The National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building (NVRC) recently hosted a proud moment for the City of Syracuse: the graduation ceremony of 24 probationary firefighters. The firefighters from the Syracuse Fire Department Regional Training Academy were…
Beyond the Badge: DPS Officer Grateful for Opportunity to Support Black Reign Step Team as Advisor
As the library operations coordinator for the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Officer George Wazen believes that sincerity, compassion and understanding are the keys to successfully engaging with the students he oversees as part of the library student floor monitoring program.
While he has many responsibilities, including providing security services for Bird Library, Belfer Audio Archives, Carnegie Library and the University Libraries’ facilities, Wazen’s favorite part is supervising the operational and administrative aspects of the floor monitoring program.
“Working with the floor monitor team definitely is the highlight of my day, every day; we have a certain bond that is built on trust and respect,” Wazen says. “Even though I serve as a sworn campus peace officer, my role is to guide, teach and mentor to help the students make good decisions and to serve as a gateway to all the resources that this great university has to offer.”
It’s all part of the commitment he and his colleagues in DPS share in working with students. “I get excited talking about my job, because at DPS, the department members share the same vision and are dedicated to the mission to protect and serve the University community,” he says.
Wazen oversees approximately 55 floor monitors at Bird Library every semester. It was through this program that he came to know members of the Black Reign Step Team. The organization, which started in 2005, aims to showcase the art of stepping through fellowship, discipline, unity and precision.
In 2018, members of the team approached Wazen to see if he would be willing to be their group advisor. “I was truly honored when I was asked to be the group advisor, as that shows the level of trust and respect we have for each other, and not to mention their belief that I have their best interest at heart,” Wazen says.
Originally from the Middle East, Wazen spent his early years between Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait. “Stepping” or “step dance” is a deeply rooted tradition in the many cultures of the Middle East and Africa, symbolizing unity and collaboration, in movement, chants and attire.
Growing up, “I recall at every celebration the family elders would line up and teach the youth different steps and chants,” Wazen says.
Being a group advisor comes with several duties and responsibilities that Wazen proudly fulfills, including having a clear understanding of the mission of the student organization; attending group activities; providing guidance in budgeting, programming and member development; encouraging students to take advantage of opportunities that will enhance their leadership abilities; and providing feedback to the students.
Kayla Covington ’20, former president of Black Reign, appreciated Wazen as he guided the team in many ways.
“He didn’t just put his name on everything for official reasons, he really was an integral part of it,” Covington says. “He would make recommendations for opportunities for our team community service hours; assist with connecting us with other multicultural organizations who were willing to collaborate with us; assisted with navigating budgeting and funding group expenses; and always encouraged us to follow our motto of ‘go hard or go hard.’”
Wazen is always impressed by their work and their engagement with the larger community.
“The Black Reign Step Team tirelessly seeks to perfect a complex performance through a synchronized percussive movement. The team has three-hour practice sessions, two to three times a week,” Wazen says. “The Black Reign Step Team is very much involved with the University community and greater Syracuse community as well, as they preform and showcase the beautiful art of stepping.”
For their work and engagement, Black Reign was recently honored as a recipient of the Orange Circle Awards, which recognizes individuals who go above and beyond in their daily lives and who possess a deep responsibility for philanthropic acts.
Black Reign was honored for the team member’s volunteer work at the Southside Academy Charter School, helping members of the school’s girls’ step team improve their performances. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Black Reign hosted a banquet, with proceeds benefitting Southside’s step team.
Additionally, in 2018, Black Reign members collaborated with local musician Hughie Stone Fish on a music video depicting the beauty of the Syracuse community while showcasing the area in a positive light. They have also performed at the annual OttoTHON Dance Marathon to raise money for the Golisano Center for Special Needs at SUNY Upstate Medical University, which provides services to children with disabilities from all across Upstate New York.
Wazen proudly accepted the Orange Circle Award on the team’s behalf and shared words of pride and encouragement to other groups to be inspired from the award.
In November, Wazen will be starting his 16th year of service at the University, and he looks forward to “the challenge to leave a positive impression on every first-year class and every graduating class.”
“Every student and every semester has a different circumstance, and being a factor in aiding all the pieces to come together is a wonderful thing,” Wazen says. “Every year many alumni reach out to me by phone or email or come back to visit to update me on their status, their struggles and their accomplishments and that is something I truly cherish.”