Scranton, PA - July 8, 2012 - Penn Foster Career School in Scranton recently dusted off its history and shared it with the Anthracite Heritage Museum with the goal of reminding locals and visitors of the school's 121-year relationship with the region.
The exhibit spans the lengthy history of Penn Foster and its predecessor companies, which trace their roots to 18th-century newspaper editor Thomas Foster who developed testing and training materials for coal miners and founded the International Correspondence Schools in Scranton in 1890. The exhibit includes artifacts from the school's pioneering education of women through the Women's Institute, training manuals and textbooks it published, including some of the 15 million texts it created for the armed forces during World War II.
The exhibit underscores the school's cultural roots in the area, said museum site administrator Chester Kulesa.
"You see how it started with miners, but then extended to women, the armed forces and workers of many types," Mr. Kulesa said. "Penn Foster continues to fill the same needs ICS did in the 19th and 20th centuries - the education and training of America's working population."
Slogans through the years included "University of the Night" and "Alma Mater to the Millions." Now, as Penn Foster, offering almost its entire curriculum online, the school encourages student-customers to "Learn more, do more, be more."
After several ownership changes, the connection between the school, the community, and their shared history has been overlooked, said Chief Operating Officer Joe Gagnon.
In the past, Mr. Gagnon admits the executives ran Penn Foster as though it could have been located anywhere. He sees Scranton as an ideal place, if not the only place, for the company. The company was founded at a time when Scranton was brimming with entrepreneurship, Mr. Gagnon said, noting that the community is trying to recapture that.
"This is a town of deep values, even as our country becomes more secular," he said. "Scranton used to have a risk-taking culture, now we have to get the town to believe in itself again."
To get its name out before local people, Penn Foster has been sponsoring events such as the Arts on Fire Festival and the BEEyond exhibit at the Everhart Museum.
Mr. Gagnon is also working with United Neighborhood Centers, hoping to extend scholarships for its programs to local people.
Michael Hanley, executive director of United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania, said it was the first time the charity was approached by Penn Foster officials.
"Penn Foster has always been a supporter through the United Way, but this is the first time they have sought to work directly with us to find ways for our youth to connect with their programs," he said. "Together, we are going to find ways to help them gain independence and self-esteem."
Mr. Gagnon wants the area to embrace Penn Foster, and vice versa.
He has created a corporate responsibility plan that includes comprehensive recycling, energy efficiency and employee health.
"You have to be good to your environment, good to the community and good to the Earth," he said. "Today's younger work force looks for and expects that."
About Penn Foster
Penn Foster is a global leader in online education, providing career-focused degree and vocational programs in the fields of allied health, business, technology, education, and select trades through the Penn Foster College and Penn Foster Career School.