Category Archives: Central Penn College in the Community

Central Penn Valedictorian Tells Graduates not to Fear Failure

It is Part of Becoming a Success

Editor’s note: This story is Central Penn 2017 valedictorian Morgan Gerz’s speech to her graduating class, and all others, assembled in the Forum in Harrisburg on May 12 for graduation.

 Morgan Gerz headshotBy Morgan Gerz

Special to the Knightly News



My name is Morgan Gerz.

I am one of 240 students that are here graduating tonight. And just one of the 400 students that are in our graduating class.

Most of you I have never met, but I do know we have something in common: We are all successful.

I am your class valedictorian, and I am also a failure.

The path to success

I got an F on my term paper in 11th-grade English class.

My senior culminating project in high school was a complete disaster.

I lost the game for my soccer team in the league championship because I missed the final penalty kick in overtime.

I begged my sister to move to California with me, which she did, and then I only lasted eight months because I was homesick.

Central Penn College is actually the fourth college I’ve attended.

I got my associate degree at one, and the other two would make me a two-time college drop-out.

These moments in my life can be called failures, because:

  •  I did not succeed in what I set out to do
  • My performance fell short.
  • Expectations were not met.

What is failure, and what does success mean?

            Failure. It is a lack of success.

            Failure. It is a scary word.

            Failure. It is reality. It is inevitable.

And it is a risk we must take if we ever want to succeed.

History tells us that failure is essential to success.

Great people have embraced failure. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Michael Jordan, Henry Ford – they have all failed.

Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Winston Churchill wisely stated: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Those of you sitting here in your cap and gown risked failure every time you stepped into the classroom, every time you turned in an assignment, every time you took an exam.

You risked failing in order to be where you sit today.

Different paths, same destination

We have all taken a different journey to get here.

When we leave here today, we will all go our separate ways.

But, today our failures have been overtaken by this unique moment in time, because today, we have succeeded. Today, we graduate.

So, class of 2017, congratulations, and I bid you farewell with a challenge. When you depart from Central Penn College and begin your next stage in life, I ask you to remember three Fs. And, no, none of them are failure.

Remember the three Fs

First, don’t forget to have “fun,” because you have most certainly earned it.

Second, be “fierce.” I love this word because it is so powerful. And you now have the power to do things and make a difference. Don’t run from fear, because I believe that having fears and facing those fears are what will ultimately make us stronger.

And third, have “faith” in yourself. Have faith that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, faith that you will overcome failure.

I mean, just take a look around at where we are. That gown you’re wearing? And that tassel hanging down?


And however long it took you, whatever path you took to get here, however many failed attempts it took, what matters in the end – what matters today – is that you did it, you are a graduate.

Congratulations, Central Penn College Class of 2017.

May your successes and accomplishments always be bigger than your failures.

Thank you.

To comment on this story, or to suggest a story, contact the

Edited by Media Club Co-adviser Prof. Michael Lear-Olimpi.

Gerz majored in accounting. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree. The Knightly News thanks her for her contribution to our blog, and wishes her luck in her future endeavors. Photo courtesy of Morgan Gerz.

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Miller Named Faculty Member of the Quarter

Media club co-adviser calls honor the ‘finest moment’ of his career

By Sherri Long

Knightly News Reporter

Prof. Paul Miller, co-adviser of the Knightly News Media Club at Central Penn College, received the college’s Faculty Member of the Quarter Award for the spring term (second quarter) last month.

The award recognizes “positive attitude toward work responsibilities, co-workers, students, and customers, and your willingness to take initiative for the good of the campus community,” according to the college’s description.

The award was Miller’s first at Central Penn.

New Paul pic

Professor Paul Miller with his Faculty Member of the Quarter Award certificate.  Photo by Sy Pinthong

“I had no idea that I’d even been nominated and found out in a Humanities and Sciences department meeting that I had won,” Miller said. “It is one of the highest honors a Central Penn College faculty (member) can achieve. I am truly honored that my department values me and my efforts.”

Candidates for the award are nominated by peers.

