• Education Key Driver For Social Change

    Posted June 29, 2020 at 10:04 am

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

    I write this column on June 19, or “Juneteenth,” a day that commemorates the end of slavery in our country.

    I’ve spent the past several weeks reading, listening, and watching as others spoke of the social unrest that is occurring throughout the United States.

    Being a white person and being surrounded by mostly white people for much of my life, I have been generally insulated from the reality of racism.

    Racism is just not something I understand. I’ve always lived by the motto to treat all people with kindness and respect – the color of one’s skin or ethnic differences are meaningless when it comes to how I treat someone. Instead, I judge people by their actions, by how they treat others.

    This motto, I believe, has served me well throughout my life.

    And because my own personal experiences with discrimination are rare and frail, I can only try to understand the impact of discrimination through the experiences of others – by what I read, hear, or see.

    When I was working on my doctorate degree from Ferris State University, I had the privilege of learning from amazing instructors and, as importantly, 30 other students who were community college professionals like myself.

    I particularly remember my first course, called Critical Issues in Community Colleges, as it was the most impactful for me as a leader and professional.

    At the end of one of our classes, our instructor insisted that the entire class visit the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia located on Ferris State’s campus. Considering that nearly one-third of the cohort of students were Black, I found the tour and the follow-up discussion incredibly uncomfortable.

    As we walked through the museum, we encountered example after example of racist signs, films, cartoons, books, art, and pictures. After the tour, most of the white students were quiet as we listened to our fellow Black students vividly recall how they and their family members had consistently experienced racism in modern-day America.

    Honestly, I was distraught as I listened to and then absorbed their stories.

    That single lesson was one of the most powerful I’ve ever experienced as a student, and it taught me that racism is still very real in America.

    I am a proud leader of a higher-education institution, and so it should come as no surprise that I think that education is the best way to positively impact people’s lives and to change society.

    When I ponder what action Penn Highlands can take on these issues, I’m reminded of both the college’s mission to provide affordable, quality education to our community and of the core values adopted by our employees.

    Two core values of consequence to this discussion include:

    • Informing and involving members of the college community in discussion and problem-solving at all levels in an atmosphere marked by civility and cordiality conducted with respect for personal and professional differences.
    • Developing innovative and creative responses to the region’s dynamic economic, workforce, and social needs based on interactions with all segments of the community.

    Honestly, when it comes to these complex issues of racism and discrimination, I have more questions than answers.

    While I certainly have my own thoughts and ideas on how we can advance this conversation, I have always believed the best ideas come from collaboration.

    I’m lucky that, at Penn Highlands, I am surrounded by passionate, caring, and intelligent folks. And so, using the mission and core values of the college as our guideposts, I pledge that I will use their collective intellects to discuss what the college’s next steps should be.

    I recognize that this is only a small step on a long journey, but I’m embracing the journey and I look forward to the discussions.

    See you at Penn Highlands.

    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. 

  • Flexible Class Formats Coming For Fall

    Posted June 11, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Pennsylvania Highlands Community College has developed five different types of classroom instruction into their fall 2020 course offerings. The new offerings were created to ensure that all students feel comfortable and safe within their preferred learning environments.

    Dependent upon individual preference, students may register for the following five different instructional formats: split section, virtual classroom, online, in-person, and hybrid.


    • Split Section Instruction (1/2 Face-to-Face and 1/2 ZOOM instruction)
      Split section classes are offered two days per week, where part of the class is on-campus one day, while the other day is conducted via ZOOM at the student’s preferred location. Below is an example of a Monday/Wednesday schedule.
      • Mondays: Half the class meets in-person, while the other half meets via ZOOM.
      • Wednesdays: Half the class meets via ZOOM, while the other half meets in-person.
    • Virtual Classroom Instruction
      Students will participate in class virtually through ZOOM at a scheduled day and time each week. Students will get to choose their preferred day of the week when registering for classes.
    • Online Instruction
      Online classes will be taught 100% online and will not be scheduled to meet on specific days or times. Online classes will have weekly assignments, readings, forums, tests, and activities. These classes are reading and writing intensive. It is recommended that students enrolling in these classes have strong time management, reading, and writing skills.
    • In-Person Instruction
      In-person classes meet physically on-site each week. Classes will meet one, two, or three days per week at scheduled times, with smaller class sizes in order to comply with social distancing guidelines.
    • Hybrid Instruction
      Hybrid classes are a combination of in-person and online instruction. Students must attend class physically on scheduled days and times. They must also complete online assignments, readings, activities, and projects.

