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Senior year in high school, I remember getting called to my guidance counselor’s office to discuss colleges. I’ll never forget her asking me where I had applied. My response was, Penn State Wilkes-Barre. When I said that she sat there and waited for me to keep going, waiting for the names of the other places I had applied to. When she finally asked where else, I responded “oh that’s it”. Similar to my mother a few nights prior, my guidance counselor encouraged me to apply to more than one college. She then went on to explain how she had many friends who were graduates of Penn State and that she sincerely hoped I was accepted. I remember her saying “it’s almost as if you’re a part of this huge family when you graduate – they all bleed Blue & White” In a state of confusion, I never realized how much that statement would eventually mean to me.
In the spring of 2010, I attended an open house at Penn State Wilkes-Barre and fell in love with the campus. Afterwards, I realized one of the things that impressed me the most was the Lion Ambassador giving me the tour of the campus. Throughout the entire tour, he walked backwards! I kept thinking to myself if I join any organization, it’s going to be Lion Ambassadors.
During my New Student Orientation over the summer, I and all of the other first year students attending were asked to stand and go down to the front of the auditorium for an ice breaker. I’ll never forget how I said as little as possible about myself, being nervous in the front of the auditorium, interacting with peers I hadn’t met before.
My first class on my very first day was CAS 100 - an introductory class on communication and speech. Oh boy, the nerves started kicking in when I was reading through the syllabus – seeing a total of 6 speeches in front of the class! Even more nerve racking? When we introduced ourselves I realized I was the only freshman in the class.
My second day of college I attended a club fair where I joined Lion Ambassadors and Students for Justice. My career goal when shopping for colleges was to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a field related to criminal justice. When in high school I’ll never forget going to Disney World - I had apprehension getting on a plane, but when actually on it and in the air, I loved it! I started looking into careers where I could fly while following my passion for law enforcement. I came across a position within the federal government for a Federal Air Marshall – perfect! Knowing Students for Justice would open doors for me to meet others in my major, I considered it to be beneficial.
The first Lion Ambassador meeting I attended, I sat in the back of the room and didn’t talk to anyone. When the meeting was over I left, telling myself I would never come back. I didn’t believe it to be a good fit for me. However, this nagging voice in my head told me to go back the following week and I’ve never looked back! Throughout the course of my freshman year I got to assist with on campus events, allowing me to meet and interact with numerous students, staff, faculty, and administrators. During my first year alone I could tell from being involved and giving campus tours, interacting with prospective students and their families, my confidence rose. That confidence became the gateway for me to join other clubs and organizations.
In my four years at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, I was a part of the campus’ Student Support Services. One of the great things about this program is the mentor each new student to the program is assigned. I was assigned a knowledgeable, extremely helpful mentor – we had a great relationship where I could always ask questions. The year following, I became a mentor and stuck with it until graduating from the program. I always thought back to my freshman year mentor – he become someone I tried to model when I was a mentor myself.
During my senior year, Career Services piloted a mentoring program with alumni and community leaders paired with undergraduate students. Being part of the program’s inaugural class, I remember sitting at the opening dinner listening to one of the mentors relate a story that has stuck with me to this day. As a boy, this gentleman had attended a funeral with his father. Looking at the tombstone of the recently deceased, he saw many pieces of information – the person’s name, their title in life, and their birthdate. The boy’s father asked him, “Do you know what the most important thing on that tombstone is?” The boy shook his head. His father replied, “The dash.” He meant of course the dash between the birth and death dates. The boy looked at his father, puzzled. His father continued, “The dash represents what they did with their time on this earth.” To this day, that story has stuck with me – I try to live each day making my dash matter.
Half way through my senior year, I remember thinking I could see myself working for the University. I found myself thinking back to the conversation with my guidance counselor in high school. Bleeding Blue & White - it all began to make sense to me. I now bled blue and white.
Today, I hold the position of Assistant Director of Admissions at Penn State Altoona. On a daily basis, I get to share my Penn State story with prospective students and their families. I travel to recruit prospective students and advise the campus’ student multicultural advisory recruitment team. I still hold my position as an Alumni Advisor to the Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Blue & White Society and also serve as a mentor to three students through the campus’ Career Services. I now do daily presentations to large groups and there isn’t a nervous bone in my body, coming a long way from my CAS 100 days.
I am very fortunate for my college experiences. Without them I know I wouldn’t be where I am today – making my dash matter at Penn State!