by Jim Colbert
South Hills Communications
STATE COLLEGE -- Jeff and Cathy Brown are well known in the Centre County region thanks to their extensive community involvement and being, among other things, on-air radio personalities. Their son, Joshua, is a 2013 graduate of the Criminal Justice (CJ) program at South Hills and thriving in his new career as a Corrections Officer at State Correctional Institution–Rockview.
You’ve likely heard Jeff Brown’s voice on air as a sports broadcaster or at a Spikes game. But his enthusiasm peaks when he talks about his son’s experience at South Hills.
“Josh was an offensive lineman in high school, and he lived for football,“ explains Jeff. “He got an offer at Lock Haven, and he also got an offer to walk on at Penn State. Unfortunately, during spring drills he was injured… I’ve said this a million times, and I know it's overly dramatic, but South Hills saved his life. I really, really think so because he was so far adrift, and losing football derailed him, and South Hills put him back on the right track.”
Josh offers, “Before I came to South Hills, I was working three different jobs. It just wasn't working for me. I had no free time. I was basically living paycheck to paycheck. I knew I needed to make a change.”
“Josh is a small town boy,” said Jeff. “Always has been, always will be. Penn State was too big for him. He needed that family. He found a family here and, because he had a family here, he thrived. He absolutely loved every day of coming here.”
“I think the great thing when Josh first came to South Hills is there was so much help for him,” Cathy adds. “He was motivated and he was excited, but it was walking in and: okay, if you need financial aid assistance, you can go here, and you can go here, and you can check this out. You can apply for this scholarship; you can apply for that scholarship…The best thing that I can say is, all of a sudden, he had a home. He knew where he was. He knew where he was going. He knew that there was help along the way.”
“Right now I'm a Corrections Officer 1 at Rockview,” Josh explains. “I work specifically in the mental health blocks, our secure residential treatment unit. The South Hills CJ program really prepared me with just a great core knowledge of what I was coming into, either through the curriculum or the experiences that the faculty had. John McCullough [CJ Instructor] would talk a lot about his time working in the prison system. He had a couple great videos from footage of different things that had happened, which gave me more of a base than a lot of the guys that I started with. Jen Stover [CJ Program Coordinator] always had her stories. She didn't work corrections, but her law enforcement stories kind of gave me a little bit of a foresight into some of the people I was going to be dealing with there.”
One of Josh’s favorite experiences at South Hills was his internship at Rockview State Penitentiary. “I interned with the counselors over on A Block, which is the biggest block in the prison. Originally, I was supposed to be there for a few weeks and then move on to a new block, and then move on, and they had such a positive experience with me that I ended up being there for my whole 12 weeks, which was nice because by the end of that, I was doing their full workload.” Josh adds “I knew a little bit more about the counselor side of the job than any of the other COs who were starting, so I kind of had my feet wet already there. I knew a lot of the staff just from being there. It was a great experience for me. I wouldn't change anything about it.”
What advice would the Browns leave for anyone considering a South Hills education?
“If I had to talk to somebody who was thinking about coming to South Hills, about the CJ program,” Josh said, “the biggest part was the family that we became by the end of that second year. It only took a few days to make some friends, and then by the end of that second year we were a tight-knit family.”
“He knows he's making a difference,” Cathy adds. “He's happy. He's confident. He also knows the path that he's on. I don't think as a parent you really could want anything more for your child than that.”