Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Bellefonte definition of ‘crazy,’ locals say

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: A Fox News satellite truck pulls in front of the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte on Monday, December 12, 2011. Christopher Weddle 





BELLEFONTE — A dozen satellite vans lined Allegheny and High streets Monday evening outside the Centre County Courthouse, and police officers were guiding more to spots. Residents walked downtown to see the spectacle, snapping pictures with their phones. And nearby business owners hung up signs, promoting one-day specials.

“Crazy,” said Leondardo Saavedra, describing the scene outside Brother’s Pizza where he works.

The source of the commotion in downtown Bellefonte was the preliminary hearing of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. His case — which involves more than 50 counts of alleged child sex abuse against 10 boys — has drawn national media attention.

On Monday evening, trucks for Fox News, NBC, and CNN all sat in Bellefonte.“This is a small town,” said Megan Youells. “So it’s definitely bringing some commotion.”

Youells, 22, and her friend Jessica Austin, 23, live about three blocks from the courthouse. They’re both accountants, and in between taking pictures, they discussed alternate routes for their morning commute.

“Getting onto 80 is going to be crazy,” Youells said referring to the nearby interstate, which she takes to get to work in Lock Haven.

Austin usually drives down High Street on her way to State College, but she figured she would loop around it today.

“Hopefully, I can,” she said.The Bellefonte YMCA planned to close its main office and annex, both on High Street, because of the closed streets. But other business owners saw the increased traffic as an opportunity.

“Special Hours Tuesday, December 13th,” read a sign outside Dairy Queen. “Opening at 6:30 a.m.”

Brother’s Pizza, where Saavedra works, plans to open at 7 a.m. instead of 11 a.m. Workers there will be serving coffee and breakfast pizza.

“We normally don’t sell breakfast pizza. It’s only for (Tuesday),” he said. “It’s like pizza dough, eggs, bacon, sausage, ham.”

At 7 p.m., about 10 volunteers and workers waited inside the Bellefonte Faith Centre for the food bank and thrift store’s annual Toy for Tots sorting night, which happened to be scheduled for the eve of the preliminary hearing. The nonprofit planned to package 1,700 toys for 413 children.

“What happens is the toys come in on the fire truck, which is really fun and spectacular. And they’re just hauled in in these large bags. They’re already wrapped,” said Nicole Summers, executive director of the nonprofit. “And we have a large army of people who sort through them.”

The Faith Centre received special permission from the borough to let the fire truck drive up High Street, which was closed to most other traffic, and volunteers had to park farther away than usual.

“So logistics are a little bit challenging, but the spirit is really high,” Summers said. “It hasn’t compromised the number of people that are coming in to help or the level of enthusiasm.”

Ed Mahon can be reached at 231-4619.

Read more here: Bellefonte definition of ‘crazy,’ locals say.


Centre County educator named Teacher of the Year

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis is pictured with Tricia Miller, a literacy coach in Penns Valley Area School District, Centre County, who was named the 2012 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year. Pictured from left are Secretary Tomalis, Miller and John Anthony Ventura III, a former student in Miller s English class. 





In third-grade, Tricia Miller’s seat ended up right next to the teacher’s desk.

The teacher didn’t set up her classroom that way because Miller was a troublemaker who needed to be kept under a watchful eye. She did it because, even before the age of 10, those around Miller recognized she’d be a good teacher.

On Monday evening, the state recognized that, too.

Miller, a secondary English teacher at Penns Valley Area High School, was named the 2012 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, becoming the first Centre County educator to receive the award in its 54-year history.

“The experience has just been phenomenal,” said Miller, who was honored with 12 other finalists at a conference in Hershey this week. “I was with many, many, many fine teachers. …We all do what we can for kids, and that’s what’s so exciting.”

She will now serve as a spokesperson for teachers from across the state at events and conferences throughout the year, and she will represent the state in the national teacher of the year competition. Penns Valley Area High School plans to honor her and other teachers with a pep rally this afternoon.

“She cares about achievement, she cares about the teaching profession, as well as the community that she works in,” said Jacque Martin, the high school principal who nominated her for the honor. “So I am just so proud of her.”

Miller graduated from Bellefonte Area High School in 1990, and now lives in Lock Haven with her husband, two daughters, and stepdaughter. She has worked for Penns Valley since 1994, teaching English classes for most of that time.

In February 2009, she became the district’s literacy coach for grades 7 through 12, and helped introduce new instructional strategies in classrooms. Martin asked her to take on that role, which meant less time with students, and more time coaching her fellow teachers.

