Ivy Leaf - Fall 2001
About to graduate with a major in criminal justice and a minor in human development and family studies, one would expect Penn State Altoona senior and Altoona native Darla Bardine to be anxiously awaiting the day when she can get out there and start her career as a state trooper. But that's not the case at all. Although she plans to have her four-year degree in hand in May 2002, Darla doesn't feel that her education can stop there. Instead, she's planning to travel and perform missionary work in order to expand her worldview, as well as find more creative alternatives to the current form of policing in the United States.
"Today's police officers often find themselves instilling morals through punishment, but the families often are the real problem," explains Darla. "The police can do their job, but the individuals then go back to the same family environment or neighborhood that led to the problem in the first place." Darla feels that modern policing must address more than simply the punishment; it must address the roots of the behavior. These roots often are the negative environment that the individual faces each day. Darla hopes that learning about other societies will help her discover some new alternatives to aid our criminal justice system.
Taking this extra step in her education might be somewhat unusual, but Darla is not your usual student. Darla has spent her past spring break and summer vacation performing missionary work both at home and abroad. Her personal philosophy stems from her desire to "be more real. I love being stretched and challenged. We need to get out of our comfort zone. That's how you know who you really are."
Darla got out of her "comfort zone" in the spring of 2001 when she went to the Dominican Republic during spring break with other Penn State Altoona students and faculty. Living with garbage "everywhere", seeing children close to starvation, Darla observed that everyone was "so friendly and happy. We kept asking 'why'." Although she doesn't have a definitive answer, Darla attributes a lot of it to the fact that the people she encountered were more "basic, raw, and real" than we are.
During the summer of 2001, Darla focused her efforts more locally, spending six weeks in a Pittsburgh inner-city to work with underprivileged youths. Again, Darla sought an experience that took her out of her comfort zone, as she entered a primarily African-American neighborhood quite unlike her Altoona home. She helped run a camp in a Pittsburgh church where she interacted with over a dozen 6- to -13 year old children. The experience was "very humbling." The children had severe anger management problems and fought a lot as a result. Often with parents and siblings in jail, the children were lacking good role models. Darla recognized that the children fought a lot because they felt that they had to put up a tough front. "Their innocence was stolen too soon," Darla remarked.
At the camp, each child was given some one-on-one "relational time" with Darla or another camp counselor. "The kids loved that time because they never get it (one-on-one time). Given that opportunity, they really opened up and shared." Darla misses the children she met and continues to write them letters.
While some may find it to be a controversial statement, Darla asserts that "the American dream is crap. I don't want to be so 'American'. It's important to help people and give what you have. My priorities are not acquiring things, having a nice house, car, and name-brand clothes. I realize that I am not here just to make money. Sure, money isn't bad, but it's what you do with your money. It's not just about giving a lot of money, but more about sacrificing. People with billions of dollars giving millions to charity are not sacrificing. People should live reasonably." And it's reasonable to bet that Darla is one Penn State Altoona student who will make her mark.