Democratic Party; Alive and Well

By: Sarah Steighner

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Within the nation’s ever changing political landscape, the horizon in particular Pennsylvania areas is still a deep Democratic blue.

 

Even students at Penn State New Kensington (PSNK) have been active in Democratic events in Pennsylvania. Biology major and 21-year-old PSNK student, Broderick Gerano recently travelled to Youngstown, Ohio to see presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a rally. He also recently attended Sanders’ rally in Pittsburgh. Gerano described the atmosphere as “humorously serious.” “We all were emotional, but we weren’t just upset for the fun of being upset; Bernie Sanders clearly laid out why we were upset, giving our emotions credibility,” Gerano said.

 

Gerano listed the environment and issues of equality as some of his biggest draws to the Democratic Party. “Democrats believe everybody deserves a fair chance at leading a successful, happy life, not just a select few,” said Gerano. He further explained that he is excited to become a part of the Young Democrats, and other similar political groups, next year when he transfers to University Park to finish his degree.

 

In fact, University Park not only has a College Democrats group, but groups such as Students for Sanders, and Students for Hillary have popped up within the hype of the current presidential election. Senior and 21-year-old Ryan Valencia is majoring in International Politics and History at University Park where he is also the Chair of Governmental Affairs and College Democrats, as well as the President of Students for Hillary.

 

Valencia said that he has certainly noticed a rise in the Democratic presence and activism lately at University Park. Valencia explained that the College Democrats is a recognized student organization that has been on campus for at least 50 years. Valencia continued to discuss the wide array of activities that the College Democrats participate in. “We register votes, knock on doors and do phone banking to get Democrats elected at the local, state, and federal level as well as plan programs that push forth progressive values,” said Valencia. Aside from also occasionally partnering with the College Republicans group to engage students in the political process, Valencia said that their members have diverse backgrounds, yet many are Political Science majors.

 

While it seems as though there is a strong Democratic presence on college campuses lately, the Democratic Party is alive and well in many other local communities. Hillary Clinton’s campaign opened their first official Pennsylvania office on March 24 at 216 North Highland Avenue in East Liberty. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders’ campaign opened his first office in Pittsburgh on March 23 at 1317 East Carson Street in the South Side. With the Pennsylvania Primary approaching, however, it is not only official campaign offices that are making themselves known. Various grassroots organizations have also come into fruition, including Burghers for Bernie.

 

Burghers for Bernie is a grassroots, volunteer led group with a core organizing committee of about 20 members including organizer Beth Ussery of Pittsburgh. Ussery explained that Burghers for Bernie started out in July 2015 after a small group of Sanders supporters held a livestream event which called grassroots organizers in to action. Burghers for Bernie has held debate watch parties, collected over 2,000 signatures to get Sanders on the Pennsylvania ballet, and also helped to organize a march for Bernie in Pittsburgh. According to Ussery, their casual volunteer group numbers into the hundreds, while their march attracted thousands of people. Ussery described the diversity of the group, as well as their unity. “We’ve created this amazing coalition of people from all walks of life; students, minorities, middle class workers, academics, and people of faith. The list goes on,” said Ussery. Meanwhile, she also addressed that their Democratic movement goes beyond merely supporting Sanders. “We also have to support the political innovators in our local and state governments, which is what we plan to do,” said Ussery. She continued, “Even after this election cycle our group intends to continue its work to support grassroots Progressivism in and around Pittsburgh.”

 

Other Democratic groups that are more focused on engaging Democrats as a whole, versus existing just to support presidential candidates, also exists. One such group includes the Armstrong County Democratic Committee. Complete with a full executive staff, the committee meets every third Monday at 6 p.m. in the County Commissioner’s office at the Armstrong County courthouse.

 

Committee person for Kittanning Township, Rick Drumm, explained that one of the Armstrong County Democrats main goals is to raise awareness that they exist, especially in a county that is largely Republican. Drumm explained that they hold events such as their summer picnic, fall banquet, and annual breakfast in hopes to encourage local Democrats to come together as well as meet and listen to local Democratic politicians.

 

Drumm explained that their committee is trying to do more things to help support local Democrats and overall Democratic causes. “I believe that the Democratic Party stands for people having the ability to choose to be who they want to be, without fear of discrimination or retribution,” Drumm said. “They [the Democrats] want to help the people do things, and the Republicans want to take that away.”

