Welcome to the Parent to Parent Blog

Penn State Parents Council

Parent to Parent Blog
Welcoming. Sharing. Connecting.

The Parent to Parent Blog is run by members of the Penn State Parents Council that are dedicated to enhancing parent to parent communication. This blog is a partnership with the Penn State Parents Program.  We will strive to use the individual expertise of our parent and family volunteers to educate you about various topics, as well as the resources and services available from the university.

 

What I wish my parents talked to me about

By Anonymous

When I visit the University Park campus I’m often struck by how much has changed with the college experience since I attended college in the early 1980’s.  However, there are many of the same issues that I experienced as a young woman as I grappled with the responsibilities of adulthood, independence, peer pressure, and academic rigor.  There are things, many things I wish my parents had discussed with me before I left for college, but looking back there was a wide generation gap between me and my parent’s generation.  I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you the issues I wish my parents had talked to me about, specifically, about alcohol and sexual assault.  This is a critical and potentially lifesaving discussion that must become part of the regular narrative between parents and children.

I do not believe my parents could comprehend that alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct took place on a college campus, let alone impact one of their daughters.  I do not recall having discussions about the consequences of drinking too much, and most definitely there were ZERO discussions about anything related to sexuality.   My dating experience heading off to college was very limited.  I had many male friends, but none that I found interesting enough to date long term.  That changed when I left for college.  However, I quickly discovered that I was unprepared and immature to handle the new found freedom of college life.

I wish my parents had discussed with me the dangers of over-consuming alcohol.  As it was back when I went to school and even more so now, young adults drink alcohol in alarming amounts, and in some cases deadly amounts.  I know I felt the pressure to fit in and believed that the only way to have fun was to go to parties and drink.  What I didn’t realize at the time that drinking too much not only caused me to feel terrible the next day, but more important, my decision-making and choices were altered as well.  In choosing to over-consume, I let my guard down, I made choices that were not in my best interest, and to this day I have deep regrets.

Parents, as you prepare your child to leave, I cannot stress enough the importance of having serious conversations with them about responsible drinking and the consequences that can occur due to overconsumption.  Let’s face it, underage drinking is prevalent on every college campus across the country, it is not limited to Penn State and is most likely the common denominator in many poor and tragic choices made by college students.  While students will take online alcohol and drug awareness modules before they begin their freshmen year, as parents we must continue to have an ongoing dialogue with our children about alcohol and drug abuse and teach them by our example.  My parents never took the time to talk with me about the impact drinking too much could have on my life and my college experience.  Perhaps that one conversation would have helped me when I needed it the most.

I wish my parents would have taught me the difference between “consent” and not being able to give consent because I was impaired.  That conversation would have never taken place, because “good girls” would never put themselves in that type of “situation.”  I wish I had been better prepared, more experienced and comfortable around the young men who I flirted with at parties and bars.  Instead, I was naïve, trusting, and unsuspecting of their ulterior motives.  What seemed like a harmless walk home, because I was a little “tipsy” turned into a situation that I never expected to happen to me, I said “no!” and that plea fell on deaf ears.  I became one of “those girls” you have heard about, the girl who had too much to drink and led a guy on to think she wanted to have sex with him.  The only problem with that scenario is “girls like me” were not able to make that choice, it was forced upon them.  That experience forever changed me and, even after working through my feelings with counselors I still think about the “what if’s”.   Through my own journey, I found I wasn’t alone, and discovered that other young women just like me had the same thing happen to them.  Back then, these incidents were never reported or discussed; it was taboo to come forward.   I wish I had confided in someone.  I was too ashamed.  I blamed myself because after all, I drank a little too much and let my guard down.

During my years in college, there were few resources to help students who were victims of sexual assault; there were no hotlines, psychological services, or even guidance on how to report a crime of this nature.  Instead, I pretended that I was just fine.  I was too ashamed of what my parents would think of me to ask for their support, to ask for counseling or report the incident.   I know my parents loved me and I know how devastated they would have been to learn about what happened to me.  I wish my parents would have provided me with a sense that I could share anything with them, no matter how awful and they would be there to support me and guide me in the right direction.

Parents, please share my story with your son or daughter as they prepare to begin their college experience and let them know that you will listen to them and support them unconditionally, no matter what the circumstance.  A candid discussion regarding personal responsibility, sexuality and consent should not be limited to students attending college for the first time, rather, a continuous dialogue throughout your son or daughters college experience.  Additionally, it is important to become familiar with and to share with your child the resources that are available to them on campus, specifically, the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response:  http://titleix.psu.edu/get-help/,  Counseling and Psychological Services: http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/counseling/self-help_sa.shtml, and the Center for Women Students: http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/womenscenter/

I wish I could turn back time and use the knowledge, wisdom and insight I have gained to alter my college experiences. I cannot change the past, but continue to move forward.   My hope is that this blog will serve as the impetus for a larger discussion between you and your children.  As parents and guardians, it is our responsibility to prepare our children for adulthood, all aspects of it, good and bad.  Conversations that are uncomfortable tend to be put off or never occur.  Take the time now to have these important conversations so that your child will be informed, prepared and they will not look back and wish you had.

