Not all college-aged kids want out of NEPA

By Travis Kellar tkellar@civitasmedia.com

July 19, 2014

WILKES-BARRE — With their diplomas in hand, Northeastern Pennsylvania college grads have no shortage of decisions to make. But one decision is clear: Most say they will stay if there’s a job for them.

The Times Leader interviewed a dozen students and graduates from Northeastern Pennsylvania to see whether they intended to stay in the region. Out of the 12, one has already found work in Wilkes-Barre, while four others intend to stay in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The remaining seven have decided to look elsewhere for employment opportunities, in part because professional opportunities beckon.

If there are jobs in the area in their field of expertise, staying in the Wyoming Valley is the preferred option, most said.

Cemah Tudae-Torboh, 22,


A graduate who decided to stay in the Wyoming Valley, Torboh, used his King’s College information technology degree to land a position of IT manager at Panzitta Enterprises.

Though he also looked briefly in the Philadelphia area for work, he served as an intern at Panzitta while in college.

“Since then, I really haven’t looked back,” Torboh said.

Torboh realized that the area has more to offer, and he said his decision to stay was a good one.

He acknowledged that many students have the dream of moving to the big city in search of success.

“That’s all great and all, and shoot for the stars,” Torboh said. Financially, however, Torboh said staying local might be a better alternative. “It’s just a smart choice to sit in one spot and pay your dues.”

Robert Griffith, 25,


Griffith, a sophomore at the Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, is studying the science of the human heart, and he hopes to get into either the surgical or medical specialty as a doctor.

He has not started looking at jobs, but his goal is to remain in Northeastern Pennsylvania after his residency program.

He explained the students select what kind of physician they like to be and begin training under a professional physician during their fourth year as a student. That training can take up to eight years, depending on what physician students train under.

Though he was born in Brooklyn, New York, he spent most of his life in Stroudsburg, and hopes to stick around once he finishes with school.

“My parents always stressed to me as a child that there would be certain opportunities that would benefit you in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Griffith said. “I really, truly believe in this area, and I want to give back to it in any way that I can.”

Jodi Fortwangler, 27,


Fortwangler received her LPN in nursing from the Hazleton Area Career Center in February. She would like to continue in her education to become a registered nurse.

For now, Fortwangler works full time at Weatherwood Nursing. She started working there as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) to get her foot in the door.

Fortwangler hopes to open her own business at some point in her career, and she’s content with staying in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“My family is here, I like what I do and I like this area,” Fortwangler said. “I’m pretty confident it’ll be okay around here.”

Britney Williams, 21,


Williams, a student at Wilkes University. is majoring in middle school education with a focus on special education and mathematics.

She has not started looking for work yet, but said she plans to look in and around the Wyoming Valley, as well as her hometown. She said she likes living in the area as a student, and has found that job opportunities do exist in her field.

“The biggest thing with education right now is you have to be willing to relocate, because there’s not many jobs available,” Williams said. “I would take anything I could get.”

Brandi Ritz, 21,


Ritz is a second-year student at Luzerne County Community College studying early childhood education. She also works at Olympia Sports inside the Laurel Mall.

She plans to go on to Bloomsburg University for her four-year degree — afterward, she intends to look for work in the Hazleton area.

“I could probably go as far as Allentown or Wilkes-Barre, but in the immediate area, I want to stay right here,” she said.

Ritz said family and spending her life in Hazleton were reasons to keep her in the area. She has also found promising results looking for jobs, but is not opposed to leaving if the job search doesn’t pan out.

“If worse comes to worst, I will move out of the area because I do need a job and I do need to support a family, but I’m not finding a problem here,” Ritz said.

Catherine Kleiner, 21,


Kleiner, a graduate from Luzerne County Community College, studied mass media and communications technology. She has since gone on to Rowan University to study public relations.

She now is doing a virtual internship with a firm in Los Angeles, and will be finished at Rowan University in August.

Kleiner would like to get into social media and work with companies associated with YouTube to create content for channels on the website. She has already started looking for jobs.

“It is rough because some of the positions that are labeled as entry level are asking for 1-2 years experience,” Kleiner said. “Some positions ask for really specific experience that I just do not have at this time. I just have to laugh because these are labeled as entry level and they are asking for experience that a lot of graduates do not have.”

