WXXI AM News

Veronica Volk

Great Lakes Reporter/Producer

Veronica Volk is the Great Lakes Reporter/Producer for WXXI News, exploring environmental and economic issues, water, and wildlife throughout the region for radio, television, and the web.

Previously, she worked general assignment for the newsroom, covering everything from medical marijuana dispensaries to the photonics industry. She is also producer and co-host of the true-crime podcast Finding Tammy Jo along with Gary Craig of the Democrat and Chronicle.

Veronica got her start as an enterprise reporter in the Bronx for WFUV Public Radio, and later became the senior producer of their weekly public affairs show Cityscape. She holds a B.A. in Communication and Media Studies from Fordham University and is originally from the Jersey Shore, which is nothing like how it is portrayed on MTV.

Ways to Connect

Veronica Volk / Great Lakes Today

In the Great Lakes region, toxic algae blooms are a big problem. Every summer, they leave a green sheen on parts of the Great Lakes – and on many smaller lakes. New York State has a new campaign to find solutions. But some question the approach.

In his lab at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, Greg Boyer stands beside his mass spectrometer. This machine is analyzing the chemical makeup of algae samples, specifically, those that produce deadly toxins.

Malinda Ruit/WXXI News

People like Jonathan Jackson tend to have an entourage. An entourage can consist of professionals and family members who support someone with disabilities in all kinds of ways.

Often, family members do the bulk of caregiving, and as children grow up, questions arise: What will adulthood look like for them? Who will lead their future entourage? 

Veronica Volk/WXXI News

When Akin Johnson was nearing the end of high school, he was clear about what he wanted to do next. He wanted to get a job.

In recent years, there has been a push to get people with disabilities into the general workforce. But despite these initiatives, some students like Akin who aspire to work are running into a problem. They’re being told they’re not independent enough to make it in a work environment.

Malinda Ruit/WXXI News

Sheltered workshops, where many people with disabilities go to work, have been around for decades.

But they’re controversial for a few reasons: They’re usually segregated, and most workers earn less than minimum wage because they’re paid based on how many things they produce.

Sheltered workshops are changing now, though. Some are being phased out, and some are integrating into more traditional businesses — whether people who are working in them like it or not.

People have been asking about the name of this podcast.

Reporter Karen Shakerdge talked to lots of people for this series; listen to how some of them describe what "Exited" means.

Also, stay tuned afterward for a preview of the third episode.

Karen Shakerdge/WXXI News

Going to college can be a key experience in a young person's life, leading to friendships, personal growth, a degree — and, of course, future employment.

The number of college-based programs for students with intellectual disabilities is growing across the country, and they often provide many of those benefits — except for a traditional degree. In the second episode of Exited, meet three young people as they leave college experiences for the real world.

Karen Shakerdge/WXXI News

In the first episode of Exited, explore an early factor in transition – graduation tracks – through the experience of 17-year-old Nate, a student who doesn’t quite fit on any one track.

High school plays a huge part in determining what happens next in a young person's life. And for students like Nate, it can get even more complicated.

What does a dairy cow have to do with keeping the environment healthy? At the recent Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Buffalo people were invited to witness that connection first hand -- and how it played into one farmer’s economic survival.


Julie Cataldo is strapped into a harness as she sits in her wheelchair just a few feet from the edge of the Erie Canal. A hydraulic lift hoists her from the chair and swings her out over the water.

The lift lowers her into a kayak, and its operator adjusts her seat.


Wegmans

Wegmans is experimenting with new, heartier produce, and new ways of growing it, on over 200 acres of organic farmland and orchards, and they plan to pass that knowledge on to local farmers.

On the top of a hill, on a plot overlooking Canandaigua Lake, Wegmans Organic Farm and Orchard is growing 1800 cherry tomato plants. Some varieties are more popular than others.

Nate August, the farm's manager, pulls at a golf-ball sized Sakura tomato. He says customers haven't been wild about these bigger varieties. Turn out, people like tinier tomatoes.

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