Advice for Freshman Parents Making the LEAP

By Brian Kruse, Parent Ambassador

We dropped off my freshman son for his LEAP summer session on June 29, 2016.  Now ten months later, I picked him up after his first full year at Penn State.  It’s been an exciting adventure for him, and a real adjustment for me.   I knew going in I was going to miss him, but I didn’t realize how much.   It’s hard going from being a part of your student’s everyday life to only seeing him 5 times in almost a year.  Being over 400 miles away, you can’t just pop in for a quick hello.

At first over the summer, we were excited and nervous about all of his new experiences.  The occasional text and rare pictures were a treat as we breathed a sigh of relief that he loves Penn State and was making the adjustment to college life.   The more he got settled in though, the more the reality of the change in our lives was setting in.   No more high school meets to watch.   No one to play hooky with and go skiing on a snowy weekday.  No one to take out the trash, mow the lawn or shovel the driveway for me.  I even missed the occasional bickering with his Mom…the peace and quiet is deafening.

It can be hard to remember in all the initial excitement that this is THEIR time and THEIR experience and it isn’t shared with us the same way everything else has been up through high school.  So how do you make that adjustment?  How can you stay connected without cramping their experience?  Every parent/student relationship is different, so there’s really no right or wrong answers.  But just in case it might help some new Penn State parents, here are a few things that helped me adjust to my PSU freshman’s first year:

  • Buy the Penn State Swag and show it off with pride! From T-shirts, to hoodies, to car magnets, I embrace it all.  Penn Staters are everywhere and they love to talk Penn State.  The swag sparks connections, conversations and of course the occasional random “We Are” shouts.   I even once got a special 10% “Penn State” only discount in a Mexican restaurant where the manager was an alum!  I’ve been from Maine to New York City to Key West this past year and wherever I go, there’s someone reminding me of my connection to Penn State and my son.
  • Watch every football game. Get the Big Ten Network and don’t miss a game!  I like football, but before this year I hadn’t watched college football.   Whether you like football or not, your student chose Penn State in no small part because of its spirit and sense of community.  A Penn State football game embodies the best of both.  Get up on Saturday morning, put on your best blue and whites, and count the hours to kick-off.   No one to watch with you?  There are plenty of great Penn State groups on social media that you can chat with during the game.   Now if you really miss your student as much as I did, you can play the DVR version of “Where’s Waldo”.  That’s where you tape the game and then after, slow scan through the camera pans of the student section to see if you can spot YOUR student.  Sounds crazy right?  I found him three times this last season!
  • Speaking of social media, take some time to explore all of different social media sites offered by Penn State and groups affiliated with Penn State. Reading daily posts related to the school and specific colleges or interests that I know my student is connected with, helps me feel more connected.  Occasionally, I’ll come across something that I think my son might be interested in and I’ll forward it and get the coveted text; “Thanks for sending that.”
  • Get involved!  There are plenty of opportunities for parents to be involved with Penn State.  I recently joined the Penn State Parents Program as a Parent Ambassador.   It’s great going to local admissions events to meet and share with prospective students and families.   Another great option would be to check with the Alumni Office about local alumni chapters in your area.  Even if you’re not an alumnus, many groups are happy to include parents of future alumni in their fundraising, community service and social events.

So, fear not, new freshman parents!  You too can share in the fun and excitement of the next four years because…WE ARE…Penn State Parents!

A Return to Childhood’s Gate

By Peggy Montella, Parent Ambassador (’86 Journalism, ’90 M.B.A. Marketing)

“When we stood at childhood’s gate, shapeless in the hands of fate, thou didst mold us dear old State” are lyrics that all Penn Staters sing, regardless of victory or defeat, after every athletic contest. As a second-generation alumni and current parent, I have taken those words to heart. Looking back, the six years I spent at Penn State did mold me. I was a shy 17-year-old from a small Pennsylvania town who picked Penn State because my father went there and I grew up watching Penn State football. I left after grad school as a 25-year-old with a great job offer in Maryland and an even greater boyfriend, who has been my husband for 24 years. I truly grew to adulthood in Happy Valley and consider it my erstwhile hometown.

As an alumna sending my oldest child to Penn State, it has been an interesting switch of roles. At the Spend a Summer Day visit, it was me regaling (boring?!) my prospective Penn Stater about stickies at the Diner (still delicious), ice cream at the Creamery (duh), and fun nights at the G-Man (now Primanti Bros). I told him how the 80s student section threw marshmallows at football games and how, regrettably, we most definitely did not know the words of the Alma Mater. Now, it is his turn to introduce me to new restaurants when we visit, show me the new buildings on campus, and not only does he know the Alma Mater, but he plays it proudly as a member of the Penn State Blue Band. It is “his” Penn State now.

