Pet Wall Connects New Students to Home

Ava Pascalar holds a photo of a cat, Athena, in front of the pet wall in the residence hall.

Ava Pascalar, supervising janitor (SUNY Geneseo/ Kris Dreessen)

Each Fall, new first-year students move into Onondaga Hall, often living away from home for the first time. Supervising janitor Ava Pascalar meets them all.

"The first thing I ask them is, 'Are you nervous?' And they always say 'yes," says Pascalar. "I tell them that everyone walking through the door feels the same. Then I ask them if they have pets at home, and that nervousness goes away when they tell me about them."

Pascalar's office—equipped with a printer—is just inside the hall's main entrance. She invites the students to bring in or send her a photo of their cat, dog, goldfish, gecko, or you-name-it pet to add to her "Our Pets" wall for everyone to see.

On this day, Pascalar has a small stack of new submissions to tape up, including Athena, a tiger kitty, posing on a stool and a picture of pups Queso and Taquito sitting beside one another, looking out a window. Pawla, Ava's Weimaraner, got "snapped" with his face in a milkshake. These beloved fur babies are joined by dozens of other pets, including dog photos submitted by University Police officers.

Pascalar highlights a pet of the month as well as pets that have passed on, and photographs the wall of photos each year as a keepsake.

Pascalar joined the cleaning crew at Geneseo 25 years ago. She says becoming friends with students through the years is one of her most treasured memories. Some write to her after graduation. She says students cheered her on by shouting "Go Ava!" out their windows when she transfered to her Onondaga position.

She says it means so much to help students adjust to college life and be happy, and she loves to get to know them. When her son RJ enlisted in the Armed Forces, she hoped there was a kind face to greet him, too.

"These students are our future. They are away from home for the first time," says Pascalar. "I get that nurturing feeling and need to make them part of my posse. It brings me such joy."


Kris Dreessen
Manager of Editorial Services
(585) 245-5516