 

Vice Chairperson of the Armstrong County Democratic Committee, Marsha DuFour, explained that while their might be a slight rise in interest and support for the Democratic Party in Armstrong County that they are still recovering after a lot of Democrats involvement dissipated. “It’s like a few years ago it came out that the “L” word [liberal] was bad,” said Dufour. She explained that overall she believes the Democratic Party is pro-women and fights for women’s issues. However, she explained that it is hard to get volunteers for their Democratic Committee in Armstrong County, especially because they don’t have the college demographic around.

 

During the Armstrong County Democratic Committee’s annual breakfast in March, Kittanning Mayor Kirk Atwood spoke about his journey to hopefully become a delegate for Sanders at the Democratic National Convention this July. He later explained that he used to be a Republican for many years, before switching to be an Independent, and then eventually becoming a Democrat which he has officially been for the past year. “As a liberal Republican, I was completely discouraged to see that even some of my former friends had begun to move further to the right and I soon realized that the ideological umbrella of that party had shrunk to a point that there was no room for me under it any longer,” said Atwood.

 

As Atwood has been busy collecting signature and fulfilling the requirements to become a delegate, he has also been actively supporting Sanders and even attended the Sanders rally in Pittsburgh March 31. “It is interesting to note that both of our [Democratic] candidates seem to square off over who can be more helpful, while the Republicans have been focused, in my opinion, on who should be left out of the American Dream,” said Atwood.

 

Pennsylvania is set to hold their general primary election on April 26. Voters must have been registered to vote by March 28, and are required to be registered as a Democrat if they wish to vote for a Democratic candidate.

The Original, the Unique, the Already Famous on Penn

By Paige Owens
Co-Editor-In-Chief

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — On a crowded street, in the heart of the city, Penn Avenue in the Cultural District sees the hustle and bustle of the city goers, the art addicts, the theatre junkies, and the bar crawlers. The Cultural District is home to countless restaurants and eateries, theatres, galleries, and more. On Jan. 30, the Cultural District became the home of a new, brilliant, second-floor art gallery, Already Famous on Penn.

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Already Famous on Penn opened their doors for the Grand Opening event on Saturday Jan. 30. The main wall showcased gallery owner, Nolan Sanders’ photography (Photo by Darren Myers).

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Your Vote Matters, My Vote Matters, All Votes Matter

By Darren Myers

Managing & Online Editor

MONROEVILLE, Pa – It’s election season and a new organization on campus wants you to know that every vote counts.

My Vote Matter team

From left to right: Dr. John Craig Hammond, Sarah Steighner, Broderick Gerano, Millie Brasser, Derrek Koblinsky, Jon McCabe, Aaron Holsness, and Professor Aima pose during their first registration event on Feb. 2.

My Vote Matters is an organization on the Penn State New Kensington campus that’s main goal is to inform students that not only does their vote matter, but their opinion matters too. The college student demographic is known for not being politically involved, but this group is attempting to change that.

It all started when Corporate Communications student Millie Brasser read “Soul of a Citizen” in Dr. Andrea Adolph’s Fundamental of Civic and Community Engagement course during the Fall 2015 semester.

“I was touched by the book and wanted to make a difference in the community,” Brasser said. With that, Brasser emailed Paul R. Loeb, the author of “Soul of a Citizen.” He responded by encouraging Brasser to make a difference of her own – by starting her own campus chapter of My Vote Matters at PSNK. Loeb is also the Campus Election Engagement Project founder, which supports a number of voting education organizations throughout the country.

The most important factor in Brasser’s creation of the organization is that she didn’t want any hierarchy involved. “No President, no Vice President, no nothing,” said Brasser. This, however, caused a potential red flag with the Student Government Association (SGA) on campus because, in order to be considered a club, those position need filled.

After careful consideration and countless meetings with Chancellor Snider, the resolution was made that My Vote Matters would be an organization on campus, not a club. This way everyone can work together as a team without titles or different positions of power. However, the organization will be sponsored by SGA and can still therefore apply for funding.

“We’re just a group of students with a similar interest,” said junior Psychology major Jon McCabe. “It started as a small idea and just snowballed from there.”

My Vote Matters has plenty of goals for the rest of the semester and they look to capitalize on their terrific start.

“Our goal is to register 100-150 students from campus,” Brasser said. And they’ve started off their first sign-up day with upwards of 30 students registering.

Sophomore Political Science major Derrek Koblinsky is a key component to the group’s success. Koblinsky, has already been offered an internship with Pennsylvania State Representative Eli Evankovich, and also has interviews for internships with Senator of Pennsylvania Pat Toomey and U.S. Representative Keith Rothfus.

