Follow Emma and Dan’s Route 6 Journey


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

A flyer for Emma and Dan’s Route 6 Journey hangs from the fridge at the Harborcreek home of the Perritano family. Sixteen-year-old Emma Perritano’s face lights up whenever she catches a glimpse of it.

So far, she is enjoying the journey, eagerly waving her hands when they pass someone on the street. All the while, humming her favorite songs, a collection of tunes from Wicked, Disney movies and some old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.

Her parents, Penn State Behrend men’s soccer coach Dan Perritano and college registrar Jane Brady, said it’s exactly what they hoped for.

“I wanted to take Emma and do something special,” Dan Perritano said. “While she doesn’t understand what we’re doing completely, she points to that flyer now, and she knows we’re doing something special.”

What they’re doing is a 360-mile trek across Pennsylvania’s historic Route 6 to help raise funds for the Arc of Erie County. Emma is a non-verbal life skills student at North East Middle School and has benefitted from the Arc, which provides advocacy and support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Dan is pushing Emma in her Team Hoyt running chair, a custom-built chair designed for physically-challenged individuals that was purchased through grants from ACHIEVA and Billy’s Friends Foundation, two non-profit organizations for persons with disabilities. The two have already begun checking off some of the western miles on Route 6 during weekend outings.

The duo hopes to finish at least 100 miles before setting out on May 18 to finish the trip.

“Once we get on the road, we aren’t coming back,” said Perritano, who will use the MapMyWalk app to track completed miles.

Perritano said the two average about 15-minute miles when moving consistently, and he hopes to do between 15 to 20 miles per day.

“The plan is to do 10 or 11 miles in the morning, have lunch and then do maybe another 10 in the afternoon,” he said.

Perritano said they won’t carry many supplies and will mostly rely on purchasing things on the go.

However, if supplies get too low, Perritano does have a lifeline.

“I can’t imagine them going three of four days without me coming to the rescue,” Brady said.

Perritano plans to finish the journey on May 30, but knows challenges could arise. Hazardous weather could cause a delay, so he said the completion date is tentative.

“It’s going to be so rewarding,” Perritano said. “It’s something special that we will always remember.”

To learn more about the Arc or how you can contribute to Emma and Dan’s Journey, please visit their website at or contact Arc president Dr. Karen Morahan at or Dan Perritano at

Follow Emma and Dan’s Journey on their Facebook page.

THON proposal reflects couple’s commitment


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It was hour 32 of THON, and Taylor Hennon ’13 had hit the wall.

She was exhausted and sleepy. Her emotions bordered delirium. This is all par for the course with THON, Penn State’s 46-hour dance marathon designed to raise money to support children and families as they combat pediatric cancer.

But then came Mail Call, an event during THON weekend in which dancers receive letters and packages from friends, family and supporters to inspire and motivate them to continue dancing. Hennon had no idea she was about to receive the biggest pick-me-up imaginable.

The final letter she read came from Timmy Donovan ’13, her boyfriend, whom she first met five years earlier during a trip to Germany while they were both students at Penn State Behrend.

“There were a lot of references to the future. In his letter, he wrote of how proud my grandma would be of me,” says Hennon, who graduated from Penn State Behrend in 2013 and is now pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at University Park. “Then, right after, he asked me (to marry him). I just remember hugging him, and he said, ‘I have something of your grandma’s that I really want to give to you.’”

For Donovan and Hennon, THON, which was held February 20-22 this year at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center, was the perfect venue for a proposal. For the past four years, it’s been a staple in their relationship. For the proposal, Donovan used Hennon’s grandmother’s ring, which made the moment even more meaningful.

“I knew THON would be the right way to (propose) because it has been such a big part of our relationship,” says Donovan, who graduated from Penn State Behrend in 2013 and is now pursuing a master’s degree in higher education at University Park. “It’s always been the mainstay in our relationship.”

Following the proposal, it was not long before the entire Bryce Jordan Center caught on to what was happening.

“There was this moment where I opened my eyes and looked around, and the entire Bryce Jordan Center is watching us and applauding. It was surreal,” Donovan says.

The timing of the proposal also helped reenergized Hennon, who danced independently in this year’s THON. From that point on, she was excited to share the news with her mother, who joined her on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center around 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

According to Donovan and Hennon, the significance of THON in their relationship cannot be understated. While at Behrend, the two both became involved during junior year and as seniors, Hennon was Behrend’s THON chair, and Donovan was a dancer.

Throughout their involvement, the two endured a breakup, but their connection to THON kept them close.