An excerpt of Miller’s nomination said, “Paul works tirelessly to help and aid students, advise the Knightly News Media Club, and build up the reputation and resources of the College. He bleeds Central Penn maroon and orange. I can think of no one more deserving of this award.”

Miller said receiving the award means a lot to him, professionally and personally.

“This, without a doubt, is the finest moment of my career,” he said. “Personally, the fact that I have the opportunity to spend my career with Central Penn College is amazing. It really means the world to me to have such supportive and caring colleagues that I get to work with every day.”

To comment on this story, or to suggest a story idea, contact the

Edited by Knightly News co-adviser Prof. Michael Lear-Olimpi.

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The Knightly News Podcast Welcomes The Cast of Truth and Professor Maria Thiaw

The third annual student-created play opens May 17

By Darren Greene and Paul Miller

In the first segment of the podcast, Central Penn College Theater Director Janet Bixler along with some of the cast joins the Knightly News to discuss her upcoming student-created play.

Spring is kicking in and the third annual student-created play is back at the Capital BlueCross Theatre.

Last year, the production was “Dreams and Nightmares.” This year, the play is entitled “Truth.”

The play is centered around a small group of friends that all deny their truth about themselves.

We are all eager to see how “Truth” plays out with this cast of students.

Show times are from May 17-19, starting at 7:30 p.m., and May 20 for a matinee showing, starting at 2:30 p.m.

Ticket price is $3 for students and $5 for general admission and tickets are available at the box office or online.

The box office will open one hour prior to the show and online tickets along with additional information about the show are available here.

In the second segment of the podcast, the Knightly News is joined by Professor Maria Thiaw to talk about the American Griot Project that she has been working on over the last two years.

During her time on the show, she discusses what the American Griot Project is and how she envisions the future of the project.

To learn more about the project, you can go to Thiaw’s blog about the topic and find out how you can help.

In addition, Thiaw discusses the club she advises, the Knight Writers, a creative writing club on campus that promotes self-expression.

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Podcast Episode 23 Features Women’s Leadership Conference Organizer

The conference comes to Central Penn College on April 24.

By Paul Miller

Knightly News Co-Adviser

The Knightly News is proud to release our newest podcast, featuring two female leaders on the Central Penn College campus.

The first segment of the show features Rubina Azizdin of Career Services to discuss next week’s Women’s Leadership Conference, taking place on the Summerdale campus on April 24.

Basic CMYK

During the show, Azizdin discusses the importance of networking and the need for leadership for our aspiring professionals.

Azizdin is the conference organizer and has received a great deal of support from local organizations like PSECU, and spoke about the process of putting together a conference of this scale.

Registration for this conference ends April 18at 5 p.m. and is free to Central Penn College faculty, staff and students.

To register or for more information on presenters, check out this link.

In addition to Azizdin, Knightly News President Sherri Long stops by the studio to discuss upcoming initiatives of her recently elected presidency.

Long has been working on a Knightly News media kit as well as our first print edition of our quarterly newsletter style publication.

The Knightly News Media Club is proud of Sherri, as she does many wonderful things to support the growth of our organization.

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by | April 17, 2017 · 5:47 pm

A Field of Dreams Exists at Central Penn

But Roadside Tribute to Local Sports Hero Often Goes Unnoticed

 By Keith Gudz

Knightly News Reporter

Every day, students, staff members, visitors and passers-by drive down Valley Road along the north end of the Central Penn College campus.

They drive past a piece of the not-too-distant past that holds a story about a heartbroken town and a hometown hero who was tragically taken from this world far too soon.

On the north side of Valley Road, in a field across from Central Penn’s historic Boyer House and down a bit toward the village of Summerdale, there is a gap where the grass does not grow. In that little circle of dirt are flowers, and baseballs on which the cowhide covers and threaded seams are splitting apart. This often-overlooked circle in a field is a memorial to Tom Sgrignoli, and this is his story.

A memorial to East Pennsboro Township stand-out athlete Tom Sgrignoli, along Valley Road, at Central Penn College. Photo by Keith Gudz

A memorial to East Pennsboro Township stand-out athlete Tom Sgrignoli, along Valley Road, at Central Penn College.
Photo by Keith Gudz

Tom grew up in Enola. The son of Ron and Janet Sgrignoli of Enola, Tom became a sports star on the local scene in 1997, as a standout athlete at East Pennsboro Area High School. While there, Tom excelled in baseball, basketball and golf, and in his senior year, on the Panthers’ varsity football team.

