Republished from Safe Berks NEWS, Summer 2018
Republished from Safe Berks NEWS, Summer 2018
The students, faculty and staff of Reading Area Community College (RACC) worked throughout the 2017-18 school year to raise funds to help Safe Berks. All their hard work came together as students gathered on campus to celebrate the annual RACCy Olympics, where they competed in fun games, including a hula hoop contest.
The RACCy Olympics culminated in the presentation of a huge check to Safe Berks. When the real check arrived at Safe Berks soon after the event, the staff felt a combination of gratitude and awe. The check was for $11,156! Those funds will be used to help renovate the Safe Berks Playground. The students raised the funds by completing a series of fundraisers, including selling candy bars, selling tickets to a bus trip to Washington D.C., and selling ads in a RACCy Olympics program book. Each year, students vote to decide which local non-profit to help.
“At RACC we feel that it is important to teach our students to become future leaders in our community,” said Kimberly Uphold, Student Life Coordinator at RACC. “One of the ways we chose to encourage that growth is through RACCy Olympics. We all truly care about our community and hope to teach our students that the best way to help and change things is by taking action. Our staff and faculty chose to participate because RACC is a community and we feel it is important for us, as leaders of RACC, to also set the example for our students. Our students understood the need for the children at Safe Berks to have a nice safe environment. When they found out that the funds they were raising were going to build the playground, they were very excited.”
PHOTO CAPTION: From left, Francine Scoboria of Safe Berks, and Daniel Faudree, Kathy Torres, and Kim Upland, of RACC.
August 2018 | berkscountyliving.com
Chris Celmer started his Reading Area Community College (RACC) journey as a student, but RACC provided him with much more than an associate's degree. "Going to RACC was the best decision I ever made," explains Celmer. "It was a turning point in my life and put me on track for long term success," says Chris.
Chris was drawn to RACC for the economic perspective and the ease of being able to juggle his full-time job and course load. He enrolled in RACC as a Business Management major. He continued his education at Alvernia University, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in Business Administration and later got his master's degree at Wilkes University. Chris credits RACC for laying the groundwork for his success. He says, "The foundation that I was given at RACC in the business division allowed me to have a successful journey in school and in the working world."
While working in a prospering manufacturing position, Chris was given the opportunity to teach an adult education course at RACC. Teaching the program helped him to transition his career to work full-time in education. "I realized that education was going to be my gateway to attaining my career goals, and RACC is where I found my passion for leadership and for education," he says. Chris segued to a position at the Berks County Intermediate Unit, which ultimately led him to where he is today, Assistant Superintendent at Reading School District.
Chris attributes his success to the guidance he received from professors Dr. Sandy Kern and Mary Lou Kline. At RACC, both Sandy and Mary Lou were his go-to professors not only for guidance in his studies, but also for counsel with his career.
"I wouldn't be where I am today without the two of them," he asserts. "They both had a phenomenal impact on my life." Chris stayed in contact with Dr. Kern while on a Programming Advisory Board in the Business Division at RACC. And recently, Dr. Kern asked Chris to teach an Operation Management course. "To keep in contact with Sandy over the years has been a real blessing, and now being able to come back to RACC to teach under her is very exciting," he says.
As an administrator in the public school system, Chris feels that RACC is a phenomenal option for students. He believes the bigger universities lack the personal interaction that RACC offers. "The faculty and staff want to do what's right by their students, especially those coming out of high school that need more guidance and support," he says. Chris's recommendation to attend RACC comes both professionally and personally, since his daughter Rayanna is starting classes in the Early Childhood program next year. "I would absolutely recommend RACC to anyone if they are looking at furthering their education."
Wolf Administration Highlights Job Training Program Success Stories Made Possible by Governor’s Manufacturing PA Initiative
Harrisburg, PA – On Tuesday, July 24, 2018, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Deputy Sec
Harrisburg, PA – On Tuesday, July 24, 2018, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Deputy Secretary for Technology and Innovation Sheri Collins joined representatives from Reading Area Community College (RACC), Johnstown Area Regional Industries (JARI), Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center, and other partners to provide an update on Governor Wolf's Manufacturing PA initiative, which supports Pennsylvania's manufacturing community through strategic partnerships while emphasizing job training to career pathways.
