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Penn State Grad Overcomes Obstacles to Achieve Dream

6/20/2007 —

It may have taken four years but one Penn State DuBois student is about to finally achieve her dream.  Karen Marusiak of Reynoldsville participated in the 2007 commencement ceremony for Penn State DuBois on Saturday and will receive her associate degree as a Physical Therapy Assistant in August. 

It has been a long and difficult road for Marusiak family.  In 1997, Mark Marusiak was working with a friend on his house when the scaffolding collapsed giving him a C4 spinal cord injury (C4 Quadriplegic). A lot of people would have stood by and allowed the fear of the uncertain get them down, but not Karen.  She looked at a bad situation and counted her blessings that Mark was still alive and that together with their sons, Andy and Tony, they could get through this difficult time.  Immediately before Mark was even out of the hospital, she began to learn how to care for him and to revive his hope for what the future may bring.  Soon after the accident, Karen contacted the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation about the possibilities for Mark.  In 1999, Mark enrolled in Penn State University and will receive his degree in Civil Engineering in May of next year. 

It was with Mark's encouragement and by attending classes at Penn State DuBois with him that Karen decided to follow her dream and go to college herself.  At Penn State, she is an active member of Delta Sigma Mu, a member of the PTA (Physical Therapy Assistant) club, an APTA member, a member of Wado Ryo Karate, a PSU Math Options volunteer, and a peer mentor.  She has received several awards and scholarships including the President’s Freshman Award, the Adult Learner Award, the CEO’s Award for Academic Achievement, the PSU Cordie Scholarship, and the University Trustee Scholarship.

In addition to attending Penn State DuBois and caring for her husband Mark, Karen has worked for Fayette Resources for almost 12 years now caring for adults with developmental disabilities. She is an active member of her church and has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Special Olympics Fun Fitness, and the Multiple Sclerosis Walk.

In November, the Marusiaks celebrated 25 years of marriage and, together with their sons, have made Penn State University a family tradition.  Their son Andy will begin taking classes at Penn State DuBois in the fall.  Also, their son Tony followed his father’s lead and has graduated from Penn State with a degree in Civil engineering. Before moving to State College Tony worked as the City Engineer in DuBois .

As their way of giving back to the university, the Marusiaks volunteer to speak to the students of the Physical Therapy Assistant Program and allow these students, before they begin their clinical practice, to work with Mark so they can get real life experience working with an individual with a serious injury.

When asked to comment about Karen, Stephanie Russell, Instructor in Kinesiology, believes that “She has a great attitude, is very humble, but deserves so much more credit.”  When asked what she liked most about her Penn State DuBois experience, Karen said, “I love meeting all the wonderful people and making new friends.”

Contact info:  Amy Dube 814-603-0416 or a_dube@comcast.net

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