Q&A with Alumna Jordan Cimilluca '15

Austin Simon '15 and Jordan Cimilluca ‘15, during a SUNY Geneseo Relay For Life event.

Austin Simon '15 and Jordan Cimilluca ‘15, during a SUNY Geneseo Relay For Life event. (SUNY Geneseo photo/Keith Walters)

Jordan Cimilluca '15  is a senior community development manager at the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Rochester, NY. She partners to organize cancer awareness and fundraising events with student organizations at area colleges. While a student at SUNY Geneseo, Cimilluca joined the student group, Colleges Against Cancer, where she served as the Relay For Life chair as a junior, and as the club’s president during her senior year.  

Geneseo’s Relay for Life event ranks as the largest in the Rochester area for fundraising, as well as the largest in New York State. The Geneseo event is among the top 25 Relay for Life events nationally and has won several national Relay for Life Awards. This year’s Relay For Life will take place on Saturday, April 14, 2018.

Heather Molzon, a senior creative writing major, recently asked Cimilluca about her experiences with Relay For Life as both a college student and now as a professional organizer and fundraiser with the American Cancer Society.

Q: What is a day like at the American Cancer Society?

A: I am considered the college specialist at my office because I get to work as a “staff partner” with area colleges on Relay For Life, Colleges Against Cancer clubs (CAC), and other events that colleges and universities host. Some of my best days are when I get to go to a campus for the day and meet with volunteers. I help train student organizers.  We plan together and go over their fundraising goals. 

Q: Why did you pursue a career with at the American Cancer Society?

A: Well, I had trouble picking a major in college, and even after I decided on psychology I was still unsure of what I wanted to do. I loved planning Relay For Life during my Junior year, and I had an incredible ACS staff partner, Amanda Flannery, who graduated from Geneseo in 2009. During the summer before my senior year, I had the opportunity to go to an ACS national conference, and that’s when I realized I could do this as my career. So, during my senior year, I threw myself into Relay For Life, and I interned at the American Cancer Society in Rochester where I got to know a lot of the people. I was lucky enough to get Amanda’s position as a senior community development manager when she landed a new position.

Q: Why did you get involved in Relay For Life and CAC at Geneseo?

A: I got involved with Relay For Life because, like most people, I was personally affected. My dad’s best friend and his wife both got cancer and passed away within one year of each other, and my grandpa is a cancer survivor. I saw how difficult both outcomes are and I was not okay with either. I went to the student activities fair my freshman year specifically to find Colleges Against Cancer. I signed up for the first meeting; from there it was history. The club was a lot smaller when I first started, but people were really friendly and I fell in love with it.

Q: How did being involved in CAC enrich your college experience?

A: CAC helped me develop leadership skills. I would not be the leader that I am today without the opportunities CAC provided. We treated it like a business and we behaved very professionally. It required a lot of organizational and teamwork skills. We were very serious, but it was so much fun, and I made some of my best friends there. I feel like I majored in CAC with a minor in fundraising. 

Q: Why do you Relay? 

A: I Relay for so many reasons. I Relay because one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime — I don’t want that to be anyone. One in three women will get some form of cancer, half of all men will get cancer in their lifetime. More and more people are surviving, which is incredible — two in three people survive — but we want to make that three out of three. I believe in the American Cancer Society, and I see the impact that they have in the global fight to end cancer. 

Q: Why is Relay important on college campuses?

A: We at the ACS believe that we can be the generation to end cancer. Almost every student has been affected by cancer. The number of people I meet whose parents have had cancer always astounds me. When I ask people why they Relay, a majority of them say, “My mom had cancer when I was X age,” “My mom has cancer right now,” or “My grandpa,” “My friend.” It is rare for a college student to have not been affected. 

Q: Do you have any advice for Geneseo students? 

A: For incoming first-year students, my advice would be to find a club when you get to college that you feel at home with and that you are passionate about. Even if you’re passionate about your major, find another passion in a club. It can lead to really awesome things, like a job! I think there is pressure to get involved in a lot of different things, especially coming out of high school, but focusing on that one thing that you love has its benefits.

Q: How does it feel to work with Geneseo students to put on Relay For Life?

A: First and foremost, it’s amazing because Geneseo students are obsessed with it—like I was. Relay For Life at Geneseo is a culture. The students have incredible passion, and they are all so smart, hardworking, and driven. It is the dream experience to work with Geneseo. There is also a lot of pride I have because it is a program that I poured my soul into. To watch people who care and who make it better is an amazing feeling. I worked with some of the seniors when they were first-years, so to watch them grow and develop into the leaders that they are today and the knowledge they have acquired about the American Cancer Society and Relay For Life is great. 

Q: Why do you think Geneseo remains among the top-earning collegiate Relay For Life teams?

A: There are a couple of reasons. First of all, Relay For Life is a culture at Geneseo. It is something everyone knows about, they talk about it on campus tours, and we have an incredible group of people that run the event every year. Setting people up for success is so important to this event, so creating strong leaders for the next year is a huge part of Geneseo’s success. Then, of course, Geneseo is just a special place. Whatever happens and in all they do, the campus always comes together, and Relay for Life is no exception.