by Joan Andrews
South Hills Public Relations Specialist
STATE COLLEGE — The large assembly hall at the Penn Stater Conference Center was filled with applause and cheers of congratulations on September 26 as South Hills School of Business & Technology held its commencement ceremony for the graduating Class of September 2016.
After completing their required summer internships, 130 graduates from the State College, Altoona, and Lewistown campuses came together to receive their specialized associate degrees from a number of career-focused programs: Medical Assistant, Graphic Arts, Business Administration—Management & Marketing, Information Technology, Administrative Professional, and Criminal Justice.
South Hills’ graduations are known to be given in a supportive and family-friendly atmosphere, as was evidenced at this year’s event. While singer and Class of 2016 graduate, Amanda Rider, stood at the podium to lead the national anthem, she was met with a surprise. Much to the delight of the audience, Rider’s 3-year-old daughter ran to the stage, where the mother-daughter team finished out the national anthem as a duet without missing a beat.
Words of challenge and encouragement were given to the graduates from keynote speaker, Kathy Stephens, a South Hills graduate from the Class of 1997 and Operations Manager for University Park Plaza Corporation in State College.
Following her in the line-up of special speakers, was Stephens’ niece, Kourtney Vermillion of Julian, Graphic Artist – Class of 2016, who gave a lighthearted rendering on the successes and rewards of attaining her degree at South Hills School.
Craig Ramage, Information Technology graduate of Hawk Run, was the recipient of this year’s Founder’s Award. This distinction is given to a graduating student who exemplifies the core values of South Hills’ founder, S. Paul Mazza: kindness to others, integrity, school involvement, and a strong academic standing.
Ramage was hired by The Raytheon Company, a technology and innovation leader, following his internship with that corporation in State College.
Receiving the JoAnn Bonfatto Memorial Award was Justin Vining, Criminal Justice major from Julian. This award recognized Vining as an outstanding graduate with enthusiasm, willingness to help others, dependability, and initiative throughout his time of study at South Hills.
Vining also secured employment directly through his summer internship. He works with the North Central Secure Treatment Unit in Danville as a Youth Developmental Aide.
In the article photo, graduate Sheldon Scott of State College gets a congratulatory hug from his young fan, Oliver Jacobs. Visit our Facebook page to view several more photos from the commencement ceremony.
Kari Schlegel was born in March 1992 and graduated from South Hills in September 2012.
The Kari Lynn Schlegel Memorial Gallery is named in memory of Kari Schlegel, a lifelong Bellefonte resident and 2012 graduate of the Graphic Arts program at South Hills.
Kari was often the exclamation point in any story about the Class of 2012. Her effervescent good mood, enthusiasm, and seemingly endless supply of optimism and positive spirit was infusive, lighting up the classroom.
Kari (right) is shown with her beloved sister, Mindy.
Her classmates still laugh at the memory of Kari wearing her bunny slippers on the Graphic Arts field trip to New York City. Groan-worthy puns and jokes? Kari had a volume of them. She delighted in sharing stories and photos of her four beloved cats as well as trivia and tales of Harry Potter and Disney World. She was a rare combination of innocence, maturity, trust, and hope. She was filled with a joy of life and an unconditional love for her friends, her family, her pets… and people she just met. That was Kari Schlegel.
Kari dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow for the South Hills “BooFest” Halloween party in 2012.
She loved her school, even coming back to audit several GA classes after graduating. Kari also particularly enjoyed returning to South Hills every summer to perform as part of the Music Picnic Series with the Bellefonte Community Band.
Kari died December 15, 2016, in a tragic automobile accident. It’s a loss everyone who knew her still feels. In the end, Kari truly lived her life with passion and joy, treating others as she wanted to be treated: with love, compassion, and respect.