While on the team, Tom was selected and named Most Valuable Player of the 1998 Thanksgiving High School All-Star Football Classic. He had three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown.

After high school, Tom went on to play for Enola’s team in the East Shore Twilight Baseball League, and was a highly successful pitcher. His future as the continuous toast of Enola seemed bright and long-lasting. But all that changed in mid-2005.

On June 22, Tom was riding his motorcycle along Valley Road when he was struck by a wire that was jarred loose by a truck that had passed through before he did. Tom crashed in the field across from the Boyer House.  He was taken to Holy Spirit Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. Tom was 24 years old.

In a recent telephone interview, Ron Sgrignoli said about his son’s crash: “It was the weirdest thing. He was working at Comcast and got off early from work because he had a baseball game to get to. He was going to meet a friend and if it wasn’t for those sets of circumstances, he would still be here. Really makes you think.”

Tom’s family and friends had left items at the crash site as a makeshift memorial. Ron Sgrignoli called then-president, now Central Penn College President Emeritus Todd A. Milano, to inform him of the memorial on the property. Milano agreed to meet with Tom’s parents and offered his condolences, along with any assistance he could be provide.

Milano and the Sgrignolis met over a light lunch, and Milano offered to allow the memorial to be permanent. The memorial is maintained by the Central Penn College Facilities Department.

Through Milano’s support, and with the memories of Tom’s loved ones and the people of his town, he and his legacy live on in that field of dreams.

To comment on this story, or to suggest one, contact

Edited by Media Club Co-adviser Prof. Michael Lear-Olimpi

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Conquering the Fear of Networking Events

CPC Career Services Offers Students Tips on Connecting to Potential Employers

By Sherri Long

Knightly News Reporter

Networking events can strike fear into the hearts of many and send anxiety levels skyrocketing.

Career Services at Central Penn can help people with that fear.

Career Services hosted a networking skills workshop last month in ATEC room 200/202. The purpose of the event, held during the college’s weekly Common Hour — a one-hour leadership or cultural event for students and staff — was “to help students learn and understand the art of networking,” according to the program flyer. Career Services personnel covered “what networking is, how to do it effectively and why it is important.”

Rubina Azizdin, career counselor and part-time faculty member at Central Penn, welcomed attendees and began speaking about networking, and how Career Services can help.

“Please don’t think that you just come visit us only when you are about to graduate. It’s always great to get to know us ahead of time and get to know the resources we have to offer,” said Azizdin.

When attendees were asked, “How many feel nervous when they hear they have to go to a networking event?” most raised their hands.

“Yes, it can be overwhelming sometimes, if you don’t know what it (networking) means, who’s going to be there or what to expect,” said Azizdin. “Once you understand the basics of it, it’s really not that hard.”

Steve Hassinger and Kristin Fike of Career Services demonstrate introduction and networking skills. Career Services offers mock networking and interviewing for students and alumni. Photo by Sherri Long.

Steve Hassinger and Kristin Fike of Career Services demonstrate introduction and networking skills. Career Services offers mock networking and interviewing for students and alumni. Photo by Sherri Long.

The purposes of networking

“The more people you meet, the more connections you make, the more you’ll learn, and also the more opportunity will come to you. If you need a job or internship, you’ll know where to go and who to ask,” Azizdin explained.

Networking isn’t just for getting a job. The connections made can be resources of information for a topic or activity in which you are interested. Azizdin explained that she has found several guest speakers for the college through networking events.

“Networking can be beneficial in a lot of different ways,” Azizdin said. “You just need to know how to do it. You need to be confident in yourselves.”

Azizdin spoke about having a personal network and a professional network. Participants were asked to share who they thought would be in the two networks. Ideas given by attendees were friends, family, professors, co-workers and bosses.

She stressed the need to always be professional because, “You never know who is watching or who’s going to be your next professor, or who is at the administrator level. You always want to have a nice reputation.”

