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MONT ALTOTeresa D. Miller, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS), urged graduates to “follow their bliss” during the Penn State Mont Alto Commencement Ceremony on May 4.

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living,” she said quoting Joseph Campbell.

“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be,” she said.

During the ceremony, Penn State Mont Alto honored 102 graduating students and conferred 105 degrees — 51 bachelor’s degrees and 54 associate degrees.

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In her role as DHS secretary, Miller said her purpose is to serve others. “Many of you are pursuing careers in serving others. Those jobs aren’t always easy, but I promise you, they matter. Each of you will have an impact on someone’s life and I hope you won’t take that lightly,” she said.

During her speech, Miller also encouraged the graduates to take risks, remember those who helped them achieve their success, and to serve as advocates for those who are less fortunate.

Miller’s message was meaningful to many Mont Alto graduates, who earned degrees in the allied health fields of human development and family studies; health policy and administration; nursing; occupational therapy; physical therapy; and psychology.

Rachel Trayer would pick up her third Penn State Mont Alto degree. She first earned an associate in occupational therapy assistant degree in 2011, then an associate degree in nursing in 2015.

Rachel Trayer would pick up her third Penn State Mont Alto degree. She first earned an associate in occupational therapy assistant degree in 2011, then an associate degree in nursing in 2015.
Rachael Trayer

“Shortly after graduation, I started taking classes part-time. I’ve been working as a registered nurse at Chambersburg Hospital for almost four years on a medical-surgical unit,” she said. “I took a year off from school following the birth of my son, who is turning 3 this fall. Now, I am finally graduating with my B.S.N. and am very excited for what comes next,” she said.

Several members of Trayer’s family hold Penn State Mont Alto degrees. While attending Mont Alto, she met husband Kyle Trayer ’11, ’15 who earned degrees in information sciences and technology. Her sisters Julie Green ’09 and Angela Hess ’15 also earned degrees in nursing and Kara Hess ’12 earned her degree in human development and family studies.

“My path to graduation was the greatest adventure of my life,” said Mandy Cook, who earned an associate in occupational therapy assistant degree while also raising her four children.

“My path to graduation was the greatest adventure of my life,” said Mandy Cook, who earned an associate in occupational therapy assistant degree while also raising her four children.
Mandy Cook

“I am a non-traditional student and to say I was intimidated by the thought of returning to college would be a massive understatement…but the size of the campus helped to ease me back into the routine and the helpful professors were very refreshing.”

“I won’t say it was easy by any stretch of the imagination…I have made some of the best friends I could have and created relationships with peers and professors that will last a lifetime,” she said.

After spending two years as classmates earning their physical therapist assistant degrees, Logan Hitz and Sean Stamm are eager to put their degrees to use in helping others.

“The last two years have been good with my classmates,” said Hitz. “Now we get to use our skills out in the field. I’m just looking to help others and do more in my career.”

“It’s been rewarding earning my degree, and now I can go out into the community and help people,” said Stamm.

As the ceremony closed, Penn State Mont Alto Chancellor Francis K. Achampong charged the graduates with being engaged citizens.

“Give back to your community and help make this world a better place – one that is more humane and compassionate; one that values every human being,” he said. “If you do, Penn State Mont Alto will be living out its vision of transforming lives; yours and those of the people you touch,” he said.

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