Happy Birthday To Us: Onward State Turns 11
Eleven years ago, three freshmen in 43 Simmons did something that was bold, unconventional, and that would go on to change Penn State forever.
It started with a 29-word post that was titled “Rumor mill” and speculated that Girl Talk would perform at a SOMA concert the next month.
The result, 11 years later? The most-followed student media organization in the world. And in spite of the humble beginnings of that first “act of journalism,” people forget that Girl Talk did end up performing.
To date, we’ve published more than 26,000 posts, amassed a Twitter following of more than 156,000 fans, and shared our mission with nearly 200 people who have worked on our staff and joined our family.
We’ve told the Penn State story throughout probably the most turbulent era in university history from the Sandusky scandal to the case surrounding Tim Piazza’s death during a fraternity hazing event to every other line-dance lyric, high rise, and blocked field goal that’s marked our first 11 years.
Along the way, we’ve been able to do some pretty interesting things like call Keith Olbermann on his bullshit, profile Penn State’s squirrel whisperer, be cited by the current President of the United States, and most recently, simplify the process of reselling student football tickets.
We’ve also made plenty of mistakes that you probably have heard about in COMM 260. But each one has taught valuable lessons and helped us grow as an outlet.
In spite of the seemingly endless angry comment sections, we appreciate each and every person who has read our website and helped make our work possible during the last 11 years. Thank you for letting us be a part of your Penn State story and turning to us whenever you needed an update, a laugh, advice about what to wear to a daylong, or just a random feeling of nostalgia from your alma mater.
Everything we do continues to be for you and in the hopes of enriching the Penn State community and experience. So continue to participate in the conversations we generate and start other ones with us and your peers.
And in true Onward State fashion while standing on a couch and toasting a glass of JFK Juice, here’s to many more years, posts, 409 jokes, Drunk-Sober-Highs, 10 Questions, Twitter arguments, death-threat emails, and exchanges about our one common denominator and shared love: Dear Old State.
And in celebration of our 11th year, check out some highlights from the last 12 months.
A few bathrooms on campus include beds that date back to last century. The beds were intended to provide an area for women “to breastfeed, fix themselves up, and tend to other feminine hygiene needs.” We did a little investigating to find out their origins.
For three years, Trace McSorley led Penn State’s offense and helped the Nittany Lions reach their current renaissance. From his underdog persona to his gritty style of play to his iconic home-run touchdown dance, McSorley quickly became a fan favorite and entrenched himself in Penn State football’s lore. He’ll be remembered forever as an all-time great in Happy Valley.
After THON 2019, one staffer looked back on Family Hour and her family’s own journey with cancer.
“I always thought I’d get the chance to side with the Four Diamonds families who brought their child and cancer survivor on stage with them. I thought my dad would make it to my graduation in May, my wedding in God knows how long, and all of the beautiful moments I’ll experience in my life…If I couldn’t have the familiarity of him anymore, I gladly accepted it from the families, the children, the survivors, and the angels at THON.”
State College resident Osaze Osagie was killed by police serving a mental health warrant in March. His death marked the beginning of a year that’s featured plenty of conversation about race, mental health, and police relations in State College among students, residents, and local officials. Some progress has been made with Borough Council creating a mental health task force and funding a racial equity plan.
When Cael Sanderson shockingly left his alma mater for Happy Valley, the move was earth-shattering. Ten years later, he’s built one of college sports’ greatest dynasties, having won eight of the last nine NCAA titles.
On the anniversary of his arrival, we talked to nearly 20 different people about that shift and its consequences that are still being felt today.
Among the graduates in the class of 2019 was former Penn State football running back Bill Belton. He left school before graduating, but made a promise to his now-deceased father that he’d finish his degree. This year, he fulfilled that promise.
In addition to introducing mobile tickets, Athletics changed its process for selling student football tickets this year. Students logging on to by season tickets were randomly assigned places in a queue that they needed to wait in. As a result, tickets took longer than usual to sell out and left plenty of students pissed off.
Penn State was well-represented at this year’s World Cup as Alyssa Naeher and Ali Krieger shined for the United States Women’s National Team, which won the tournament. Naeher provided perhaps the save of the century in the semifinals against England to preserve the United States’ title hopes. Twitter lost it over the save, which we’re still trying to get over.
Before the school year started, we asked some of our senior staffers to share advice with freshmen just beginning their Penn State journeys. From not worrying so much to not rushing through everything to making sure you make your college experience yours, they had some valuable advice.
One young Penn State fan who watches clips of the Blue Band drum major doing flips met his hero before this year’s season opener. The pictures of three-year-old Vincent Ciccarella and Jack Frisbie will make you melt.
“He practices every day. He’s always doing his flips. The first opportunity the gets, he shows people how he can do his flips.”
A racist letter to Jonathan Sutherland criticizing his dreadlocks spread across social media last month. Fans and teammates voiced their support for him and showcased the best of Penn State after an alumnus had displayed its worst. James Franklin also offered his support for Sutherland with a moving statement at his press conference, citing his accomplishments and character and saying he would want his daughters to marry a man like him.
He also went on to talk about the bigger picture and how football should be something that brings people together.
“The football that I know and love brings people together. It embraces differences. Black, white, brown — Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim. Rich or poor, rural or urban, Republican or Democrat. Long hair, short hair, no hair — they’re all in that locker room together. Teams all over this country are the purest form of humanity that we have. We don’t judge — we embrace differences.
We live, we learn, we grow, we support, and we defend each other. We’re a family. Penn State football, Penn State University, and Happy Valley provide the same opportunities to embrace one another 12 Saturdays each Fall. PSU football brings people together like very few things on this planet. 110,000 fans from all different backgrounds throughout our region from all different parts of the state are hugging, high-fiving, and singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ together. This is my football.”
Anyone who isn’t from Pennsylvania surely has dealt with the confusion of why people feel so strongly about food from gas stations during their time at Penn State. One staffer from Illinois thought of all the things that make Penn State truly a one-of-a-kind place with people from all corners of this very weird, but also very good state.
We couldn’t talk about this last year and not mention the Jonas Brothers.
Members of the boy band made three separate trips to Happy Valley in a span of five months. First, they helped Champs Downtown through the first few rounds of the #BarstoolBestBar contest and hosted a victory party at the bar after a dramatic win. Then, Joe attended the Penn State vs. Idaho game before their concert in Hershey. And then later that week, they performed at the Bryce Jordan Center and made another appearance at Champs.
We’ve written 29 posts and counting about them this year. Here are a few of the best:
- So How Did Champs Downtown Book The Jonas Brothers?
- Jonas Brothers Visit Four Diamonds Teen At Hershey Medical Center
- All Of The Penn State References You Probably Missed On The Jonas Brothers’ New Album
- A Timeline Of The Jonas Brothers And Penn State’s Lovebug
- [Live Blog] Champs Downtown Jonas Brothers After Party
- Jonas Brothers Leave Temple On Read
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About the Author
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