A networking video, which is a part of the online resources of Career Services, was shown. In the video, the speaker noted that “more jobs are filled through networking than any other means,” and that “networking is a life skill that will serve you throughout your careers.”

The elevator speech

A tutorial video Azizdin played about the elevator speech explained what one is and its purpose. Two points from the video were, “Consider it your work-related highlight reel,” and “the goal of an elevator speech is to enter into a higher-level conversation of what you can do for an employer.”

Attendees were given an elevator speech worksheet. Azizdin explained the importance of an elevator speech during a networking event. The three questions on the worksheet were:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I have to offer you?
  • What do I want from you?

“You really need to know yourself. You need to (say) your name, your major, your interests. And why are you approaching them,” said Azizdin. “Are you looking for a job? Are you just looking for information? You are supposed to do this within a minute.”

The etiquette of networking

Audrey Bare, Lancaster campus career counselor, asked the group for their ideas about etiquette for a networking event. Ideas shared were making eye contact, having a confident handshake and professional dress. Even the placement of a name tag is important.

“Your name tag should be on your right-hand side. That’s just familiar for people, because when you give a handshake, they can look at your name when they are introducing themselves,” said Bare.

To help reduce anxiety, Bare suggested taking a friend to the networking event “as long as you’re not standing in the corner with just the person that you took, but making sure that you’re making a plan to divide and conquer, and talk to other people.”

Before attending a networking event or job fair, Bare recommended reviewing the list of participating company representatives create a plan to meet the representatives of businesses in which you are most interested.

Career Services at Central Penn College always has plenty of job listings available in the Career Resource Center.

Career Services at Central Penn College always has plenty of job listings available in the Career Resource Center. Photo by Sherri Long.

Elevator speeches, networking and practice

Light refreshments were served and used during a mock networking exercise in which students practiced sharing their elevator speeches. Bare suggested to stand near the refreshments table because people will come to the refreshments, and the setting is more relaxed.

“This is the perfect place to meet people (and carrying extra napkins can make you very popular),” according to an article on

Attendees networked with other students, professors, Azizdin and Bare. Elevator pitches were shared and several discussions about the networking process ensued.

Shelby Houston, PTA student, shared that she was offered one of her first jobs in her hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, through a friend at church. The employer remembered Houston being a friendly person and hired her on the spot, without an interview. Houston believes in the importance of attending networking events because “if they like you, they remember you.”

More resources

Career Services at Central Penn offers several online resources of networking and interviewing tips. Some are on YouTube; others are part of the OptimalResume resource. The Career Services resource center is in Bollinger Hall, room 53. The resource center is usually staffed Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m. –   6 p.m. Appointments are recommended to ensure someone is there and to allow for sufficient time to help.

The networking Common Hour was given in preparation for the Central Pennsylvania Employment Consortium (CPEC) job and internship fair, held Feb. 21, at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill where students applied their networking skills.

For information about the employers participating, visit

Sherri Long is president of the Knightly News Media Club.

To comment on this story or to suggest a story, contact

Edited by Media Club Co-adviser Prof. Michael Lear-Olimpi.

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Job and Internship Fair Tuesday

Central Penn joins other schools to help students and alumni find job leads

By Norman Geary
Knightly News Reporter

Career Services will participate in and is a sponsor of a job and internship fair by the Central Pennsylvania Employment Consortium (CPEC), on Feb. 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event will be held at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg, in Camp Hill.

Many companies, transportation provided

Here is a list of participating companies and other information, including registration. Use the tabs on the left side of the page to find companies participating, and other information on CPEC and the fair.

Transportation will be provided from the Summerdale campus, with a van running several times during the event. To register for the job/internship fair, or arrange for transportation, email

Career Services personnel suggest that students who attend dress professionally for admission, and bring resumes to distribute to company representatives.

Career Services Director Steve Hassinger.

Career Services Director Steve Hassinger.

“This fair is a consortium of 18 different colleges and universities,” said Steve Hassinger, career services director. “So, we get employers to come to this event who would not come to one individual campus. Why? Because they are recruiting from 17 different campuses. This past year, we had 100 different companies represented.”

