Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) officials and advocates designated last week (April 5) as PASSHE Advocacy Week.
Current students and alumni shared their stories of how the state-funded system of higher education opened doors for their lives and careers. Officials encouraged this to further advocate for funding and assistance from the state legislature. So, I figured I would share my own “PASSHE Story.”
When I was a kid, I knew I would eventually attend college. The potential career paths spanned a variety of ideas. I wanted to be a teacher, veterinarian, pediatrician, chef — all of these despite my disdain for chemistry, germs and lack of culinary genius.
As the child of educators, I saw first-hand what learning could do for a person. My parents (who are also products of the state system) instilled in me that learning and education are vital.
“They can physically take everything you have, but they cannot take your education.”
College would be the path, but by middle school I had not settled on any potential career end goals. My school made the eighth graders take a career aptitude test so we could be aware of what careers best suited our skills and mindsets.
My test results recommended I become a “sanitation engineer, teacher or nurse.”
I am not entirely sure what boxes or statements I agreed with to get those three distinct careers.
Fast forward to my junior year of high school, and I was still not 100% sure what I wanted to do. I excelled in my English classes (sans poetry and Shakespeare) and briefly reconsidered going into education. However, I quickly figured out that working all day with children and teenagers was not my calling.
Then someone recommended I look into the world of communication/journalism.
I always loved reading the local newspapers and watching the morning and evening news broadcasts. I was curious about the world around me, enjoyed helping others and serving the community.
Perhaps they were onto something.
I began researching the best journalism programs near Pennsylvania. The top choices were Temple University, Penn State University, Shippensburg University and a lot of programs in New York.
I knew Penn State would be too big, and my resume and lack of Nittany Lion connections would hinder my ability to get into the main campus.
I liked the idea of Temple, merely because I could live in the city and attend Philadelphia Phillies and Flyers’ games. My parents were unsure about sending me to live in Philly, as I grew up in the farmlands of Lancaster County.
I scheduled a visit to SU to see what the school had to offer. Some of my extended family lives in the area, so I had passed the signs on I-81 for my entire life.
One visit was all I needed to know — SU offered an accredited communication/journalism program that is of the same caliber as Penn State and Temple. But at SU I could get involved as soon as I stepped foot onto campus, an opportunity my peers at the “big” schools were unlikely to be awarded until their junior or senior years.
The faculty-to-student ratio was low, and I knew I would not be “just another number.” My professors would know who I was, my interests, my strengths and my weaknesses. The campus was close to home, but not too close to home. The state system tuition was also much more appealing than the “big” and out-of-state schools.
SU offered me the opportunity to dive head-first into student media. As a senior approaching graduation, having experiences to fill my resume are everything. My resume is bursting thanks to the opportunities I took advantage of at SU.
This state school allowed the girl who was once unsure of what her future held to develop into a confident journalist ready to tell the stories of the world.
Our alumni, legislators and state system leaders must fight for the next generations of students so they may have the same opportunity to tap into their full potential.