Penn State Berks students earn Project RECONNECT funding to complete degrees

Written by Lisa R. Baldi, Director of Strategic Communications at Penn State Berks.

Two Penn State Berks students — Elizabeth Geynovich and Emiley Witman — recently received funding from the Project RECONNECT program, which provides financial support to students who re-enroll within a two-year stop-out period in postsecondary education to complete a degree or program.

The Penn State Berks Continuing Education Office learned about Project RECONNECT through the Berks County Workforce Development Board’s Training and Industry Partnership Committee. From there, Cathleen Phillips, education program specialist for continuing education, reached out to the Project RECONNECT administrator Bethanie Emery to learn how to identify and qualify students.

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Both Geynovich, a science major from Newmanstown, and Witman, a practical nursing major and Reading native, decided to apply for the funding for financial assistance to finish their respective studies.

Witman currently works in the psychiatric field and wanted to further her education so she could help patients with mental health needs.

“I’ve always wanted to help people,” Witman said. “I worked as a case manager before deciding to go back to school. But with the stigma that mental health carries, I think it is important to have someone who is passionate about the field to provide the care that those with mental health concerns need.”

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Geynovich was drawn to the Penn State Berks science degree with the life science option due to her passion for the STEM and medical fields and because of the variety of electives that the degree offers, including developmental biology, genetics and neuroscience. She said that she wants to pursue a career in the medical field following graduation.

Project RECONNECT provides support services like transportation, tuition costs for remaining classes, professional exam fees, books and lab fees, career advisement and comprehensive needs assessment.

In addition to the funding from Project RECONNECT, Witman credits her nursing instructors for being role models for the type of nurse she hopes to be. Following graduation in December 2023, Witman plans to work as a psychiatric licensed practical nurse. Eventually, she wants to become a registered nurse.

“I am beyond fortunate for Project RECONNECT and Cathleen Phillips for helping connect me to this funding, so that I can complete the practical nursing program and graduate in December,” Witman said.

Geynovich echoed Witman’s sentiment and expressed that her time at Penn State Berks has prepared her for a future career in nursing.

“I am grateful to Penn State Berks and Project RECONNECT for providing this support to complete my studies,” Geynovich said. “The science major has allowed me to grow and be more well-rounded, learning the way the human body works, which will undoubtedly make me a more knowledgeable nurse in the future.”

For more information about Project RECONNECT, visit the Project RECONNECT website or contact Phillips at

Project RECONNECT is a program of the Chester County Economic Development Council. The program serves students in Chester, Berks and Montgomery counties who have some postsecondary education but no certificates or degrees and have withdrawn from school in the last two years with a GPA of 2.0 or higher. Students must have less than one year of classes remaining, and priority is given to students pursuing health care occupations (other programs evaluated based on state priorities).

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