Bonnie Spayd, RACC's executive director of workforce & economic development says, "RACC will use the Training to Careers Grant to develop an applied training program based on the needs of regional manufacturing employers. The program is intended to provide the necessary skills needed to work in a production environment as well as a greater understanding of the products produced, the use and benefit of the products to society, competitive pay and upward mobility opportunities that exist in manufacturing companies."
For more information on training programs at RACC's Schmidt Training & Technology Center, call 610-372-4721 ext. 5176.
Photo Caption: Bonnie Spayd, RACC's executive director of workforce & economic development and Rhonda Hudak, RACC's director of grant development/title IX coordinator present an update on Governor Wolf's Manufacturing PA initiative.
Written by David Mekeel/Reading, Pa
On her 16th birthday, Dr. Susan Looney walked into the office at her high school in Freehold, N.J., and quit.
"I didn't like high school, I didn't fit in," she explains simply.
She thought it was an end, that dropping out would finish her educational career. She was wrong.
Instead, it was the start of a winding journey that in February led to her taking the reins as the sixth president of Reading Area Community College.
"It's all I ever wanted to do"
Looney did something else the day she turned 16, something she had been dreaming about for as long as she can remember. On the same day she gave up on high school, she became a professional harness horse racer.
Her family was deeply entrenched in harness racing. Her grandparents, Elmer and Helen Looney, were well-known breeders and trainers, and her mother, JoAnn Looney-King, was a pioneer in the sport as one of the first female drivers.
Looney's first memories were of horses, were of racing. It was her entire world as a child.
"As long as I can remember it was all I ever wanted to do," she said. "So to no surprise, I followed in their footsteps."
When she turned 12, the youngest age you're allowed to start racing, Looney began driving as an amateur. She took to the family business quickly and was more than ready when she turned pro four years later.
As a professional, her success continued. She was named rookie of the year at Pocono Downs, was the youngest driver to ever win a race at the Meadowlands and was the first woman to win a race at Garden State Park.
Over the next few years she continued to excel, even earning the right to represent the U.S. at international harness races around the world.
She was in love, completely enthralled with the sport.
"I thought that's what I would do forever," she said.
But then one night in 1988 everything changed. She was 20 years old, driving in a race at the Meadowlands when she crashed.
Even though she escaped serious injury in the violent spill, it was a wake-up call.
"It was a little tap on the shoulder that I should have a backup plan," Looney said.
A new beginning
The crash at the Meadowlands would be the end of Looney's racing career.
But with the only thing she ever wanted to do behind her, what was her next step? The answer, it turns out, was education.
In the time since she had dropped out of high school, Looney had managed to earn her GED. Looking for a new path, she decided to enroll in a local community college.
It was not an easy decision.
Looney hadn't enjoyed her previous school experience, so the idea of going back didn't thrill her. She figured she'd just go for two years, earn an associate degree and get a job.
On her first day, Looney said, she drove in circles around the parking lot at Brookdale Community College three times, too nervous to park and go inside. She grappled with the idea to just drive away and go home.
"Change is never easy, and that was a major change in my life," she said
Despite her misgivings, Looney decided to give college a shot.
The first few months were difficult, she said. Having dropped out of high school she found herself starting at the school's lowest level, just trying to catch up on the basics.
"But that was OK," she said. "The community college built my strength in those areas."
And she found a support system that tirelessly encouraged and pushed her.
"The faculty and staff saw things in me that I didn't," she said.
During her two years at Brookdale, Looney found a new passion, one that rivaled her feelings for racing.
"I fell in love with learning at my community college," she said.
Looney would go on to earn a bachelor of science degree and a master of business administration degree from Monmouth University.
After college, Looney took a job with the U.S. Department of Defense, first for a two-year internship, then as an operations research analyst.
But the impact her college experience, particularly at Brookdale, had on her had created a spark she couldn't extinguish.
"It had so transformationally changed my life, I knew I wanted to do something to give back," she said.
So while working at the Department of Defense she spent two nights a week and Saturdays earning a law degree from Widener University. And when her time with the military was up, she made a beeline for the world of education.
