We have a large work group that’s focused on our Ebola plan and so far we’ve done three drills in case a patient should come in.” 

Glens Falls Hospital has been holding on-going PPE training as well as tabletop discussions and open forums where staff can ask Brian McDermott, the on-site Infectious Disease Doctor, any questions they might have. 

Finally, Stebbins says, “We are screening all patients for travel history and symptoms, whether they come in through the main hospital or other points of entry.”

In a statement from Albany Medical Center, their PR Department confirmed that they also have a plan in place. Sue Ford, the hospital’s Senior PR Specialist says, “Albany Med is actively working with state officials, and is closely monitoring updates from CDC, to be sure we understand what is required to appropriately care for Ebola patients in ways that protect our health care workers and the public. We have drilled and continue to drill, and we have in place the precautions to handle suspected Ebola cases as developed by the CDC.  If the CDC or the State Health Department make changes to their recommendations, we will adapt our plans as appropriate.” 

While the Ebola virus is very serious and deserves close attention by the medical community, there’s no need for panic. The CDC website states that “it [Ebola] is not spread through casual contact; therefore, the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is very low.”

What are the symptoms of Ebola?

• Fever

• Headache

• Muscle aches

• Fatigue

• Diarrhea

• Vomiting

• Stomach pain

• Unexplained bleeding or bruising


Published in News




SARATOGA SPRINGS - Local College Brings Experience In Online Education To Statewide Open SUNY




Laptop underarm, coffee in hand, homework and encroaching deadline on the mind, State University of New York’s (SUNY) Empire State College is leading the way to expand SUNY’s online education program catering to nontraditional students who juggle responsibilities between family and work.




SUNY Empire State College will be taking the lead in SUNY's online initiative, Open SUNY, to offer an option for college-level courses to the 6.9 million individuals in New York that have a high school diploma but no higher education.  The need for malleable class schedules that can be bent around a daily work schedule was a point in Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s State of the University Address earlier in January when she said that of the job opportunities in 2050, 60 percent of them will require a bachelor’s degree.




In terms of Open SUNY, David Henahan, director of communications at Empire State College, said that the online system is a response to individuals who would like to continue education and get a degree but cannot because many of them are unable to study in the traditional setting.




“What we are experiencing is the demand from people for a more innovative way of learning,” he said. “The population is aging, and there are more adults in the market looking to gain more education for all sorts of reasons.”




Before Open SUNY, adult students have been balancing life's responsibilities with their studies at Empire State College for over two decades through Open SUNY Plus. Busy with work and study was never easy, but the college’s online administrative and teaching experience and the state-wide online degree initiative Open SUNY is expected to make higher education more accessible.




“We know that an individual with a bachelor's degree will earn approximately a million more in their lifetime compared to a high school graduate,” Henahan said. “So that learning will help an individual get a better job, broaden the tax base, and get more money.”




Open SUNY will host eight online degrees as well as online courses that originate from its 64 campuses across the state using a common set of online tools. Two of these degrees are coming from Empire State College as part of the initiative's initial rollout. One of the degree programs will be a bachelor’s in business, management and economics: human resources; and, the other, a bachelor’s in science, mathematics and technology: information systems.




Empire State College currently offers approximately 400 undergraduate and 100 graduate online courses. The average ages of its online undergraduate and graduate population are 35 and 40 years old, respectively.




“These people have lives, a family, building a career; so, they need school around their life,” Henahan said. “People across the country are looking to learn much differently and that learning has value. They don’t have the time and money to sit through it again. It is a convergence through which Empire State (College) and Open SUNY is all about. There's real demand.”




Today, about half of Empire State College’s 20,000 students study online, and many of the college’s 70,000 alumni have earned their associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees online, according to a press release of Empire State College.




Sandra Barkevich, Instructural Support Assistant at Empire State College, returned to school in 2010. She had a full-time job and two young children that were, and still are, involved in extracurricular activities in addition to participating on the Amsterdam Sea Rams swim team.




“Between work and getting the kids to swim practice five nights a week, going to a traditional school was out of the question,” Barkevich said. “Like so many other adults returning to college, I had to think outside of the box. Empire State College not only had a stellar reputation, but they were backed by SUNY. I could take courses on my own terms, and 'attend' classes when I was able to fit it into my busy schedule, even if that 'free' time happened to be at 10:30 p.m. after the kids were fast asleep or 4:30 a.m. before my husband and I had to get the kids up and ready for school.”




 Barkevich understood that returning to school would be an additional commitment, vying for time and attention; however, advancing in her job was not going to happen without a bachelor's degree, she said. With her family's support, she began her Bachelor of Science, Business and Economics degree through the Center for Distance Learning. After graduating from the program, she is now pursuing aMaster of Arts in Learning and Emerging Technologies program in the School for Graduate Studiesalso online.




“I loved my job and the company I was with, but could not see myself in the exact same position for the next 15-20 years, and it was clear that the only way to be considered for advancement would be to have a four-year degree,” Barkevich said. “So, I talked it over with my husband, who has been incredibly supportive, and with my kids, who were only nine and seven at the time, and made the decision to pursue a bachelor's degree.”




A similar motivation for pursuing a full-fledged online track in addition to being able wrap class lectures around a busy or unique schedule is for people who have been out of school for a number of years, is the possibility of customizing a learning atmosphere conducive to study.




To further explain, Mike Capobianco, now a graduate student at Long Island University, had not been in a classroom setting for almost ten years before returning at age 26. The thought of sitting in a lecture hall of students who were eight years younger was not appealing to him. In addition to that, Capobianco has anxiety. The ability to avoid a few sleepless nights and construct a suitable, calming environment either by himself or with others closer in age helped stop what might have ‘ended in disaster’ if he had chosen to enroll as a traditional student.




“Either I would have done bad in the classes or dropped out completely,” Capobianco said. “Instead, with the online studies, I was able to thrive, graduate with a 3.73 GPA and land a job that gave me health insurance. With that health insurance, I was able to see a doctor who has been successfully treating my anxiety, which has allowed me to attend graduate school in person, with no issues.”




As New York’s Department of Labor continues to coordinate with SUNY, more is looking to be done about addressing workforce needs and interests. Additional plans for the Empire State College’s initiative is to create more opportunities for students to gain college credit for job-related programs through the college’s business partnerships.




Published in News


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