Alum inspires with leadership and pride

When Chancellor Craig Edelbrock established the community and cultural events program at Penn State Great Valley in 2009, his mission was to share local, cultural achievements with the surrounding community. Nowhere is this more evident than in the current exhibit, “Darkness to Light,” a student mural on display in the Conference Center Building lobby, 30 E. Swedesford Rd., Malvern.

The mural, showcasing now through Dec. 13, is the work of 30 teens of the Bridge Academy, a faith-based, youth and mother’s community center in Coatesville. It depicts the town’s past, present and future as seen through the eyes of its young residents. The project is testament to the work and collaboration of numerous volunteers and Bridge Academy personnel, including a recent Penn State graduate. Assistant center director, Tyler Changaris, a 2012 College of Communications alumnus, was instrumental to the project and credits his days at Penn State as his inspiration.

“One of the most rewarding parts of being [at the Bridge Academy] is that I can fit in what I was taught at [Penn State] with what I enjoy doing,” said Changaris. “My time in college showed me that I wanted to do something serving people and now I am.”

When applying for college, Changaris had only one choice — Penn State. He was a legacy whose grandfather, father, uncle, mom, dad, and sister are all alumni. While the most obvious decision, he believes it also was the best decision. “In high school I didn’t get great grades and didn’t do anything spectacular. I really came into my own when I got to Penn State. My four years really defined me.”

Changaris, who began his Penn State education at the Altoona campus and transferred to University Park, was more than a Penn State student, he was a leader. As one of the organizers of State Patty's Day Pledge, a student-led, volunteer alternative to divert participating in the State Patrick's Day revelry, he helped get 500 signatures on the State Patty’s Day pledge to abstain from drinking and handled the local media coverage. The group’s efforts were a success; they received favorable feedback from the community, and the mayor emailed him personally thanking him for his efforts.

Additionally, he initiated “Elements,” a group that distributes free hotdogs on Friday nights and counsels fellow students who drink excessively or need support.

But that’s not all. In November 2011, he and several of his friends founded “Beyond the Silence,” a nonprofit group that helps sexual abuse victims by sharing stories of hope and redemption, and by connecting survivors with compassionate listeners and counselors. “We want [the victims] to know that they are the victim and that it’s not their fault. We wanted to do that in a way so that we could tell people their stories.”

Today, Changaris coordinates and disseminates all communication-related information at Bridge Academy, working with the community, regional newspapers, and local officials. He does everything from tutoring, organizing activities, cooking meals, assisting in various neighborhood programs and projects, and dealing with volunteers and donation solicitations.

Last Updated November 18, 2013