When you tell someone that you’re from State College, no one ever knows where that is. When you say, “Penn State”, everyone immediately knows what you’re talking about - the renowned university that is placed smack dab in the middle of the state of Pennsylvania. I moved to State College when I was a little kid, having parents who attended, and met at, Penn State; they were eager to move to Happy Valley when my dad landed a job in Bellefonte, a 20 minute drive from State College.
I grew up with Penn State, going to games as a little girl, being a part of Rene’s Dunkers, a Lady Lions Basketball kids club and going to every home game. My high school frequently took field trips to Penn State’s campus for shows. We had our prom and graduation ceremony at the Bryce Jordan Center, and many of my banquets for sports were at the Penn Stater. My parents took me to performances at Eisenhower Auditorium, I went downtown to shop and eat regularly and our high school football stadium was located downtown.
Soon enough, Penn State became home to me. Football weekends full of traffic downtown became natural–you knew not to try to go out to eat during a football weekend because of how crowded it would be. Move in weekend was the same; you knew to stay away from Walmart and Target because all the students would flock there, eager to buy things for their dorm or apartment that they had forgotten.
Most people want to go away for college, leave their hometown, find themselves and become a new person. I was against going to Penn State for the longest time. I was so intent on getting away from the small town of State College, and going somewhere far, far away. This all changed, however.
Back in 2011 when Penn State was put in the headlines because of the scandal, the town changed. All of a sudden, there was so much spotlight on our small town and our prestigious university. There were riots, more media attention and so much hurt. The university is such a huge part of State College; it not only hit the university hard, but also the town.
So many bad things happened at once. First the scandal came out, then Joe Pa was removed from head coach of Penn State football. Soon after, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and passed away in January 2012. A legend, someone who was looked upon so highly in everyone’s eyes, was gone. The bad things didn’t stop there. The summer before the 2012 football season, the Freeh report was released, giving out new information regarding the scandal. The Joe Paterno statue was removed from outside Beaver Stadium as well. I remember blimps going over the stadium reading “Take down the statue or we will” and people stood by the statue with rude messages displayed on paper. The statue removal was done as a “healing process”, according to president Rodney Erickson.
There is actually a Happy Valley documentary on Netflix that shows some of the stuff that was happening around State College at the time. The documentary itself is actually not very good because it leaves out important information about the case, interviews a student who didn’t share the views of the majority of other Penn Stater’s at the time, and it is quite biased. However, it does show some live footage of the things that were going on in our little town.
Penn State went from being known as this great university to something that people looked at shamefully. I remember I went to a basketball camp in Maryland that year and when I told people where I lived they looked at me with grief. The one camp counselor said “such a shame what’s happening there” when I told him where I’m from. And it was, I agree. Something so terrible was happening to my home, and it was awful.
The football season was coming up, and my family had season tickets. I remember sitting in the nosebleed seats, way up at the top of the stadium. So many people came out to that first game to support the football program despite everything that had happened the past year. They took a few moments in the beginning of the game for everyone who was affected by the scandal. I felt so emotional during that time; I cared about Penn State more than I thought I did.
After the game, seeing everyone with Joe Pa shirts and Penn State football shirts made me even more proud to be a Penn State fan. Despite all that had happened with Penn State football, all these people came together to support PSU and show their love for this university and Penn State football.
That is what made me want to come to Penn State, the school spirit, the fight, the love for everything Penn State has to offer. It didn’t matter that I grew up in the town of State College, it made me proud to be a Penn State fan, and now a Penn State student.This school is special for so many reasons, Penn State football being a big reason many come to Penn State, but Penn State is so much more. We didn’t let the scandal change our love for this school.