Syracuse Firefighter Tamica Barnett Delivers Keynote Address

For 20 years, On Point for College has helped transition students to and beyond post-secondary education. On Point is critical to helping students in our city and the state overcome barriers to higher education. One of those stories includes Syracuse Fire Department firefighter Tamica Barnett, who gave On Point’s Keynote address at their 20th Anniversary.

Barnett is an 8-year firefighter with the City of Syracuse. She is one of four women of color in the Fire Department and one of few women in the department to be assigned to a Truck Company. Barnett is a mother to 11-year-old AJ and volunteers regularly with the PTO at HW Smith K-8 School, Biddy Basketball and F.O.C.U.S (Firefighters of Color United in Syracuse).

On April 5th, hundreds attended On Point for College’s 20th Anniversary Celebration to hear countless stories from alumnae who hosted and produced the evening program. Current and former students who, with the support of volunteers, went on to serve in careers across the state including with the city of Syracuse.

“We support our students from application through graduation and beyond, empowering them to fulfill their dreams and achieve their potential, benefiting both the individual and our community,” says

From left to right: Nakeia Chambers, Tamica Barnett, Sheena Soloman, and
Megan Wagner-Flynn

Tamica Barnett is one of those stories, she shared her upbringing on Croly Street on the Eastside of Syracuse and finding a 2nd home at the East Fayette Street Boys & Girls Club as transformational moments in her life. She and her friends were more focused on heading to the WNBA, not considering college as a back-up plan or an option at all. Barnett eventually met and developed a relationship with Ginny Donahue who began On Point in 1999 in the trunk of her vehicle. The relationship opened up conversations about SAT, college, and a life plan.

“Although College was the best four years of my life, it was also the most challenging years of my life. I didn’t have a lot of family support at the time. On-Point served as my family. Most students had their parents dropping them off and picking them up; Sam Rowser took me to school my freshman year, and he didn’t leave until he was assured that I had everything I needed. Most students received food packages from their parents. When I needed food, I called Ginny- and she always answered.”

As the demand for Sam and Ginny’s time spread between a growing number of enrolled students, the volunteers who stepped in as drivers and packers became equal mentors and anchors in students’ lives.

“I was connected to two amazing women that are still in my life today: Lisa Moore and Katie Doucette,” said Barnett. “These women did way more than provide rides back and forth to St. Bonaventure; they are my mentors and friends. Katie happens to be one of the best packers I’ve ever seen in my life. She was able to fit my entire apartment in the hatch of her car. Lisa is a natural nurturer. There were times she would pick me up, take a good look at me, and pull over to the nearest rest stop so we could grab a bite to eat. She knew I was hungry, I didn’t have any money, and I was too embarrassed to ask.”

During her address, Barnett noted that while she may be able to pay Katie and Lisa back for lunch, she can only pay forward their kindness and investment by doing the same for other youth. There, she found her passion and ways to contribute even through various community outreach efforts as a firefighter.

“My most memorable moment with On-Point was on Mother’s Day of my senior year. It was my graduation and my mother was unable to attend my graduation because she was incarcerated. Sam and his wife, Patrona, drove all the way to St. Bonaventure on Mother’s Day to watch me walk the stage.”

On Point for College was founded in Syracuse in 1999 in the trunk of Ginny Donahue’s car but stories like this and the needs that Ginny Dinahue and Sam Rowser fulfilled in their students have grown into a national success story. It is the region’s only holistic college access and success program supporting students from application to graduation and beyond. The unique support provided by On Point ranges from college admissions guidance and visits to a special orientation program, basic school supplies, and transportation to campus.

On Point for College Student Accomplishments in 20 Years

  • 7 graduates are employees of OPFC
  • In total, 96 staff have worked for On Point in 20 years, of that, 30 were On Point participants
  • Of 68 Board members over a 20 year period, 8 were On Point students
  • There are currently 20 members to the Board of Directors

How Many Students Has On Point for College Served

  • April  ’99 thru 04/01/2009  – 2103 students
  • 04/02/2009 thru 04/01/2019 – 9951 students
  • 2571 graduates to date
  • 3895 degrees
  • 3712 currently enrolled in college
  • 2688 are attending:
    • Onondaga Community College
    • Mohawk Valley Community College
    • Syracuse University
    • Le Moyne College
    • Utica College
    • Herkimer College
    • Buffalo State
    • SUNY Polytechnic University
    • SUNY Oswego University
    • Albany State University

“The [staff] who I’ve bought up here, they are worth your wisdom, your time, your money, and so much more. This is the best investment you will ever make,” said Barnett.

The money raised Friday night will help 133 students through this coming year of college, but the investment of time from volunteers will have returns far into the future.

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