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‘This Is What I Was Looking For’: REACH Breaking Social Media Barriers For Penn State Students

Justin Leusner came to Penn State as a freshman, searching for a social media club to find others who shared his passion for the digital world. Instead, he found nothing.

Rather than being dismayed and feeling lost, Leusner started his own club and launched REACH, Penn State’s premiere social media-based organization.

“In Penn State, there’s really nothing that teaches social media on campus and gives opportunities for it,” Leusner said. “…I think we have a good resource for that. A good start for people interested in social media.”

Leusner started making content on YouTube when he was just 10 years old and eventually began posting daily videos within four years. He eventually got to the point where he traveled to Los Angeles annually to attend VidCon and sacrificed pieces of his social life for his passion.

In 2020, the video games Leusner was streaming on YouTube began to decrease in popularity, and he pivoted to video editing before launching “BasketballToday” in August 2022. Since the launch of BasketballToday, it has morphed into Today Sports and boasts over 600,000 followers on Instagram.

With his success in the social media field, Leusner was determined to create the club he was missing at Penn State to help others find their calling and truly understand social media.

“It’s the first ever ‘all things social media’ organization, ranging from three pillars that you want to take away,” said REACH Vice President Juan Faura. “It’s brand deals, content creation, and collaboration.”

Members focus on collaboration not only within the industry but also within the club, which continues to grow each week. 

Leusner came across the national founder of REACH on LinkedIn last January and immediately reached out to start a chapter at Penn State. To Leusner’s surprise, they’d met at VidCon in 2018.

Since then, Leusner spent the last eight months founding the Penn State chapter along with the rest of the exec board, including Faura, Emma Froelich, Madeline Haller, Haley Jacobs, Jadyn Stuart, Quinn Taylor, Ethan Zaretsky, and faculty advisor Bill Zimmerman.

Penn State is one of the first schools to embrace REACH after its founding at USC, and it’s already a booming chapter. The group chat has over 270 members and welcomed Penn State influencer and gymnast Michael Jaroh to its last meeting.

Leusner and Faura hope to leave a legacy at Penn State through REACH and give back what they wish they had as freshmen.

“I would rather spend my time doing this because I want that community that I sought out freshman year,” Leusner said. “And we’ve been able to provide brand deals and really cool experiences in just a few weeks. People are making money. They’re making content. We’re teaching them that. And I hope that we’re building these lifelong skills that are going to increase their value in the marketplace and allow them to do this as their career.”

The impact is already being seen, and freshman Chloe Guzman has found what she came to college looking for.

“I want to work in social media so I joined a couple of clubs and found myself having to ask ‘What are you guys doing for social media?’ And they would say ‘You can be a chair position,’ but there was nothing really focused on it,” Guzman said. “I showed up to the REACH meeting on a whim, and I walked in and could just tell the whole team liked what they were doing and knew what they were doing. I finally felt like I found somewhere I clicked, and actually found people that are trying to do the same thing as me versus me trying to find my space in a club.”

Guzman already received opportunities and brand deals through her limited time in REACH and took advice from the executive board and speakers to become more active on her social media.

REACH has exciting collaborations lined up for its members, including a content day partnering with businesses in downtown State College. So far, it has curated national brand deals with Fanatics, Amazon Prime Video, Twix, Mattel, Reebok, and Nike, and was invited to New York Fashion Week.

Leusner was sent to a Los Angeles Clippers game last May by Amazon Prime Video through REACH, and members were given Gatorade Fast Twitch energy drinks through a collaboration. More events are in the works to give members countless opportunities to grow in social media and turn it into a career.

REACH meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Carnegie Cinema or REACH Hall as Faura wants to rename it. Anyone interested can join the GroupMe or follow the club on Instagram or TikTok.

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About the Author

Ashley Connington

Ashley is a sophomore studying journalism from New Jersey. She has the misfortune of rooting for the New York Giants, but at least they have Saquon! You can email [email protected] to send her ways to meet Saquon or watch her obsess over Harry Styles and Chelsea FC on twitter @ashconnington.

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