Invest Now; Change Lives Forever

by Jennifer A. Cline, writer/editor-One College Avenue. Photos by Larry D. Kauffman.

Odd jobs – like sharpening drill bits and waiting tables – helped to fuel the Fall 2012 semester for computer aided product design student Benjamin M. Schappell, providing the cash to put food in his stomach and gas in his vehicle for the 40-minute daily drive to campus.

J.D. Mather, assistant professor of computer aided design, leads a class.

The 20-year-old’s schedule – six classes, campus involvement and part-time jobs that have also included landscaping and working in a bucket truck to replace TV lines going to the town of Morris – is not much different from many Pennsylvania College of Technology students working their way toward a degree.

Emily Carella, '12."If college could be paid for in sleepless nights of studying and long hours in the library, I’d have it paid 10 times over."
Emily Carella, '12

Like the near century’s worth of students who have come before, today’s Penn College students exhibit a rare work ethic. They demonstrate passion for their fields. They invest significant time in study, in hands-on projects that they will soon be touting to employers, and in seizing the opportunities a Penn College education offers.

And all for good reason:

“I truly expect, come graduation, I will be prepared and confident to enter the workforce and quickly settle into a well-paying, secure career,” Schappell said.

His assurance lies in the reputation built by those who came before. Since 1914, Penn College and its predecessors have been changing futures. When local adults took courses in the newly opened Williamsport High School building’s industrial arts shop – the first of its kind in the state – they learned skills that would help them land jobs with local manufacturers.

As society and its needs have changed, the institution’s mission has evolved, from job skills training to a comprehensive college offering baccalaureate and associate degrees.

But some things remain: An investment in an education at Penn College holds tremendous promise. The college’s overall graduate-placement rate over the past five years is 95 percent. That means that – even amid a serious recession – 95 percent of Penn College students had a job or were continuing their education within a year of their graduation.

Benjamin M. Schappell, a junior in the computer aided product design major, takes a full load of classes, volunteers on campus and works odd jobs as needed.

It’s no secret that success takes commitment.

“If college could be paid for in sleepless nights of studying and long hours in the library, I’d have it paid 10 times over,” 2012 graduate Emily Carella, who was honored several times for her work as a resident assistant, told a group of donors. “Unfortunately, the price of an education is much higher than that.”

The estimated cost of tuition, fees, housing, meals and books for a Pennsylvania resident to attend Penn College in 2012-13 was $24,830, plus personal expenses.

The lack of financial resources is a significant challenge for many students. Approximately 78 percent of Penn College students receive some type of financial aid. Yet the average unmet need for a Penn College student is $9,200 per academic year, and the average level of education-related debt for a Penn College graduate is more than $31,900.

In response, as the institution counts down to its centennial celebration, the Penn College Foundation has launched a $3.75 million campaign to raise funds that will be used directly for student scholarships.

“We never want finances to be the reason a student does not receive a Penn College education,” said Robb C. Dietrich, executive director of the Penn College Foundation.

What does a scholarship mean?

Watch videoFor Schappell, notification that he has been selected for a Penn College scholarship brings relief and comfort. He has received both the Glenwood Cheslock Industrial Design Scholarship and the Dwight E. Stoltzfus Memorial Trade Scholarship multiple times. He calls them a blessing.

“Let me tell you, 4.0 (GPAs) don’t come that easily,” Schappell told a group of donors during a recognition event in December. He thanked the group for the boost – both material and motivational – that their financial support provides.

On a more practical level, it means fewer odd jobs and smaller loans to pay back after he graduates.

“When I get the notification that I am a (scholarship) recipient each year, it means I have that much less of a loan to take out, and that’s all money I would have to pay back with interest. It adds up!” he said. It was sharpening drill bits and waiting tables that helped to fill the financial gap when he missed a scholarship deadline. “Scholarship money has enabled me to work a lot less outside of class and focus on schoolwork.”

He’s also used that time to give back to both the campus and the community.

“My education is extremely important to me, and Penn College has provided amazing opportunities for growth,” Schappell said.

As a sophomore, he served as the college’s first commuter assistant, and as a junior, he served as a peer mentor/tutor in the engineering design/CAD technologies majors, helping fellow students with anything from basic drafting challenges to higher-level calculus. Off-campus, he volunteered his CAD knowledge to develop a mock-up model of the then-proposed Lifland Skatepark to be presented to Williamsport City Council. Council approved the plans, and the park opened near Original Little League Field, not far from campus, in September.

Schappell is not alone among Penn College students pursuing higher challenges and making an impact. School of Hospitality students were sought to prepare food in Churchill Downs’ newest, most exclusive dining venue during the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Manufacturing engineering technology students finished in the top six among colleges from eight countries in a four-hour “endurance race” that tested the mini Baja vehicle they designed and manufactured. Likewise, students in graphic design, information technology and construction majors compete nationally and bring home high honors.

Students are building their futures on the foundation laid by their predecessors: alumni who likewise answered challenges and today are leaders in their industries and their communities, spreading the institution’s reputation; faculty whose real-world expertise has formed academic programs; and industry liaisons whose knowledge helps to keep academic programs relevant.

By giving to the Penn College Scholarship Campaign, donors make opportunities available to students that may not otherwise be possible. They make a critical difference in the lives of many students and their families.

How to support the campaign

To support the Penn College Scholarship Campaign, you may establish a new, named scholarship, or you may contribute to an existing scholarship fund. Call toll-free 1-866-GIVE-2-PC or give online.

More than 200 scholarship funds are administered by the Penn College Foundation. These funds support various majors, and many are in honor or memory of Penn College alumni, students, faculty and friends.

Your gift to an existing scholarship fund will be a tribute to the individual, family or business that originally established the scholarship. In addition, your gift will help that scholarship fund grow and ensure that it will continue to help students pursue “degrees that work.”
Support the Campaign →

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