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Empowering Communities by Preparing Learners for Life

The human and social services sector has been plagued with a reputation for low-paying jobs. However, new programs that link to real job opportunities and pay scales encourage students to pursue jobs in these critical fields.

Facing workforce challenges in the social and human services sector, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College has taken a proactive stance by initiating the Grow Our Own, Serve Our Own program. Through strategic partnerships with community organizations and regional school districts, this innovative program aims to equip and inspire students by providing comprehensive information about the various nuances, educational requirements, pay scales and job opportunities in social and human services fields. By reaching students at an early stage, the program is intended to empower them to make informed decisions about their career pathways in these vital sectors.

Understanding the Program

The Grow Our Own, Serve Our Own program is designed to bridge the information gap between students and the social and human services sector. By collaborating with community organizations and regional school districts, Penn Highlands strives to ensure that students in grades nine through twelve are well informed about the intricacies of careers in these fields. The program provides a platform to educate and engage students, helping them explore potential career paths and understand the educational requirements necessary to pursue these careers.

One of the program’s primary objectives is to shed light on the diverse range of opportunities available in social and human services, specifically in the College’s immediate region. Often, students may have limited exposure to the breadth of roles and responsibilities within the scope of a field and in this case the fields of social and human services. Through partnerships with community organizations, students are introduced to professionals who share their real-life experiences and provide valuable insights into their respective careers. By fostering this interaction, the program encourages students to envision themselves as future contributors to the betterment of society.

Empowering the Next Generation

Early intervention is crucial when it comes to guiding students toward a fulfilling career. By engaging with students at a young age—grades nine through twelve—the program aims to inspire and equip them with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. Students are introduced to the educational requirements, ranging from certifications to associate or bachelor’s degrees, that pave the way to success in social and human services.

Moreover, the program addresses the misconception that careers in these fields are financially unrewarding. By presenting students with EMSI information about local pay scales and growth opportunities, the program challenges these misconceptions and showcases the potential for both personal and professional fulfillment in the social and human services sector within a 50-mile radius of Penn Highlands.

Community Response and Impact

We’ve received positive responses from the community, schools and students alike. By actively involving community organizations and regional school districts, the program has managed to establish strong partnerships that enhance its reach and impact. During the 2022-23 academic year, the program was presented to approximately 1,700 students in grades nine through twelve at five secondary schools.

Students participating have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to engage with professionals from the social and human services sector. While the Grow Our Own, Serve Our Own program is just a first step, it opens the door for students to pursue additional job shadowing and mentoring initiatives to gain invaluable insights into the challenges and rewards of these professions. Many students have reported a heightened interest in pursuing careers in these fields, citing the program as a catalyst for their decision.

Community organizations involved in the program understand this is a long game and that they won’t see an uptick in the qualified candidate pool for years. By collaborating with Penn Highlands, these organizations actively contribute to shaping the future workforce, ensuring a skilled and passionate pool of individuals committed to serving their own communities.


Pennsylvania Highlands Community College’s Grow Our Own, Serve Our Own program is an initiative that seeks to address workforce challenges in the social and human services sector throughout the College’s local region. By partnering with community organizations and regional school districts, the program not only informs and educates students about the career opportunities available, but also inspires them to consider these fields as viable and rewarding career pathways. The program’s positive impact is evident through the enthusiastic response from students and community organizations, creating a ripple effect that will contribute to the growth and betterment of society for years to come.

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