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Pennsylvania Community Colleges honor exceptional Students at Awards Banquet

Posted April 24, 2015 at 9:46 am

The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges honored the 21st Annual All-Pennsylvania Academic Team at an awards banquet held on Monday, April 13th, in Harrisburg. The awards recognize an exceptional group of community college students who have achieved excellence and demonstrated a commitment to their colleges and communities.

The 2015 All-PA Team consists of 44 outstanding community college scholars from across the Commonwealth. They are an exceptionally diverse group, ranging from a teenager who will receive her high school diploma and associate’s degree within a span of two weeks, to a grandmother of four. These students are a testament to the community colleges’ mission that was created over 50 years ago: to provide an accessible and affordable path to higher education for all Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvania’s community colleges partner with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities to provide scholarships to All-PA Team members at PASSHE institutions. Twenty nine of this year’s team members intend to transfer to PASSHE institutions, and 35 of them intend to pursue postgraduate education in a wide range of fields.

Those honored from Pennsylvania Highlands Community College included Cassidy Belle, Jennifer Biggs, Danielle Close, Michaela Hanlon, and R. Patrick Lehman.

Cassidy Belle will be transferring to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she will study Early Childhood Education, and she hopes to one day earn a master’s degree in Special Education. She is vice president of the student government, and is active in community service, having done coat and clothing drives, volunteering at the local soup kitchen, traveling to New Jersey to help rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and traveling to Peru to help those in need. She hopes to become fluent in American Sign Language so that she can work with deaf children.

Jennifer Biggs will be attending Pennsylvania Highlands for one more year before transferring to St. Francis University, where she plans to enter the Adult and Continuing Education program and major in Online Behavioral Sciences. She is a member of the Allies Club, a member and scholarship recipient of the AAUW, and a tutor. Jennifer is the President of Phi Theta Kappa, Treasurer of Student Senate, and Secretary of Sigma Alpha Pi. She is a columnist for the Keystone Alliance/Gaylife Alliance, a choir member, a member of the Board of Directors for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Ligonier Valley, a mom of two, and a wife. Jen also teaches her family Spanish as a second language.

Danielle Close plans to transfer to California University of Pennsylvania. She is a volunteer with Camp PARC and the Community Park of Boswell. She was involved with the College’s first “Immersion in the City” community service trip to Philadelphia. Danielle has maintained a 4.0 GPA while working two jobs during her tenure at Pennsylvania Highlands.

Michaela Hanlon has been on the Dean’s List every semester she has been at Pennsylvania Highlands. She is a business major and has yet to decide where she will pursue her bachelor’s degree. She volunteers at her church, and was involved with the College’s first “Immersion in the City” community service trip to Philadelphia. She is an accomplished baton twirler, serving as a coach at a local high school, and she competes as a part of three different performance groups, as well as doing solo competitions.

R. Patrick Lehman will be attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the fall, and he hopes to continue on and earn a master’s degree. He is the president of both Student Senate and Sigma Alpha Pi, and a vice president of the College’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter. Patrick has participated in the “20 Acts of Kindness” initiative, the Phi Theta Kappa Blood Drive, and the College’s first “Immersion in the City” community service trip to Philadelphia. He plans to complete his MBA so that he can start his own project management company.