    “Split section classes are a new concept for Penn Highlands,” stated Barbara Zaborowski, interim Vice President of Academic Affairs. “This format will allow us to have students on-campus and face-to-face with faculty while maintaining mandated social distancing rules. In addition to social distancing, students will need to wear face coverings while on-site.”


    In order to adhere to social distancing mandates, class sizes have been reduced to allow for both students and faculty to interact in a safe environment.

    Access to the college’s computer labs and the library will be readily available for students at the Richland Campus. All computer lab and library areas will be monitored and sanitized regularly, while every other computer workstation will be available for use in order to maintain proper social distancing.

    Students are required to wear face coverings at all college locations. Hand sanitizing stations will also be available at each entrance; students will be encouraged to use them prior to entering any college facility.


    For questions pertaining to the new classes listed above, please contact Admissions at 814.262.6446 or admissions@pennhighlands.edu. Summer office hours for Admissions are Monday through Thursday, from 8am to 5pm.

  • GJHS Students Receive Boost From Degree Program

    Posted June 8, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    The original column written by Joshua Byers, Education Reporter, and appeared in the Tribune-Democrat on June 6th, 2020. Click here to see the original sourced column. 

    Kaleya Smothers’ journey to graduation this year looked different than her classmates, not because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but because of the associate’s degree she was securing in addition to her high school diploma.

    “The experience of pursuing this degree was great for my education,” Smothers, a Greater Johnstown senior, said. “Not only did it give me a head start in my education, but it also prepared me for college. Now I am aware of some of the rules and expectations of higher-level education.” 

    However, due to the virus, Smothers, the salutatorian, had to complete her degree online.

    That didn’t pose much of an issue, she explained.

    “Luckily, I only had a few assignments left for my classes, so I was able to finish my classes with ease. I was able to finish the spring semester on the Dean’s List and I graduated Magna Cum Laude,” Smothers said.

    The online transition also wasn’t an issue because she’s had experience with that type of learning before.

    If anything, Smothers said she felt like she had more time to work on assignments that way.

    The school has been offering this degree to students through Penn Highlands Community College since the 2012-13 school year with that first set of students graduating in 2015-16, explained Kurt Hoffman, assistant principal and lead administrator for the program. 

    Since then, the school has had nearly 100 students graduate from Greater Johnstown with an associate’s degree in liberal arts at no charge because the district covers the cost. This year, there were 27 graduates who received their high school diploma and the degree.

    “We see this as an opportunity to be able to give the students something that can change their lives,” Hoffman said.

    He added that the district takes pride in “trying to level the playing field for members of the community.”

    “The associate degree in high school program is an economic game-changer for our families as well as our community,” Superintendent Amy Arcurio said. “By creating innovative partnerships that redefine education, it provides our students a significant head start into the community that desperately needs their contributions.”

    She added that Greater Johnstown is grateful for the partnership with Penn Highlands, who helped create “the most successful program in the Commonwealth.”

    With this degree, the students can either enter the workforce or transfer the 60 credits to a number of colleges and universities across the state that have partnerships with Penn Highlands.

    Hoffman explained that someone who completed the courses could effectively begin college as an academic junior and finish a bachelor’s degree in two years instead of four.

    The endeavor begins in eighth grade, when participants apply to be considered for the degree program.

    Hoffman said those who make the final cut then begin with classes in high school during their freshman year.

    The educators that teach the dual-enrollment classes are Accelerated College Education qualified, he added, and held to a high standard. 

    Entering their sophomore year, the students’ schedule begins to change with more study halls to accommodate the larger workload, and their junior and senior year, they spend half the day twice a week at the Penn Highlands campus taking classes. Some of the classes are taken online as well.

    “Greater Johnstown made taking the extra classes easier for all of us,” Smothers said. “Once we began taking classes on campus in our 11th and 12th-grade years, the number of classes we had with the high school decreased. Greater Johnstown did a great job of balancing our education between the high school and Penn Highlands.”

    Smothers decided to get her associate’s degree during high school because she has dreams of attending medical school and said she thought it would be a good opportunity to begin her “post-secondary education as soon as possible.”

    During her time taking the advanced classes, she said the course load was diverse and included subjects such as astronomy, intro to music, probability and statistics and others. 

    “The courses covered a variety of subject areas that can lead to different majors for post-secondary education or lead to a range of jobs,” Smothers said.

