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Community Service Yields Many Rewards

Biloxi student volunteers
2/23/2006 —

Penn State McKeesport students set off on a journey to Biloxi, Mississippi that changed their lives. In partnership with Hands on USA, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to timely disaster response and relief, 11 students gave of their time over the winter break to make a difference in the lives of victims of Hurricane Katrina.  The trip was organized by SGA president, Rajiv Raja, 19, of Lansdowne, Delaware County, and Courtney B. Ely-Denberg, 22, of Waynesboro, Franklin County. The student volunteers completed a number of tasks in the Biloxi area including cleaning debris from homes, removing mold from walls, and delivering supplies to hurricane victims. “The people there are survivors” stated Raja, “nobody is giving up down there.”

No one gave up on the 11 students when they returned to Penn State McKeesport either. In fact, Dr. Joseph Marchesani, assistant professor of integrative arts, nominated the group of students for the Penn Stater of the Quarter Award and they won. This recognition program provides an opportunity to thank those faculty, staff, and students who serve the University above and beyond their normal duties.

“This extraordinary effort by a group of our students exemplifies the importance that the campus places on community service and civic engagement as complements to our academic mission,” stated Marchesani. “By donating a substantial portion of their holiday break to assist those in need, their action merits the recognition that comes with being designated as Penn Stater of the Quarter”.

The 11 students were recognized for their accomplishments in Biloxi when they received certificates of achievement from Dr. Curtiss E. Porter, chancellor, Penn State McKeesport, during an open house event with prospective students and their families. Their names will be inscribed on a permanent recognition plate on campus. The names of the students are Edward A. Constantine, Courtney B. Ely-Denberg, Brittney N. Hays, Kendra Jennette, George M. Kopko, T. J. O’Malley, Ashley M. Porter, Rajiv Raja, Joshua B. Stover, Susanne L. Tindall, and Eric Wood.

The students plan to return to help again in Biloxi during spring break. But before they go, they may be driving to Harrisburg to receive a resolution passed by the state House of Representatives. Representative Marc Gergley, D-White Oak, PA. was present at the award ceremony and congratulated the students for their unselfish actions. “We’re always proud to honor our students,” commented Gergley. Citations from the representative’s office will be presented to the students in Harrisburg.

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