“College kids are so incredibly apathetic when it comes to this,” said Koblinsky in reference of voting. “We want to inform students beyond just registering to vote.”

My Vote Matters is a completely non-partisan group, meaning that they do not have any party affiliation, nor do they collectively advertise or endorse any specific candidate. They simply want to inform students of politics and gain an interest in educating them on things that matter.

To help inform students, My Vote Matters will be screening pieces of each debate, both Democratic and Republican, in Café 780 throughout the semester. The assumption is that if the students are surrounded by current political rhetoric, it will spark conversation.

Sparking conversation doesn’t seem to be a problem. Everyone seems to have their opinions, be them informed or not, but that is the focus of this group. According to Koblinsky, “We don’t care what your party affiliation is. The meetings we conduct are essentially just everyone venting their ideas. We don’t want people to feel pressured to talk, but we also want people to speak their mind and create conversations.”

The group wants to focus on generating conversation, rather than debate. “The debate can come after your informed,” Koblinsky joked.

My Vote Matters will be hosting an event known as the Diplomatic Dinner on Feb. 25 in the Conference Center. Key note speakers attending this event include Eli Evankovich and Erin McClelland, whom is contesting Keith Rothfus in Pennsylvania’s 12th District. Reservations are in the works for other potential speakers.

The hope is that having local and state-level politicians to come in, explain how voting matters, and to inform the audience of political problems facing our area.

“Kids don’t care and I want to change that,” said Brasser in summary.

This organization couldn’t function without the help and support of everyone involved: Aaron Holness, Danielle Richardson, Jon McCabe, Cecily Petrarca, Kyle Waraks, and Broderick Gerano are key members to this organization and people who Brasseur has very high respect for.

Dr. Hammond, Dr. Andrea, Chancellor Snider, and Professor Aima are among the staff who are affiliated with My Vote Matters and they are there to give a helping hand to Brasseur and the organization whenever needed.

The organization meets once a week on Wednesdays during common hour. The room changes on a weekly basis based on availability, but it’s an outlet in to spark creative conversation through promoting political education.

New Kensington Better Block under New Leadership

By Danielle Richardson

Staff Writer & Reporter

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – The New Kensington Better Block, which is under new leadership, will be on Saturday, April 30 from 12 to 8:00 pm. Autumn Walker is the new coordinator of the Better Block event this year, along with Andre Carter.

Walker, who moved to New Kensington nearly five years ago, is a strong advocate for the city’s revitalization. She expressed her concerns over the stigma that New Kensington faces.

“New Ken has so much potential, but it is fighting against a few problems before it can be great again,” Walker said. “One thing that it needs is to shake the stigma that it got from how it was 10 years ago. It is not a scary place, but people seem to think it is.  I have lived here for 5 years without incident.” She hopes to eliminate this through initiatives like the Better Block.

Walker also runs her own business in downtown New Kensington and participated as a vendor in last year’s Better Block. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of small cities,” Walker said. “They can offer employment opportunities for the locals, for whom travelling into a larger city is not possible, as well as events for the locals to participate in.”

Andre Carter, the owner of Jams Avenue Music, is co-coordinating the event with Walker this year. “He and I are to be heading up this event due to in large part both of us loving this city and always popping up with new ideas and support for new ideas around town,” Walker said.  “I think we will be leaning on a lot of the previous leaders from the past two Better Block events to help guide the process.”

Last year, Jessica Levine was the coordinator of the Better Block event. Levine is the manager of the Habitat for Humanity building in New Kensington.

“One of the neat things about the way the Better Block events have worked is that each one is headed up by another group of folks, so each one has a very distinctive vibe, and is constantly in flux and improving in one way or another,” Walker said.

She expressed her confidence in Carter’s experience with the local talent which will be his focus for the Better Block event. “He will be focusing just on the music and entertainment portion of the event, so I expect we will have an amazing collection of entertainment,” Walker said.

Walker was an outside vendor for the first Better Block in May 2014 and a shop owner for the October Better Block. With her experience, Walker hopes to improve the process for the upcoming event.

“I have come up with a survey for anyone who participated in the previous Better Block events to see what they would like to see as visitors, shop keepers, and vendors,” explained Walker. “There has been a number of ideas batted around for how to improve upon the other two events.”

