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Student Body President Laura McKinney Gets New Perspective On THON As A Dancer

At the start of the school year, UPUA President Laura McKinney stood on the stage at the Bryce Jordan Center and spoke to the thousands of incoming freshmen sporting brightly colored t-shirts at New Student Convocation.

Now, she’s back inside the BJC — with one exception. This time, she’s standing on the floor alongside 706 students who are participating in this year’s 46-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon.

“I think how lucky am I to have two major events of my life take place in the Bryce Jordan Center,” McKinney said early Saturday morning. “This arena will always hold a special place in my heart and every time that I come back as an alum it’s going to remind me of how incredible and impeccable Penn State is.”

While she’s no stranger to THON, McKinney’s spent the past three years covering the event as a reporter for 46Live. This weekend, she swapped her black headset for a navy blue Penn State baseball cap and the dancer number 222a — allowing her to experience the event from an entirely different perspective. For her, that only makes everything so much more satisfying.

“As a senior it’s especially rewarding because seeing it unfold over the past four years and now being able to take part in it is something I never thought I would be able to do,” McKinney said.

“Now to be on the other side of things and after making four years of memories at Penn State, and this being able to [stand] out as one of the most remarkable ones, is something that I wouldn’t trade.”

Part of the reason this particular memory stands out is because THON is so important to her — as student body president and on a deeper level.

She recognizes just how much of a priority it is for the students at Penn State and how much of an impact this type of philanthropy has on others.

“Being able to see the Penn State community come together for something like this is something that has been extremely inspiring for me to watch as student body president, she said. “And it’s something that I definitely want to give back to.”

But she dances for a higher purpose this weekend, as her family lost a close friend to cancer just two days before the start of THON 2020.

“I’m devoting this weekend to him,” McKinney said. “It’s just given me all the more passion to go forward…and being able to interact with the kids who are here is making it even more special.”

McKinney’s spirits remain high as she relies on the advice she received from previous dancers and the strength and support of her friends — including dance partner and fellow senior Kylee McGuigan.

She says the dancing experience has been extremely humbling so far, and one of her favorite parts has been meeting and playing with the children and their families.

“You think you do it all and then you come somewhere like here and you see that there’s just so much to learn, so many more people to meet, and so many more stories to hear,” McKinney said.

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About the Author

Rory Pelella

Rory is a senior from Binghamton, New York majoring in Spanish and journalism. She's been bleeding blue and white ever since her older siblings decided to create a family dynasty in Happy Valley in 2006. So, as you can imagine, she loves absolutely everything Penn State (especially the Cheese Shoppe downtown). She's also a die-hard Yankees, Knicks, and Giants fan (it's brutal), and would do anything for a good old fashioned New York slice. Feel free to email her at [email protected] or follow her on twitter @rorypelella.

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