Celebrate our Class of 2020

‘We can make it through anything.’

Student graduation speaker Anthony Costa and the Class of 2020 share reflections about their Penn State journeys.

SHARON, Pa. – Letting out a laugh, Anthony Costa said, “We don’t know what’s going to happen the next couple of years. The Class of 2020 is accomplishing this feat and we’re still pushing on. If we can make it through this pandemic, we can make it through anything.” 

This reflection was shared through a Zoom videoconferencing meeting, a new normal as Costa wraps up the final requirements for his associate’s degree in physical therapist assistant. 

Costa will deliver Penn State Shenango’s student address via video on the campus’s online graduation page after the University-wide commencement ceremony on May 9, 2 p.m. at spring2020.commencement.psu.edu

After spring break, 97K determined Penn Staters transitioned to attending their classes online to continue following their dreams. The switch to remote learning and a virtual commencement ceremony is something that was not anticipated to become reality. 

“I have a lot of admiration for everyone that is graduating,” said Costa. “They’ve put years – decades – of hard work into earning their degree. [COVID-19] is something that will go on for a while, but students and graduates should not feel defined by these circumstances.” 

Statements of positivity like these demonstrate many of the nomination letters submitted on Costa’s behalf.  One letter said, “Anthony has such a great attitude and he's a natural leader. Other students look up to him and he is well respected by staff and faculty from around the campus." 

"It's really exciting to have a student from the PTA program selected as the student speaker this spring,” said Jammie Clark, director of student affairs. “Our last student speaker representing the PTA program was in 2009 so it's been quite a while. We ask faculty and staff to submit nominations as part of our process in selecting the student speaker so it's a very special honor to be selected."

While all graduates are facing unique situations, PTA students like Costa expected to complete their clinical rotations over the summer after walking in the spring commencement ceremony. Now, many of these students are expecting to accomplish these requirements in the fall semester. 

“Grads may have had a plan, and now it’s going to be altered,” said Costa. “I believe that everything happens for a reason. This is going to pass, everything always passes. The hard work everyone has put in will be recognized and they will be able to put all their skills into action.” 

Costa began his college career at Youngstown State University and earned a degree baccalaureate degree in dietetics after graduating from Liberty High School in Youngstown, Ohio. 

After spending eight months in the workforce, Costa made the decision to pursue his second degree at Penn State Shenango and intends to continue his education in a doctoral program for physical therapy to combine his passions of dietetics and therapy. 

“I’m not just looking to help people; I’m looking to give hope to those who have lost it,” said Costa. Costa’s mother passed away after her battle with cancer, shortly after graduating with his first degree in 2017. “That drove me to achieve this accomplishment. I made it a goal to help others on the road to early diagnosis.” 

During his time at Penn State Shenango, Costa has taken on leadership roles and has been received many accolades including: being nominated as the President of Physical Therapist Assistant Club, sitting as a student representative on the Physical Therapy Advisory Board for campus, receiving the Unsung Hero Award for the 2018-19 academic year, earning his spot on the Dean’s list in fall 2019, being an awardee of the Sharonsteel Foundation Trustee Scholarship, and has tutored for physical therapy and biology courses. 

The Class of 2020 is being mailed graduation caps and tassels, and graduates are encouraged to share photos of their at-home celebrations with Penn State Shenango on social media. All spring 2020 graduates will be invited back to campus to walk in an upcoming commencement ceremony, and Costa will also address his classmates at that ceremony.