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  • No Foolin’: My Favorite Month is April

    Posted March 30, 2020 at 8:22 am

    The original column appeared in the Tribune-Democrat , written by Dr. Steve Nunez. Click here to see original sourced column. 

    I must admit that I enjoy and downright celebrate April Fools’ Day.

    I have been on both the receiving and giving ends of tremendous April Fools’ jokes over the years, and they have become part of my lore. For example, a colleague once sent a mass email to hundreds of folks at my work letting them know that April 1 was my birthday (it wasn’t).

    For the rest of the day, people stopped by, texted or emailed me with warm (albeit very early) happy birthday greetings. One year, my former supervisor crafted a fake email that made it look like an important report I had written was being called into question for accuracy; he let me panic for about 30 minutes before pulling the plug on that joke (which wasn’t funny to me at all, but funny to everyone else).

    But my favorite all-time prank is when I convinced a colleague to call Dr. Ella Funt at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. After multiple calls to the zoo trying to reach Ella Funt, I saw in real time his reaction when he finally got the joke. For some reason, he didn’t laugh as much as I did.

    So, my advice to you is to participate in a non-destructive, non-hurtful, but hilarious April Fools’ prank. But hey, watch your back because someone is aiming for you, too,

    While April Fools’ Day is my favorite day in April, it is only one day of the month.

    There is much to celebrate in April including, just to name a few, National Beer Day (April 7), Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day (April 12), and Earth Day (April 22). Is it just me, but shouldn’t National Beer Day and Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day be celebrated together?

    In the higher education biz, April also means that summer and fall class registration has begun in earnest. High school students who will graduate this June are thinking about their future plans. But while we tend to think of graduation as a time of celebration, for many high school students, it is also a time of stress and anxiety.

    For 12 years, these young men and women have known exactly what they will be doing the following year – they go to the next grade level. But now after graduation, they must more actively engage in planning for their next big step.

    For me, my choices after high school graduation were to work in the coal mining industry, join the Army or go to my local community college. I chose to attend my local community college, where trained, caring professionals helped me select my classes and program of study. Their careful guidance set me up for success at the community college and for my next step at Virginia Tech, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.

    I’m proud to say that Pennsylvania Highlands Community College is also here to help with that post-secondary transition to college. Beginning this April, the Penn Highlands faculty and staff will guide and mentor hundreds of high school students and help them identify their academic goals and their best paths forward to achieve those goals.

    And yes, while the coronavirus has disrupted some college services, we are still answering questions and registering students for classes remotely by phone or email. Feel free to reach out; we are here to help.

    No foolin’.

    See you next month.

    PS: My heartfelt sympathies go out to each one of you as you deal with this pandemic.


    Written By Dr. Steve Nunez, College’s Fifth President. This monthly series appears in The Tribune-Democrat, and will allow Dr. Nunez to provide his perspective on the value of education and of a community college. 

  • College Statement on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

    Posted March 12, 2020 at 10:59 am

    UPDATE: This statement has been updated on 3/13/20 and 3/16/20. Please click here for all up-to-date information and a message from our President.

    Pennsylvania Highlands Community College cares about the health and welfare of our students, staff, faculty, and region. We work diligently to provide a safe learning and working environment for the entire college community. We understand that many institutions are moving to an entirely online format for their students. While we appreciate and understand why many of our four-year colleagues are moving classes to this format, Penn Highlands is in a slightly different situation based on our student population. We will continue with face-to-face classes for as long as we can safely do so.

    Penn Highlands is a local community college that does not have residence halls or many students from distant locations or other countries. Our student and employee population are nearly all local, and we have not yet had our spring break to travel. Therefore, we have made the decision to respond appropriately to our local conditions.

    We have consulted with local hospitals and have been advised that the risk of a local COVID-19 (coronavirus) epidemic is low. At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declares that the coronavirus infection risk is low for the general population. Additionally, Penn Highlands is following the recommendations from the CDC. Currently, there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in our service area.

    Rest assured, we are continuously discussing the current local conditions. If the situation escalates, Penn Highlands will implement further steps to protect the health and safety of the college community, including canceling any large college gatherings, moving all classes to an online format, and having employees work from home (as appropriate).

    If necessary, we will respond quickly to make changes to our current status based on factual information confirmed by the appropriate local and state authorities.

    For the most up-to-date information: visit www.pennhighlands.edu/coronavirus.

  • Emily Krisko Named Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar

    Posted March 10, 2020 at 8:31 am

    Pennsylvania Highlands Community College congratulates Emily Krisko, of Portage, for being named a 2020 Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar. She will receive a $1,500 scholarship.

    The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation sponsors the Coca-Cola Academic Team program by recognizing 50 Gold, 50 Silver, and 50 Bronze Scholars with nearly $200,000 in scholarships annually. Each scholar also receives a commemorative medallion.

    Emily Krisko graduated Cum Laude in December 2019 with an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts & Sciences. She is continuing her education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology. During her time at Penn Highlands, Emily was very active. She was involved with Phi Theta Kappa, the National Society of Leadership and Success, and the Ebensburg Activities Club. Emily also served as an orientation leader.

    “The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has a long history of providing financial assistance to outstanding students at community colleges,” said Jane Hale Hopkins, President of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Phi Theta Kappa and make it possible for deserving students to achieve their educational goals.”

    Students are nominated for the academic team by their college administrators. Selection is based on academic achievement, leadership, and engagement in college and community service.

    “Emily Krisko has a bright future ahead of her; she was a standout student and leader,” said Dr. Steve Nunez, President of Pennsylvania Highlands Community College. “She is a role model deserving of being named a Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar. We are proud to have Emily represent the college community and our region.”

