By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend
Dr. Kathleen Noce, senior lecturer in Management Information Systems, grew up in a warm, loving home that was a haven for neighbors and friends in need.
“My mother was that woman in the neighborhood who all the kids knew they could go to for a meal, a hug, a few dollars, even a couch, if they needed a place to stay for a night or two,” Noce said.
Noce said her parents noticed early on that she, too, was a nurturer.
“They saw that I enjoyed helping others and they really encouraged me to do it,” she said.
It makes sense, then, that Noce would end up in a helping profession, educating college students in the finer points of MIS and business.
But her service to others extends beyond the classroom and into the community, where she serves on several boards and volunteers for a variety of nonprofit organizations, including Boys and Girls Club of Erie which plans to honor Noce on Oct. 19 with the Woman and Youth Award, the highest honor the organization bestows on volunteers.
Noce has been a board member and volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club of Erie for more than twenty years. In addition, she has helped the club with many of its technology needs through Partnership Erie, a nonprofit outreach center of the Black School of Business that provides web design, web marketing, and content management services for free.
The majority of the work is done by students in MIS387 Website Design and Administration who are learning to design and manage websites. It’s a win-win: nonprofits benefit from the tech help and students get hands-on experience working with real clients.
Since Noce established Partnership Erie at Behrend in 2001, students have built more than 125 websites for a variety of nonprofit organizations.
“I realized I could incorporate an element of community service into my coursework, while also giving students the benefit of real-world work experience.”
Noce concedes she had an ulterior motive in forming Partnership Erie.
“I wanted students to learn about the enormous challenges that some people face,” Noce said, “and I wanted them to become good citizens who give back.”
It worked, even inspiring some students to take on personal volunteer projects for their clients outside of the classroom. She regularly hears from alumni who thank her for introducing them to the personal satisfaction to be found in helping others.
In addition to Boys and Girls Club of Erie, Noce volunteers at the Quality of Life Learning Center, the Islamic Center, Butterflies for Kids, Erie Youth Leadership Institute, and the Italian-American Women’s Association, in addition to other organizations.
In twenty years working with the Boys and Girls Club of Erie, Noce said she has witnessed firsthand the powerful impact of community service.
“Sometimes, you’ll see these kids come in and the deck is stacked against them,” she said. “They have parents who are largely absent or have substance abuse problems. They are living in poverty. They’re hungry. And you think, ‘This kid doesn’t have a future.’ But he starts coming to the club and there are people there who care about him and help him and watch out for him and he comes out a different person.”
“I’ve worked with kids at the club who I thought had a bleak future who have become doctors, teachers, and lawyers,” she said. “because somebody cared and provide a safe place for them to grow and learn.”
Noce is grateful for the opportunity to serve.
“I’ve led a blessed life,” she said, “so If I can help someone in need, my life is richer and I feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose for being here.