Student’s Penn State experience fuels personal growth

Jonathan Adrien's journey aided by PaSSS and STEP programs
Penn State student Jonathan Adrien

Penn State student Jonathan Adrien has benefited from Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS) and the Student Transitional Experiences Program (STEP).

Credit: Steve Tressler

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jonathan Adrien’s Penn State experience has been defined by monumental growth.

“I’m not the same person I was before Penn State,” he said. “I liked who I was before, but I like this version even better!”

The Philadelphia native began his Penn State career at Penn State Brandywine, and he is on track to graduate from the College of Information Sciences and Technology in December. Adrien’s journey has been aided by two Penn State programs designed to help students remain on track toward graduation during critical junctures in their college careers, Pathway to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS) and the Student Transitional Experiences Program (STEP).  

Adrien said his transition to college was “seamless” thanks to PaSSS, which enabled him to begin his Penn State education the summer before his first semester at the Brandywine campus. The six-week program enabled Adrien to take two courses, work a part-time job on campus, and benefit from the counsel of a peer mentor. By the end of the summer, he had the knowledge and confidence he needed to hit the ground running in to his first semester. Adrien found the program so valuable that he returned the following summer to mentor the next crop of incoming students.

Thanks in part to the head start he received through PaSSS, Adrien distinguished himself as a student leader at the Brandywine campus, where he served as a Lion Ambassador, orientation leader, and treasurer of the Black Student Union. While he enjoyed the tight-knit community the Brandywine campus provided, he also wanted a “big school” experience, so he decided to make the transition to the University Park campus his junior year. 

STEP, which supports students who are transitioning to the University Park campus from another Penn State campus, helped Adrien to bridge the gap between the two campuses — and from life as a commuter student to life away from home. Adrien explained that the program aided him through the transition while also challenging him to stretch.

“For the first time in my life I was interacting with students from Erie, Altoona, Pittsburgh, New York — not just from my hometown,” he said. “STEP did a great job of making all of us feel welcome.”

Adrien said he credits his interactions with diverse Penn Staters, both during that first summer at the University Park campus and in semesters to follow, for making him better equipped to engage with people who are different from him.

He has enjoyed applying this skill through part-time jobs as a resident assistant in Shunk Hall, supporting students in their own Penn State journeys, and as a caller for Lion Line, engaging Penn State alumni in giving back to their alma mater.

Adrien’s growth has also continued in the classroom. Through his degree in information sciences and technology with a focus in integration and application, which blends technology with business, he has gained critical thinking and problem-solving skills that could take him in many different directions. As complements to his classroom studies, he has interned with SURGE Business Development, where he advises businesses on how to use technology to maximum benefit, and United States Liability Insurance, where he completed strategic reviews of the firm’s operations. Looking ahead, Adrien said he aspires to a career in consulting, sales or motivational speaking.

While he is excited about what his Penn State education means for his career prospects, he said he's even more enthused about what it means for his family. His parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti and did not attend college themselves, will have the opportunity to watch their son graduate in December  — after just three and a half years, thanks to the courses he completed through PaSSS and STEP. Adrien’s sister, Nathalie, who has followed her brother’s example and is a first-year student at the Brandywine campus, is likewise poised for success.  

Looking back on his Penn State journey, Adrien said he is grateful for the opportunity to have evolved into an even better version of himself.

“The things I’ve been able to experience at Penn State have been enormously powerful,” he said. “They’ve helped me to learn so much about myself, and they’ve shaped me into the person I am today.”

He continued, “I feel like I’m living the dream here at Penn State. I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but I know it will be great.”

About Achieve Penn State

The PaSSS and STEP programs, offered through the Penn State Office for Summer Session, are part of Achieve Penn State, an initiative which supports hard-working students and their families by helping them plan for their future by eliminating obstacles so they can graduate with lower debt and in less time. Achieve Penn State programs support students and families through institutional scholarships, summer school and on-campus employment, financial literacy and campus transitions to help students experience all that Penn State has to offer.  

To learn more about Achieve Penn State, contact [email protected].