She took a job in 1998 as an accounting professor at Mohave Community College in Arizona and in 2001 moved back east to teach business administration at Delaware Technical Community College.
She would eventually move into the administration at Delaware Technical, serving as assistant to the campus director and director of corporate and community programs. Later she would serve as assistant vice president of academic affairs, arts and sciences at Colorado Mountain College before coming to RACC in 2014 as dean of instruction.
A year later she became senior vice president of academic affairs and provost at RACC, titles she held until being named president.
Through each stop, Looney stayed focused on students, many of whom had jagged paths to college filled with struggles and doubt much like she had. She made it her mission to give her students the support that was so vital to her own success.
"I've tried to take my experience and try to build a better process for our students," she said. "I will do everything I can to help build a community that gives them an opportunity to succeed."
Taking the lead
The 50-year-old Looney has only officially been RACC's president for about three weeks.
She's still using her old office - delivery of the furniture for her new digs has been delayed. On the door a fellow administrator has covered up her old titles with big letters cut out of red construction paper that read "PRESIDENT."
Looney laughs at it as she unlocks the door and takes a seat at a small round table.
In many ways, it still seems that she's trying to wrap her head around everything. That she likely has to pinch herself sometimes to make sure it's all real.
When asked what her 16-year-old, racing-obsessed self would think about where she is now, she smiles.
"She wouldn't believe it," she said.
Looney said she was blown away by the news that she would be taking over for Dr. Anna D. Weitz, who retired as RACC president June 30.
"I know I have big shoes to fill," she said. "It is a privilege and an honor to be in this new role."
After she was named the new president in February, Looney began a listening tour, meeting with students and staff to get a pulse of campus culture and a better sense of the wants and needs of the college community.
She said as president she will focus on the four-part mission of community colleges: providing access, opportunity, excellence and hope. To do that, she said, she'll look at three key areas.
The first is student success. She said she'll work to improve both graduation rates and enrollment.
Looney said she also wants RACC to continue its efforts in workforce development.
"I want to make sure RACC is the leader in creating a well-trained, well-educated workforce for Berks County," she said.
The final prong of Looney's plan is to publicize the amazing work of her great faculty and staff.
It's a lot of work, making sure things run smoothly for the 4,000 credit-seeking students and countless others who use RACC, but it's a role Looney said she cherishes.
"I feel so fortunate I get to do something I love every day and have a small impact in making someone's life better," she said.
Sunday, July 1, 2018, Reading, PA- Dr. Susan Looney officially became the sixth president of Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pennsylvania on July 1, 2018. She succeeds Dr. Anna Weitz, who retired on June 30, 2018 after 11 years of service as RACC's president.
Previously serving as senior vice president for academic affairs/provost at RACC, Dr. Looney plans to draw on that experience as she assumes the presidential role. "I look forward to this next chapter in the history of this great college," says Dr. Looney. "I truly believe that the student is not one of the reasons we are here, they are the only reason we are here."
The new president is a shining example of how opportunity, access, excellence and hope offered by the community college can changes lives. She earned her AA at Brookdale Community College and went on to earn a BS and MBA in business administration from Monmouth University, a JD from Widener University School of Law and an Ed.D. in higher education leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
"We are excited to welcome Dr. Looney as RACC's 6th president. With her years of experience as a community college faculty member and administrator, she is uniquely positioned to lead RACC into an exciting future," says RACC Board of Trustees Chair Mr. Guido M. Pichini.
In her 20 years as a full-time community college educator, eight as a faculty member and 12 as a senior administrator, Dr. Looney has worked in a variety of academic and administrative roles at Mohave Community College in Arizona and at Delaware Technical Community College. Throughout her career, she has been significantly involved in team building, budgeting, strategic planning, assessment, community engagement, and fundraising.
Dr. Looney joined the staff of RACC in 2014 as dean of instruction before moving to the position of senior vice president for academic affairs/provost in 2015. Throughout her tenure she has consistently demonstrated her deep commitment to the success of RACC students and has focused the staff on excellence, while using outcomes to inform next steps. "I am extremely excited and blessed for the opportunity to provide the experience and vision to lead RACC into an exciting and vibrant future."