Stephen Slough, Penn State Proud
When you ask Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management student Stephen Slough to describe his experience at Penn State in three words, he pauses... “Challenging. Fulfilling. Growth.” With Stephen, it is also about being positive and keeping a smile on your face.
Originally from the Harrisburg area, Stephen started his Penn State degree at Mont Alto campus. “I only applied to one school. My father went to Penn State and I came home from the hospital when I was born in a Penn State shirt. I spent my life visiting the campus, going to football games, going to the Creamery. I always had my eyes set – my goal was to go to Penn State.”
Stephen started off at Mont Alto as a Forestry major. At Mont Alto, he was manager for the Men’s Basketball team. In talking with his advisors, he determined that RPTM was a better fit. He transferred to Penn State’s Harrisburg campus for his second year to be closer to home and began taking RPTM courses via the World Campus. He learned in 2019 that his father had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma. Stephen took a leave of absence from Penn State in 2020 during COVID to help his mother. Within six weeks of losing his father in June of 2021, Stephen’s mother was also diagnosed with cancer. She passed away in 2022.
With unimaginable grief and much uncertainty about his future, Stephen continued on. “I promised my Dad that I would finish,” he said. “I worked hard because I wanted to make them proud of me.” Stephen leaned on his strong faith and put his nose to the grindstone.
Challenging. Fulfilling. Growth. A degree from his Dad’s Alma Mater to make his parents proud.
“I initially thought about outdoor recreation, but found myself really attracted to commercial recreation. I really enjoyed learning about arena management and facilities management, and decided to go that route.”
The summer after his junior year, Stephen took a supervisor position at Knoebel’s Grove in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. Knoebel’s is a popular, old style family amusement park and camping area. It was there that the seeds of working with the public and bringing smiles to people in their recreation time became Stephen’s focus. “With all of the financial burden and the stress of college, working in recreation and activities and the amazing people I meet makes my job fun.”
Stephen is completing his internship this summer at Marriott Vacation Club’s OceanWatch Villas at Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He selected his internship based on Marriott Vacation Club’s reputation, and he has cousins living nearby where he could stay for the summer. He was excited to learn what resort recreation has to offer.
“My internship is awesome. Waking up to go to work is a positive feeling. Coming home from work is a positive feeling. Everything about the activities is great. I get to be who I am. Getting to make a kid’s week with activities is so cool. I have co-workers who have been working at the resort for years and the kids come back every year and remember the activity staff because of the experiences we provide.”
OceanWatch Villas Activity Director, Mackenzie Ling, agrees. “Stephen is an absolute joy to work with in the Activities Department at Marriott's OceanWatch Villas. From the day he arrived, he expressed an enthusiasm and curiosity for all aspects of working in and running our department. At the end of their stay, our guests are asked to fill out a survey with memorable moments from their time here. Within two weeks of his arrival, Stephen was already getting mentioned by our guests for various activities, events, and vacation memories he's participated in! He embodies the guest-centered focus of our brand, and we would love to have him for as long as we can.”
Stephen will graduate in August upon completion of his internship. A career with Marriott Vacation Club may be in Stephen Slough’s future, although he’s also considering options that would take him closer to extended family in Pennsylvania. He’s also drawn to Florida, a dream he had to go with his parents, live on the beach, and to play golf with his Dad.
“It’s been tough, but I’m doing okay,” said Stephen. “If I can help others and help to bring a smile to their faces and give them an amazing experience, it helps me, too.”