“I knew her colleagues respected her,” Martin said. Miller returned to the classroom full-time this year. John Ventura, 20, is one of her former students. He walked into her 12th-grade English classroom the second half of his senior year, after he’d already been accepted into Penn State.

“The first line out of her mouth was … ‘If you have senioritis, go see a doctor,’ ” recalled Ventura, who gave a speech honoring Miller at the Hershey conference. One of the lasting images he remembers from that semester in spring 2009 is the stare she could give, one that would send the message: You’re going to do the work, even if you fight it.

“She may come off as somebody who’s tough and hard, but she’s somebody who knew you had the ability to do great things as long as you put your mind to it,” said Ventura, who’s now a hotel and restaurant management major at Penn State. “She instilled some things that I’ll carry with me forever.”

Two other Penns Valley teachers, Jacqui Wagner and Mary Conner-Righter, were semifinalists in the state Teacher of the Year program. Erich May, who taught journalism and English at Bellefonte Area High School before taking an administrator job in the Allentown School District earlier this school year, was also one of the 12 finalists for the Teacher of the Year award.

In one of her many application essays, Miller wrote about the third-grade teacher who she ended up sitting near. She also wrote about the first-grade teacher who gave her a “beautiful, green, rubber bouncy ball for jumping rope longer than anyone else in the class,” the second-grade teacher who gently removed a pin that Miller had accidentally jabbed into her own finger instead of into a Christmas decoration, and the high school teachers who helped her play alto saxophone “without screeching,” and who taught her who “to love American literature, as well as analyze it, critique it, summarize it, and reflect on it through writing.”

“These are the greatest influences on my decision to become a teacher,” Miller wrote in her application, “and these teachers are behind my accomplishments, not only in education but personally as well, whether they realize it or not.” Ed Mahon can be reached at 231-4619.

Read more here: Centre County educator named Teacher of the Year.

Iraq, Afghanistan Wars’ wounded return

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment




Megan Krause left Iraq the last week of July 2006. The next month, she was a full-time student at Penn State.

“It was a nerve-wracking experience, to the point that I very specifically remember calling my mother and saying … ‘I want to be back in Iraq,’ ” Krause said last week.

Krause stuck it out though, and she came to feel that she fit in on campus. But two and a half years later, as she was dealing with the stress of preparing to graduate, the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder started to surface.

“I think I was the last person to notice it. There was a lot of alcohol. A lot of alcohol involved,” she said in an interview as part of the national Real Warriors Campaign, aimed at encouraging veterans to seek needed help. “I always just wrote it off as I’m in college. This is what you do. You know, who cares that I’m 26 years old and I’m drinking a bottle of wine in the evening just to get to sleep.”

Krause is one of the more than half-million veterans who sustained an injury while serving on active duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Since March 2003, the start of the Iraq War, 579,019 veterans have left the military and qualified for disability payments, according to a McClatchy Newspapers analysis of millions of disability records from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In Pennsylvania, the 64,913 veterans who left the service after the Sept. 11 attacks make up about 6.73 percent of the total veteran population. And, of the 95,840 veterans of all wars who receive disability payments in Pennsylvania, 13,338 — 13.96 percent — left active duty after the start of the Iraq War.

The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs estimates that there are about 9,000 veterans in Centre County, about 895 of whom receive disability payments. Of those, 211 are Iraq-era veterans, according a Centre Daily Times analysis of the McClatchy data.

“They’ve seen a huge increase at the State College VA outpatient clinic,” said Holly Serface, director of the county Office of Veterans Affairs.

Many veterans have injuries that aren’t obvious. When it comes to documented cases of injuries for Iraq-era veterans in Centre County:

•Four have the federal VA’s highest disability rating of 100.

•11 have traumatic brain injuries.

•12 have major depressive disorders.

•23 have degenerative arthritis.

•36 have post-traumatic stress disorder.

•72 have a VA disability rating between 50 and 100.

•77 have a have a persistent ringing noise in one or both ears, a condition known as tinnitus.

One of the most common injuries, with 67 cases in Centre County, is back strain.

“A lot of that has to do with wearing heavy body armor,” said Dave Petrak, a VA program manager in Altoona, who works with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from Centre County. “They often don’t seek help when they’re in there because they don’t want to be judged by their peers. … A lot of them, because they’re younger, they think the pain’s going to go away.”

Read more: Iraq, Afghanistan Wars’ wounded return.

Hunting season heats up: Slow start blamed on warm temperatures

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment





Chris Caldana, 22, and his younger brother, 16-year-old Jarred, hiked along Spring Creek on Monday.

