Step forward

Warren native to speak at NPRC commencement

Photo provided to the Times Observer Savannah Nichols will be the commencement speaker at the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College’s commencement ceremonies.

A Warren County native will be the commencement speaker for the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College next weekend.

For Savannah Nichols, who is set to graduate with an early childhood education degree, it’s a step on a longer journey.

“When I initially got the communication that I had been selected for this opportunity, I was stunned and honestly thought they sent the email to the wrong person,” Nichols said.

“I was truly surprised at first, but that feeling has turned into one of excitement. I’m excited to have this opportunity to give my speech and reflect on all that I’ve worked hard on during my time as an NPRC student.”

Nichols is continuing her studies at Wilson College but that’s a step on a journey that is years in the making.

She graduated from Youngsville High School in 2015 and attended Clarion University for a semester as a child psychology student.

That desire to work with kids was there.

But instead of continuing at Clarion she returned home and started her career and she’s spent the majority of the last eight years doing just that.

The proximity of the NPRC provided options.

“From the start, NPRC made me feel like I was at the right place,” Nichols said. “I felt from the beginning like I knew what I was doing, and I was ready for college. Getting used to doing homework, studying, and completing my assignments was a bit of a challenge at first, but I kept myself organized with a calendar to make sure I could balance going to class, schoolwork, and continuing my career.

“My calendar looked crazy, but it kept me on track.”

She’s now in the online bachelor’s program at Wilson College where she aims to graduate in Dec. 2025, pursuing the goal of working as an elementary special education teacher.

“It was certainly a change from NPRC because I had to get used to watching pre-recorded lectures,” said Nichols. “I’m currently in one course in the spring term but will be taking three over the summer.”

According to the NPRC, elementary and middle school left Nichols with some “unpleasant memories. Going to school did not necessarily mean being accepted and it was not a place she was always comfortable going to.”

That’s changing.

“Having faced challenges throughout my time in school, I understand the impact a supportive environment can have on a child’s development,” she said. “I aspire to be a source of encouragement and guidance for young minds; helping them overcome obstacles and fostering a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom.”

“To see her go from a quiet, but always attentive, student to a vocal and willing participant in class has been amazing,” Leigh Anne Kraemer-Naser, director of applied studies and early child education, said. “I saw growth in her reflective writing that really told me that she was born to work with children and families.

“It’s been exciting for me to get pictures and text messages showing how she immediately and creatively applies what she learned in class. I’ll never forget a text exchange helping her rearrange her classroom furniture. I’m so proud of her drive to keep learning and pursuing a bachelor’s degree. She has an amazing future in education waiting for her.”

The NPRC’s model is unique. It brings together students from across the region in common learning pursuits.

For Nichols, that sparked a friendship with Brittany Grajack, who will also graduate next weekend.

“Our friendship really started after I sent her a message for some help with an assignment,” Grajek said. “We just kept talking from there and eventually decided to hang out. Since then, I’ve become close with her family and from the start it felt like we’ve hung out together a million times.

“I’m so thankful NPRC helped bring a friend like her into my life.”

“I just hope the students that follow me find a way to enjoy their journey,” Nichols said. “It’s important to take the time to do homework and study, but finding your core people and forming friendships is also a valuable part of college.

“Finding that balance I think is what’s helped me earn this opportunity at commencement,” she said.


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