Welcome to the Parent to Parent Blog

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. The blog will provide parent and family perspectives about their time at Penn State. We will strive to use the individual expertise of our Parent Council members to educate you about various topics, as well as the resources and services available from the university.

three parents volunteer at parents and families weekend by welcoming new students and their familiestwo members of the parents council volunteer at an information table during parents and families weekend

Time Flies When You Love Penn State

By Mandy Rofe, Parent Ambassador

I cannot believe it is the end of my daughter Jacqueline’s freshman year. 

It feels like it was only yesterday when we were touring the University Park campus and immediately fell in love with Penn State.  It was a freezing day but we loved yelling our first “WE ARE”…as instructed by our reverse walking Lion Ambassadors!  Current students rushing around smiling and laughing and welcoming us to the campus. There was no doubt our daughter had made the right choice!

It feels like it was only yesterday when we were packing up to make the long drive from NY to deliver our only child to her destination.  That was a really long drive, and we were all feeling different forms of nervous. This would be the first time my husband and I would be without our child.  When we saw the sign for Penn State University we were all so excited!  When we finished moving her into her dorm we hugged and cried.  We knew she would flourish at Penn State…needless to say it was an even longer drive home!

It feels like yesterday we made our first visit to our daughter and attended our first football game! Wow, what an emotional experience. First, of course, to see Jacqueline…less than one month felt like an eternity!  Second, to experience what she was experiencing, watching that Stripe-Out Game feeling the amazing energy from the student’s section…having her text us that she was in the “S Zone,” just fantastic!! Even if you are not a football fan you must go to a game.  As the Blue Band played I had tears in my eyes, the school spirit is amazing.  Of course that first visit we also went to the Creamery, YUM…and visited the Arboretum, beautiful.  All the things we hoped for our child were coming true…a wonderful education, great new friends, tremendous school pride and more activities than you could ever wish for.

Fast forward and in a flash, her first year is about to be complete.  I am so excited to return to pick my daughter up in less than two weeks.  Part of me is sad for her that the year is over, although I’m sure she can’t wait to get a break, and part of me is sad for us that the year is over, although I can’t wait to have my daughter back in her room!!

We have all become part of the Penn State Family, I will miss it over the summer and I am sure Jacqueline will too.  Time flies…when you love Penn State!

“So what do you want to be when you grow up?”: Lessons Learned Along the Way

By Deborah Dort, Parents Council

“So what do you want to be when you grow up?”  This is a question our children in college are most likely feeling pressured to answer, especially those nearing the end of their college years.  If truth be told, I sometimes joke that I am still trying to figure out the answer to this question myself.

Some will easily answer this question, find a job that suits them, and stay with one company until retirement.  Others will change careers and/or companies multiple times throughout their life.

My intention upon entering college was to have a medical career but I never imagined where that would lead.  I attended a very small liberal arts college that my mother had also attended.  As a senior, I applied for medical school, somewhat nervously as only one female had ever been accepted to medical school from my college, and that had been ten years prior. As luck (and a lot of hard work) would have it, I became the second!

I entered medical school aspiring to be a pediatrician, but graduated wanting to be a radiologist. Soon after my radiology residency, I married my wonderful husband, gave birth to adorable twins a year and a half later, and spent approximately ten years in private practice.

Then comes the second half of my career – work for the Department of Veterans Affairs.  This has turned out to definitely be the best and most meaningful part of my career.  It is such an honor to serve Veterans! Last year my career took another turn when I accepted a position in administration at the VA Central Office in Washington, D.C.  What an exciting time it has been to be in D.C., working to improve healthcare for Veterans.

Along the way I have been well served by these words of advice that I often share with new employees: “Show up on time, bring your A-game, and do it with a smile!”  Networking and establishing those key professional relationships with others has also been invaluable to my success along the way.  You never know when you will make an impression on someone that will change the course of your career.  Our children, as students and graduates of Penn State, are advantaged in that they will be leaving college as part of the very large Penn State family network.  I anticipate this will help open up opportunities for them as they pursue their careers.  How fortunate for them!

Penn State Excels at Supporting Students in Recovery from Substance Use Disorders

By Silvia and Jim Hatzell, Parents Council

We both graduated from Penn State in 1987.   We were married in 1988. Like many young Penn State alumni couples, we dreamed that someday we would have children, and they too, would go to Penn State.  Fast forward thirty years later, and yes, all three of our children went on to Penn State!  Collectively, they have had some of the best opportunities Penn State has to offer; a great education, Schreyer Honors College, Presidential Leadership Academy, academic scholarships, excellent internships and job placement, study abroad, research assistantships, learning assistantships, Thon, club sports, intramural sports and just an overall, fun and balanced education.  However, no program has meant more to our family than the Penn State Collegiate Recovery Community, or the CRC.

In the summer of 2013, between his sophomore and junior year at PSU, our oldest son, Jimmy, crashed from a struggle with drugs and alcohol.  During that time our family was in crisis.  We had no experience with this addiction and our immediate reaction was that the last place we wanted our son to be was at Penn State.  While we were frantically searching for a substance use disorder rehabilitation facility we also placed a call to Jason Whitney, the Director of the CRC.  During the conversation, Jason affirmed that Jimmy should go to rehab, but he also assured him that his best days at Penn State were still ahead of him.  While we appreciated Jason’s sentiments, we were extremely skeptical that Jimmy would ever return to Penn State.

After Jimmy completed treatment in early September of 2013, he stayed home with us for that fall semester.  He was determined to continue his education and graduate in four years.  He took twelve credits through Penn State World Campus and frequently attended support group meetings.  We had told him, that if he did all that was agreed, we would permit him to return to University Park in January.