They heard a single gunshot to their left, up a steep hill that they had scaled earlier in the morning but didn’t plan to climb again.

“Someone might’ve got one,” said the younger brother.

The Caldanas weren’t so lucky Monday. The brothers from Snow Show took to the woods along with thousands of other hunters for the first day of deer rifle hunting season.

They had spotted some doe, but hadn’t seen any bucks they judged to be big enough to shoot at. They figured that the warm weather, with temperatures reaching into the high 60s, was partially to blame.

It meant more ticks were around to latch on to their legs, necks and arms as they sat in the woods, they said. And it meant there were fewer deer walking around those woods.

“They ain’t moving like they usually do. They’re just lying down,” said Chris Caldana. “They ain’t dumb.”

Read more: Hunting season heats up.

Categories: Features, November 2011

Decades later, vet gets Penns Valley diploma

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: David Bowersox takes a look at his diploma after Penns Valley Area School District superintendent Brian Griffith presented it to him at the Wednesday, October 19, 2011 school board meeting. Bowersox left school in and did not graduate in 1949 as planned, because he went to serve in the Korean War. CDT/Christopher Weddle 





PENN TOWNSHIP — David Bowersox received his high school diploma in a small ceremony Wednesday evening.

He wore black pants, a red button- down shirt and no cap or gown. He was in the same room as thousands of books, two American flags, and one stuffed bear wearing a purple “Be Excited About Reading” T-shirt. He had more wrinkles than most graduates.

“If I could just say one thing,” the 80-year-old Bowersox told friends, family members and about 20 Penns Valley Area school board members and administrators gathered inside the Penns Valley Elementary and Intermediate School library. “It took me a long time, but this is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

More than 63 years ago, Bowersox left the now closed Miles Township High School without a diploma.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army and was serving as a courier in Japan when the Korean War began, and he was one of the first soldiers sent over to fight.

He wound up earning several honors, including the Bronze Star.

“I’d just as soon not talk about,” he said during an interview Wednesday night, briefly becoming emotional. “That brings back too many memories.”

Bowersox left the military in the mid-1950s and got a job installing phone lines. Later, he moved to the Gettysburg area for work, and he retired as the New Cumberland Army Depot maintenance chief in 1988.

Even though he earned his GED in 1972, he always felt that not having a high school diploma held him back.

In September, his wife, Sally, contacted the Penns Valley Area School District, after hearing that World War II and Korean War veterans who didn’t finish high school could be eligible for diplomas provided they were honorably discharged.

“She’s something else,” Bowersox said. “She likes surprises.”

The district has previously awarded a diploma to a World War II veteran.

But Penns Valley Area School District Superintendent Brian Griffith said Bowersox is the first Korean War vet to receive a diploma through the policy.

“He’s tickled. He really is,” his wife said. “And I’m tickled for him, because he’s a good man.”

The ceremony took place at the beginning of the school board’s regular meeting.

Griffith and a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, RHoward Township, praised his service and handed him a diploma and flag.

Bowersox teared up. But after the ceremony and after hugging family members and friends, he was cracking jokes.

“I’ll tell people, ‘It took a long time. I guess they held me back a grade or two,’ ” Bowersox said.

Ed Mahon can be reached at 231-4619.

Conservation group’s fair highlights energy saving, cost cutting ideas

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment




Phil Yanak walked through his backyard, carrying a blue umbrella.

He pointed to a solar panel system, large enough to provide more than enough energy for his Millheim home in recent months.

“There it is. It’s getting washed today,” said Yanak. “We do have some leaves on there. I probably should brush them off.”

Then, while standing in the rain, he laughed.

“But on a day like this, it’s generating electricity,” he said. “Not as much as you would get on a bright, sunny day by any means. But still, it’s impressive that it does anything at all.”

Categories: Features, Penns Valley

Day of Caring volunteers give schoolhouse a facelift

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: Earlier this month, Elmer Esh painted a primer coat on the Gramley schoolhouse in Rebersburg to prepare it for painting. Since the building was going to be painted red, one of the workers at Home Depot put a dab of red into the white primer. Photo provided



WEDNESDAY, OCT. 13, 2011


Earlier this month, the Gramley schoolhouse in Rebersburg was pink.

“A lot of people had comments about how cute it was,” said a laughing Vonnie Henninger.

She’s a local historian and one of the community members who helped raise more than $26,000 to save the last public one-room schoolhouse in Brush Valley.

Read more: Day of Caring volunteers give schoolhouse a facelift.