What year are you?

Where are you from?
Horsham, PA

How did you end up here at Penn State?
Well both of my parents went to Penn State and I grew up visiting the campus a few times a year and watching all the football games (I'm actually a third-generation Penn Stater). When it came time to apply to schools, I didn't think I would actually end up here because I wanted to be the one who broke the mold. At the last minute (I think I actually decided on April 30), I realized that the opportunities Penn State could offer me were better than what the other schools had to offer, and I haven't looked back.

What is your Major? Minor? Why?
I'm double majoring in Linguistics and Communication Sciences and Disorders with a minor in math. No, I don't know a bunch of languages, and no, I don't want to be a speech therapist. I'm interested in the science of language and how language is processed, with particular interests in bilingualism and atypical language development. Also, I fully recognize that the math minor doesn't make sense and people don't understand why I'm doing it. It's really pretty simple: I like math.

What are your hobbies and interests?
I like reading. My favorite sub-genre is historical fiction mystery, but I'm pretty content with regular historical fiction. I also really enjoy logic puzzles. I've been pretty stuck on nonograms for a few months now, but Sudoku is always a classic.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I once flew a hang-glider at 3000 feet and I got a perfect SAT score, but I can't whistle or snap my fingers.

Where do you hope to see yourself ten years from now?
Professionally: I'd like to have my Ph.D. in ten years, but that's pretty dependent on whether I can actually settle on a specific topic of interest in the next ten years.

What are you most proud of?
I have to say the THON 2017 season and THON Weekend 2017 in particular. Of course, our total for THON 2017 was a moment I will never forget because it was the perfect culmination of our year and proved that all the late nights and ridiculous ideas and nagging and everything was worth it, but more than that I am so proud of the relationships I saw that weekend. I am proud of the way that everybody welcomed the Schopfs into Springfield so seamlessly and was so ready to open their arms and heart to support another family.

Why did you decide to get involved with THON?
So, my junior year of high school my family was actually driving through State College during THON Weekend to go to my grandfather’s funeral. My mom wanted to check it out since we were right there, but the line was super long and we didn’t have much time (and also were not prepared at all), so we didn’t. The next year, she found the link to the livestream and we spent the weekend watching THON. I was hooked. I learned the linedance, I watched the kids’ talent show, and my siblings and I were taking guesses on who would win the pep rally. It seemed like an awesome experience. Subconsciously, I think THON had an effect on my last-minute decision to attend Penn State.

How did you end up joining Springfield?
Before orientation even started freshman year, I took a class called Leadership JumpStart. Three of the TAs for the class were in Springfield, but two of them were in Apollo and all five of them were recommending their own org so I decided to check out both of them. Once at the Springfield meeting, I realized that the PR chair had gone to my high school and I started to think that it would be a good idea to join an org where I would know somebody on the board. What really helped me make my decision though was the sense of humor and weirdness mixed with undeniable friendship and love that I saw in Springfield.

What is your favorite thing about Springfield?
I could sit here all day and write about the things that make me love Springfield, but to keep it short (because my next answer is basically a book), I’ll just say the passion. Springfield is always looking for ways it can improve and do more. Springfield innovates fundraising practices so often that half the time internal THON doesn’t know what to do with us. We are competitively dedicated, and we are united for a common purpose. Springfielders are passionate about each other, about our families, and ultimately about the mission, and they are ready to prove it.

What is your favorite Springfield memory?
That entire week when we were paired with the Schopfs and then we announced it to everybody was an amazing week. I've said this before, but I really didn't think it would happen when Rachel and I were talking about applying for a fourth family. I knew it would be awesome if it did, but I couldn't picture what that would look like so I was trying to think realistically and not get my hopes up. For weeks my heart started beating faster every time I got an email from internal THON.

When the email actually came, I was actually sitting in room 327 HUB surrounded by Springfielders. I tried to keep a straight face as I read the first sentence of the email but as soon as I realized what it was I knew that would be a lost cause, so I calmly stood up, closed my laptop, grabbed my phone, and went to a bathroom on the second floor so I could read it and cry without any Springfielders seeing me. Rachel was in a class where she couldn't use any technology at the time, so I texted her to tell her to check her email ASAP, pulled myself together, and tried to stop myself from shaking as I walked back to 327.