“Our whole senior year, we were broken up, but we were still working together. No matter what, we realized that us working toward finding the cure for pediatric cancer was more important than any fight or any awkward moment we could have,” Donovan says. “Sure, there were awkward moments, but we always said THON was bigger than both of us, and that actually made us stay friends.”

Shortly after graduating from Behrend, the two got back together.

Regardless of what journey awaits the two, THON is certain to remain a crucial part of their lives and relationship. They have already planned to include members of their THON family, Rylee and Dalaney Dorer, in their wedding.

“It’s just that important to us,” Hennon says. “It’s amazing now that every year, I get to have a constant reminder of how all this came to be.”

Wednesdays at Bruno’s Café have never been so fun thanks to Hump Day

DJs from BVZ Radio entertain the Behrend community through their weekly Hump Day broadcasts. Students (left to right) Anna Waterson, Zach California, Rayna Ganabathi, Monique Lebrun, Ethan Buckley, and Joseph Rock are some of the DJs who broadcast.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

In need of a midweek pick-me-up? BVZ Radio has just the thing for you.

Every Wednesday, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., DJs from Penn State Behrend’s student-run radio station broadcast from the stage in Bruno’s Café. They take requests during the broadcasts, which have been appropriately named “Hump Day” in honor of the day they fall on.

“This all started back on College Radio Day on October 1, 2013,” says Monique Lebrun, a junior Communication major and marketing and promotions director at BVZ Radio. “We wanted to do something to get the students to notice us.”

The first broadcast proved to be a success; by the final hour, students were requesting songs via text message and Twitter.

Housing and Food Services was pleased with the response as well. They invited BVZ Radio back to do weekly broadcasts, and Wednesdays are now one of the busiest days at Bruno’s each week.

It’s also helped with recruiting for the station.

“It’s built brand awareness,” Lebrun says. “We now have students asking us how they can get involved, which then pushes them to take the class (COMM 003: Radio Practicum).”

With finals week right around the corner, Hump Day has now ended for the semester, but it will be back again next year. There are even talks of expanding the live broadcasts to other days as well.

“We hope that BVZ Radio continues to expand. That’s what will ultimately get more students involved,” Lebrun says.

To send in a Hump Day request, tweet BVZ Radio at @BVZradio. To learn more about the station, visit their website.

Yahn Planetarium at Penn State Behrend will be open this weekend

IMG_0540 editedUp for some traveling this holiday weekend? How about a trip to the moon?

The Yahn Planetarium at Penn State Behrend, a newly-renovated 55-seat astronomy theater that opened earlier this month, will be open on Saturday. The planetarium, housed in the college’s School of Science Complex, will offer two public shows at 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

The 1:00 p.m. show, “Back to the Moon for Good,” follows teams as they race toward the moon and compete to win a $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE. Penn State’s Lunar Lion Team is featured in the program, which is narrated by Tim Allen.

The 2:30 p.m. show, “The Sky Above Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” is an introductory and interactive show recommended for ages 2 and up. The show follows X the Owl as he tries to save the moon from being taken out of the sky by Lady Elaine.

“If you want to get out and do something a little different this holiday weekend, the planetarium is a great fit,” says Jim Gavio, director of the Yahn Planetarium. “It’s very family oriented, and there are plenty of educational takeaways from both shows.”

Admission to the planetarium is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 12 and under. For more information, visit or call 814-898-7268.


Far from Home: First snowfall leaves favorable impression on Craig Miranda


Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Behrend.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

“Beep-beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep-beep!”

When Craig Miranda’s alarm went off at 6 a.m. last Thursday, he awoke with a feeling of eagerness. His friends warned him it was coming, but some things need to be seen to be believed.

“I was skeptical,” says Miranda, a first-year computer science major at Penn State Behrend. “When I looked outside, it was completely white. I immediately ran downstairs and I was the only person outside in shorts.”

Craig Miranda had never seen snow until last week when the Erie region received more than foot of precipitation in 24 hours.

The Kuwait native had never seen snow before last week when the Erie region received nearly a foot in the span of 24 hours. In Kuwait, summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees. Even in winter, average daytime temperatures rarely fall below 60 degrees.

Miranda says he longed for snow and cooler temperatures when he decided to come to college in the United States, so last week’s storm was a welcome sight.

“It was just unbelievable,” he says. “After my exam that morning, I had a snowball fight with friends who also live in Niagara Hall. I don’t know how to make a snowball, but I’m getting there.”

As the day went on, more snow began to accumulate. Overall, Erie received 12.6 inches of snow, the earliest occurrence of a snowfall of this magnitude for the region.

