Posts filed under ‘The Penn Stater Magazine’

Derrick Campana: A Dog’s Best Friend

Derrick Campana shaping a leg mold at his Sterling, Va., facility.

I spent yesterday in Sterling, Va., not far from Dulles airport, immersed in the world of Derrick Campana, a 2001 Penn State kinesiology grad who has an unusual occupation: He makes braces and prosthetics for animals.

We first heard about Campana when a reader sent us a newspaper clipping about his work some months back. We did a little Googling, wondered, How have we not heard about this guy before?, and knew right away it would be a great story for the Penn Stater. The only question was deciding on a writer to assign it to. Then on Oct. 1 I stepped out of the editor role and Ryan Jones stepped in, and I became “editor-at-large,” with an assortment of responsibilities that includes finding and writing stories for the magazine. So I volunteered myself for the Derrick Campana piece, Ryan agreed, and I emailed Campana to schedule a visit to his company, Animal OrthoCare.

Campana is one of only a handful of people in the world who do what he does—and in fact he does his work all over the world. Animal Planet devoted a one-hour documentary last June to his efforts to fit a leg brace to a six-ton elephant in Botswana named Jabu, and when I visited him yesterday, he was freshly back from England, where he constructed prosthetic front legs for a cow named Nipper Jackson at the Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary. He has also developed braces and prosthetics for goats, camels, turtles, and birds.

But the majority of his work is with pets—dogs, mostly—and during yesterday’s visit I had a chance to meet three different people who had brought their dogs to Campana for help with arthritis and other problems. I also was able to watch Campana and his staff in their workshop, a large, warehouse-like space where they work with molds of animals’ legs to create the custom-fitted devices. And I chatted with Campana about his undergraduate experience at Penn State, his unusual career path, and the satisfaction he gets from helping alleviate a pet’s pain, save it from costly surgery, and in some cases save its life.

Below are a few photos from yesterday’s visit. Click on any of them to see a larger version. First, here’s one of the workspace, complete with Campana’s dog, Henry:

Next, Campana and an assistant test the fit of a leg brace on an arthritic 10-year-old boxer named Frank.

Frank may not look too pleased in the photo above, but he was plenty happy to give Campana some kisses afterward:

And here’s one of several walls of the office space at Animal OrthoCare that have photos of the animals Campana has helped:

Look for a story about Derrick Campana in the magazine in an upcoming issue.

Tina Hay, editor-at-large

 

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December 13, 2018 at 1:43 pm 1 comment

Every Day a Struggle, Every Day A Gift

Our November/December 2018 Cover Story

Caring for twin sons with autism has dominated Curt and Ana Warner’s lives for two decades. In a “blisteringly honest” new book, they tell their family’s story in a way that they hope will help other families—and, in the telling, themselves.

By Lori Shontz  ’91 Lib, ’13 MEd Edu WC // Photographs by Michael Lewis

*

When the invitation appeared in his inbox, Curt Warner ignored it. The National Autism Conference was holding its 2013 annual event at University Park, and the organizers wanted Warner ’83 Lib to speak about his family. He loved his boys so much—but how could he talk about them? For a lot of reasons, that just wasn’t the kind of thing Warner or his wife, Ana, had ever done.

At first, especially, they didn’t know what to say. As toddlers, their twin sons Austin and Christian were nonverbal and energetic and aggressive, far more difficult to handle than their older son, Jonathan. Doctors couldn’t explain why the boys would eat books or string or fabric, or why they’d cry and hit and slap and bite. Shoppers and passersby were judgmental when the Warners took the boys out and a meltdown ensued—whether through words or nasty looks, it was clear they blamed bad parenting.

The boys weren’t diagnosed as severely autistic until they were 5. The Warners then tried a variety of therapies and treatments; eventually Ana began cooking every meal they consumed—gluten-free, dairy-free, no preservatives, organic everything—because it consistently seemed to help the boys’ behavior. Still, they were a challenge. At one point, Curt and Ana had to sleep in shifts to monitor the boys, and for a while Ana homeschooled them.

