As one of only two Penn State campuses with a Student Success Services department, Penn State Wilkes-Barre stands proud celebrating 20 years of making a difference to students who need it the most.
By: Rachel Olszewski
In 1997, a gallon of gasoline would run you $1.22. Tamagotchis were the most popular toys. Madeline Albright became the first female Secretary of State in United States history. Dolly the sheep is the first successfully cloned mammal. The first Harry Potter book was published. Many students attending Penn State Wilkes-Barre were not yet born or were still in diapers. And Student Success Services began their work in the areas of academic support, career counseling, and out-of-class learning activities.
Student Success Services (SSS), a TRIO federal grant program, aims to increase college retention, graduation rates, and career options for first-generation college students, those from low-income families, the physically challenged, and students with learning disabilities. One of two Penn State campuses to have a Student Success Services department, Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s SSS Coordinator, Patty Staskiel knows that her time serving students can make all the difference in their lives.
“There is no better feeling than to see a student gain confidence in her abilities, or realize that he has the knowledge to complete a task that once would have seemed insurmountable,” explains Staskiel. “The small changes and the big changes, they all bring me feelings of great satisfaction. Knowing that we made a difference; you just can’t beat that.”
SSS Academic Counselor, Gail Stevens agrees.
“We are here to guide students to be successful in a variety of ways. Seeing that first year student evolve and begin to see their self- confidence grow, seeing a student overcome challenges and be successful is the best part of my job.”
“Our students come in as nervous freshmen and they bloom into responsible, career oriented adults,” states Administrative Assistant, Pat Arcangeli.
Current SSS student, Courtney Snow is already realizing her potential through the SSS program.
“SSS is helping me thrive at Penn State. Last year, I was stuck on how much time to commit to school and how much time to commit to work. Pat suggested that I apply for work study. Now I’m able to say I don’t have to worry if I’m spending enough time on campus or at work. It’s a weight off my shoulders.”
Federally funded and implemented by the United States Department of Education, Student Success Services is unfortunately plagued with their own set of challenges on a daily basis.
“The biggest challenge in running SSS is balancing the time necessary to meet the many requirements of the US Department of Education and the time spent working to get and then keep student involvement,” explains Staskiel. “Our students today are pulled in so many directions; along with their classwork, they have jobs, they join other clubs, they have family responsibilities. Some commute lengthy distances to campus. Everyone is competing for student attention. We know the benefits the students gain when they regularly participate in SSS, but we also understand that sometimes there isn’t enough time to go around.”
But challenges do not deter Staskiel and her staff in their core mission of commitment to the students of Penn State Wilkes-Barre.
“Right now I feel that we are under the radar within our campus community. We don’t want to be the best kept secret on campus! Many of our students are involved with other campus and community groups and organizations and we encourage them to share stories of their SSS experiences with others.”
Details on a platinum anniversary celebration for SSS, to be held in Spring 2018, will be forthcoming.