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  • Madison Piatak & Sydney Wells Named Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholars

    Posted August 27, 2020 at 8:25 am

    Pennsylvania Highlands Community College would like to congratulate Madison Piatak, of Portage, and Sydney Wells, of Indiana, for being named 2020 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholars. Each is one of 207 Phi Theta Kappa members to receive this honor and will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

    The Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program helps new Phi Theta Kappa members defray educational expenses while enrolled in associate degree programs. Scholars are encouraged to assume leadership roles by participating in Society programs and are selected based on scholastic achievement, community service, and leadership potential. Nearly 700 applications were received.

    Madison Piatak graduated from Portage Area High School in Portage, PA. She is currently attending Penn Highlands Community College for a degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences.

    Sydney Wells graduated from Indiana Area High School in Indiana, PA. She is currently attending the Penn Highlands Community College Ebensburg Center, seeking a degree in Child Development.

    A total of $207,000 is awarded through the Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation provides $200,000 in funding for the scholarships, with $25,000 set aside for members who are veterans or active members of the United States military. The remaining amount is supported by donations to the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation and provides seven Global Leaders of Promise Scholarships, earmarked for international students.

    “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 to make it possible for more deserving students to achieve their educational goals and support tomorrow’s leaders of the global community.”

    The funds provided by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation not only aid college completion, but also give students the opportunity to engage in Society programs and develop leadership skills to become future leaders in their communities.

    “Research shows that Phi Theta Kappa members are four times more likely to complete a college degree than their peers,” said Dr. Monica Marlowe, Executive Director of the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation. “The Leaders of Promise Scholarships recognize students for what they have achieved already and assure that financial need isn’t an obstacle to achieving their academic 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.

  • Black Bear Athletes Receive Post-Season Awards

    Posted August 11, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    Pennsylvania Highlands Community College is delighted to recognize the following student-athletes for their academic and athletic achievements during the 2019-2020 year.

    The following students were named to the NJCAA Region XX Academic Team:

    • Brooke Elliott of Windber (women’s volleyball)
    • Isabella Nagy of Portage (women’s volleyball)
    • Alayna “Rosie” Plaza of Saint Michael (women’s volleyball)
    • Christopher Weld of Richland (men’s bowling)
    • Caitlyn Guercio of Bedford (women’s bowling)
    • Katie Swank of Friedens (women’s volleyball)
    • Angela Weber of Williamsburg (women’s bowling)
    • Maria Engleka of Berlin (women’s volleyball)
    • Joseph Guercio of Bedford (men’s bowling)
    • Evan Orr of Homer City (men’s bowling)
    • Kendra Fox of Summerhill (women’s volleyball)

    Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference All-Academic Team honorees include:

    • Ethan Barkley of Berkley Springs, WV (men’s basketball)
    • Jorge Castro of Deltona, FL (men’s basketball)
    • Matthew Forbes of Pittsburgh (men’s basketball)
    • Bryce Huss of Richland (men’s basketball)
    • Allison Gustkey of South Fork (women’s bowling)
    • Kayla Yoder of Davidsville (women’s bowling)
    • Theodore Betcher of Windber (men’s bowling)
    • Justin Eckenrod of Johnstown (men’s bowling)
    • Todd Rastall of Johnstown (men’s bowling)
    • Erica Kovalik of Beaverdale (women’s cross country)

    The following student-athletes earned awards for their respective sports:

    Region XX

    • Brooke Elliott, Honorable Mention (women’s volleyball)
    • Taqaurius Belcher of Toledo, OH, First Team (men’s basketball)
    • Matthew Forbes, Honorable Mention (men’s basketball)
    • Erica Kovalik, Top Medalist (women’s cross country)

    Western Pennsylvania All-Conference

    • Theodore Betcher (men’s bowling)
    • Taqaurius Belcher (men’s basketball)
    • Brooke Elliott (women’s volleyball)
    • Erica Kovalik, top medalist (women’s cross country)
    • Isabella Nagy (women’s volleyball)

    Individual honors were awarded to the following student-athletes for demonstrating heart, expertise, and dedication as Black Bears during the 2019-20 season:

    Most Improved

    • Maria Engleka and Kendra Fox, women’s volleyball
    • Ethan Barkley, men’s basketball
    • CJ Weld, men’s bowling

    Most Valuable Player

    • Taqaurius Belcher, men’s basketball
    • Theodore Betcher, men’s bowling
    • Brooke Elliott, women’s volleyball
    • Erica Kovalik, women’s cross country
    • Caitlyn Guercio, women’s bowling