She referred to larger cities as the “epicenter of communications,” and said she would love to live in a major city.

Kleiner also didn’t count out a future in Northeast Pennsylvania. Family and affordable living were some aspects of the area that Kleiner said were pros. She also said that in public relations, jobs can be found anywhere.

“Staying here would be great, but if that can’t happen … I’ll have to leave,” Kleiner said.

Nikita Patel, 21,

Mountain Top

Patel, a recent graduate of Wilkes University, studied mechanical engineering. She wants to begin a career in either manufacturing or sales engineering, but has had little luck finding the right path locally.

Patel started looking for jobs in December, and learned quickly that being a graduate fresh out of college was not going to be easy. She has submitted close to 100 applications, and used online resources such as LinkedIn in her job search.

“There seems to be more engineers looking for jobs than jobs available,” Patel said.

Not finding a job was a big reason why Patel has decided to not stay in the Wyoming Valley. She grew up in the area, but said she was “more than ready to leave” so she could find a job in her field.

Patel plans to look in a 2-hour radius around the area for a job. She said for others in her shoes, leaving one’s stomping grounds might be beneficial in the long run.

“You have to broaden your horizons to come back,” Patel said.

Ariardys Taveras, 19,


Taveras is a second-year student at Penn State Hazleton. He currently works at the Sneaker King in the Laurel Mall.

He is studying business, and hopes to one day open up his own business. He plans to stay in the area for a few years and keep a stable job to save some money.

His end goal, however, is to move to New York City and start a career.

“It’s not a big enough area,” Taveras said about the Wyoming Valley.

Allison Smith, 18,

Denville, New Jersey

Smith is an engineering major at Wilkes University. She hopes to move back to New Jersey to work at Picatinny Arsenal making defense systems.

“I have a few old teachers from high school who have good friends there and have connections there,” she said. Smith is also going to apply for a scholarship that, if accepted, she’ll get a guaranteed internship with the company. “Hopefully, that would set me up to work there.”

Smith admitted that it is nerve-wracking looking for a job, but thought that was a common fear among college students.

Though she would like to move back to her home state, she said she likes the family atmosphere at Wilkes University and wouldn’t count out sticking around if an opportunity presented itself.

“I’ve thought about moving around,” Smith said. “I don’t have any set plans, so I’m definitely open to a job anywhere.”

Macey McGuire, 21,


McGuire is a communications major at Wilkes University. She hopes to get into the music field — specifically, she wants to represent artists and network with others in the industry to make a name for herself.

For now, she’s beginning to search for internships in the area — she has her eye on one at WBRE.

“I personally want to see behind the scenes things,” McGuire said.

McGuire wants to eventually make her way to New York City, but like Taveras, she plans to stay in Drums until she establishes herself. She also said the turbulent job market did not scare her.

“It’s not going to keep me where I am,” McGuire said. “I’m always going to be looking.”

Emily Sofranko, 18,

Jim Thorpe

Sofranko is an incoming freshman at Wilkes University who will study childhood education and special education for elementary. Though she’s a new student, she already plans to move to Philadelphia after graduation for her career.

“I’m looking to probably move into the city, since that’s where most of the jobs are for special education,” Sofranko said.

Sofranko has done research, and found that there are a number of jobs in Philadelphia that are in her soon-to-be field of expertise. She said that staying is an option for her, but added that she wants to move out to experience something new.

She was also confident that she would find success with her career, but added it would be a challenge.

“I know it’s going to be hard, especially the first year,” Sofranko said.

Tom Jordan, 28,


Jordan graduated from Luzerne County Community College in May, and earned his certificate in sustainable energy technology.

He has since taken a solar class at the college, and is set to take a welding class this month. He hopes to get into the design field in sustainable energy, but said Pennsylvania is not the best place for the field.

“A lot of the incentives for energy haven’t been going to sustainable energy,” Jordan said.

Jordan has searched for jobs in the area and in North Carolina. He recently had a job offer as an electrician, but turned it down, vowing to only apply for jobs that he “really, really wants to work in.”

Though he loves his home state and family, he is not opposed to leaving in pursuit of the perfect job.

“I would like to stay in the area, but … I want to broaden my horizons,” Jordan said.