"Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth". Baseball fans and residents of Pittsburgh and Puerto Rico may recognize that quote by the late Roberto Clemente.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, many people and organizations stepped forward to make a difference, including members of the Penn State Greater Allegheny campus in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
On Feb. 2, Penn State Greater Allegheny welcomed seven students from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPR-M). The students are enrolled in courses and will complete internships on campus and in the local community during the spring semester.
The partnership with UPR-M is no accident. Jacqueline Edmondson, chancellor and chief academic officer at Penn State Greater Allegheny, met Rosita Rivera, full professor in the Department of English at UPRM, when Rivera was completing her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction at Penn State.
Edmondson served as Rivera’s adviser and the two have maintained a strong personal relationship since that time. “We are building a strategic connection with UPR-M,” stated Edmondson.
Shortly after hurricane recovery efforts began, UPR-M students were invited to study at Greater Allegheny during the spring semester. Derek Ferrer, one of the visiting students, took full advantage of this situation and decided to follow his desire to study abroad.
“It was a goal to do something abroad while coursing my bachelors,” said Ferrer. “Getting the new experience and busting out of the shell you have back at home,” is an opportunity Ferrer desired.
Fellow UPR-M student Joyce Acevedo said, “I don’t want to opt out of an experience because I said no.” Being a visiting student is “going to shape my future entirely” and “I am sure that Penn State is going to stay in my life.”
This Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Pittsburgh joined Greater Allegheny’s efforts to make this opportunity a reality. Jesus Torres, a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce member and a Penn State alumnus, played a critical role in orchestrating this student program. He helped secure a $5,000 gift from the chamber to support the students’ travel and studies.
“As part of our mission, we thought this would be a great opportunity to support Penn State and the students from Puerto Rico especially after the hurricane,” said Torres.
“We wanted to do something big for them. We wanted to create a great opportunity for the students,” Torres continued, “and we value that a lot.”
“We are also grateful to the Penn State Greater Allegheny/McKeesport Alumni Society for making a donation to support this initiative” expressed Edmondson. “There is great synergy across these organizations.”
Since their arrival, the students have immersed themselves in different local and campus communities. Christian Lee Villanueva is completing a graphic design internship with the Greater Allegheny’s newly formed Public Relations office.
Ferrer is working alongside Greater Allegheny Admissions Counselor and McKeesport Little Theater Board Member Tony Gomez. Ferrer is analyzing the theater’s marketing efforts, redesigning notices, and revitalizing social media strategies.
“These students bring a vibrancy to the campus,” said Edmondson. “We have the potential to grow something impactful and transformative.”