    Coach’s Awards

    • Bryce Huss, men’s basketball
    • Isabella Nagy, women’s volleyball
    • Evan Orr, men’s bowling
    • Kayla Yoder, women’s bowling

    Leadership Award

    • Angela Weber, women’s bowling

    Delonte Fennell Award and NJCAA National Player of the Week

    • Matthew Forbes, men’s basketball

    Penn Highlands is a chartered National Junior College Athletic Association member college, competing in Region XX. It is the mission of the NJCAA to foster a national program of athletic participation in an environment that supports equitable opportunities consistent with the educational objectives of member colleges. Their goal is to promote and foster two-year college athletics.

    The Black Bears are a part of the Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference. The WPCC was founded in 1972 and currently consists of 10 member institutions.

  • Robert Farinelli Appointed Vice President of Academic Affairs

    Posted July 29, 2020 at 12:02 pm

    Portrait photo of Rob Farinelli.Pennsylvania Highlands Community College is proud to announce the appointment of Mr. Robert Farinelli as the College’s new Vice President of Academic Affairs.

    In his role as Vice President of Academic Affairs, Mr. Farinelli will serve as the visionary academic leader of all full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, and academic staff. His position is charged with creating an atmosphere of quality and innovation, as well as championing curricular and programming development.

    “I’m excited to continue my career at Penn Highlands Community College and make a difference in the lives of those in southwestern Pennsylvania,” stated Robert Farinelli. “Changing lives for the better is important to me, and what better way to do that than helping students continue and complete their education.”

    Mr. Farinelli has over 30 years of experience in higher education. Prior to Penn Highlands, he was most recently the Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Services at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT. He also held the positions of Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, STEM Director, and Division Chair (Mathematics, Physics, and Engineering) at the College of Southern Maryland. He was also a Professor of Mathematics at the Community College of Allegheny County, in Pittsburgh, PA.

    Mr. Farinelli holds an M.S. in Education from Capella University, an M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh, and a B.S. in Mathematics from Penn State University.

  • Leadership in Time of Crisis

    Posted July 27, 2020 at 9:06 am

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

    Are leaders born or created?

    Some assume that leaders are born, that there is some intangible force that some folks have that allows them to lead people, make tough decisions, and carry the burden of leadership from birth.

    It is my opinion that leaders are not born; they are created, molded, taught, and mentored. If that’s not true, then I threw three years and several thousand dollars away when I worked on my doctorate in leadership. And I think West Point and the Naval Academy might have something to say about that, too.

    I guess it is possible that certain personality types may gravitate toward leadership more than others. For example, those with charisma, those who can command a room, may dominate leadership positions through the force of their personalities.

    But history has taught us that great leaders do not have to be charismatic; leadership is not a popularity contest.

    Good leaders can be any combination of quiet, boisterous, introspective, visionary, deliberative, thoughtful, collaborative, open, honest, transparent, decisive, and many other qualities.

    Having been in academic leadership positions for almost a decade, and having been through several crises, I fully recognize that good leadership really matters.

    And what it has taught me is that listening to a diversity of viewpoints is critical to being properly informed, that disagreement among team members is fruitful when personal agendas are set aside for the greater good, and that, once decisions are made, collaboration is critical to advancing the mission of the organization; better decisions are made together.

    Great leaders trust (and hold responsible) the people they lead.

    I spent nearly 24 years in Illinois working at a small community college. Several years ago, the state could not pass a full budget, and consequently, the financial support to community colleges was significantly delayed.

    At the time, we had a relatively new college president, who I’m sure didn’t sign up to lead a college through a financial crisis not of his making.

    But he never complained.

    Instead, he circled the wagons and engaged his team in conversation. Many small and some large decisions were made over two years to stabilize the finances of the college.

    Ultimately, I think the college learned many valuable lessons about how to work more effectively together, make transparent but tough decisions, and become more efficient overall.

    Sometimes hard choices make people understand that change is important and necessary to have a thriving organization. Ultimately, while it was stressful at the time, going through that financial crisis made that college stronger.

    Today it continues to thrive as one of the best community colleges in the nation.

    I am lucky to be surrounded by many great leaders at Penn Highlands. While their styles and viewpoints vary, they are committed to the mission of the college.

    Their commitment has been particularly important during this COVID crisis. We have learned a lot about ourselves as a college, and I believe it has made us more cohesive and efficient. And it has only reinforced my belief that leadership matters – that cohesive, effective, deliberative teams matter.

    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.