Penn State University’s Greater Allegheny Campus marked the opening of a partnership with its host community of McKeesport with an Oct. 25 ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new satellite facility in the city’s downtown.
The Penn State-McKeesport Community Center is the anchor tenant of the Common Ground Building, a city-owned office building at 410 Ninth Ave. that is home to PurePenn LLC, the Ninth Street Clinic, and other tenants. It will house health and safety outreach programs and other courses to promote financial wellness, life skills, and other community needs. Establishment of this partnership, solidifies the campus’ long-term commitment to the City of McKeesport, Penn State Greater Allegheny Chancellor Dr. Jacqueline Edmondson said before recounting the campus history.
“We are in the city of McKeesport, and we are here to serve the community in the best ways that we can,” Edmondson said.
Penn State Greater Allegheny, known as Penn State McKeesport until 2007, has operated a 10-acre campus alongside Renziehausen Park since 1957. The university has an even longer history in the Mon Valley and Greater Pittsburgh region – having offered technical courses in various locations to train industry workers as early as 1934.
“Our campus started as a partnership with Pittsburgh and McKeesport, as we delivered workforce education and tried to meet the needs of labor and industry in this region. It was really a radical prject at the time, because the idea that you would be educating labor was a pretty radical moment in many ways. The city committed space here so that we could do that work.”
In 1948, something called the McKeesport Center of the Pennsylvania State University opened in neighboring Dravosburg to provide occupational training and self-enrichment courses for returning World War II veterans. That center moved to McKeesport in 1952, initiated associate degree programs, and presented its first graduates in 1955.
William L. Buck, a local realtor and philanthropist, donated land to the university in 1956 – making room today’s Greater Allegheny campus that has become a part of the McKeesport community.
Wednesday’s ground breaking hopefully will be another key moment in Penn State’s history of community partnership, Edmondson said.
“Radical means that it’s from the roots and that it brings change,” Edmondson said. “We are continuing that tradition of radical education as we think about the students we are educating – students who are the first in their families to go to college and who are coming from different backgrounds and communities across the world.
“We also are involved in the radical project of educating community members – people who need workforce skills or people who may need to learn how to become first-time homeowners. We are educating people to help improve their lives. That’s what Penn State is really committed to.”
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko thanked Penn State for their commitment to McKeesport area residents.
“In this city, our slogan is ‘Working Together for a Better McKeesport,’” Cherepko said. “It’s not just a slogan. It’s an invitation. I think when you look around here today at this collaborative effort … that’s what we’re talking about.”
Cherepko, a 1999 Penn State graduate, attended the McKeesport campus during his first two years in college. He shared fond memories of the campus and applauded Dr. Edmondson, the faculty, and the campus’ “street team” for finding innovative ways to reach out to students and the community as a whole.
“We are looking to educate and empower the community,” Penn State Greater Allegheny assistant financial officer and community relations representative Aaron Whigham said. “We want them to be homeowners, better residents who are equipped to serve and expand within the community.”
Safety Saturdays, Whigham said, will focus on fire safety during the holiday season. The campus is working to provide 50 families in the McKeesport community with a Thanksgiving dinner.
Resume workshops also will begin soon.
Information about the Penn State-McKeesport Community Center is available online at http://greaterallegheny.psu.edu/.