What are the benefits?

“This is a great event to make contacts with a lot of different companies that are going to offer jobs and internships, so if you are looking for an internship or a part-time job while you are in school, or if you are looking for a career opportunity once you graduate, this is a great opportunity to connect,” Hassinger said.

Students can meet representatives from federal, state and county agencies. In addition, students learn about the hiring process.

Attendees will also get a directory of employers at the fair.

There is nothing more focused at Central Penn College than the success of its graduates, Hassinger said. Central Penn graduates have an 85.8 percent rate finding employment in their field. Hassinger said graduates also find resources in Career Services of great value. All graduates have lifetime access to those services, and email.

On Friday, Hassinger said 89 companies had registered.

What does Career Services provide?

Central Penn’s Career Services provides a rich range of help to students and alums. These include:

• Simulated interviews.
• Online listing of positions.
• Company information.
• Job fairs and assistance to further education.
• Networking events and alumni mentors.

Along with these services, Central Penn Career Services assists students with individualized services, such as helping to craft resumes, and reviewing and making suggestions about LinkedIn profiles – and providing academic recommendations.
To comment on this story, or to suggest a story, contact

Edited by Media Club Co-adviser Prof. Michael Lear-Olimpi.

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Central Penn Campus Culture

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a three-part series on Central Penn’s campus culture.

Dynamic and Diverse

By Sherri Long

Media Club Reporter

History 411

The family campus culture of Central Penn has a rich history that can “be traced back to 1881 – when the Pennsylvania Business College opened its doors on Market Street in Harrisburg,” according to the Central Penn website.

Front pages of newspapers found during renovation of the over-200-year-old Boyer House, where the president’s and president emeritus’s office are, line the hallway of the West Wing of Milano Hall, telling important stories from the past.

The iconic and historic Henszey’s Bridge connecting ATEC to the campus “was lifted from its home of 100 years and traveled to Greiner Industries in Mt. Joy, where it was restored,” the website states. “On May 6, 2002, the newly-refurbished historic bridge traveled across three counties to finally rest on the campus of Central Penn College in Summerdale, Pa.”

Central Penn’s accelerated four-semesters-per-year timeline is linked to its business-school days, with a class scheduled tailored to people who “work all year,” faculty said. The college dropped its business-attire dress code for students a few years ago. Professional dress for presentations and an emphasis on professionalism, though, are traits that remain.

The historic Henszey's Bridge serves as a pleasant backdrop and an interesting analogy for our students. Photo from

The historic Henszey’s Bridge serves as a pleasant backdrop and an interesting analogy for our students.
Photo from

Lots to do

The plethora of activities for students during the day allows the commuter day students to be an integral part of the culture. Online and evening students also receive the “Student Central” e-newsletter so they can read about what is happening and participate in the campus culture. Several activities are offered in the evening or on the weekend that online and evening students can participate in, and bring their families.

Central Penn has over 20 clubs for students to better connect to causes, join activities and display talents they are passionate about sharing. Evening and online students can be part of this by submitting work and ideas, participating in plays and musicals, or attending the events to support other students.

Students at the fall term Club Fair Oct. 5 check out the offerings and activities of the Student Ambassadors Club. Photo by Sherri Long

Students at the fall term Club Fair Oct. 5 check out the offerings and activities of the Student Ambassadors Club.
Photo by Sherri Long

The college also has sports teams.

Offerings are listed on the Clubs & Activities website and on the Athletics website. The link at the end of this sentence provides a self-guided online tour of pretty much everything Central Penn is about.

The online Blackboard discussion forums for on-ground and online classes, and online group projects in either type of course, help students – particularly students who take all or most of their classes online – feel as though they are a part of Central Penn culture. The “introduce yourself” requirement during the semester’s first week helps students get to know others. Commenting on others’ assignment posts also helps students share thoughts, adding to the overall family-community feel.

Lilyan Levan, a first-term Health Care Administration commuter student, said she does “feel a part of family” and that it’s “easy to make friends.” Levan is active in the Colleges Against Cancer Club and is a member of the volleyball team.

