Everyone remembers the first time they heard it — no, everyone remembers the first time they felt it.
For me it was at the Welcome Week event "Be A Part From the Start," sitting on a bench between people I didn't know yet. For the first time, I knew what Penn State was about.
In four words, “We Are... Penn State,” these strangers were not strangers anymore.
Suddenly, we were a family.
Fast forward to last fall — poring over the timeline of events surrounding the Jerry Sandusky case in news reports, hearing that the grand jury report wasn't for the faint of heart. Over several months, State College would turn from a court of public opinion to the site of a real funeral procession.
Still, Penn State students continue to bleed blue and white, which leads me to a question: Who are we?
The night of the riot, I was attempting to study for an exam. When I got the text from a friend about Joe Paterno's firing, I was confused. I remember breaking down into tears — not of sadness, but of frustration. Of feeling more than a little left in the dark by the university who was supposed to be the father of this collective family I was in.
I know I'm not the only one.
Over time, questions dwindle. Neighbors stop poking the big Penn State-blue bruise in our collective pride, but it hasn't gone away. When I interviewed for an internship with a Penn State alumnus, I was told my interviewer felt their degree from the university was less valuable. It hasn't been easy.
Defining who we are has become a kind of quest of mine, though. What does Penn State mean to those of us who are in the family?
Penn State is the only land grant institution in the state, and it’s home to the world's largest student-run philanthropy, the Interfraternity Council/ Panhellenic Dance Marathon.
These are just facts though. The “We Are” chant is a symbol of unity — and symbols tell our story better than the facts.
When I decided to attend Penn State, the father of one of my close friends from high school took me under his wing. An alumnus of the university, he wanted to see my freshman dorm and he invited me to tailgate. My friend, who went to a different school, always jokes that I'm her family’s Penn State daughter.
Who we are isn't tangible.
Penn State has given me the strength to go from the girl who wanted any public relations job to the woman who wants to help NHL players of foreign descent prepare for interviews with major media outlets. It has helped the 14 year-old who said, "I want a job I love so much I'm running to work every day," find and follow her dream.
No act, however shameful, will ever discount what Penn State has done for me and countless others. What makes us who we are isn't a trial or a verdict or a court case. It's a girl with the courage to speak up, a boy with the ingenuity to try something new.
This school does just what the alma mater says, takes us from our childhood and molds us into capable adults.
It's blue and white and no matter what happens, it's always going to be Penn State.
Leah Blasko is a senior majoring in public relations and is The Daily Collegian’s Wednesday columnist. Email her at email@example.com.