    As for the younger students possibly considering applying to begin the associate’s degree path, Smothers said it’s more than worth it.

    “This opportunity is great for a variety of students,” Smothers explained. 

    “If students are not sure what career field they would like to pursue, this liberal arts degree will allow them to experience a diverse set of classes. 

    “These classes will give them a foundation of learning in many subjects. Or even for people that are set on their career, it gives them the opportunity to get a head start on earning credits.”

    Obtaining the degree also provides “lifelong skills,” Hoffman said.

    These include time management, self-agency, a drive for excellence and being able to self advocate.

    “It’s really incredible the skills built from freshman year to senior year in the program,” Hoffman said.

    Written By Joshua Byers, Tribune-Democrat Education Reporter

  • COVID-19 UPDATE: Three Locations Set To Open

    Posted June 4, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    With portions of the Southern Alleghenies and Laurel Highlands entering the green phase, three Pennsylvania Highlands Community College locations will begin opening its doors.

    Beginning Tuesday, June 9th, Penn Highlands will allow visitors to the Richland, Blair, and Somerset facilities for the following:

    • Placement Testing
    • Registering for Classes
    • Academic Advising
    • Financial Aid Processing
    • KEYS Advising

    All for-credit classes this summer will continue to be online.

    To ensure your safety and the safety of our employees, all visitors are asked to schedule an appointment with the appropriate department or location before coming to a facility. Please call the following to schedule your individual appointments:


    Before coming on-site, visitors should ask themselves these questions:

    • Do I have a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea?
    • In the past two weeks, have I been diagnosed or come into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19?
    • In the past two weeks, have I visited a place or lived in a place where COVID-19 is spreading?

    If you have answered yes to any of these questions, please delay your visit. Stay home and take care of yourself.


    While on-site, all visitors will need to abide by the following state guidelines:

    • In order to enter a building, each visitor must call the office when on-site; a college employee will then meet you at the door and walk you in.
    • Visitors must be escorted by an employee at all times.
    • Have a scheduled appointment with an individual office.
    • Wear a mask at all times while on location.
    • Students that are meeting with the Admissions Office, Registration Office, and/or their advisors may bring one person into the building with them.
    • Students coming to any location for testing are not permitted to bring anyone into the building with them.
    • Maintain social distancing throughout the visit.


    Penn Highlands has gone to extraordinary efforts to provide a safe environment for its employees and to visitors. Preventative measures include:

    • All employees will wear a mask when working with visitors or other employees.
    • Hand sanitizer is available throughout the building.
    • All rooms that are being used or occupied are being robustly cleaned and sanitized.

    Pennsylvania Highlands Community College cares about the health and welfare of our students, staff, faculty, and the region. For all up-to-date information and planning regarding COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 webpage.

  • WEDnetPA Announces New & Enhanced Guidelines

    Posted June 3, 2020 at 8:30 am

    The Pennsylvania Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania (WEDnetPA) announced they are increasing company funding limits, as well as allowing greater flexibility in supporting the training needs of regional companies for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. This change is welcomed and much needed, particularly now that Pennsylvania unemployment rates have risen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    One major change includes a significant increase in company sectors eligible to apply for WEDnetPA state grants. The menu has broadened well beyond the manufacturing and technology sectors that the program was initially created for. This has been expanded to the point that it’s easier to list companies that are not eligible rather than listing the ones that are eligible.

    In addition to the expanded eligibility list, WEDnetPA has widened the types of training and number of employees that can be funded and trained. Contrary to previous years, the new 2020-2021 guidelines for employee training does not have to directly relate to the employee’s current job, which will provide more growth and advancement opportunities for many in our regional workforce.

    “Career Services and Workforce Development at Penn Highlands is very excited about the recent Pennsylvania state workforce training grant guideline expansions for the fiscal 2020-2021 year,” stated Larry Brugh, Dean of Career Services and Workforce Development at Penn Highlands Community College. “In our role as a state-sanctioned administrator of these funds, this is the first time in 20 years that we have seen new industry sectors added to the eligibility list. We look forward to working with all the existing and new company partners in facilitating this great investment for our region’s economy.”

    The improved WEDnetPA process only requires one application, a training plan, and a contract. Companies may receive up to $2,000 in training funds per employee and the funds are completely employer-driven, meaning the employer may choose the type of training, the methodology of training, and the trainer. For more information on WEDnetPA and their partners, visit www.wednetpa.com.