IST THON group’s president: 'It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity every year'

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With her spring graduation inching closer, Kathleen Beck regularly finds herself reflecting on her college experience. She is a senior at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) and the president of the IST Benefitting THON student organization, and her commencement will be the culmination of three years of hard work and a lifelong connection to Penn State.

Raised 30 minutes from the University Park campus in Tyrone, Pennsylvania, “I grew up with Penn State in my blood,” she said. From her mom working in the College of IST, to her brother earning his Penn State degree in 2011, to her dad holding season tickets for nearly every Nittany Lion team, her Penn State roots run deep.

“I wish everyone could go to school a half an hour away from home,” Beck said, laughing.

Growing up so close to Penn State, she was able to see regularly see her older brother, Russell, including a weekend in February 2011 when he was dancing for IST in THON. After visiting him on the Bryce Jordan Center floor during his 46-hour dancer experience, she became hooked on THON.

Following in her brother’s footsteps, Beck is fulfilling her dream by preparing to dance in THON 2017 alongside Brendan Keeports, the organization’s other dancer and a senior majoring in security and risk analysis. Despite learning in November that she would dance, however, the reality of her experience has yet to sink in.

“I think I’m going to get super nervous the week of, because that’s when it’s going to become more real,” she said.

As president of IST Benefitting THON, Beck works with group members to plan canning trips, organize alternative fundraisers, and support the college’s two THON families.

While it is a considerable investment of her time, Beck’s involvement does not end with THON. She also serves as a student manager for the Women’s Volleyball Team and works two part-time jobs, one with Penn State Housing and the other remotely for Liberty Mutual. In October 2016, Beck secured a full time position with Liberty Mutual, set to begin after her graduation. She will start in a rotational program in the IT department and hopes to join a team working on project management.

Before serving as the president of IST Benefitting THON, Beck was the organization’s Family Relations chair and grew close to the group’s two THON families. The group originally supported one Four Diamonds Family, but last year Beck and two other group members successfully applied for the organization to support a second family.

“That’s something that will always stick with me,” Beck said. “We brought in a new family to the organization, and that’s really special.”

She says that the organization’s small size makes the members very close and opens up plenty of opportunities for students to take on leadership positions. Through their participation, members often grow close to the organization’s families and other group members. Beck credits this close-knit, family-like atmosphere for adding to her Penn State experience.

“Penn State is obviously a really huge campus, and I think some people shy away from it because they’re worried about how big it is,” Beck said. To make the big campus small, Beck got involved. “I feel like joining an organization like (IST Benefitting THON) is really special," she said.

Looking ahead to THON 2017, Beck is most excited to share her experience with the organization’s THON families and the group’s new members, who will be visiting the Bryce Jordan Center floor for the first time. She is also eager to share the weekend with her mom, who Beck notes is her biggest fan.

"I always say it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that we get to do every single year because it really is so inspirational watching these kids,” Beck said. “They’re suffering so much. They’re suffering from something you couldn’t even imagine, and it puts in perspective that you’re doing something so much bigger than yourself.”

Beck describes THON as the something that makes Penn State standout from other schools.

“I think it’s amazing that students take their weekends to go canning and to go spend time with their THON families, so I think it’s nice to just take you out of the typical college atmosphere,” Beck said. “It’s just what makes Penn State special.”

Last Updated February 08, 2017