Penn State New Kensington helps local students prepare for college admissions

December 09, 2015

UPPER BURRELL, Pa. — Penn State New Kensington teamed with Pittsburgh Urban Impact to bring students from local and Pittsburgh public schools to the campus Nov. 20 for information on preparing for the college admissions process.

Almost 100 students from Valley, Penn Hills, Perry and Westinghouse high schools toured the campus, learned about choosing majors and exploring career opportunities, and attended an interactive panel discussion led by campus students.

“The goal was to make students realize that attending college is a possibility for them,” said Patty Brady, director of enrollment services at the campus. “We don’t want them to rule out college as an option, simply because they’re overwhelmed by the admissions process.”

The program, Preparation Starts with U, was developed by the campus’ enrollment management office. Staff organized activities relating to admissions requirements, financial aid concepts and the college experience.

Two panel discussions featured six students: Shaquille Hager, Renaisia Butler, and Branna Wyant on one panel and Wati Kumwenda, Jevon Hankins and Alexis Main on the other. Hager, a product of Oliver High School in Pittsburgh, came up through the Urban Impact program that helped him to continue his education in college. A four-year starter on the campus basketball team, Hager graduates Dec. 19 with a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice.

Motivational speaker Moses Davis, director of the Multicultural Resource Center at Penn State University Park, delivered the keynote address. An educator in diversity and social justice, Davis is an advocate for social change. He told the students that each of them has the ability to change the world and leave a lasting legacy for those who come after them. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Davis holds a doctorate in Workforce Education and Development from Penn State. As the head of the Multicultural Resource Center, which provides individual counseling and educational services for undergraduate multicultural students, he assists students in finding their paths. His charge is to help students succeed and graduate from Penn State. He strives to be a strong personal life coach, mentor and role model.

“The purpose of providing a motivational talk was to get students excited about Penn State and going to college,” Brady said. “If we don’t engage prospective students early enough in the process, they may miss key information and deadlines they need to do to prepare for college, such as SAT/ACT tests and taking challenging courses their senior year.”

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Campus partners
Urban Impact worked with the campus in recruiting racial minorities for the program. A more diverse student body is a part of Chancellor Kevin Snider’s five-year strategic plan for the campus.

A nonprofit organization, Urban Impact addresses the academic, physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of young people. The group targets students at an early age and provides them with options and hope for the future. The faith-based organization works through holistic community outreach to meet the needs of the whole person.

The Preparation Starts with U program was funded by a grant from Penn State’s Equal Opportunity Planning Committee (EOPC). Formed in 1983, the committee helps Penn State campuses’ efforts in reaching out to underrepresented populations.

EOPC promotes greater equity for historically underrepresented groups within the University and/or those groups that have been historical targets of discrimination. The committee is an outgrowth of Penn State's strategic planning goal to become "a caring University community that provides leadership for constructive participation in a diverse, multicultural world."

In addition to Urban Impact, the campus collaborated with two Penn State affiliates — Community Recruitment Center and Talent Search — to identify students who could benefit from a college planning event. Students from households with limited financial resources and where no one has completed a higher education degree were the targeted groups.

The Community Recruitment Center serves as a resource to local students to help them navigate the transition from high school to college. The center’s activities include: admissions counseling; financial aid workshops; online FAFSA completion workshops; and hosting bus trips for campus visits. The recruitment center has offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

“In many cities like Pittsburgh, it’s difficult for students to get access to transportation to get to campuses like ours for a college visit,” Brady said.

Based at Valley High School in the city of New Kensington, Talent Search is a federally funded program designed to provide services, information, direction, and guidance to middle and high school students in grades 6 through 12. The major goals are helping program participants to complete secondary education and enroll in some form of post-secondary education or training.

“Valley High School is our geographically closest high school,” Brady said. “The program was a way to recruit racially diverse students from the New Kensington-Arnold area and to show them the advantages of having a Penn State campus in their own community.”

  • Prospective students

    Students from local and Pittsburgh high schools visited Penn State New Kensington to learn about the college exprience. Campus students gave firsthand accounts of their experiences and answer prospective students' questions. 

    IMAGE: Bill Woodard

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Last Updated February 08, 2016