January came.  We were a little nervous about sending our newly sober son back to a campus with a big party reputation.  However, he had maintained communication with Jason during the semester, and had made some new friends who were part of the CRC.  Jason had also made arrangements for Jimmy to share an apartment with another student in recovery.  (Penn State has since added sober living dorms.)

Jimmy did go on to have his best years at Penn State when he returned as a student in recovery.  The CRC is not just an office in the Pasquerilla Center.  The CRC is the family and support a young person needs when he returns to an environment that is hostile to recovery.  The CRC’s mission is to provide a caring and supportive environment for students working to recover from addictions. The CRC communicates a message of hope, links students with recovery-related services and persons in recovery, and facilitates the development of healthy and sustainable habits of mind, body, and spirit.  Through the pairing of education and recovery, students are positioned to transition into fulfilling lives as productive members of the campus community and the larger society. The CRC encourages students to continue their education while in recovery in order to create the life of their wildest dreams.

The Penn State CRC has grown rapidly since it was established in 2011. Beginning with just a couple of members back then, there are currently about 25 active members. Students attend weekly seminars and lunches, as well as participate in community bonding activities. Students annually attend the Association in Recovery in Higher Education’s Student Leadership Summit and Skiathon in Colorado with students from other CRCs across the country. There are so many fun opportunities made possible, including spring break trips, hikes, game nights and more. The Penn State CRC also offers the option of on-campus recovery housing for members in R.O.A.R. House, an acronym for Residence of Addiction Recovery. There are currently 8 students living in the ROAR house who have become great friends.  You can obtain more information about Penn State CRC at their website, sites.psu.edu/pscrc/.

Because of his determination, and the help of many people at Penn State that really wanted our son to succeed, Jimmy did graduate in four years, with two degrees, in IST.  He made Dean’s List every semester when he returned as a student in recovery.  He is now in his fourth year of recovery, he is gainfully employed in IT, he just purchased his own home and he maintains a very active social life with many other young people in recovery.

The following are a sample of other testimonials about the Penn State CRC:

The CRC was my first experience with students who were happy, who were sober, and who were living their dreams. When I got there, they told me, “Your best days at Penn State are ahead of you.” I thought there was no way that could be true. But they were 100% correct.

— Jimmy H., IST. Class of 2015, free of alcohol and other drugs since 8/1/2013

When I entered recovery, I had to adopt a new lifestyle. If I continued to hang around with the same people in the same places, I would be at high risk for repeating the same behaviors—and that’s a risk I wasn’t willing to take. I found new friends who understood and supported me and started navigating the world with a totally different attitude and outlook. I didn’t know if I would ever be able to return to school — especially at a large university like Penn State. I used to fear that my life would be boring or that I’d feel out of place as a sober student, but that couldn’t be further from the truth—as a member of the CRC, I’ve found acceptance, love, connection, and laughter beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.

—Melissa B., free of alcohol and other drugs since 5/4/2015

When my career at Penn State was off the rails, and before I had even considered quitting drinking and working a recovery program, I learned about the CRC. The other students convinced me that I could do it, and I jumped in with both feet. I attend seminars at the CRC, and I work a program outside the CRC by attending 12-step meetings and going to counseling, and I’ve stayed sober and I really like this whole way of life.

— Jack W., free of alcohol and drugs since 12/18/2015

My first encounter with the CRC allowed me to see that I was not alone in my battle with addiction. I found the support I needed in this community on the first day with a warm welcome and encouraging messages of hope. It was a pivotal moment in my undergraduate career to find the friendship and help I needed. The CRC has supported my goal to graduate while providing a safe place for me to be a sober student.

—Robbie E., free of alcohol and other drugs since 2/21/2014

Last year I had disenrolled from Penn State to go to rehab, but I returned, and with the help of the CRC, I’ve found belonging and happiness, I’m staying sober, and I’m doing great in school — my dream of going to medical school has been revived, and I am back on track.

— Ryan M., free of alcohol and other drugs since 4/11/2016

PSU Ice Hockey and the Pegula Ice Arena

By Michelle Alvare, Parents Council

If you have not attended a men’s ice hockey game at the new Pegula Ice Arena – what are you waiting for? Well, I realize that all the games are “sold out” aside from Standing Room Only tickets which can be purchased at the PSU Athletics ticket office, BUT there are usually tickets available for resale on the PSU Ticketmaster site, so go get ‘em! Seriously! If you think the “12th man” makes a difference in Beaver Stadium, then you have to experience the “7th man” in Pegula. There isn’t quite anything like the Student Roar Zone during a college hockey game.

College ice hockey is good “clean” playing, and shows off the skills of each team, especially those of the Penn State Men’s team. College ice hockey does not allow fighting and the referees and linesmen are very quick to get between players that are in each other’s face. In case you haven’t heard– PSU has been ranked in the “Top Ten” college teams for most of the season, actually sitting at #1 for one week recently. Ice hockey is a very fast game that holds your attention for three 20-minute periods.  There are two intermissions; however, which allow for ample time to get some refreshments without missing out on the exciting play.

There is not a bad seat in Pegula either, as it is perfectly designed for everyone attending to enjoy the college ice hockey experience. If you find seats for sale on the upper level – don’t worry, there isn’t a “nosebleed” section – you can still see the puck flying around on the ice without binoculars. In fact, upper level seats come with the added bonus of FREE Penn State Creamery ice cream, in addition to other available snacks and beverages, so it is worth spending a little more for an upper level ticket.

Check out the excitement of college ice hockey and the Pegula Ice Arena, the best ice hockey facility in all of college sports for sure!

WE ARE…excited to attend our next PSU Ice Hockey game!!!