Suffern, NY – January 24, 2024 – Rockland Community College (RCC) is proud to announce an upcoming ceremony to present a rehabilitated car to Michael J. Finlay, a Navy veteran and Engineering Science student at RCC. This event is made possible thanks to the generous donation of the vehicle by the Rockland County Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the collective efforts of several donors who contributed to the car’s restoration.
- What: Car Award Ceremony for RCC Navy Veteran
- Who: Rockland Community College, Rockland County Veterans of Foreign Wars, Rockland County Veteran Service Agency
- When: Friday, January 26, 2024, at 1 PM
- Where: Front section of the RCC Fieldhouse, Lower Level, Rockland Community College
The Rockland County Veterans Service Agency, in partnership with the VFW, has a longstanding program dedicated to rehabilitating donated cars and offering them to veterans in need. This marks the inaugural ceremony held at RCC, and the fundraiser generated over $3,000 for upgrades to the 2005 Toyota Corolla LE. The car was donated and anonymously rehabbed, with the cost of the rehabilitation shared by the VFW and funds raised in April 2023.
Dr. Lester Sandres Rápalo, President of Rockland Community College, expressed immense pride in supporting Navy veteran and RCC student Michael J. Finlay, emphasizing the significance of this gesture as a testament to their commitment to his academic and personal success. He extended heartfelt gratitude to all involved, including the Rockland County Veterans of Foreign Wars, donors, RCC Veteran Affairs, and the organizers.
Michael John Finlay served in the US Navy from 2007 to 2012, receiving an Honorable Discharge with the rank of Machinist Mate 2nd class. He was deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012. Currently enrolled in the RCC General Engineering program, he resides in Fishkill, New York, and is a single father of two children. Finlay is also a member of the RCC chapter of SALUTE, the National Veterans Honor Society.
Due to the failure of his own car last fall, Finlay’s ability to commute to and from school and properly care for his children was hindered. Jonathan Barnwell, Assistant Director of Veterans Affairs at RCC, stepped in with a grant from the Joseph P. Dwyer Vet2Vet Program in Dutchess County, which provided funds for a weekly car service to help Michael complete the semester at RCC. Michael continued his studies remotely for the Summer and Fall 2023 semester.
Michael Finlay expressed deep gratitude to the Rockland County VFW, donors, and coordinators for this tremendous blessing, emphasizing the importance of pursuing higher education for veterans and the support available for their journey.
The ceremony will be attended by key individuals, including Michael John Finlay, Susan Branam (Director of the Rockland County Veteran Service Agency), Guy Gebbia (Rockland County Veterans of Foreign Wars), Jonathan Barnwell, Matthew Konecni (co-organizer of the fundraising event), Kristin Ozanian (co-organizer of the fundraising event), and Irene Delgado, PhD (Chief of Staff of the President’s Office at Rockland Community College).