The heavy snowfall might have been a  burden for others, but Miranda remained enamored with every flake that fell. He even shared his happiness with his family back home.

“I Skyped with my parents and took them on a tour around campus,” he says. “It was awesome because they have never seen snow either. They were so thrilled and just wanted to be here, too.”

For Miranda, the snowfall helped paint a picture of the holiday season, which he had only ever seen on television before.

“I’ve always pictured Christmas as caroling with snow falling from the sky, but I’ve never seen it until now,” Miranda says.

Given that he chose to attend college in America’s snowbelt, last week was probably only the beginning of the fun for Miranda; last year, Erie recorded 138.4 inches of snow fall and earned the honor of America’s snowiest city.

His friends have warned him that he might eventually tire of the snow, but he’s not buying it.

“I doubt I’ll ever get bored of snow,” Miranda says. “Coming from Kuwait, where it barely ever even rains, snow is just marvelous.”


Hammermill Paper publication now preserved forever


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

The name “Behrend” was well known in the Erie region long before Penn State Behrend ever existed.

Hammermill Paper Company, one of the region’s largest employers for nearly a century, was owned by Moritz Behrend and his three sons, Ernst, Otto, and Bernard. Thousands of people worked for Hammermill from 1898 until 1984 when the company was purchased by International Paper Company.

To communicate with its employees, Hammermill published a newsletter, The Hammermill Bond, which is now digitized and archived as part of the Hammermill Paper Company Collection at the John M. Lilley Library at Penn State Behrend.

“It preserves it for eternity,” says Jane Ingold, reference librarian. “It’s also a big time-saver for us now.”

In the past, Ingold handled requests for old newsletters. Now, family members of former Hammermill employees can access them on their own. The newsletter is available to anyone; you do not have to be a Penn State user.

The Hammermill Bond was first published in 1917, and it continued through the 1960s. The only break in publication came during the Great Depression.

A step above traditional company newsletters, the publication included interesting feature stories, colorful covers, and rich photography. It was much more reminiscent of a modern-day magazine than a newsletter.

“They did some really cool things,” Ingold says. “In an early issue, Mr. Behrend wrote a letter to his employees, and they published it in Polish, Russian, German, English, and other languages just to make sure that he accounted for the different nationalities of his workers.”

The Lilley Library currently has a display commemorating The Hammermill Bond. Various issues are featured, including the issue that was printed following the death of Ernst Behrend in 1940. The display will remain at the Lilley Library through Monday, November 24.

To access the digital archives of The Hammermill Bond, click here.

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Far from Home: Moustafa Elhadary adapts quickly to new environment


Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Behrend.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Moustafa Elhadary had the perfect plan. He and his friends, Khalifa, Saeed and Murrawi, were all going to attend Penn State together.

While they would be enrolled at different commonwealth campuses, they planned to reconvene regularly on weekends to travel, attend football games and sightsee. The group had it all mapped out, and thought it was the perfect way to make Penn State feel like home away from home.

Then came some somber news.

“In mid-August, my friends were drafted into the United Arab Emirates Army,” says Elhadary, a first-year computer engineering major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “It’s mandatory that they serve in UAE’s military for one year.”

Elhadary, who has lived in Dubai since 2007, was ineligible for the draft since he is a native of Alexandria, Egypt. While he did not have to serve, the fact that his friends would not be joining him in Pennsylvania was hard to accept.

“I was very surprised to hear the news,” he says. “My friends and I had talked about doing this for years. We were planning on seeing each other every two to three weeks and meeting up at a different Penn State campus each time.”

Rather than dwell on the negative though, Elhadary opted to focus on the positive.

Everything about the United States has been new and exciting for him, and he’s pledged to make the most of it.

“I try to get out of my comfort zone,” he says. “I’ve made my own little community here. What happened with my friends was actually kind of a good thing because I would not have socialized as much if they were here.”

Elhadary is a member of Behrend’s International Student Organization and Muslim Student Association. He plans to become a resident assistant next semester.

He has even experienced some physical changes since enrolling at the college. He can thank his karate class for that.

“I gained some muscles,” he says with a smile. “I know how to defend myself now.”

He says he still gets homesick and misses his parents and sister, Safinaz, but he works to find other things to occupy his time.

“I try to keep myself busy all day. I only come home to sleep, and then I’m back up for class the next day. If I were to just sit in my room, I would only get sad and depressed,” Elhadary says. “I still talk to my parents but only a few times a week. They think I’m trying not to call them, but I’m actually just very busy.”

This December, during winter break, he will return home to see his family. Elhadary is looking forward to the visit, but he says he will be happy to return to Erie for the start of the spring semester.