In addition to surveys, Walker has also developed a website for the event with the help of a local shop owner. The website includes updates about the event, discussion forums, and staff and volunteer application forms.

“I hope to be able to create a spectacular event and have a lot of resources to pass forward to the next lead on the project for next October’s event,” Walker said.

 

PSNK Basketball Season Is Coming To An End

By Jay Wu

Staff Writer and Reporter

 

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – As the Penn State New Kensington basketball team continues to work hard and play hard, their season is coming to an end. This season introduced new freshmen to the team, and welcomed back seasoned players who have all worked together as a team to improve tactics and be successful.

Basketball

Freshman guard Alex Smith (#22) hits a three-pointer in Penn State New Kensington’s 61-59 win Jan. 16 over Penn State Hazelton in the Athletics Center. (Photo by William Woodard)

Since the team’s newest freshman players graduated high school, they made the transition to our college campus and are playing for our college basketball team. However, they may have seen some differences from the way their high school team was set up and what our college team had in store for them.

Tony Hill (Guard), who is a freshman Information Science and Technology (IST) major, and Minhea Dinu (Small Forward), who is a freshman Engineering major, both stated that competition is a difference between high school and college. Hill also said that a college team is, “more serious and more independent which helps them get better.”

Brandon Burchette, a sophomore Communications major, stated that there were challenges along the way, such as the work ethic needed to meet the team standard. Burchette stated, “We had to condition a lot more than high school. High school has about 3 practices a week while college has 5 or 6.” Shane Barroner (Forward), a freshman Business major, stated that college is “more physical, [the players are] more skilled, and the game is a little bit faster.”

Jordan Williams (Shooting Guard), a junior Psychology major, stated that “between the semester breaks, you lose some players and gain some players.” Williams went on to say that “our team chemistry seems to be a little better after we grew over the semester and got some new people.” Dorian Broadwater (Small Forward), a sophomore IST major, mentioned that he thought the team chemistry got better as the season progressed.  Lou Payne (Point Guard), a senior IST major stated, “The team has evolved pretty well; we’re actually playing more as a family.”

The basketball team has seen various support throughout the season. Broadwater stated, “I think we got the best fans. The school, they’re always supportive and they always got our back at whatever we do!” Meanwhile, Payne took the time to appreciate the students who live at the neighboring apartments and even some of the faculty who come to the home games.

The team has certain methods to help them balance athletics and academics. Tony Hill stated that the players have group studies before practice. Shane Barroner stated that he goes, “to the Academic Success Center for two hours a week so we have to study there and then every night, we study 6-8pm. We have a study table, so we have to go down there and we bring our homework to the computer lab.”

Jordan Williams highlighted their teamwork, “The team works together very well. We practice almost 7 days a week.” Williams also went on to say that the team is always together and even in the classroom, the teammates are willing to help them out with classes that they have already had. Dorian Broadwater stated, “We have a good amount of [time] playing together, so we know what we can all do.”

When participating in our college basketball team, the freshman team would have their pros and cons when it comes to their high school team and college. Tony Hill stated, “high school is more like a certain family. You’re sure that they’re going to be there for the whole season.” Hill also went on to say that “as for college, you can have a family for a semester and have a different family for the next.”

Jordan Williams stated that the team’s rival is Beaver and they just beat them on January, 26th. Broadwater stated that the team’s rival is Greater Allegheny. Broadwater said, “We beat them two times last year on two buzzer beaters, so I would say that’s our rival.” Lou Payne, however, stated that everybody is their rival. As stated before, “we just beat Beaver. We played against DuBois and we play against Fayette coming up.”

The team remains hopeful as the end of the season nears. “I’m feeling confident! I’m excited for the end of the season! I think that we can make the playoffs and I think we can go deep in the playoffs,” Burchette stated.

The team’s next game is Tuesday Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. at Penn State DuBois. Their next home game is against Penn State Fayette Wednesday Feb. 10 at 7 p.m.

WestPACS Creates Over 25 Years of Employment Opportunities

By Archama P. Ort

Like clockwork, students from around the region flock to the Monroeville Convention Center once every fall and spring to meet and greet with prospective employers.

The Western PA Job & Internship Fair, hosted by WestPACS (Western Pennsylvania Career Services), was established in 1988 and is an independent, non-profit association of career service professionals representing 45 member colleges, and universities of Western Pennsylvania.

