“Pennsylvania Highlands Community College changed my life,” said Emily Krisko. “I identified my passion and charted an educational pathway to a career in that profession; I enriched myself and my community through volunteer work; and I had the opportunity to learn, grow and excel. I really found myself there.”
Emily Krisko, a December 2019 Pennsylvania Highlands Community College (Penn Highlands) graduate, was recently named a member of the 26th Annual All-Pennsylvania Academic Team and honored as one of two 2020 Coca-Cola Gold Scholars in the Commonwealth.
The Academic Team recognizes an exceptional group of community college students who have achieved academic excellence and demonstrated a commitment to their colleges and communities. As a Gold Scholar, Ms. Krisko will receive a $1,500 scholarship. Pennsylvania’s community colleges also partner with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities to provide scholarships to eligible All-PA Transfer Team members at PASSHE institutions, providing two years of tuition at any PASSHE school.
Ms. Krisko is currently enrolled at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and pursuing a degree in Speech Language Pathology with a minor in Deaf Studies.
“I always wanted to find a career in the medical field – somewhere I could help people – but I found my calling when I began working with people with disabilities after high school,” she shared. “I saw the struggles they face every day, particularly with communication. Prior to that job, I did not have experience working with disability, but now it is the only future I want. Penn Highlands helped plan my education around a career in that field and I can’t wait to realize my goals.”
Although Ms. Krisko first chose Penn Highlands for its affordability, she quickly realized the college offered quality education. She said that her courses more than prepared her for IUP.
She is jubilant about the scholarship she earned when she was named to the 2020 Academic Team, calling it a blessing and expressing pride while remaining humble about her hard work. She said the certainty of paid tuition relieves some of the anxiety she would have felt about paying for school in the current climate.
“I always try my hardest,” Ms. Krisko said modestly. “I didn’t expect to get so involved at Penn Highlands, but I’m glad I did. I believe that is what ultimately set me on the path to receive this unbelievable honor. I would encourage everyone to go to campus events, get involved and give back. It changes you for the better and can result in unexpected, yet welcome, advantages.”
In addition to excelling at her studies, Ms. Krisko has become a dedicated volunteer since enrolling at Penn Highlands. She volunteers at Able, a church group for people with disabilities, and Camp PARC, a summer camp for adults with disabilities. She also served as secretary for the Phi Theta Chapter (PTK) chapter at Penn Highlands, in addition to taking part in campus events like Toys for Tots.
As an outspoken advocate for persons with disabilities, Ms. Krisko said she is concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these populations and the added challenges they face due to social distancing. She notes the Deaf and hard of hearing community is particularly impacted.
“Deaf people often read lips to communicate. Face masks, while necessary, make that impossible. Imagine you woke up tomorrow and could not speak English anymore. That is what they are facing – a total language blackout at the flip of a switch,” Ms. Krisko explained.
“In a time when many are desperate to see a caring gesture, I challenge Pennsylvania to be the change they wish to see in the world by meeting Deaf people halfway,” she continued. “I made a short video of some simple signs you can learn to make limited communication possible and their lives slightly easier. After socializing with this population for years, I can assure you, this small effort to understand will mean more than I can put into words.”
Watch Ms. Krisko’s video below or on Facebook: https://bit.ly/KriskoASL.