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School's largest class graduates

May 16, 2004|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

MONT ALTO, PA.

Members of the largest class in the 100-year history of Penn State Mont Alto straightened mortarboards and lined up by majors Saturday in preparation for commencement.

About 150 students, 49 of whom received bachelor's degrees, graduated Saturday.

Working full time while taking full-time credits was a challenge for Scott Brown, 33, of Shippensburg, Pa., he said. He worked as community youth director of the Chambersburg YMCA while studying for his associate's degree in human development and family studies.

"I wanted to substantiate my experience with a degree," he said before commencement.

Michelle Mellott, 24, of St. Thomas, Pa., graduated as a physical therapy assistant. Her parents, cousins, aunt, grandparents, sister and fianc were in the audience to watch her receive her associate's degree.

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Also receiving an associate's degree in physical therapy assistant was Ashley Clevenger of Waynesboro, Pa.

Clevenger, 20, said that while she does not yet have a job lined up, "there are plenty of calls coming in for jobs." Her parents, sister, aunts and grandparents attended the ceremony.

Commencement speaker Wanda Jones, who attended Penn State Mont Alto and graduated from Penn State's University Park campus with a degree in medical technology, encouraged graduates to set goals.

"This is the last test," she said. "Raise your hand if you have set goals for your life. Have you written them down? If you don't have goals, you can be like the Cheshire Cat (in Alice in Wonderland). 'If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.'"

Jones said that for too long, she did not have goals. It took her a decade to realize that she just was drifting along after her father's death, she said. She then earned her master's and doctoral degrees.

Since January 1998, Jones has been the deputy assistant secretary for health (women's health) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the director of the Office of Women's Health.

Jones said she knew she had the ability to translate complex subject matter to make it easier to understand, but she loved science and was happy working in the lab. But, she said, her scrupulous documentation in her graduate work and her training at Penn State pushed her "in the direction of communicating science rather than doing science," she said.

"It's critical for me to stand in the breach between scientists and advocates," she said. "Dialogue is the best outcome for everyone. Communications gets the job done. So much of what we do in medicine and public health depends on how well we communicate. Experts are a dime a dozen. We have to translate what we know into how we act."

"Children have the best chance of good health when their parents are healthy," Jones concluded. "Adults have the best chance of good health when their community values health, safety and education."

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