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Student Stories

Our Students. Their Stories. Their Discoveries.

For over 25 years, Penn Highlands has worked with students across the region to find themselves and what is right for them. Take a peek at their journeys, see what they discovered; maybe it will help you with your own discovery.

Their passion, creativity, and innovative nature continue to astound us. We’re excited to share a small portion of our students’ experiences.

Shea Berrier
Graduate / Human Services

Meet Shea Berrier, a student who came to Penn Highlands through the local CareerLink and overcame many obstacles to become a graduate. He realized Pennsylvania Highlands was the right fit because of the quality education, along with the number of transfer agreements offered. Penn Highlands changed Shea’s life because it opened doors and allowed him to accomplish many things. He obtained a National Certified Peer Support Specialist certification and a bachelor’s in Behavioral Science with a minor in Social Work. He is currently at the Blair Drug and Alcohol Partnerships as an Intensive Case Manager who works with the Problem Solving Courts of Blair County.

Brooke James
Graduate / Criminal Justice

Meet Brooke James, a first-generation college graduate who jump-started her collegiate career with dual enrollment courses. She continued her studies at Penn Highlands and earned an associate degree, saving thousands of dollars along the way. Brooke graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice, which was put to good use in the banking world. Not long after, she was offered a full-time banking position and never looked back. Brooke credits Pennsylvania Highlands Community College with giving her the foundation she needed for her career.

Alex Ashcom
Graduate / Criminal Justice

Meet Alex Ashcom, a lifelong resident of Johnstown who went on to become a first-generation college graduate. After high school, Alex planned to enter the military but was convinced by a friend to take some classes. It was his father’s dream to send his son to college and achieve a better life. Penn Highlands was that step. Alex proves that you can go far in life without having to leave the region.

Sydney Sheredy
Liberal Arts & Sciences Graduate

Sydney planned to attend a four-year university, but the pandemic changed her world and she chose Penn Highlands. Sydney quickly discovered that Penn Highlands would save her thousands of dollars and keep her closer to family and friends. She found many opportunities to get involved, including community service and Student Senate, and she is excelling.

Liz Ruszkoski
Psychology Graduate

Liz never thought of attending a community college before. In fact, she started at a large university where she promptly dropped out. Liz took two years off before trying college again, this time she gave Penn Highlands a try. She found the place she can finally call home; a place where she could see that her education mattered to those around her. She credits Penn Highlands Community College with helping change her life.

Bill Newcomer
Business Management Graduate

Bill started his educational journey at the age of 47. Six years later, he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Supported by his wife, children, and grandchildren, he had the support he needed to work full-time while attending college at night. As Bill progressed through college his skills improved. He was promoted to Sales Supervisor and then ultimately Brand Manager at a local beverage distributor. Bill credits Penn Highlands with helping him get to where he is in his career today: as a successful manager.

Leah Fox
Radiologic Technology Graduate

After graduating from Conemaugh Valley High School, Leah got the education she needed from Penn Highlands to have a successful career. In order to become a radiologic technologist, Leah had to pass a board-certified exam first. She credits Penn Highlands with giving her the confidence and education she needed to pass it. With some help from Penn Highlands, Leah was able to get a job as a radiologic technologist the same month that she graduated, and has since become an integral part of our region.

Casey Bassett
Business Management Graduate

Casey formed his company (Assett Conventions, LLC) shortly after he earned a Business Management degree from Pennsylvania Highlands in 2011. Fast forward to now, Sci-Fi Valley Con runs for three days every June, attracting more than 6,000 attendees, 300 exhibitors, and over 10 celebrity guests each year to the Blair County area in a single weekend. Casey credits his education with helping him start his company and ultimately create Sci-Fi Valley Con.

Sadie Carney
Liberal Arts & Sciences Graduate

After high school, Sadie wasn’t prepared to attend a large institution. Instead, she was the first in her family to attend a community college. Sadie fell in love with the small class sizes and personal one-on-one interaction with professors and staff. She felt that everyone cared about her. Sadie credits Penn Highlands with helping her determine her future. She decided to follow in her family’s footsteps of becoming a doctor. There has been a doctor in her family for over 100 years, now Sadie plans to be the next.

Kylee Doyle
Liberal Arts & Sciences Graduate

Kylee utilized dual enrollment credits to help her earn her degree faster than anticipated. She was able to earn 31 college credits while in high school, allowing her to earn an associate degree after just one year of college. After setting foot on campus, she began to realize how great of an experience Penn Highlands would be. She got involved with many sports and organizations, learning a lot about herself and becoming the person she wanted to be.

Daniel Dabbs, Jr.
Criminal Justice Graduate

Right after high school, Dan attended a four-year university aspiring to become a teacher. After about a year, he slowly lost interest in college, eventually opting to leave college entirely with no intent on returning. Dan went to work at a local convenience store where he began to think more about his life and what he wanted his future to be. Reflecting on his life thus far, he decided to give college another try and enroll at Penn Highlands Community College based on recommendations from close friends. He credits Penn Highlands with making college an enjoyable experience.

Mike Viveros
Network Administration Graduate

Mike spent many years going down a path that just didn’t work out the way he imagined. After barely making ends meet, he pretty much gave up on the prospect of a better life. Mike later realized he wanted to strive for more. Through this revelation, he decided to pursue his passions through higher education. He ultimately earned a degree in Network Administration and then moved on to earn his bachelor’s degree. Mike now has s successful career as a software engineer, where he develops healthcare apps for the region.

Dontae Lilly
Business Management Graduate

After graduating from Penn Highlands, Dontae moved on to complete his bachelor’s degree at Saint Francis University. Prior to attending, Dontae had a career in the military, and he ultimately attributes Penn Highlands for helping him transition from the military into his now successful post-military career.

Grant Speigle
Criminal Justice Graduate

Grant Speigle started at Penns Highlands after graduating from Conemaugh Township Area High School in 2012. While earning his degree, he became an integral part of the men’s basketball program. Grant was drawn to Penn Highlands because of the warming atmosphere it offered students. Looking back, Grant feels this was the smartest option. He was able to save money and discover what he wanted to do with his life.

Tara Brodish
General Studies Graduate

After high school, Tara enrolled in Penn Highlands, where she excelled. Her journey did not end with Penn Highlands, rather it had just begun. She went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. While at Penn Highlands, Tara was an active member of Phi Theta Kappa and spent her last semester serving on Student Government. The time she spent working with her fellow students and faculty gave her the confidence she needed to thrive in social atmospheres, helping her become a local school teacher.

Kylie Garrett
Business Administration Graduate

Kylie attended the Ebensburg Center. Kylie enjoyed her college experience, especially the small class size! It allowed her to get to know the professors on a deeper level. She appreciated the personal touch that Penn Highlands was able to provide.

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