    Coca-Cola Academic Team members will be recognized in both local and statewide ceremonies and will also be recognized internationally during Phi Theta Kappa’s annual convention, PTK Catalyst, April 2-4, at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, near Dallas.

    “We thank the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation for recognizing these student leaders and for investing in their futures,” said Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa. “Scholarships like these are integral to the success of these students in reaching their educational and career goals.”

    About Phi Theta Kappa
    Phi Theta Kappa is the premier honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helping them to grow as scholars and leaders. The Society is made up of more than 3.5 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 nations, with approximately 240,000 active members in the nation’s colleges. Learn more at www.ptk.org.

  • Open House Postponed in March

    Posted February 24, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Our spring open house event has been postponed. For those that have RSVP’d, a College representative will be reaching out to you soon.

    Pennsylvania Highlands Community College will be hosting an open house on Monday, March 23rd, from 6pm to 7:30pm at each of our locations in Blair, Ebensburg, Huntingdon, Richland, and Somerset.

    Individuals will learn about Penn Highlands and its opportunities, including degree programs and coursework, transfer options, and more. Information on student life, including clubs and activities, and financial assistance will also be presented by representatives. Faculty and alumni will be on-hand to discuss their experiences.

    As an added bonus, prospective students will be eligible to win a 2020/2021 tuition voucher, good for a $250 discount, if they complete a survey while in attendance.

    Penn Highlands has been proudly serving the community with quality and affordable academic options for 25 years. To learn more, stop by our open house at one of our facilities:

    Blair Center
    Logan Valley Mall (Next to Macy’s)
    5580 Goods Lane, Altoona, PA 16602
    814.201.2700 | blair@pennhighlands.edu

    Ebensburg Center
    881 Hills Plaza Drive, Suite 450, Ebensburg, PA 15931
    814.471.0010 | ebensburg@pennhighlands.edu

    Huntingdon Center
    6311 Margy Drive, Huntingdon, PA 16652
    814.643.6200 | huntingdon@pennhighlands.edu

    Richland Campus
    101 Community College Way, Johnstown, PA 15904
    814.262.6446 | admissions@pennhighlands.edu

    Somerset Center
    Somerset County Education Center
    6024 Glades Pike, Suite 210, Somerset, PA 15501
    814.443.2500 | somerset@pennhighlands.edu

    For additional information, contact any of the college’s locations directly or call us toll-free at 1.888.385.PEAK.

  • Life Journey With Community Colleges Leads To Penn Highlands

    Posted at 9:25 am

    The original column appeared in the Tribune-Democrat , written by Dr. Steve Nunez. Click here to see original sourced column. 

    The day before my interview, as I drove into Cambria County for the first time, I began to see the rise and fall of the majestic mountains of the Alleghenies.

    Seeing those Allegheny mountains reminded me of my own personal journey – one that has most recently ended at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College as the school’s president.

    I grew up in Bear Town Mountain, about 20 minutes east of Lebanon, Virginia. Life was simple, and generally uneventful.

    At the time, my family had access to two TV channels – maybe three if the antenna was facing exactly the right direction. I spent my days reading, riding my bike with my friends, and gallivanting in the woods my parents owned. On summer days, I only came home to eat and to periodically check in with Mom.

    In some ways I was sheltered from the outside world, partly because of choice (I was a shy one who was mostly uncomfortable in his skin), and partly because I was raised in the hills and “hollers” of southwest Virginia – where things moved slowly. Luckily, I had parents who supported and mentored me along the way and showed considerable patience as their son crawled, ever so slowly, from his shell.

    I was an average student in high school; I feigned interest in most subjects and did just enough to get by.

    I completed three years of Spanish and I’m not sure the teacher even knew I existed, as I hid behind my fellow students to avoid being called upon. I had friends, just enough, but I certainly wasn’t the popular kid.

    And then, one day, I graduated from high school totally unprepared for what came next. I had no plan. After teasing with joining the Army, I decided to attend my local community college – not because I was necessarily interested in post-secondary education, but because I couldn’t imagine any other choices.

    I was paralyzed by choice and so I picked the easiest one. It turns out that going to Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) was one of the most important “choices” I have ever made, as it was the proverbial “fork in the road” moment for me.

    I recognize that community college isn’t for everyone, but it was the best choice for me.

    First, it provided me a safe haven. For a shy, introverted young man – I needed kid gloves. I received that and more at SWCC.

    The college provided me with a family that supported and mentored me. Some of those staff and faculty members I am still friends with today.

    Second, the instructional quality of education provided to me at SWCC was exceptional and possibly the best I have ever received collectively. I thrived there and soon I elevated my educational game from average to outstanding.

    Third, my educational journey provided me the opportunity to identify where my talents and my interests crossed. For me, it was the subject of biology.

    Fourth, it allowed me the time I needed to grow and see the beginnings of the person I was to become. In those two years at SWCC, my emotional maturation accelerated.

    It is at SWCC that I first fell in love with the community college mission to provide quality post-secondary educational opportunities at a reasonable price. And after a couple more degrees earned, I found myself in the community college biz for the next 24 years – first as a professor and then later as a senior administrator.

    As of Jan. 6, I was appointed by the Pennsylvania Highlands Community College Board of Trustees as their fifth president and I’ve been getting to know the folks of this community ever since.


    Written By Dr. Steve Nunez, College’s Fifth President. This monthly series appears in The Tribune-Democrat, and will allow Dr. Nunez to provide his perspective on the value of education and of a community college.