State representative speaks to students

State Representative Tarah Toohil visited with members of the Student Government Association (SGA) at Penn State Hazleton on March 18, discussing with them her job as a state legislator and the future of the Hazleton area.

SGA President Dante Toth said, "Many students were wondering where Hazleton is going in the future and the role of our campus in the community that surrounds us. We felt it would be beneficial to hear from a local representative and learn more about the plans for the area and what Penn State Hazleton can do to assist."

SGA Constitutional Review Chair Jairo Estrella, who also sits on the SGA's Governmental Affairs Committee, interned with Rep. Toohil and invited her to speak to the students, a first-time event.

Toohil, a graduate of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law, was excited at the opportunity to address the group of about 35 students.

"Penn State Hazleton is a big part of our community, with many students who are area natives at this campus," she said. "We want to get students engaged and involved as part of this community, helping to make our area better and better."

Rep. Toohil, who is beginning her fifth year in office, said it's important for students to realize the value of being around family and living in a community such as Hazleton, where she noted "a lot of exciting things are happening."

She encouraged students to become involved in government by voting and making their needs known, saying, "Your voice is so important. You all have different voices, all of which need to be heard. It's my job to represent the people in this area and figure out what your needs are and help you."

SGA representatives will join a delegation from Penn State Hazleton attending Capital Day in Harrisburg on March 31, a day when students and alumni visit the Capitol to urge the Pennsylvania legislature to support a healthy budget appropriation for Penn State. The students will meet with representatives such as Rep. Toohil and tour the Capitol building during their trip to Harrisburg.

Rep. Toohil spoke to the SGA students about the value of hard work, encouraging the students to learn more about what jobs are available and the education necessary to attain those jobs.

She devoted a portion of her talk to the future of Hazleton, a city of about 30,000 residents, telling the students that the city is a great place to raise a family, enjoy a meal and feel a real sense of community.

"There are so many great people here. I hope you can get involved and stay in Hazleton," Rep. Toohil told the students.

She noted the strides that have been made in overcoming racial tensions and the revitalization of downtown Hazleton, which has been largely undertaken by Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress (DHAP). In particular, employers such as DeAngelo Brothers, Inc. (DBi), an international infrastructure operations and maintenance firm, and Hayden Electric, a residential and commercial electric and communications firm, have committed to a presence downtown; historic buildings are being renovated to serve as office space; and downtown Hazleton's main thoroughfare, Broad Street, has been completely restored by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Students were particularly interested by her encouragement to become involved in the community with groups such as the Hazleton Integration Project and POWER (Professionals Organized and Working to Enrich the Region), which organize many worthy community events that support local residents and communities.