James Franklin answers questions from reporters after he was introduced as Penn State’s new football coach during a news conference on Jan. 11, in State College, Pa. Franklin, who turns 42 next month, is the first permanent African-American head football ever at Penn State. (AP Photo/John Beale)STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — James Franklin grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, a strong-willed if not exactly strong-armed high school quarterback who believed he was good enough to play at Penn State.Joe Paterno’s coaching staff didn’t exactly agree, and while Franklin’s arm led to him a decorated career at Division II East Stroudsburg (Pa.), his will led him to the place he wanted to be all along.Home.More than two decades after a futile attempt to draw Penn State’s attention as a player, the university hired the charismatic 41-year-old as its next head coach on Saturday.Franklin, who turns 42 next month, also is the first permanent African-American head football ever at Penn State.“I’m a Pennsylvania boy,” Franklin said, “with a Penn State heart.”“My dad is from Pittsburgh, so I would spend all my summers and holidays in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Franklin added.“My dad was from the Hill District, Bedford Avenue. I grew up just outside of Philadelphia in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.”.One charged with continuing the painstaking and sometimes painful rebuilding process started by Bill O’Brien, who took over in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal more than two years ago.But O’Brien bolted for the NFL’s Houston Texans on New Year’s Eve, opening the door for Franklin, who breathed life into a moribund program at Vanderbilt, winning 24 games over three seasons and leading the Commodores to three straight bowl games.More will be expected here — eventually. That’s fine by Franklin, who insists he didn’t sign the six-year contract reportedly worth around $4.5 million a season to use the Nittany Lions as a stepping stone.Franklin littered his hour-long introduction with all the right touches. Wearing a blue suit with a blue-and-white tie, he called Penn State his “dream job” and dubbed Saturday “the best day of my life” before quickly amending it to the “third best” after his wedding day to his wife Fumi and the birth of their twin daughters Addy and Shola.Pointing to his family as they watched from the front row, Franklin described himself as having “two daughters and 95 new sons.”Penn State’s new football coach James Franklin prepares to catch a football from his daughter, Addison, 5, after being introduced during an NCAA college football news conference at Beaver Stadium, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, in State College, Pa. Holding her father’s hand is Shola, 6. (AP Photo/John Beale)Yet he knows the branches of the family tree run far deeper. He promised to reconnect the glorious past with what he believes is an ambitious future and vowed to have lunch with every provost and dean while pledging not to turn down any speaking engagement.“We’ll do everything we can to bring this community back together,” he said, “and really take pride in this program.”A pride still in the process of healing following the shocking revelations about Sandusky’s criminal behavior and the subsequent fallout that included Paterno’s unceremonious firing after 45 years at the helm. Then, there were the near-fatal NCAA sanctions that stripped the program of dozens of scholarships and barred the school from postseason competition for four years.As far as O’Brien brought Penn State in two years, leading Penn State to a 15-9 record and ushering the Nittany Lions fully into the 21st century, much work remains to be done. The standard isn’t to merely be competitive.Scanning a throng that dwarfed anything Franklin ever saw at Vanderbilt in a facility that in many ways rivals the jewels found in places like Alabama and Oregon, Franklin left little doubt as to his intentions.“Our plan is to go out and win a bunch of games,” he said, “so we can stay here a long time.”It’s something Franklin insists he planned on doing at Vanderbilt, where he produced one of the more stirring turnarounds in recent college football history. The Commodores went 16-4 over his final 20 games, second only to Alabama over that span in the SEC. Vanderbilt won the final seven games of 2012 and the final five of 2013.And, Franklin led Vanderbilt into the final Associated Press poll each of the past two seasons, including No. 24 in the rankings released Tuesday.As impressive as Franklin’s credentials may be, Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner believes they put Franklin through the “most thorough vetting process of any search perhaps of any position at this university.”
Facebook17Tweet0Pin0Submitted by TOGETHER!On Saturday May 13th, 2017 TOGETHER! held their annual Awards of Excellence ceremony at South Puget Sound Community College. Back for the second year following a hiatus and reinvention, Awards of Excellence now honors and celebrates South Sound youth whose paths have been marked with adversity and whose grace and strength continue to shine through. More than 29 different schools and youth centered organizations nominated participants to receive the award. This year 35 awards and 10 scholarships were given, including a 1-year tuition waiver for SPSCC, as well as 2 continuing scholarships to 2016 Awards of Excellence scholarship winners.Aylin Gonzales was a 2016 scholarship winner and won a continuing support scholarship at this year’s awards. Photo courtesy: TOGETHER!Honorees were featured in The Olympian newspaper and publicly recognized at the Awards of Excellence ceremony. More than $10,000 in scholarships were awarded thanks to Gateway Rotary (our top scholarship donor), TwinStar Credit Union, Tumwater McDonald’s, and a year tuition waiver from South Puget Sound Community College Scholarship Foundation! Based on the knowledge that supporting and encouraging young people helps our community thrive, TOGETHER! and partners are proud to continue this tradition for another year!Aylin Gonzales, a 2016 scholarship winner is incredibly grateful for the continuing support scholarship awarded at Awards of Excellence 2017. “Thank you so much for supporting my education again this year. Awards of Excellence has been such a great support for me. It’s been a relief not having to stress over paying for my classes, and [the scholarship has] helped me focus more on school. As some of you know, I am working towards becoming a registered nurse and getting my Associates degree is the first step. Awards of Excellence has helped me to be able to go to school and take the classes I need to reach this goal, one step at a time,” Aylin said.Charissa DeWitt., a 2017 and 2017 scholarship recipient spoke at Saturday’s event. Photo courtesy: TOGETHER!“Higher education comes with a high price [however], and being an independent youth it’s not easy doing the college process all alone.” said Charissa DeWitt during a speech at the 2017 Awards of Excellence ceremony. “Thanks to the TOGETHER! scholarship I have the opportunity to help people in the near future.” DeWitt, a 2016 scholarship winner also benefitted from continuing scholarship support in 2017. She continued to say, “I want to say thank you [TOGETHER!] for the opportunity to get this award and the good that’s being done here should really be continued for all the other students that are going to need it in the future.”In addition to the heartfelt speeches from Gonzalez and DeWitt, handing out the scholarships and awards, the event also featured a sincere speech, and musical performance from Gryffen Murry, a 2016 Awards of Excellence honoree who also emceed the event with Bobby Williams of The Bridge. CYS’s The Bridge, and the Olympia High School’s UpStanders delivered music and poetry performances.Group photo of the 2017 award recipients who are excited to continue their education with a little help. Photo courtesy: TOGETHER!The ceremony was a hit; emotions from TOGETHER!’s staff and nominees were clearly visible. Pride, laughter and applause filled the air. Awards of Excellence was live-streamed on Facebook with 412+ views (despite tech challenges) and growing. Like any great thing, this event is possible only through the collaboration and partnership of many. TOGETHER! would like to especially thank our sponsors and in-kind donors: Gateway Rotary, Tumwater McDonalds, South Puget Sound Community College Foundation, TwinStar Credit Union, The Olympian, Forrey’s Forza, DZines, The Bridge, TAGS Awards and Specialties, Shanna Paxton Photography, Tumwater Safeway, Tumwater Costco, and Ralph’s Thriftway. Thank you also to event emcees Gryffen Murray & Bobby Williams, to The Bridge performers Gryffen Murray, Shanelle Berry, Lelh Inman (a.k.a Shady B & Taw_Nae), and to The UpStanders (Olympia High School) performers Mikayla Fisher-An, Maitlynn Reed, Andrew Pizana, Savantè Givens, and Rose Rinehart. For more information, visit the TOGETHER! website.