Penna earns coveted ATHENA award


As the youngest and only female in a family of five siblings, Mercyhurst University senior Amber Penna looked to her brothers as successful role models and strived to emulate them.

Yesterday, as she was recognized with the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award®, the 21-year-old sports medicine major from Eden, N.Y., had Bob, Ryan, Adam and Elliott to thank, not to mention her parents, Bob and Michele Penna.

According to the Athena website, the award goes to an emerging leader who demonstrates excellence, creativity, and initiative; provides valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community; and serves as a role model for young women personally and professionally.

Besides the abundance of positive role models she had growing up, Penna said she was able to develop strong leadership skills by taking advantage of the opportunities a smaller, close-knit university community like Mercyhurst had to offer.

Many on campus know Penna as president of Mercyhurst Student Government, an office in which she takes pride, particularly in her role as liaison between the student body and the administration.

“Being the voice of the students is important to me,” she said. “I really try to listen to everyone’s opinions and help the administration see things from the students’ point of view.”

Others on campus may know Penna as the student organizer of Habitat for Humanity service learning trips, or as the vocalist who sings the National Anthem at athletic contests. Still others may recognize her as the young woman who plays the piano and organ at masses in Christ the King Chapel.

Back home, that’s how people know her as well. Since she was 15, she’s been the organist at two parishes in her community. She’s also taught tennis in her hometown’s recreation program.

Although she is indebted to Mercyhurst for the opportunities it has afforded her to flourish, she is ready to take the next step. That will be to Duke University, where she has already been accepted into a three-year doctoral program in physical therapy.


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