 Come back later this week for the final installment of our series on Central Penn Campus culture.

Edited by Media Club co-adviser Michael Lear-Olimpi


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Why It’s Important to Vote

Central Penn Promotes Voting Awareness, Helps Students Register, and to Vote

By Norman Geary

Media Club Reporter

A Common Hour held recently in the Capital BlueCross Theatre focused on the importance of voting.

The Common Hour session was called Why It’s Important to Vote, which is something folks on campus have been talking about for quite some time during this presidential-election season.

Dillon Epler, associate residence life director, has been heading the project with faculty and staff support.

“It (had) been on the mind of faculty and staff, and myself, to put together a Common Hour to get the campus together and to engage civically and politically,” Epler says.

Whether students are traditional-aged or older continuing-education students, they often may be struggling to understand who they are and what they believe, Epler points out. They want to make it all – life, family, learning, job, social involvement – come together in college. Voting is a significant part of being involved in politics and self-determination, and one aspect of students’ efforts to understand themselves, and to be involved in the evolution and quality of their communities.

“It’s important to know who you are and know what you support, and, therefore, voting for the right candidate and for the right issues and policies you want passed is important,” Epler says.

When is Pennsylvania’s voter registration deadline?

The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania is Oct.11, so people at Central Penn College are hoping to have one, if not two, voter-registration drives to boost voting.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

Last year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly made it easier for people to register to vote.  People can still do the “old school” paper registration, or they can register online (see link below for registration in Cumberland County), and sources say Central Penn will have a voter-registration station set up in Bollinger Hall or ATEC.  The college also plans to provide two shuttles, one in the morning and one in the evening, to take students to register to vote, and to vote, in November.

“The Residence Life Office is open to all students for any questions if they want to talk about the voting process,” Epler says. “Students that want to register to vote or that want to get involved by being volunteers at the polls can get in touch with the Residence Life Office as well.”

Dillon Epler, associate residence life director, has been heading the project on the Central Penn College campus.

Dillon Epler, associate residence life director, has been heading the project to get students registered to vote on the Central Penn College campus.

How do students get involved?

To volunteer at polls, people can do one of two things: Stop by the Residence Life Office, Bollinger 40 and talk to Epler, who can contact the local Cumberland County Bureau of Elections to determine whether there are any openings in East Pennsboro voting precincts; or students can reach out themselves directly to the Cumberland County Bureau of Elections. Find general information on voting and registration in the Commonwealth at the Pennsylvania Department of State. ) (For information on the major-party candidates, see the links to their campaign sites at the end of the article.)

Why is student involvement important?

The importance of voting touches on many concerns, Epler says — among them support for an individual candidate, or to advocate for or against specific issues.

“Our elected officials make decisions for us on our behalf,” Epler says. “We live in a representative republic which fosters democracy. It’s important that the masses get involved to vote in the electoral process. There may be issues on the federal level, such as immigration reform, or on the local level, such as a new stop sign or traffic light, or a reduction in property tax.  It doesn’t matter which side of an issue you’re on, what matters is your participation in the voting process.”

Epler notes that on a state level, someone may want to see more reproductive rights or more clinics, or more LBGT rights. They might want to see a reduction in healthcare costs or lowering of taxes. It’s because of all these issues that we vote, he says.

“This is for the students, to be able to select a candidate that best suits them,” he says. “But it’s not just them, it’s whether it suits the country itself, on a federal or state and local level.”

More help from Central Penn

The library has voting guidance online. Access it at Central Penn Library Voting Guide.       

Learn about candidates at the links below:

 Edited by Media Club Co-adviser Michael Lear-Olimpi.

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Town Hall Meeting Provides Answers, Shows Some Changing Local Attitudes

By Lawrence Wilson

Media Club Reporter

The time: 6:40 on a July evening as warm as good intentions.

The place: The Capital BlueCross Theatre, on the campus of Central Penn College, in the village of Summerdale, East Pennsboro Township.

The personnel: Some Central Penn faculty and the school’s president are in the theater, along with residents of the neighborhood surrounding the campus.

The event: A town hall meeting at which local residents and Central Penn folks can discuss issues pertinent to both.

