Ivy Leaf - Spring 2004

From Skateboarding to Graduating

Jonathan Holmes, Senior Profile


The typical freshman's first memory of college is often move-in day, meeting his roommate, and saying goodbye to mom and dad. For Jonathan Holmes, it was skateboarding with his brother while waiting for mom to get out of class.

Jonathan's mom, Cynthia Johnson, attended Penn State Altoona and graduated from the University with a degree in elementary education in 1992. When it was time for Jonathan to choose his college, he relied on his childhood memories to make his decision. Says the senior English major, "I knew I would attend Penn State Altoona and stay in this place that I became familiar with as a child."

Yet Jonathan did not simply attend Penn State Altoona; he has made a significant impact during his four years at Ivyside Park. As a resident assistant, he has helped many students with their transition to college life. As a scholar, he has served as president of the only international English honor society at Penn State and as a member of national leadership societies. Yet the biggest impact was felt from his work with students with learning disabilities.

Jonathan has been a unique advocate for students with learning disabilities, as he personally suffers from a general learning disability. Discouraged by others from even attending college, he was told to try vocational school because college level courses would be too difficult.

Not one to let obstacles stand in his way, Jonathan spoke with the Health and Wellness Director at Penn State Altoona and learned about the College's Excel program. Excel is designed for students just like Jonathan, who have a learning disability but still can achieve success in college with some specialized assistance. After learning about the tutoring and the tools, such as study skills and time management, available through Excel, Jonathan enrolled in Penn State Altoona in 2000.

And, just like the name of the program that aided him, Jonathan excelled at Penn State Altoona. After completing his freshman year, Jonathan joined the Excel staff to help other students with disabilities succeed. Pursuing his passion for writing, Jonathan became an English major and had the opportunity to work with English professor Dinty W. Moore as an assistant editor on a book project, Sudden Stories: The Mammoth Book of Miniscule Fiction. Recalls Moore, "Jonathan is a smart reader and a clear and consistent editor. His work was invaluable in making Sudden Stories a success, now in use by students at more than 30 colleges and universities."

"I was so proud to have worked with Dinty. I remember asking him if my name would appear in the book bibliography. When it was published, I had my name in it as associate editor. I gave it out as holiday gifts to my entire family. Wow!" — Jonathan Holmes '04

Following his May 2004 graduation, Jonathan continues to write and has applied to the University of Iowa, the same workshop in which greats such as Ernest Hemingway studied.