Pennsylvania legislature honors recent Abington alumna
Mervana Jacob, who graduated in December 2020 with her bachelor of science degree in psychological and social sciences with a minor in biology, was acknowledged for her “dedication and excellence that contributed to the well-being of her community and ultimately the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” according to state Rep. Benjamin Sanchez (153rd Legislative District), who sponsored the award. Sanchez’s district includes the Abington campus.
“She was notably able to balance her work and organizational activities while navigating her school load with model results. Ms. Jacob truly exemplifies the best qualities of the human experience, and her spirit of giving and dedication has greatly impacted the lives of others,” the citation reads.
Tracy Reed, assistant director of Student Engagement and Leadership at Abington, nominated Jacob for the award after working closely with her on the 2020 Alternative Spring Break (ASB). A group of Abington students, with Jacob as one of its student leaders, journeyed to the Pine Ridge Native American reservation in South Dakota and performed service just as the pandemic was hitting the United States.
“I watched Mervana learn while at the same time challenging everyone to participate fully. She had one-on-one conversations with students and with staff. She led reflections and engagement activities with grace and kindness while at the same time encouraging students to go deeper in their thoughts. She picked people up when they were struggling,” Reed said.
Going on ASB dovetailed with Jacob’s goals, which include becoming a dentist and going on missionary trips to Egypt, where she was born.
“I want to go to the area where my family is from. Everything there is minimal. There isn’t much in the way of healthcare there,” Jacob, who moved to the United States when she was two years old, said.
On campus, Jacob worked as a teaching assistant or peer mentor to students who plan to attend school for dental, medical, occupational or physical therapy, or pharmacy. She also served as a resident assistant for two years at the Lions Gate student apartments.
“I loved the students and peer mediation. My favorite part was developing the community-building activities I definitely liked the person-to-person interaction dealing with different people because as a dentist I will be working with different people all of the time,” she said. “It’s been nice to help others as a leader. I feel like I learn more from other people than what they’ve taken from me.”
In the community, Jacob worked as a dental assistant, gave religious instruction to children at her church and served as the lead counselor at a summer camp for low-income students living in Montgomery County.
Jacob begins coursework this month toward an accelerated master’s degree in biomedical sciences and plans to enroll in dental school.
“I really appreciate the diversity of Penn State Abington as a first-generation student and as a minority student who did this alone,” she said.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century, public higher education within a world-class research university. With about 3,700 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 22 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more.