It has been more than 40 years since Central Penn moved into the area and, as is typical in college towns, from time to time, misperceptions, misunderstandings and the occasional real problem crop up between residents and students, whether the latter are on-campus residents or commuters.

Tonight, Central Penn’s ninth president, Karen M. Scolforo, is hosting this event — the first of its kind on the campus that anyone can remember.

By 6:51, about 40 nonstudent township residents have entered the drama zone and taken their seats.

By 7:02, roughly 60 are catching up with one another.

Before the curtain rises

It is late July in the Lower Susquehanna Valley, so the air is thick, but not tight. Still, no one knows what to expect, even though everyone knows for sure one thing on the minds of the non-Central Penn attendees: “Will our questions be answered?”

Soon, Scolforo opens the meeting with a thorough presentation of the school’s mission and value statements. She then extends an invitation for members of the East Pennsboro community to involve themselves with the school’s Facility Planning Committee, the purpose of which is to serve as a relationship-building connection between the school and the community surrounding it.

No official meeting of the committee and residents has occurred, but the committee members are ready as Scolforo and her administration prepare to move ahead with her plans to continue expanding Central Penn’s academic offerings, physical presence and partnerships.

Joining in

As part of introductions and relationship-building, a few staff and faculty members presented how their departments contribute to the school.

Chief Public Safety Director Ron Amoriello, Director of Residence Life Megan Peterson, and Central Penn Players Theatre Club Adviser and Theatre Director Janet Bixler were among them.

This being the first such significant gathering people could remember of Central Penn College personnel and residents of the off-campus community, most people expected a level of uneasiness and some pointed questions.

Expectations were met, but calmly, and respectfully.

 Voices heard, and listened to

One resident asked whether his son would feel safe when leaving home. His concern mirrored other residents’ concerns about safety on and around the campus. Statistics gathered by school officials and police show the campus is what most observers would describe as extraordinarily safe.

Some community attendees expressed perceptions that Central Penn students have brought a drug problem to the community.

The college has very few drug-related incidents compared to other colleges.

According to Central Penn’s state-required crime report, six drug-law arrests were made on campus in 2014, four in 2013 and two in 2012; none was made off campus. No drug-law arrests were made in 2011.

The report is accessible at 2014 is the most recent year for which a report is available.

Lt. Mark Green, of the East Pennsboro Township Police Department, addressed residents’ safety concerns.

“The drug problem is a national problem and does not just stop at East Pennsboro,” Green said.

Will expansion squeeze anyone?

Another concern presented was Central Penn’s expansion plans.

One long-time township resident said he and others “get nervous” about the school’s expansion plans. There seemed to be some confusion as to what school officials want to do. Some residents questioned why the school wanted to take their property.

Scolforo reassured attendees that Central Penn has no intention of making any land grabs, such as by using eminent domain, or any other method. She then reissued her invitation to members of the East Pennsboro community to be involved with the Facility Planning Committee to help develop ideas and an outlook for the school’s future.

Another resident suggested thinking outside the box when looking at parking needs and parking lots. Spaces fill quickly now when classes are in session and events are being held in the college conference center, and any expansion, let alone a much-discussed fieldhouse, or other sports complex and establishment of a “Main Street College Town” environment, brings more cars and the need for more parking areas.

Attendees seemed to sense a change under Scolforo’s tenure – one of more community outreach.

Residents shared after the meeting a willingness to reconsider their attitudes toward the school that is part of their community.

One couple, residents here since 1973, provide housing to a male student from New Jersey. Ten years ago was the last time they can remember housing students, and then it was a female student who later married a neighbor.

After what some people described as a significant number of years of little to no communication between the East Pennsboro community and the Central Penn campus community, misunderstandings could be melting away from negative perceptions and morphing into harmonious participation.

Career Services Director Steve Hassinger invited a community member to be a mock interviewer for a freshman seminar class, and he accepted.

“These kids get a bad rap,” the resident said.

Another resident added: “I’m glad I came (to the meeting). I’m really, really glad I came.”

Edited by Michael Lear-Olimpi, Media Club co-adviser.

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