As a three-time Pro Bowl running back with the Seattle Seahawks from 1983–89, Curt would have been a regular attendee at team events after retirement. But he rarely showed. He couldn’t. He didn’t leave his family except to work at the car dealership he owned in the suburbs of Portland, Ore.

When the boys’ behavior calmed after puberty, Curt didn’t want to relive what they’d been through. It’s never been a 24/7 job to take care of the boys. Says Curt: “It’s 25/7.” He and Ana had automatic locks and alarms installed on every door and window to make sure the boys didn’t leave, because they would have no idea how to get back. Curt learned to hang drywall, because the twins so frequently kicked and punched holes in walls. He rushed home in a panic one day when Austin, then 12, thought he was Pinocchio inside the whale, and he had to light a fire to get out—and he somehow found matches and ended up burning the house down. Everyone got out safe, but the Warners lost everything.

And so, when that invitation hit his inbox back in 2013, Curt at first didn’t respond. He couldn’t envision speaking about those days; he feared doing so would result in one of two things. First, that perhaps people would think he was complaining; he couldn’t abide that. He loves his boys, and in many ways, he believes he has been blessed. And second, the biggie: Curt didn’t think he could make it through a talk without being overcome by emotion. He didn’t want to cry. (more…)

December 10, 2018 at 2:14 pm 2 comments

From Undocumented Immigrant to Immigration Reform Advocate

When she speaks at college campuses across the country, Julissa Arce is often asked why undocumented immigrants in the U.S. don’t do things the “right” way, why they can’t simply “get in the back of the line.”

Her answer is always the same: If there was a right way to come here, if there was indeed a “line” to stand in, then that is where undocumented immigrants would be. That’s where Arce—a former Wall Street executive who came to the U.S. from Mexico with her parents when she was 11 years old, and lived and worked here undocumented for more than a decade—would have happily stood. Unfortunately, “the line is a mythical place,” she says, because contrary to what many believe, there are very few ways for people to legally emigrate to the U.S.

Julissa 1

Arce—who spoke earlier today as part of the Penn State Forum series at the Nittany Lion Inn—considers herself “lucky” as far as undocumented immigrants go. Her parents brought her into the U.S. by plane and on a valid tourist visa, and that made things easier for her years later when she married her American boyfriend and applied for a green card, before becoming a U.S. citizen in 2014. But for Arce, the relative ease of the final administrative processes can never erase the torment of being undocumented, of waiting in stomach-churning fear for the authorities to get wind of her status, realize that her social security number and green card were fake. When would they come for her, Arce wondered almost every day, as she successfully completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin (she began studying there the year Texas passed a law allowing noncitizens, including some undocumented immigrants, to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges), completed internships at Goldman Sachs in New York City, and accepted a full-time job with the firm, rising through the ranks quickly to become vice president?

Inevitably, the ax fell when Arce had every piece of the American dream she’d always wanted, with a phone call informing her that her dad (her parents returned to Mexico when she started college) was seriously ill.

“My mother begged me not to go,” she said, because her undocumented status meant Arce would not be allowed to re-enter the U.S., “but I knew if I did not go, I would never be able to live with myself. Anyway, while I agonized about whether to go or not, my dad died. That was the cost.”

Everyday across the U.S., undocumented immigrants are facing similar dilemmas, Arce—who quit her job at Goldman Sachs after she got her green card—says, and having to take difficult decisions with painful consequences.

Since revealing her incredible story in 2015, she’s been a tireless advocate for proper immigration policy—particularly as it pertains to Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. She is chairman of the board of the Ascend Educational Fund, a New York-based organization that provides educational scholarships and mentoring to young, undocumented immigrants who want to go to college.

“Education was my way up and I’d like for others to have the same opportunity,” she said. “That’s what we come here for—opportunity.”

