Cheryl Gahring: Leading social change in the Lancaster community

College of Education
April 17, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State was the ideal university for Cheryl Gahring for two reasons: there was always something to do, and it wasn't too far from her home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Gahring was involved in many extracurricular activities, including playing intramural volleyball, and joining Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed fraternity which organized service projects for individuals with disabilities.

Cheryl Gahring

After graduating with her bachelor's degree in elementary and kindergarten education in 1991, Cheryl Gahring became a preschool teacher at a child care facility in Lancaster. In 2006, she earned her master's in curriculum and instruction, and is now the executive director of YWCA Lancaster.

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After graduating with her bachelor's degree in elementary and kindergarten education in 1991, Gahring became a preschool teacher at a child care facility in Lancaster. She had no intention of going back to school to get a master's degree, but it soon became obvious that it would be necessary to advance in her career.

In 1997 Gahring accepted her first directorship at the day care, and was responsible for hiring and supervising teachers, and overseeing curriculum. She began taking night classes at the Penn State York campus in 2002, and completed her master's degree in teaching and curriculum in 2006.

Gahring said her graduate degree paid off almost immediately.

"The YWCA Lancaster hired me as director of child care services in 2007. I oversaw all programs, including six before- and after-school sites, and two early childhood centers."

In 2010, the YWCA's assistant executive director retired, creating another advancement opportunity for Gahring.

"I believe in the YWCA's mission, so I applied for the position," she said.

Gahring was offered the job and, though her title has changed — she now is chief impact officer — the difference she is making at the YWCA has not.

Recently, Gahring has taken on proposal writing, and she thrives on the notion that every proposal has the potential to make a positive impact on a family or the entire community.

"I help fund programs that do so much good," said Gahring. "I problem-solve with directors at the sites, so everyone is invested in the work. And there's plenty of work to be done."

She lives in Lancaster with her husband, Mark, and son Derek. Her other son, Edward, is in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany.

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Last Updated April 17, 2019