First-generation college student Hailey Carey thought Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s smaller size would be ideal for making the move to college—and she couldn’t be happier with her decision to attend.
“I didn’t know what to expect from college. I wanted to be more comfortable and have an easier transition. That’s why I chose a campus close to me,” said Carey, a first-year student.
The Shickshinny resident and graduate of Northwest Area High School liked the idea of small class sizes and personal relationships that are a key component of the Penn State Wilkes-Barre experience.
“My high school classes had probably 20 students and I knew Penn State Wilkes-Barre had small classes, too,” Carey said. “I wanted to be able to talk to my professors and ask questions. I like having that support overall, especially for making the transition to college.”
Her parents were “super excited” by her decision to attend Penn State and now tell people, “We’re Penn State parents now,” Carey relayed. She also has a sister in high school whom she looks forward to guiding through her college transition.
“Even though she will also be a first-generation student, she will have a little more help because her older sister went to college,” she said.
Carey knew of Penn State’s reputation for excellent academics along with the millions of dollars the students raise to battle childhood cancers through THON, as she had participated in a mini-THON at her high school. And she thought Penn State’s 2+2 plan would provide her with the college experience she was seeking, as she has set some high aspirations for herself.
Although she is in her first year, Carey has already become involved in many campus activities, taking advantage of the many opportunities a smaller campus like Penn State Wilkes-Barre provides. Her campus involvement has also provided a network of support both academically and personally.
“I get to have the experience of going from a smaller campus to University Park,” Carey said. “I will get to have both experiences and have a great school name behind me when I graduate.”
She opted to major in business management and plans to pursue law school. She hopes to own and operate her own law firm in the future and has found guidance from Erin Brennan, assistant teaching professor of business and a former lawyer.
“This major offers so much flexibility and you can apply it to any field,” Carey said. “If, for whatever reason, law school doesn’t work out, I will have the flexibility to apply my business knowledge to other fields.”
“It’s great learning about where people came from and the advice they have to offer. Because Erin Brennan used to be a lawyer, like I hope to be, she had a lot to share with me. I found her to be influential in the best way: helping me get involved on campus and supporting me and my goals,” Carey said.
Erin Brennan said, “Hailey is an energetic, intelligent and engaged student leader. She is open-minded, thoughtful, eager to learn and driven to make the world a better place. This is only her second semester on campus, and she has already developed into a great example of academic excellence and campus involvement.”
Carey described her campus involvement as “diving right in” her first semester, joining both the Lion Ambassadors and THON. She became president of the Lion Ambassadors this semester and enjoys working at campus open houses and giving tours to prospective students and their families. She also serves as chair of Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s THON committee, boosting the campus’ efforts to raise money for the annual event. In addition to her studies and extracurricular activities, Carey works at an ice cream shop from late spring through early fall and had a seasonal retail job over the holidays.
Alex Ellsworth, enrollment services specialist, is adviser for the Lion Ambassadors and praised Carey for her role with the club.
“Lion Ambassadors is an important club on our campus. These students serve the Admissions Office in a variety of ways, but most importantly as tour guides for prospective students when they visit campus,” Ellsworth said. “The ideal ambassador needs to be outgoing and is someone who can think on their feet and is a true go-getter. Hailey embodies these qualities and, in fact, exemplifies them in her role as our club president.”
In addition to guidance from club leaders, Carey has also received support and encouragement from other members of the campus community, including her peers and faculty members such as Ann Brennan, associate teaching professor of English.
“I really like the close sense of community here and being able to know the majority of people. It’s really comfortable and not overwhelming. I also like the history of Hayfield House,” Carey said. “Ann Brennan was very supportive and I felt like she was someone who wanted to hear what I had to say. She helped me feel I could be more open, especially being so new to college.”
During her brief time in college so far, Carey has dealt with several personal challenges, including a fire at her mother’s home, where Carey lived part time.
“My mom was home by herself but got out safely. Our three cats also got out but are still missing,” Carey said. “It’s been hard to go through and totally threw my world upside down. I didn’t know how I was going to help my mom.”
She relied on the backing of the Penn State Wilkes-Barre community during those challenging times and was able to thrive despite adversity, achieving a 4.0 grade-point average and being named to the fall semester dean’s list.
She said she is grateful for the care she was shown by the community and her friends.
“I think going to school was a way to get my mind off things while focusing on my studies,” Carey said. “I felt support here. The community has also been extremely supportive of my mom and we are thankful for that. The whole situation really made me count my blessings.”
As she continues her studies and eventually moves on to University Park, the connections Carey has developed and the lessons she has learned at Penn State Wilkes-Barre will stay with her.