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10 Questions With Guide State Forward Award Winners Jacob Snyder & Star Lawson

Surrounded by 109,000 of their closest friends during the annual White Out game against Minnesota, Penn State students Jacob Snyder and Star Lawson were crowned the winners of Homecoming’s Guide State Forward award at halftime.

This gender-neutral court showcases and awards students who represent Penn State’s six core values of integrity, respect, responsibility, discovery, excellence, and community.

We sat down with Thomas and Lawson to learn more about the winners and their Penn State experience.

Onward State: What is your major/minor here at Penn State?

Jacob Snyder: I am a biology major with minors in marine science and art.

Star Lawson: I major in public relations with a minor in digital media trends and analytics.

OS: What has been your favorite club/organization here at Penn State?

JS: Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schreyer (GSDS). GSDS connected me with high-achieving, underrepresented scholars that continually motivate and uplift me.

SL: My favorite organization here at Penn State has been BLUEprint Peer Mentoring Program. It’s given me a family here at Penn State and the most amazing experiences.

OS: Which part of this year’s homecoming was your favorite?

JS: My favorite part of Homecoming was the Opulence drag show! Drag is such a beautiful, political statement of queerness, and I’m constantly awed by the talent of my peers. I was also honored to get to know my fellow court members and Homecoming executives and captains, who inspired me with their impact on this university. 

SL: Oh, wow, this is a tough one. They were all amazing! I’m going to say watching all the super talented groups during the talent show and walking in the parade! Seeing all the little smiles on the children’s faces after giving them candy warmed my heart.

OS: What are your future plans following graduation?  

JS: I intend to pursue a Ph.D. in marine science and work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

SL: Following graduation, I plan to hopefully work in California or New York City for an entertainment corporation’s communications/publicity department.

OS: What were your thoughts as your names were called and you realized that you won the Guide State Forward award?

JS: Very few thoughts were going through my head on the field. I was shocked. I was honored to just be on the court. To win was surreal. It didn’t sink in until I went back under the stadium and saw my friends. Then, the happy tears started flowing. Between the honor of being on the court and the outpouring of support from my Penn State family, my heart was full.

SL: I was in complete shock and honored! I was like, “there’s no way!” And then to hear Jake’s name being called made it even more surreal, as we had gotten really close during the week.

OS: What is a piece of advice that you would give to fellow college students?

JS: Your life experience and passion alone qualify you to advocate for yourself. I struggled with Imposter Syndrome while founding GSDS because I did not have previous leadership experience in LGBTQIA+ organizations. After seeing GSDS’ impact, I understood that my queer narrative and drive to address an issue was enough to implement change.

SL: A piece of advice I would give is to never limit yourself! Penn State has so many things that you can do here, and if it’s something that interests you even just a little bit, go for it and do it to the best of your ability.

OS: What does the Penn State community mean to you?

JS: As I pursued community at Penn State and networked with my vibrant queer peers, I was inspired to explore my full sexual and gender identity and grow into an elevated, gender-affirmed version of myself. My confidence and tenacity are a product of my LGBTQIA+ community, and I am forever appreciative.

SL: Being a part of the Penn State community means so much to me. I know that wherever I go I will be welcomed with open arms from other Penn Staters around the world.

OS: What would you say is your best Penn State memory?

JS: My best Penn State memory is being accepted into the Millennium Scholars Program (MSP), an organization that encourages underrepresented students to earn their Ph.D. in the STEM fields. This program provided me with academic and research guidance but, above all, provided me with a second family.

SL: I would say one of my best Penn State memories was finally getting a chance to do in-person orientation during extended orientation in 2020 and 2021. Being able to finally interact with students in person after two summers of virtual NSO brought me to tears. Especially when students came up to me remembering me from Zoom!

OS: What will you miss the most about Happy Valley once you become an alum?

JS: I will miss the endless opportunities. Penn State connected me with global scientific and artistic communities, through which I got opportunities to study in Hawaii, Louisiana, the Caribbean, and Rome.

SL: I will miss the community that I built here during my four years here at Penn State. Being able to walk into the Paul Robeson Cultural Center every day and be welcomed with laughter, smiles, and hugs can never be replaced.

OS: Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur what would it be and why?

JS: Jellyfish! They are adaptable and resilient — both predating and outlasting dinosaurs.

SL: I think I would be a Pterodactyl. I like that if I were ever in a combat situation with another dinosaur I can just easily fly away!

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a sophomore staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs at the Linc. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected]

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