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Puerto Rican Students Studying at City's Penn State Campus, Doing Internships

By Staff Reports
The Tube City Almanac
February 21, 2018
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Penn State Greater Allegheny photo)

Seven college students from Puerto Rico are enrolled in classes at Penn State Greater Allegheny this semester and are working on internships near the McKeesport campus.

The students from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez arrived on Feb. 2, a Penn State spokesperson said.

The move is designed to allow the students to continue their education as the U.S. territory struggles to recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which five months ago devastated the island. About one-third of Puerto Rico's residents --- nearly 1 million people --- still have no electricity, according to published reports.

“These students bring a vibrancy to the campus,” said Jacqueline Edmondson, Penn State Greater Allegheny's chancellor and chief academic officer. 

The partnership between UPR-M and Penn State Greater Allegheny is no coincidence. Edmondson met Rosita Rivera, an English professor at UPR-M, when Rivera was completing her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction at Penn State.

Edmondson served as Rivera’s adviser and the two have stayed connected since then. 

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Pittsburgh joined Greater Allegheny’s efforts to make this opportunity a reality.

Jesus Torres, a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce member and a Penn State alumnus, helped secure a $5,000 gift from the chamber to support the students’ travel and studies.

“As part of our mission, we thought this would be a great opportunity to support Penn State and the students from Puerto Rico especially after the hurricane,” Torres said.

The Greater Allegheny/McKeesport Alumni Society also donated, Edmundson said.

Derek Ferrer, one of the visiting students, said he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to expand his outlook by “getting a new experience and busting out of the shell you have back at home.”

Being a visiting student is “going to shape my future entirely” UPR-M student Joyce Acevedo said. “I am sure that Penn State is going to stay in my life.”

Since their arrival, the students have immersed themselves in different local and campus communities. Christian Lee Villanueva is completing a graphic design internship with the Greater Allegheny’s newly formed Public Relations office.

Ferrer is working alongside Greater Allegheny Admissions Counselor and McKeesport Little Theater Board Member Tony Gomez. Ferrer is analyzing the theater’s marketing efforts, redesigning notices and revitalizing its social media strategies.

Edmondson says the link between the two campuses is designed to be “a strategic connection.”

“We have the potential to grow something impactful and transformative,” she said.

Originally published February 21, 2018.

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