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'Livin' on a Prayer': DAHS marching band show features music of Bon Jovi

DuBOIS — The DuBois Area High School marching band has been entertaining audience members at this year’s Friday night DuBois Beavers’ home football games with the music of rock band Bon Jovi.

“We’re performing ‘You Give Love a Bad Name,’ ‘Wanted Dead or Alive,’ and ‘Livin’ on a Prayer,’” said band Director Melinda Swauger. “Last year, we did the music of Kiss and everyone seemed to like it so we decided to keep the rock band theme going.”

The 60-some students in this year’s band logged approximately 100 hours of practice during the seven-day band camp in the summer and have been practicing two nights a week since school started Aug. 28.

“The students work very hard to learn the skills necessary to march and play their chosen instrument,” said Swauger. “It is quite a process learning to perform music while moving from point A to point B, etc. There are about 45 sets in this year’s show. The students must execute drill formations while playing/spinning equipment, changing directions, counting, watching the Drum Major, listening, breathing correctly, and last but not least, performing.”

Swauger, who has been the band director for the last two years, was a member of the concert band, marching band, jazz band and pep band, as well as the chorus, at Cochranton Area Junior-Senior High School. She also played volleyball and softball, where she earned first team all conference honors as a junior and senior catcher. Her senior year, she was selected by coaches and teachers as the Musician of the Year and the Athlete of the Year.

Her college days were spent at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she received a degree in music education. There, she was a member of the marching band, jazz bands, IUP Chorale and Chamber Singers. She was a member of a professional fraternity and was elected treasurer and then president. She also played softball.

She moved to DuBois in 1992 as a new teacher at the junior high. She taught at the middle school, high school, Wasson Elementary and is currently in her second year back at the high school.

Phil Weyant has been the band’s assistant director for the past three years. He’s a former IUP student who started working with this band quite a while ago, actually, said Swauger.

Ann Oakes, a parent, is the color guard instructor for the band and her daughter, junior Hannah Oakes, has been the band’s feature baton twirler for the past three years.

Swauger said she loves the caliber of music that the high school students can play as well as their energy.

“I just love being close to their enthusiasm for the activity as a member of the activity myself for many years,” Swauger said. “It becomes like a family and it brings back a lot of memories. It motivates me to try to make the experience better for them.”

Swauger believes that participating in band gives students a chance to experience a team atmosphere.

“They are motivated to help each other improve and grow as performers,” she said. “No one sits the bench. The discipline, time management, sacrifice, dedication and resilience that members learn and share enhance the cognitive development that marching band members gain through the constant multi-tasking during practice and performance.”

Swauger said she loves to see the developing sense of confidence in the performers.

“When they realize that they are capable of giving more, it often translates to other areas of their school experience — looking out for one another, tutoring each other, motivating each other,” she said.

“What more can you ask for?” Swauger joked. “Except maybe to practice that last section just one more time?”


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New statue brings roaring school spirit to Penn State DuBois

DuBOIS — Students and staff walking about Penn State DuBois this year may notice a new “roaring” character hanging out on the campus lawn.

The facilities crew at Penn State DuBois recently placed a new Nittany Lion mascot statue between the DEF building and the Union, aiming to enhance on-campus features for students.

This lion differs from the other sizable and realistic Nittany Lion statue, which is located between the Smeal and Swift buildings.

The new Nittany is dressed in his game-day best, sporting a blue and white scarf, and has a characteristicly relaxed look about him. He is sitting on a lawn bench, ready for his close up.

The campus’ maintenance crew was the first to be photographed with the new lion.

Director of Student Affairs Rebecca Pennington said the new lion bench was an idea that came to fruition thanks to the Student Government Association, and was funded by the Facility Fee Committee on campus. Staff members are always looking for new ways to bring excitement and school spirit to campus, she said.

“We’re hoping to provide fun photo opportunities and improve the atmosphere,” she said.

PSU DuBois is actively focused on student engagement and student affairs, in and outside the classroom, aiming to enrich personal and professional growth and develop leadership characteristics, according to the PSU DuBois website.

Shortly after students returned to class this year, a club fair was held on the campus lawn, showcasing more than 20 clubs and organizations, meeting the needs of many interests and giving students social opportunities as well.

A project that began in July renovated another campus statue, providing the DuBois Monument with landscaping improvements, lighting and a new fence. The statue sits just above the PSU DuBois campus on Monument Hill, marking the gravesite of John DuBois.


Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

DuBois Central Catholic’s Alyssa Bittner (10) hammers a kill past the block attempt of Moshannon Valley’s Skylar Barnhart (34) during first-set action Wednesday night. Bittner had five kills, two blocks and service points on the night. Barnhart recorded a match-high 13 kills in a five-set win against the Lady Cardinals.


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A QVC REALITY: DuBois woman finds calling through Facebook shopping group

DuBOIS — A local woman has turned her dream of working for QVC into a live-streamed reality.

Angela Grimone Erickson of DuBois has always had a passion for business and supporting local people, which is how the Facebook group “Little G’s Boutique” was born.

She held her first show in 2016, and last year is when the word really started to spread about the group, which now has more than 2,400 members, Erickson said.

Little G’s, an online shopping experience, started with consignment clothing, and has since grown to incorporate many debut and exclusive products, including soaps, home décor, coffee and tea, mugs and holiday products like hand-painted Christmas ornaments.

Through live shows and chats broadcast out of her house, Erickson showcases a new or returning vendor and his or her creations. Vendors come from several areas, including Clearfield, Jefferson, Elk and Cameron counties, and have the chance to reach thousands of potential customers in one show.

Being a businessperson has always been in her blood, Erickson says. Growing up, her father owned a department store in Elk County called “The Big G.” She was the youngest of five sisters, and went with her father to business meetings and product sales. She was soon selling appliances like washers and dryers, refrigerators and stoves, and eventually earned a degree in business management from DuBois Business College.

Erickson is a stay-at-home mom, and suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis. Running her own business allows her to not only work from her house, but reschedule around her tough days, she says.

“It doesn’t matter how I feel — once I press that ‘live’ button, I’m ready to go,” she said. “I have so much fun. This is my passion and it’s what I love to do.”

Little G’s is a family business, Erickson says, with her husband helping to run the show and children helping organize the set. She has a designated show room, with a spinning wheel for giveaways, a bell to ring for sold items and a station to showcase products.

Some shows even sell out, Erickson said, and if they don’t, she will post the leftover items in the group. She also offers shipping to several states.

Erickson aims to feature naturally-based and clean products, such as real, cured soaps and bee-based honey items. She is willing to meet with vendors and test their products.

“My members are supporting me, and I want to support local vendors,” she said.

It’s important to her to keep items within a certain price range, and always have enjoyable and interactive prize giveaways and specials, Erickson says. Many people also have found new friendships within the group.

She was once a vendor herself, and understands how hard it can be to reach a large audience.

“They are reaching more people in one evening than they’ll see at a retail or vendor show,” she said. “They trust and believe me, and I’m not going to sell anything I don’t believe in. You can have the best display in the world, but the quality has to be there.”

Despite the daily struggles she may face, Erickson finds being a business woman and helping others find what they’re looking for in life to be very rewarding, she said. Her motto is “What you seek, you may find at Little G’s Boutique.”

September marks the beginning of fall sales, with the group’s annual fall and autumn décor special session being held next week. Christmas sales will start at the beginning of November. The amount of shows will increase to four or five days a week throughout the holiday season.

For more information, find Little G’s Boutique on Facebook.


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Right Turn Crisis Intervention Team graduates eighth class at Penn State DuBois

DuBOIS — Twenty-two local police and school resource officers recently graduated from an annual training program that offers them tools to better understand and deal with individuals with mental illness.

The eighth Right Turn Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) class completed 40 hours of “specialized behavioral health training to assist individuals and families in behavioral health crisis,” according to Bill Mendat, who is the Behavioral Health Director for Community Connections of Clearfield and Jefferson Counties.

Participants included Clearfield County police and school resource officers, IUP police officers, Penn Highlands Security personnel, EMS first responders, youth group home workers and mental health program workers.

Through community healthcare and advocacy partnerships, the CIT aims to educate people on what local resources are available for those struggling with mental health issues, Mendat said in a previous Courier Express article.

Since the graduation on Aug. 30, which was held at Penn State DuBois, the program has graduated 120 people.

CIT came about because too many officer and community member injuries were occurring due to behavioral crisis situations. The first class was held for Clearfield and Jefferson Counties in 2012, according to a previous Courier Express article.

Officers work with mental health providers and professionals, as well as individuals who struggle with mental illness, Mendat said. This helps them develop empathy and understanding for these individuals, as well as be prepared for encountering a behavioral crisis situation.

The training was presented through the the Jefferson and Clearfield County Criminal Justice Advisory Boards, Community Connections of Clearfield and Jefferson Counties (CCC-J), The Meadows Psychiatric Center, Nulton Diagnostic and Treatment/Peerstar, the Sandy Township Police Department, the Clearfield County Probation Department, CenClear Services and Service Access and Management.