And he has learned that his friends who are currently serving in the military are planning on enrolling at Penn State Behrend when their service time is up.

“I really like Penn State Behrend. High school was fun, but this is a whole new level,” he says. “People talk about culture shock, but for me, there was no culture shock. It’s just culture, but a different one.”


Olivia Belack follows Jimmy Belack’s lead at Penn State Behrend

Olivia and Jimmy Belack (8)
By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

From birth, Olivia Belack has followed her big brother, Jimmy.

First they crawled. Then they walked. Then they played soccer.

Soccer has always been the favorite pastime for the siblings, both members of their respective Penn State Behrend soccer team.

“It’s pretty much always been soccer for us. We both felt a knack for it,” says Jimmy, a senior defender and an accounting and finance major at the college.

The Pittsburgh natives’ commitment to the sport has paid off. It led Jimmy to Penn State Behrend where he has started all four seasons for the Lions, been a member of two AMCC Championship teams and is the team’s all-time assists leader (28).

The best could be yet to come.

On Wednesday, Nov. 5, the Lions begin their pursuit of a third AMCC title in four years when they play Mount Aloysius in the AMCC Tournament semifinals. For Jimmy, a two-time All-AMCC selection who leads the team with 44 points, it’s an opportunity to end his collegiate career on a high note.

“It feels really nice to know that I have made an impact,” he says. “It would be pretty special to be able to win another title this year.”

Olivia is hot on her brother’s heels. A midfielder and first-year finance major, she leads the women’s team in points with 34.

On Saturday, Nov. 1, when the Lions defeated La Roche 4-1 in the first round of the AMCC Tournament, Olivia scored the first goal to give the Lions a lead they never relinquished. The Lions will continue their postseason march Wednesday, Nov. 5, when they face Franciscan in the AMCC Tournament semifinals.

Her success mirrors Jimmy’s early experience with the Lions. As a freshman in 2011, he scored the game-winning goal in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Jimmy’s athletic achievements piqued Olivia’s interest in Behrend when she began researching colleges.

“He never pushed me toward Behrend, but he always supported me,” she says. “I knew I’d like it here.”

An added benefit for the two close-knit siblings is that the men’s and women’s teams travel to matches together, giving them an opportunity to watch and cheer one another on at games.

It has also led to a friendly rivalry between the two.

“If I have a goal or two, (parents of soccer players) will then joke, ‘Jimmy has to score three now,’” Olivia says.

“My teammates will also look at me and say, ‘You can’t let her top you,’” Jimmy adds.

This very scenario played itself out on Sept. 27. Olivia recorded the first multi-goal game of her career as she scored twice to lead the Lions to a 2-1 win over Penn State Altoona. Later that day, Jimmy matched her performance in the men’s 5-0 win over Penn State Altoona.

The two say attending Penn State Behrend together was a great decision. It’s made it easier for their parents, Jeffrey and Kelly, to visit and attend games. And Jimmy played a big part in helping his sister get acclimated to her classes, coursework and the entire college experience.

“If I ever need anything, I just call him,” Olivia says. “Having Jimmy here definitely helped me, especially during the first few weeks.”

Olivia also now has the perfect example to follow as she gets set for three more seasons of collegiate soccer.

“It would be nice to be as successful as he was,” she says.

If her first season offers any indication, she likely will be, which comes as no surprise as she’s always followed in his footsteps.

Behrend student Zach Knight strives to leave mark in music industry


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Zach Knight is a year away from graduation, but the Penn State Behrend student and aspiring musician is already putting his college education to good use.

Early last year, Knight, who previously majored in General Business and Project and Supply Chain Management, decided to make a change.

“I asked myself, ‘What applies to my life now? What relates to what I’m doing?’ Marketing just made sense,” says the Erie native, who began to seriously pursue a music career in 2011. “I feel as though the (marketing) program has helped me learn a lot about how to develop my career and further market myself.”

By all indications, Knight is doing a stellar job. His Twitter profile has over 7,100 followers while his Facebook profile has over 1,500 likes. He also was a nominee in the “Acoustics” genre at the 2014 Rock Erie Music Awards, and his first music video, “Christmas Without You,” was released last December.

Knight’s recent success is quite the juxtaposition from when he first began to record music. In early high school, he would use a microphone from the Rock Band video game to upload covers to YouTube. The method was unconventional but successful — YouTube users started requesting covers from Knight.

It continued to grow until Knight, whose style is combination of acoustic and R&B, decided to start writing his own music.

“I sat down and said, ‘I don’t want to be known for just doing covers,’” he says.