I only lasted five more minutes, and then I knew that I was far too excited to stay in there so I left and walked to a bench where I sat and waited for Rachel to get out of class and call me. When she finally did, I cried again (and was also super relieved that I was no longer alone with the news). We wanted to tell the rest of the board in person, so we had to hold back from telling our closest friends for over 24 hours--it was torture. We decided to order a cookie cake and have it delivered to the HUB for our evening meeting, and Rachel wrote "We got a fourth family" on the inside lid of the box. Instead of waiting for our Family Relations updates like we had planned, we announced it as soon as the meeting started because we were shaking and way too excited to wait a minute longer. Seeing the looks on my friends' faces as they read the box and realized what we were saying was priceless and unforgettable.

A few days later, we got to tell the rest of Springfield. Again, we were so excited and nervous that we were shaking all throughout the meeting until it was finally our turn. I'm so glad we got that reaction on video, because it means I can replay it over and over again and relive all the smiles. Nothing beats realizing that your hard work has paid off. For a while I hadn't been sure that we were making the right choice in applying for a new family because I didn't know if it was really something that the rest of Springfield wanted or just something we wanted, but the reactions that week proved that we had made the right call and that Springfield was ready for the Schopfs. Thank you, Springfield.

If you could describe Springfield in one word, what would it be?
I'm gonna have to go with the stereotypical "family"

What impact has Springfield had on you and your college experience?
Springfield's impact on me and my college experience has been ~incredible~. I truly have no idea who I would be if I didn't join Springfield. It has given me my best friends, my roommates, and my best college memories. Thanks to Springfield, I have gone outside of my comfort zone time and time again, and have learned so much by doing so. It has shown me that we can make a difference as college students and challenged me to see how big that difference can be. It has shown me how to be confident in my creativity and weirdness, committed to my goals and ideas, and open with my thoughts and emotions. Before Springfield, I was a very quiet and introverted person who felt uncomfortable reaching out and making friends. Thanks to Springfield, I was gifted people who made me feel comfortable reaching out and then pushed me to keep doing it. Springfield has made me a more confident person and a better friend. Springfield has had an undeniably positive relationship on my college experience, and I am so honored to have a role in adding to this organization's success and ensuring that it can do the same for the next generation of Springfielders.

Why do you THON?
Usually when I tell this story it takes a while, so I’ll try to summarize for you:

There was a set of identical twin boys in my preschool class, and then in kindergarten one of the twins was diagnosed with an inoperable brain stem glioma. He got a Make-a-Wish trip to Disney World a few months later—their only real family vacation. I don’t remember much from the time that he was sick, but I do remember the first time that I could distinguish the twins (because his face was so puffy from the steroids and other medications). He died on what was to be the first day of first grade. A carpenter and a beautician, the parents didn’t have much money and the medical bills only made it worse. I know that ten years later they were still working on paying it off, and hadn’t managed to make any changes to the house that they purchased when the boys were in preschool with the intent to completely renovate. Milestones were hard, to know that one of the boys was going through everything alone. He was bullied in school, and nobody understood. I THON for kids who have cancer, but I think even more I THON for their families who shouldn’t have to spend over a decade paying off medical bills, and for their siblings who need to have loving support networks who care about them, too. I wear a dragonfly necklace every day to remind me why I THON.

Springfield has only given me more reasons to THON. The strength and love that I see from the Colons reminds me of my friends but also shows me that we have the power to make things better. The determination I see from Kenzie reminds me that there are so many battles to face and shows me the importance of friendship and dedication. The joy that the Silbaughs bring wherever they go reminds me to take pleasure in life and shows me that there is hope. The honesty and courage of the Schopfs reminds me that the battle is not over but shows me how you can keep pushing on and enjoying life. Even more so now that I am so close to our families, I THON because everybody deserves support and friendship and because if something I can do has the power to improve somebody’s situation, I am going to do it.