UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Penn State program that offers Pittsburgh high schoolers the opportunity to become community and future-ready is officially expanding to central Pennsylvania.
Justin Aglio, associate vice president for Penn State Outreach and executive director for the RI at Penn State, said the Central PA pilot program that began in 2023 will continue in 2024.
“The internationally recognized RI at Penn State is at the forefront of preparing high school-aged students across Pennsylvania for the emerging workforce through its skill-based programming, experiential learning opportunities, personalized mentorship and collaboration with industry, education, and community partners,” Aglio said.
“The summer program empowers learners to discover their personal, public, and professional pathways during their transformational and transitional stages of life, as well as drives career and economic growth in the region by equipping students with the skills, knowledge, and adaptability needed to thrive in a rapidly changing world.”
More than 150 students from 57 school districts and five different counties in Pennsylvania have participated in the Readiness Institute Summer Program since 2021.
Students say it is a program where there is something for everyone and the experience will stay with them beyond the summer.
“The students that I have met come from an array of backgrounds, all with their own distinct personalities and goals. This allows for a place where no one is truly ‘othered’ or pushed aside. Everyone gets something for them,” said Jack Keiser, a student from Shanksville-Stonycreek School District in Somerset County School District and RI at Penn State Central PA Summer Program participant.
“My favorite part of the program has been meeting people and understanding how local communities work. We have visited a wide variety of businesses that encompass many types of professions. I have learned about the great importance of networking, investing financially and thinking long-term.”
Along with two onsite instruction locations at IU8 Educational Development Center in Duncansville and Richland High School in Johnstown, students were enrolled as part of one of two cohorts and visited many area businesses including Tribune Democrat, Seven Mountains Media, Bedford-Somerset Developmental and Behavioral Health Services, Somerset Hospital, The Esport Company, COJEC City of Johnstown Entrepreneur Center, Inventionland, Somerset Trust, Boyer Financial Planning, Thomas Automotive, Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce, Penn State Altoona, Penn State Johnstown, John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, WTAJ-TV, Forever Media, Nulton Diagnostics, Sheetz Distribution Center, Action Driven Education, Altoona First Savings Bank and Kades-Margolis Corporation.
Deniz Albayrakdileo, a student from the Altoona Area School District, said networking was a central theme within the RI at Penn State Summer Program.
“One of the goals of the program was to build connections with business leaders as well as with each other because we will someday be the leaders. Multiple speakers emphasized the value of relationships, and we heard many times your network is your net worth,” Albayrakdileo said.
“Public speaking is another useful skill. We were required to create slideshows and give short presentations because being an effective speaker is useful to have in any job.”
Janel Vancas, director for Curriculum Innovation for the Appalachian Intermediate Unit 8 (AIU8), said the program is terrific for any community.
“Being that we live in a more rural area, this experience goes such a long way. Especially if we want to encourage our young adults to thrive and give back within the communities in which they were raised,” Vancas said.
“The experience thus far has truly been amazing and so rewarding! The students have formed close bonds and all activities have been so beneficial and worth the time.”
Vancas said she is excited about the program continuing in 2024.
“AIU8 is committed to the partnership with the RI at Penn State. We have learned so much from this pilot program that we want to make it even better next summer!”
The RI at Penn State is a unit of Penn State Outreach.