DHS secretary to graduates: 'Follow your bliss and doors will open'

Penn State Mont Alto honors graduates, confers degrees during spring commencement ceremony
Penn State Mont Alto Graduates

Members of Penn State Mont Alto graduating class of 2019 wait to receive their diplomas.

Credit: Debra Collins

MONT ALTO, Pa. — Teresa D. Miller, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, urged graduates to “follow their bliss” during Penn State Mont Alto's spring commencement ceremony on May 4.

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living,” she said, quoting Joseph Campbell.

“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be,” she said.

During the ceremony, Penn State Mont Alto honored 102 graduating students and conferred 105 degrees ­— 51 bachelor’s degrees and 54 associate degrees.

In her role as DHS secretary, Miller said her purpose is to serve others.

“Many of you are pursuing careers in serving others,” she said. “Those jobs aren’t always easy, but I promise you, they matter. Each of you will have an impact on someone’s life and I hope you won’t take that lightly.”

During her speech, Miller also encouraged the graduates to take risks, remember those who helped them achieve their success, and to serve as advocates for those who are less fortunate.

Miller’s message was meaningful to many Mont Alto graduates, who earned degrees in the allied health fields of human development and family studies; health policy and administration; nursing; occupational therapy; physical therapy; and psychology.

Rachel Trayer would pick up her third Penn State Mont Alto degree. She first earned an associate in occupational therapy assistant degree in 2011, then an associate degree in nursing in 2015.

“Shortly after graduation, I started taking classes part time,” she said. “I’ve been working as a registered nurse at Chambersburg Hospital for almost four years on a medical-surgical unit. I took a year off from school following the birth of my son, who is turning 3 this fall. Now, I am finally graduating with my B.S.N. and am very excited for what comes next.”

Several members of Trayer’s family earned Penn State degrees from Mont Alto. While attending Mont Alto, she met husband Kyle Trayer, who earned degrees in information sciences and technology in 2011 and 2015. Her sisters Julie Green (class of 2009) and Angela Hess (class of 2015) also earned degrees in nursing, and Kara Hess (class of 2012) earned her degree in human development and family studies.

“My path to graduation was the greatest adventure of my life,"  said Mandy Cook, who earned an associate in occupational therapy assistant degree while also raising her four children.

“I am a nontraditional student and to say I was intimidated by the thought of returning to college would be a massive understatement … but the size of the campus helped to ease me back into the routine and the helpful professors were very refreshing,” she said.

“I won’t say it was easy by any stretch of the imagination. … I have made some of the best friends I could have and created relationships with peers and professors that will last a lifetime,” Cook added.

After spending two years as classmates earning their physical therapist assistant degrees, Logan Hitz and Sean Stamm are eager to put their degrees to use in helping others.

“The last two years have been good with my classmates,” said Hitz. “Now we get to use our skills out in the field. I’m just looking to help others and do more in my career.”

“It’s been rewarding earning my degree, and now I can go out into the community and help people,” said Stamm.

As the ceremony closed, Penn State Mont Alto Chancellor Francis K. Achampong charged the graduates with being engaged citizens.

“Give back to your community and help make this world a better place — one that is more humane and compassionate; one that values every human being,” he said. “If you do, Penn State Mont Alto will be living out its vision of transforming lives; yours and those of the people you touch.”

To view additional photos from Mont Alto's spring commencement ceremony, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/psuma/albums/72157706919787071.