State College, PA – May 28, 2024 – Fifteen Centre County high school students awarded $7,400 to six local nonprofits as they concluded their participation in Centre PACT (Philanthropic Actions Created by Teens), an annual program facilitated by Centre Foundation. Recipient organizations include ACRES Project, Park Forest Preschool, Discovery Space Museum, Dyslexia Reading Center of Central Pennsylvania, State of Hope Foundation Inc., and Centre Wildlife Care.

This month, students and their families, nonprofit representatives, community members, and Centre Foundation staff gathered at the Scholar Hotel in State College to announce the grant awards and celebrate the program year’s end.

To help kick off the program, State College Area High School senior Carly Erickson shared the Centre PACT mission and presented an overview of the 2023-24 program year.

State College senior Lydia Shen presented a $720 grant to Executive Director Bella Bregar of ACRES Project for their Gardening and Growing —Exploring Aquaponics program. ACRES Project uses aquaponics and gardening to produce sustainable, local food while providing horticultural therapy, employment opportunities, job skills training, and community integration for individuals with autism and other disabilities.

Bella expressed her gratitude, saying, “Thank you to Centre PACT for believing in our growing and gardening group. It’s been amazing to see the individuals who have come out to ACRES to participate in our Exploring Aquaponics program. Participants have done a great job—they know how to adjust the pH and all the chemistry of water and grow plants, which we then put in our greenhouse. I’ve been really impressed with their dedication!”

State College juniors Sophia Reutzel and Grace Levy presented Sue Yearick, Executive Director of the Park Forest Preschool, and Board Members Rocky Landers and Tony DeLuca with a $935 grant for their Mud Kitchens—Expanding nature-based learning opportunities program. This initiative aims to expand nature-based and environmental learning opportunities at the tuition-free preschool, which prepares children for kindergarten success.

Sophia mentioned, “The preschool’s ‘Mud Kitchens & More!’ program offers several benefits. The built-in water cycling system encourages water conservation, as students reuse water daily. Playing in mud kitchens also promotes children’s exploration of their natural environment and enhances their social interaction skills as they create delightful mud-based concoctions with their teachers and peers.”

Preschool Board Member Tony DeLuca added, “We aimed to expand nature-based learning opportunities for our students, and thanks to Centre PACT’s thoughtful funding, the students can now enjoy field trips to the arboretum for guided tours. The kids love the bus rides and learning about nature and the food cycle. Thank you for making this possible.”

State College seniors Carly Erickson and Stephanie Field presented Michele Crowl, Executive Director of Discovery Space Museum, with a $1,000 grant for their Inspiring Curiosity—Equitable Early Childhood STEM project.

Carly stated, “This program provides curriculum and training to early childhood educators, especially those serving diverse socioeconomic populations, to create equitable opportunities for learning STEM at an early age. We believe this is a long-term investment with an ongoing impact on Centre County youth.”

Michele Crowl noted, “We do a lot of work with preschoolers on site, but we also visit many preschools. We’ve noticed that many preschool teachers are apprehensive about teaching science due to a lack of confidence in explaining scientific concepts. This funding is incredibly valuable as it will enable us to develop and share science curricula with preschool educators, helping them feel more comfortable and capable of introducing these important topics to their students. Thank you for your support.”

State College sophomores Lauren Krentzman and Abby Behe presented a $1,000 grant to the Dyslexia Reading Center of Central Pennsylvania for their Scholarship Fund, recognizing its invaluable impact on individuals with dyslexia.

Lauren remarked, “We chose this organization because it perfectly aligns with our mission of providing equitable education opportunities. With this grant, the center can cover student tuition costs, ensuring that financial barriers do not hinder access to essential dyslexia intervention programs.”

Keith Jervis, a Dyslexia Reading Center Board Member, enthusiastically exclaimed, “The future is very bright because of students like you and this wonderful Centre PACT program! I appreciate you recognizing how this aligns with your goals of equitable education. We don’t believe that any child learning to read should depend on their parent’s income. This grant will help break down those barriers.”

State College Area High School junior Sophie Scourtis, presented Nate Stupar, Founder and Executive Director of The State of Hope Foundation, Inc., with a $1,745 grant for their Target Christmas shopping spree program. The State of Hope Foundation provides equitable access to food, clothing, and educational growth opportunities for youth experiencing adverse childhood conditions in Centre County.

Nate highlighted the significance of the funding, emphasizing its impact on children who might not otherwise receive Christmas gifts. He remarked, “This means the world to me. We are helping kids who need this support and love from the community. Many are foster children or from families affected by drug abuse. This funding supports our largest program.”   

State College juniors and twin sisters Grace and Ellen Jun presented Centre Wildlife Care with a $2,000 grant for its Bringing Wildlife Education to Children program. Faith Lucchesi, an educator at the organization, accepted the award.

Grace stated, “One of our focuses this year was bringing sustainability and environmental consciousness to the attention of our community’s youth. Centre Wildlife Care proposed a program that would allow elementary school students in our area to learn more about the wildlife around us. We believe this organization will have a positive, lasting impact in our community.”

Faith Lucchesi remarked, “Thank you to everyone at Centre PACT. We are so lucky to live in the community we do. We have so much generosity, but we also have so much need. We are funded 100% by donations and staffed by volunteers, which is how Centre Wildlife continues to exist.”

This spring, the following student participants are set to graduate: a Bald Eagle student, Eric Clark, and the following State College students: Olivia Zellner, Carly Erickson, Stephanie Field, and Lydia Shen. They shared their post-high school plans and how Centre PACT has been an important part of their high school career. Centre Foundation commends these students for their dedication to making a difference in the community.

Centre PACT is led by Centre Foundation staff: Kerry Tolton, Development and Stewardship Director and Rachael Hartman, Community Impact Director.

Graduating senior Lydia Shen noted, “I’ve been at Centre PACT for three years, and I think my favorite part is every year at the beginning, when one of our first meetings features the nonprofits granted the previous year coming back to tell us what they were able to do with their grant money. It is really powerful to see that even in high school, we can make a difference. I feel Centre PACT has been so fun to be in and will serve me very well wherever I go.”

Each year, Centre PACT empowers high school students from across Centre County to discuss issues facing their peers, learn about potential solutions offered by nonprofits, and ultimately fund the programs they think will be most effective. Since 2016, Centre PACT students have raised and granted over $52,000 to local nonprofits.

Centre County high school students are invited to apply to join the Centre PACT Class of 2025 during fall recruitment, which will begin in August. To learn more, visit

Centre Foundation’s mission is to inspire and facilitate a culture of giving and engagement that cultivates a vibrant, equitable, and inclusive community.


Encouraging Next-Generation Philanthropy

Centre PACT (Philanthropic Actions Created by Teens) is a program that brings together high school students from across the county to discuss issues facing their peer group, learn about potential solutions offered by nonprofits, and ultimately fund the programs that they think will be most effective.

Since 2016, Centre PACT students have raised and granted over $52,000!