The WestPACS internship and job fair runs like a well-oiled machine because it not only helps the students by giving them the opportunity to meet the organizations that are hiring in the region, but also helps the organizations meet stand-out students that are ready and willing to work. WestPACS is sponsored by companies in the Pittsburgh area such as Panera Bread, Enterprise, Mylan, and UPMC. These sponsors set up their own tables at the job fair looking for future candidates to hire.

The most recent job and internship fair occurred October 14, hosting more than 160 employers seeking outgoing and educated individuals. A majority of the programs offered at Penn State New Kensington (PSNK) require internships before graduation, which makes this fair an outstandingly important event to students on campus.

Preparing for the job fair does not take much effort compared to how significant the outcome is. Tidy up your resume, put on your clean slacks, and throw on that beautiful smile that you love to show off. The fair offers five hours, from 10 to 3 o’clock, to show off what you have and network with companies such as Aflac, Duquesne Light, U.S. Peace Corps, Farmers Insurance and many more.

Jim Shields, Penn State New Kensington’s Career Services Coordinator, appeared at the last job fair as the announcer. Shields has worked with WestPACS for many years and believes that this is a vital opportunity for students coming close to graduating. “Getting hired nowadays has a lot to do with personal connections. You are laying down the groundwork and creating a lasting impression that you can’t get by Google searching and applying online,” Shields said.

The next WestPACS job fair will be held March 9 at the Monroeville Convention Center starting at 3 p.m. The only difference this time is that the job fair occurs during PSNK student’s spring break. “Most students excuse to missing the fair is that it interferes with class time,” Shields explained. “I’m hoping students will take a couple hours out of their day, put their spring break on hold for a very short time and go look for a job or internship.”

Another opportunity, The Annual Spring Career Day with the Research Fair will occur on campus April 14. Everyone on campus is here for the same reason: get a degree which will lead to a good job. Why not start looking for that perfect internship or job now?

The amount of opportunities seem endless, one just has to get out there and start networking.

Pennsylvania Budget Remains Stagnant

By Danielle Richardson

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa – As of Friday October 17, Pennsylvania will be more than 100 days without a state budget. This spells bad news for the public schools and nonprofit human service organizations that rely on the state’s funding to operate.

Penn State’s Office of Student Aid released a statement on their website regarding the impasse: “The budget impasse affects not only Penn State, but also other higher education institutions throughout the Commonwealth. We are committed to ensuring that no student who receives a Pennsylvania State Grant is harmed financially while the state budget is finalized.”

Unfortunately, many students rely on those funds to cover living expenses such as rent, groceries, and other such necessities.

Kylie Kinlough is a junior chemical engineering major at Penn State and was formerly a student at the New Kensington campus. She said things have been stressful for her because of the impasse. “Rent is $400, but it’s a lot to pay every month when I’m only earning half that from work study,” Kinlough said. “The state grant was supposed to cover these expenses and be there in case I needed it.”

Elon Ford, a freshman engineering major, is going through a similar struggle. “I haven’t received my refund, which is putting me on edge. That is what I use to pay my rent.” Ford said that if she didn’t have her job in the Academic and Career Success Center, she wouldn’t be able to afford groceries either.

As the Assistant Director for Financial Aid on the Penn State New Kensington (PSNK) campus, Jennifer Marino knows all too well the financial struggles that the students are facing. “Quite a few students who are relying on the state grants for refunds are not getting that money,” Marino said. She explained that the campus does not have the funds to disperse the grant money that the students are entitled to. “It’s putting some students in difficult positions,” she explained.

One of those students who is feeling the pressure is Ryan Long, a junior communications major. “I have been waiting on my refund for months now. I rely on that money to pay for my gas and textbooks,” Long said.

Long says he finds it most disturbing that the human service organizations are the ones who are not receiving funding. “They are being closed down now because they can’t afford to operate. They don’t have a resort. If they did, it was through loans. Eventually loans run out,” Long said. “A lot of organizations rely on state funding. The fact that the impasse has stretched into October is ridiculous.”

Long expressed his frustration about the lack of funding in regards to those whom are truly in need. “Billions of dollars are sitting there while the rest of us are struggling; the public schools, homeless shelters, women’s shelters. It’s not right.”

For those students in desperate need, Marino said that Penn State New Kensington can provide a cash advance to cover their costs. “They can’t wait for the unknown date that the state comes to an agreement on the budget. What we can do for these students is offer a short-term, interest-free loan that they receive within a week.”

As for now there does not seem to be an end in sight. Schools and other nonprofits continue to borrow and students continue to wait.

“We’re all waiting,” Ford explained.