By: Nick Santangelo

Every College of Liberal Arts (CLA) student has a unique story, and they’ve each faced different challenges in their young lives, with more to come before they reach their academic and career goals. But that doesn’t mean they’re the first to face those challenges. And it certainly doesn’t mean they have to face them alone.

Simple Transfers

Take transferring, for instance. About 40 percent of CLA students transferred in from another college or university. It can seem daunting. With 42,000 students attending Temple University and more than a million and a half people living in Philadelphia, transferring usually means a major step up in scale for students. So it was for Anthony Amato, a Political Science major in the Class of 2020 who transferred from East Stroudsburg University. Amato got the support he needed to smooth out his transfer and quickly discovered that the best thing any new CLA student can do for him or herself is to get involved.

“The transfer process was smooth,” says Amato. “I mean getting acclimated to the big city is a little bit of an adjustment, a lot more walking. But the transfer process was very smooth. The advisors were more than welcoming, and if I had any questions, they were ready on email all the time. They were emailing me, pestering me, you should do this class, you should do this class.

“But it was great to know that there was support in getting you acclimated and prepared for your first semester.”

Amato says he’s “amazed by the opportunity” he has at CLA, and he’s happy he made the transfer, but he stresses that students shouldn’t just transfer their credits, register for courses and keep their heads down until graduation. By taking advantage of what he says are incredible resources and a great faculty, Amato added a Public Relations minor and has had the founder of Philly.com and a six-time Emmy Award winner as two of his professors as a result. Amato hasn’t limited his involvement to the classroom, either. He’s interned with the GOP, hopes to intern again through the Pennsylvania Capital Semester program, helps run the Political Science Society and manages the Political Science Department’s social media.

“You just have to get involved and be consistent,” he says. “If you go into an organization meeting, just go every week or every other week or whichever you want to do, but just stay to your commitments. Just get involved because as soon as you get involved, it opens up so many doors here at the university.”

Open Doors

After he graduates, Amato wants to use his education to help open doors for others. Originally from Central Pennsylvania where his father owns a pizza shop, Amato wants to return home and help the people of his hometown however he can. His internship gave him some experience in organizing grassroots movements and events. He hopes taking part in the Pennsylvania Capital Semester program senior year will give him even more experience and connections so that he’s better prepared to take on a role as an aide to a state senator or legislator.

Education policymaking seems like a particular interest for Amato. He brings up Philadelphia’s notoriously underfunded public school system and the crisis that’s created for many city residents. Some of the state’s Republican politicians have suggested introducing a school voucher system to help kids pay for private schooling. But after transferring to Temple and seeing the situation in Philadelphia firsthand, Amato believes that voucher system won’t work because it would exclude students whose families lack the disposable income to pay for the balance of private school costs that won’t be covered by the vouchers.

It’s clear that Amato really cares about this issue. He brings up how Philadelphia public schools recently had to let their students out early on several days during a heat wave because only 40 percent of schools have air conditioning. It’s a stark contrast from Amato’s own public school experience.

“At my high school, we had a one-to-one initiative with technology, so every student has a laptop,” he recalls. “Here, they don't even have many computers. They have maybe like two desktops to a classroom and I'm just like, ‘Wow, that's not good.’ We're really setting the future generation up for failure.”

With the country so focused on national politics and what’s happening in the White House, Amato sees a need to refocus on local, everyday issues like this. He also brings up gas prices and Philadelphia’s hotly debated soda tax and again mentions his dream of working for a state representative. He’d love to manage the social media accounts for a representative and form connections between constituents and local government. It’s easy to see then why he’s chosen to study Political Science and Public Relations while getting involved with the Political Science Society and running the department’s social media accounts.

Amazing Access

He may still be a year and a half out from pursuing his dream job, but that’s OK. Amato is already building the foundational knowledge and getting the hands-on experiences he needs to get there. And he hasn’t been left to figure it all out on his own, either. Another of his standout professors, Ken Lawrence, who’s a Pennsylvania county commissioner with a background as a Harrisburg lobbyist. Lawrence is passing on what he knows to Amato, who cherishes the opportunity to learn not just from a textbook, but firsthand from someone’s real-world experience.

“I think that's one thing that matters is here at the university is your effort,” says Amato. “Always put your best foot forward and give effort and reach out to faculty members if you're struggling, if you need any questions answered because they'll work with you.

“And that's one thing about my old university is that it was really hard to get in contact with people until they go to their office hours. And if you did go to their office hours, they're really short and brief with you. Here, they actually will not stop talking, and they just hold onto you for a long time. And so the access of faculty members is just amazing.”

Perhaps one day, someone will boast that the access to Amato’s office in the state capital is equally amazing.

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