This twist in roles made me wonder what my father thought when he dropped me off on campus as a freshman. He went to PSU on the GI Bill after serving in the US Navy during WWII. During his time at Penn State, he worked as a waiter in the ladies dorm of McElwain Hall…my sophomore home. It must have been strange moving his daughter into the dorm where he once served dinner. I recognize the feeling because I moved my freshman son into McKee Hall, which I called home when it was the graduate student dorm in the late 80s. It was a surreal experience because so much of the building was the same. Even as I helped my son unpack, I had to resist the urge to find “my” room!

Now that I have been a Penn State parent for a few years, I can say that I am equally appreciative of my history there and enjoying all the places like Otto’s and Primanti Bros. I am blown away by THON, which was a much smaller event in my day. There are many new, taller buildings going up downtown, but as long as we have landmarks like the Dorito church, the Tavern, and the Corner Room, it will always feel like State College (and home) to me.

I am grateful that my father lived long enough to see his grandson go to Penn State. It gave me comfort returning my son to campus after my father’s funeral to know that three generations of my family have now walked these paths, eaten in these dorms, and sat in some of the same old classrooms and restaurants. It is hard sending your children off to college, especially the first.  Knowing my oldest child would be at a place I knew and loved made it easier. Many things have changed from my father’s day to mine to my son’s but the spirit of Penn State remains the same. We Are and will always be…Penn State!

With a clear vision, mission and tagline in place the Penn State Parents Council is poised to make a positive impact on all parents and families

By Russell Napolitano, Parents Council, Son R.J (class of 2017) and daughter Betsy (class of 2019)

Since its formation in 2012, the Penn State Parents Council has been providing general guidance and support for Parents Program initiatives. Comprised of a group of 40+ parents and family members who volunteer their time to provide input regarding parent and family engagement and involvement efforts through various connections and forms of outreach. Over the past six months, the Penn State Parents Council leadership team launched a strategic plan initiative, which identifies four key goals, one of which focused on the development and refinement of a mission and vision.

The development of our vision and mission statements along with a tagline is the foundation to help us set the stage for completing all four goals. My role as Chief Operating Officer for a New York branding firm allowed me to bring my experience, knowledge and discipline to lead a team comprised of tenured and new Parents Council members who also brought a range of expertise to the process. In order to ensure that we were getting a 360-degree perspective to help inform our strategy, we audited many communications vehicles that would give us that more “personal” insight into the many challenges and opportunities that parents and families face when navigating through such a large university:

  • Our own experience being on the Parents Council
  • Our experience being parents and family members of students currently at Penn State University Park
  • A sharing of alumni perspectives
  • A review of Parents Program research and assessments and a review of information found on the Parents Council, Parents Program and Penn State Parents Facebook pages
  • A review of similar programs at other colleges and universities

All in all, we found no shortage of material that would help us understand the role that the Penn State Parents Council needed to play within such a diverse community – a community coming together from different racial, religious and cultural backgrounds not to mention a community coming together from many different states from east to west and from north to south. Through the aggregation of all of our findings, we created our vision, mission and tagline, which were officially launched during our April meeting over Blue-White Weekend.

Our vision

WE ARE a resource enriching the Penn State experience for all parents and families.

Why this vision statement works: Our vision clearly captures who we are, what we do and for whom we are doing it. It is our inspiration and aspiration that will guide us well into the future. It recognizes that we are a resource for parents and family members, including grandparents, siblings, relatives, friends and guardians who may have the responsibility of helping students successfully navigate the college years.

Our mission

The Penn State Parents Council is comprised of a representative group of University Park parents and family members who:

  • Make a commitment to volunteer our time and to share our knowledge and expertise across a range of initiatives and programs that support the mission and the goals of the Penn State Parents Program
  • Act as an advisory group working in close collaboration with the Parents Program to help undergraduate parents, families and students foster a positive and lasting connection to Penn State

We achieve a sense of balance between interests, knowledge, expertise, experience and tenure through the thoughtful recruitment of new members, and we make Penn State feel like a close-knit, supportive community by:

  • Welcoming a diverse group of parents and families into our University Park community
  • Learning more about on- and off- campus life at the University, including its administration, academics, career development, student activities, personal enrichment and sports programs in order to become better informed so we, in turn, can serve as a well-informed and knowledgeable resource
  • Helping all families and their students feel connected through the development of both on- and off-campus programs, services and outreach that address a wide range of needs
  • Listening and extending a helping hand to parents and family members who are seeking information
  • Sharing our knowledge and first-hand experiences through frequent communication via our website, newsletter, blogs and social media
  • Connecting with University administration to become better informed, share our concerns and support their efforts

Why this mission statement works: It captures all aspects of who we are, what we do and our overall intention.

Our tagline

Welcoming. Sharing. Connecting.

Why this tagline works: In just three words our tagline adders up to our vision and mission and applies whether we are speaking to internal or external stakeholders. Our actions, whether at programs, events or meetings must always being welcoming. We are committed to sharing our knowledge, talents, experiences and resources with one another and with parents and families so that we can help them become better informed. And lastly, we are about making connections across the entire Penn State community to help enrich the Penn State experience for all parents and families.

Stay tuned for my follow-up blog, which will take a close look at our core values; the personality attributes that guide our behavior in all that we do as Penn State Parents Council members.