Arce’s 2016 memoir, “My (Underground) American Dream” has been adapted into a television miniseries starring actor America Ferrera.

Savita Iyer, senior editor

In the May/June issue of the Penn Stater, we’ll feature interviews with experts from across the university on the topic of immigration.  

March 20, 2018 at 4:33 pm Leave a comment

Inside Our March/April Issue

Many alums will no doubt be reminiscing about the first time they saw the Phyrst Phamily, late nights at Café 210 West, or memories of the recently closed Rathskeller when our March/April issue arrives. The nostalgia comes in the form of Penn State alumni who are a part of the Happy Valley music scene. We catch up with a number of local musicians and bands, some of whom arrived on the scene relatively recently, and others whom your parents might have seen. The photo feature starts on p. 40.

We also take a look at how Cael Sanderson has turned Penn State into the nation’s most formidable collegiate wrestling program. Former ESPN reporter Dana O’Neil ’90 profiles Cael Sanderson to explore what drives his sustained success. And a new book by Roger Williams ’73, ’75g, ’88g chronicles the life and legacy of Evan Pugh, Penn State’s first president.

You’ll also meet Kurt Gibble, the Penn State scientist who’s trying to make the world’s most accurate clocks even more precise; learn from nutrition professor Penny Kris-Etherton which  “good” fats your body needs; and find out why nursing students sometimes wear scrubs to classes.

It’s all in our March/April issue, arriving in mailboxes this week.

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor 

March 1, 2018 at 3:01 pm Leave a comment

Inside Our November/December 2017 Issue

You may have come from thousands of miles away, or from the nearest town over, but nothing quite compares to arriving on campus for the first time. Whether you were nervous to meet your roommate, excited to be on your own, or sad saying goodbye to family and friends, most of us probably remember that day.

We wanted to see what incoming students today thought of the experience, so we sent photographers to five Penn State campuses on arrival weekend to get up close with students—new and returning—and capture them in their element: suitcases, boxes, duffel bags, and lots of cheap plastic storage bins. The feature begins on p. 28.

Also inside, we take you back to a time of great transition and tension in the world, and particularly on campus, as the college transitioned into a military training camp during World War I. The story is told through the love letters between Norman Lake ’22 and Helen Gladys Keller, his then-girlfriend whom he would later marry. Their story begins on p. 40.

And you’ll meet David Titley ’80, a retired Navy admiral and atmospheric expert who has become a prominent voice on climate change as a national security threat.

Plus we’ll take you to the scene of the first away pregame tailgate, hosted by the Alumni Association, and introduce you to Denis Smirnov, the Russian hockey phenom who turned down the chance to play in a top Russian pro league and the NHL to play for the Nittany Lions.

Our Nov./Dec. 2017 issue should be arriving in mailboxes soon. Let us know what you think at heypennstater@psu.edu.

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

October 25, 2017 at 11:18 am 2 comments

Aurelia Meijer Is a Breath of Fresh Air for Penn State Field Hockey

Photo via Cardoni

When Aurelia Meijer came to Penn State in the fall of 2015, it wasn’t just her first time on a college campus. It was her first time ever stepping foot in the United States.

Meijer, a standout midfielder/forward on the Nittany Lion field hockey team, holds the distinction of being the first foreign-born player in program history. Born in South Africa, Meijer has lived in the Netherlands since she was 4.

It was not long after that Meijer started playing field hockey. She picked up the game after watching her father play in the country’s highest men’s league and her grandfather play for the national team in the Netherlands. The Meijers even have a turf next to their house in the Dutch municipality of Hattem, where you can watch the family play and work on their skills.

Basically, field hockey—in addition to being part of the cultural identity of the Netherlands—has been a constant presence in Meijer’s life from the time she was a child.

So it only makes sense that Meijer is really good at the sport. When she was 15, (more…)

August 24, 2017 at 5:04 pm Leave a comment

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