State College, PA – May 25, 2022 – Fourteen Centre County high school students awarded $3,416 to four 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, Center for Alternatives in Community Justice, Easterseals Child Development Center, and Schlow Centre Region Library.

On Sunday, May 22nd, students, parents, nonprofit representatives, and Centre Foundation staff gathered virtually via Zoom to announce the grant awards and to celebrate the end of the program year. 

Centre PACT is led by Centre Foundation staffers, Kerry Tolton; Development and Stewardship Director, Rachael Hartman; Community Impact Director, and Emma Neely; Centre PACT Coordinator. 

This year was Emma Neely’s first year as Centre PACT Coordinator, following her previous role as Collegiate Advisor and as a participant in Centre PACT as a high schooler. She shared a few words to recognize the students and their dedication towards tackling issues that face their community.

“I’m so proud of all these students for the hard work they have put in over the last five months, in and outside of group meetings, and have loved working with them during my first year as coordinator,” said Neely.

Following Neely’s remarks, State College Area High School junior, Eden Singh, shared the Centre PACT mission and presented an overview of the 2022 program year.

State College senior, Elizabeth Songer presented Bellamarie Breger, Founder and Executive Director of ACRES Project a $1,625 grant for their Gardening and Growth pilot program. This program will offer young adults the opportunity to participate in a group gardening program aimed at reducing anxiety and depression.

“We’re so honored to receive this grant. This is fantastic for us and fantastic to be able to reach out to individuals who don’t normally go to a summer camp, either because they can’t afford it or because they don’t interact well with others,” said Breger.

“This project works to combat a serious issue that faces today’s youth, which is mental health,” said Songer. “By giving young people the opportunity to interact with nature and their community, the project simultaneously provides a sense of belonging and also relief from isolation, depression, and/or anxiety they may be facing.”

State College sophomore, Lydia Shen presented Phil Jones, Executive Director of the Center for Alternatives in Community Justice, a $1,200 grant for their Youth Aid Panel. This program provides panels comprised of trained community volunteers who oversee the completion of alternative plans by youth who are referred by courts, law enforcement, and other concerned agencies. Once youth offenders complete their resolution plan, they are offered a ‘second chance’ and will not have an official criminal record.

“The staff and board of CACJ work hard to try to provide alternatives towards restorative justice,” said Jones. “It’s exciting to work with youth on this particular project because we realize that [participants] are peers of you and other than that just a bad choice here or there, it can involve many of you. Thank you so much for such strong support.”

“We felt this program would have a really big impact on kids our age and would be greatly beneficial to the community as a whole, both through the focus on the contributions that the individual would make to the community and the focus on restorative justice for that individual,” said Shen.

State College sophomore, Carly Erickson presented Jessica Confer, Director of the Easterseals Child Development Center, with a $336 grant to provide Community Field Trips. As part of their engaging and interactive summer camp program, Easterseals schedules local trips in the community for children ages 5-12 with special needs. These inclusive field trip opportunities allow these children to have fun learning experiences with their peers and with no barriers.

“Thank you so, so much. This means a lot to us,” said Confer. “Now we’re able to get the kids out in the community more and provide some of those field trips and extracurricular activities while they’re with us, which can be hard to do and take a lot of extra work.”

“We felt that a lot of the programs we are granting to focused on the older youth of Centre County,” said Erickson. “Since one of our goals was to reach an extended amount of people, we felt that we also need to include support for the younger youth in our community.”

State College Area High School senior, Allison Mi presented Maria Burchill, Head of Adult Services at Schlow Centre Region Library, and Lisa Rives Collens, Library Director, with a $255 grant for their Turn Feelings into Creativity: An Art Exhibition Space for Teens program. This new art exhibition space will serve as an outlet for teens to display their creative works inspired and created through personal initiative, school, and/or community wellness programs.

“On behalf of the community that we serve and also the Schlow Centre Region Library Board of Trustees, I want to thank you so much for choosing to fund this project,” Rives Collens said. “The funding is going to be able to provide really foundational infrastructure. It’s going to create a platform for the voices of young adults.  I think it’s completely fitting that this type of foundational project is beginning with all of you.”

“I think that art has been a fantastic way for so many teens in State College to express themselves and to find stability over the last two years. [This space] is going to have an important and lasting impact,” added Burchill.

This spring, the following student participants are set to graduate: Emma Corby, Madeline Krentzman, Allison Mi, Rachel Oram, Elizabeth Songer, and Daniel Xu. Centre PACT acknowledges them and their dedication to community impact.

Each year, Centre PACT empowers high school students from across Centre County to discuss issues facing their peers, learn about potential solutions that nonprofits offer, and ultimately fund the programs they think will be most effective.

Centre County high school students are invited to apply to join the Centre PACT Class of 2023 during fall recruitment, which will begin in August. To learn more, visit