MCKEESPORT, Pa. — As the Penn State Greater Allegheny community and friends gathered at the 16th annual All That’s Jazz Masqueade Gala to support the campus’ student emergency fund, two students paid tribute to alumni whose work has transformed their educational experience.
Annually, All That’s Jazz features student presenters who benefit from a specific scholarship, but scholarships are just one part of a donor impact story. Both Katarina Shields, junior information science and technology major, and Steven Carter, senior communications major, can point to the life-time contributions two Penn State McKeesport (now Penn State Greater Allegheny) alumni have made to the campus.
Shields told the crowd she came to Greater Allegheny as a criminal justice major yet found a love for technology through her campus job in the Computer Center. Despite the newfound enjoyment, Shields acknowledged there was something standing between her and a new major. “I was missing one thing, a computer,” said Shields. “I knew I couldn’t be an IST major and not have a computer, but I also knew that it would take me a very long time to save enough money for one.”
Shields continued, “When I returned to campus to start my sophomore year, I learned that our campus was making digital fluency a priority and that I would receive a free iPad. This literally changed everything for me. My iPad is always one of the few devices I have on me. I have video-editing software, can code and learn programming languages; I take classes that interest me on Lynda.com, and I have an online library of books that I love to read.”
When Shields thinks of the Digital Fluency Project, she doesn’t just think of her iPad. She thinks of Jim and Megan Minarik who she had the opportunity to meet earlier this year.
In March, the Minarik’s established the Digital Fluency Challenge Grant. Their $50,000 donation, when matched by support from alumni, donors, corporations and foundations from the Greater Allegheny community, will provide $100,000 in support of the Digital Fluency Project, an effort to help students effectively use technology and interpret information, design content, and communicate ideas within digital spaces.
“I have found my true passion at this campus,” said Shields. “It wouldn’t have happened without the people who have been put along my path, including two incredible people, alumnus Jim Minarik and his wife Megan.”
When Steven Carter took the stage, his story of growing up in a violence-prone neighborhood captured the attention of the 160 guests in attendance. "I remember my mom telling me not to go down a certain street because that street was no good,” said Carter. “I remember coming from my grandma’s house, walking down my street to see my oldest brother having a gun put to his face. My life changed when I came to GA.”
Carter is well known on campus, serving as station manager and host of the “Hey Stevie Static!” show on the campus’ internet-based radio station, WMKP. Zack Furness, associate professor of communications, introduced Carter to the station, and a few years later, Carter would travel to Washington D.C. and meet the person who built the station from the ground up.
“I have to give a special shout out to Mr. Jay Weitzel, if it wasn’t for him and his team there wouldn’t be WMKP radio,” Carter said. “In the station he made possible, my show talks about our everyday struggles and what steps we can take to make the world a better place.”
“Although they attended the campus in the 70s,” shared Jacqueline Edmondson, chancellor and chief academic officer, “both Minarik and Weitzel continue to be a visible presence, ensuring that today’s Greater Allegheny student receives the exceptional Penn State education that has been available at the McKeesport campus since its beginnings.”
Laura King, director of alumni relations and stewardship added, “Penn State Greater Allegheny alumni define what it means to ‘Be Greater.’ They are successful, resilient and philanthropic individuals who have made a difference in their career fields, and in society. Whether our alumni are financially supporting student scholarships or offering an internship through their places of employment, they are committed to helping our students be the very best they can be.”
To become involved with the Penn State Greater Allegheny/McKeesport Alumni Society, contact Laura King at [email protected].