From there, Knight started working with producer Alan Dingfelder, lead vocalist of Erie-based band At That Moment, to record music. His first original song, “Out of This World,” was released in 2012 and had considerable success.

In fact, Abercrombie & Fitch signed a deal with him to have the song included in its November 2013 in-store playlist.

Though his parents, Barry and Kristen Knight, do not have musical backgrounds, they’ve been supportive and encouraging. His mother also helped spark Knight’s musical interest at seven years old when she purchased him a CD titled “The Promise” from the Christian boy band Plus One.

“I would just always sing that CD,” he recalls. “I would always try to make myself sound just like them.”

Knight says he hopes to be signed to a major label, so he will have the opportunity to spread his art and also make a living doing what he loves. If not, he says he would like to use his marketing degree to continue to work in the music industry.

“I’d really like to work for a record label in some capacity,” Knight says. “If I can’t be the music, I’d like to be the guy behind the music.”

Catching up with Zach Knight

Hometown: Erie, Pa.

Family: Barry and Kristen (parents); Xavier (19-year-old brother); Mallory (15-year-old sister); Maddy (13-year-old sister)

Biggest musical influences: “I would say Nate Cole, Justin Timberlake and Cody Simpson. Justin Bieber is also an influence, but for his musical ability, not his lifestyle.”

Musical background: “Believe it or not, I actually cannot read music. It has not been a problem though because I know all of my chords, and I can read chords. I’m a self-taught guitar player, which I learned in sixth grade. I’m a self-taught drummer, too.”

Immediate goals: “My goal, right now, is to produce as much music as possible and grow. When I do that, I know good things will come out of it.”

Audience for music at Behrend: “The Behrend student body has been great. I notice that more and more Behrend students are following me on Twitter. I’ve also performed some concerts here, which has helped get the word out.”

Hobbies outside of music: “I really like hanging out with my friends. I also like longboarding and steelhead fishing.”

What it would mean to be signed: “It would mean the world to me. It’s something that I have dreamed about for as long as I can remember.”

Zach Knight’s first EP, titled “Out of This World,” is available on his official website.

Here is the video for “Christmas Without You,” which was released in December 2013.

Childhood memory drives senior award winner to succeed

Kristina Peszel

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Call it extra motivation. Call it an added incentive. Call it a chip on her shoulder.

However you label it, it’s clear there’s something that drives Kristina Peszel.

“When I first went to grade school, I was one of the youngest kids in my class. Because of that, I felt as if people questioned me and my ability,” says Peszel, a senior English major with the professional writing option at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “Since then, it’s driven me. I have always had this need to stand out and prove myself.”

Mission accomplished.

In her time at the college, Peszel has been a standout student, as evidenced by the Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award she won at this year’s Honors and Awards Convocation on April 27. The award recognizes a student whose outstanding qualities of character, scholarship, leadership, and citizenship have been directed into student programs and services.

Peszel was thrilled to have been chosen for the award.

“It was really exciting, and it felt like recognition of everything that I’ve done on campus,” Peszel says.

It was a much deserved honor.

The Erie native has a 3.96 GPA and is the lead writing tutor at the Learning Resource Center. She’s served as the vice president and secretary for both the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority and Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society. She’s also been a member of the Lion Entertainment Board, Reality Check, Studio Theatre, and a contributing writer for the Behrend Beacon.

Through her campus involvement, Peszel learned that she prefers to be busy. She thrives on activity, one reason she believes she’s been successful.

“If I have enough time to watch television, I feel as if I’ve forgotten something,” says Peszel, who will graduate in December.

Things have not slowed down this summer for Peszel, who is interning at Erie Insurance in the company’s IT department. The work she is doing relates directly to her experiences as lead writing tutor in the Learning Resource Center.

As a tutor, Peszel often edited various engineering papers, which provided her with skills and experience in technical writing. It has led her to think of her future in a different light.

“I realized that I’m not just a humanities student, but I can do the technology thing too,” Peszel says.

Ruth Pflueger, director of the Learning Resource Center, has worked with Peszel for the past three years at Penn State Behrend.

“Kristina is remarkable in the number of students she has impacted during her time at Behrend. She has tutored literally hundreds of students and also has a leadership role in the Learning Resource Center, organizing the Composition Support Program and mentoring new writing tutors,” Pflueger says. “Her professionalism, energy, and sincere desire to help others succeed will serve her well in all her future endeavors.”

With one semester left until graduation, Peszel plans to make some great memories and leave a legacy.

“I like surrounding myself with genuine, good people who like to help others,” Peszel says. “We can be remembered for all kinds of things, but how we affect other people’s lives is most important.”