Schreyer siblings inspire, help one another to pursue varying challenges

Jeff Rice
August 01, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Scranton High School doesn’t announce its valedictorian until a few days before graduation. But for three of the last four years, that person has been a Barrett.

Erin Barrett, the valedictorian for the high school’s Class of 2018, will enroll at Penn State and the Schreyer Honors College this month, following in the footsteps of her older sisters and fellow Schreyer Scholars Alison and Aileen. It marked the first time in the district that three siblings have been named valedictorian and was a gratifying moment for three sisters with different career aspirations but a similar work ethic.

“I think we all have the same goal,” Alison said. “We want to be the best we can be.”

The daughters of Scranton lawyers Matt and Lori Barrett, the sisters have two younger siblings — Elizabeth, a rising high school junior, and Matthew, who will be a seventh grader in the fall. The Barretts encouraged their children to challenge themselves in the classroom but also to fill their schedules with their own interests.

“It was never just ‘Go to school and go home,’” Alison said. “It was finding your niche, getting involved and putting yourself out there.”

The sisters took many of the same classes at Scranton High, but their differences emerged when they got to Penn State, Aileen said.

Alison, who graduated in 2015, wrote a paper on genetic disease in ninth grade and was hooked on science from that point forward. She is majoring in biology with the genetics and developmental biology option and works in the Makova Lab on campus studying mitochondrial DNA. She also serves on the executive board of Empower Orphans and is a Schreyer mentor. She will take the MCATs in August and, after graduating in May 2019, aspires to get involved in service work before beginning medical school.

Unlike Alison, who applied to several colleges, Aileen was set on Penn State from the beginning, though she did appreciate having a familiar face to offer tips.

“The college application process is very stressful,” she said. “Just having someone who had spent a year here, and having that guidance is something that really carried through for me.”

Aileen found herself at home in Penn State’s business community. The finance major is involved with the Nittany Lion Fund, the Smeal College of Business’ Sapphire Leadership Academic Program, Smeal Student Council, and the business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi. She will intern at JP Morgan next summer. Many of her closest friends and mentors are also Schreyer Scholars.

“You’re surrounded by students who have similar work ethics,” she said, “but you’re also at this huge state school, which has so many opportunities and diverse perspectives.”

Alison and Aileen were proud of the way Erin highlighted and praised a number of her fellow classmates during her valedictory speech, and don’t think the captain of the Scranton girls’ basketball team will have any trouble adapting to a new environment.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Penn State, and then Alison and Aileen would always come home and talk about how great Schreyer is,” she said.

While Alison and Aileen jokingly say that they are lost when the other starts talking about her major, Erin should be able to engage both in conversation; she plans to major in biology and has been accepted to the five-year accelerated Science BS/MBA program at Penn State.

“It’s like a perfect mix of the two,” she said.

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total more than 1,900 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who excel academically and lead on campus.

  • Penn State students Aileen, Erin, and Alison Barrett

    The Barrett sisters, from left to right, Aileen, Erin, and Alison, have all looked to pursue passions outside of the classroom in addition to challenging academic slates at both Scranton High School and Penn State.

    IMAGE: Butch Comegys/The Scranton Times-Tribune
Last Updated August 22, 2018