Penn State DuBois Honors Scholar highlight: Lukas Salvo

Lukas Salvo with the Lion Shrine on the campus of Penn State DuBois

Lukas Salvo with the Lion Shrine on the campus of Penn State DuBois

Credit: Penn State

DuBOIS, Pa. — According to the U.S. Department of Education, around 30% of undergraduate students change their major before they earn a degree. Lukas Salvo falls into that category. After stating his education at Penn State DuBois as a business major, he quickly realized it wasn’t what his passion truly was. He also enjoyed working with kids, serving as a youth baseball coach in his home area in Clarion County.

So, Salvo made the decision to switch his major after his first semester from business to human development and family studies (HDFS). Making this change was hugely beneficial, he said, as it would give him the opportunity to continue working with kids and pursue another passion he has, education.

Salvo attended Union High School in southern Clarion County, graduating in 2019. While in high school he was greatly involved in many groups and clubs, including the student council, peer mentoring, varsity sports club and national honor society, and he also did some sports announcing as well. He also played baseball for his high school team. It was his interest in baseball that first brought him to the DuBois area and Penn State DuBois.

I heard Dan Bowman’s story of how this program was a second chance for him. Hearing his story and how this program changed his life is what essentially had me hooked.

—Lukas Salvo , Penn State DuBois graduating Honors Scholar student

“I was fortunate to attend one of the baseball clinics early on during my sophomore year of high school,” Salvo said. “I heard Dan Bowman’s [at that time a current student athlete for the baseball team at Penn State DuBois] story of how this program was a second chance for him. Hearing his story and how this program changed his life is what essentially had me hooked.”

Salvo and Bowman, who is now an admissions counselor at Penn State DuBois, ended up with something else in common — they both have been part of the HDFS program. When Salvo heard Bowman speak at the clinic, Bowman was a student athlete, and he was still part of the team when Salvo came to campus, albeit moving into the coaching ranks by then. When Salvo signed his letter of intent to come to Penn State DuBois and to play on the baseball team, Bowman was present at the letter-signing as well. The two have shared their common bonds throughout many years and seen it turn into a strong friendship that is much more than simply coach and student athlete.

Coming from a small town, Salvo knew that starting his higher education in a bigger place would be a change and wouldn’t be the easiest transition. What he found at Penn State DuBois, though, certainly made that transition easier.

I immediately felt like I was home when I first set foot on campus.

—Lukas Salvo , Penn State DuBois graduating Honors Scholar student

“Since my first day on campus,” Salvo said. "I felt as though this campus welcomed each and every student with open arms and embraced each student’s unique qualities. I immediately felt like I was home when I first set foot on campus.”

While his decision was made to attend Penn State DuBois, something that Salvo admits he didn’t know much about was the Honors Scholar program.

“Becoming a part of the Honors Scholar program was somewhat out of the blue for me,” Salvo said. "But when I was encouraged to apply, I jumped at the chance to join the inaugural class.”

Being part of the Honors Scholar program is something that Salvo directly credits with helping him in many ways, both within the classroom and outside as well. He said he not only felt like he was being held to a high academic standard, which drove him to perform well in the classroom, but the program also gave him an outlet to make a difference around the campus and community. His goal, he said, was to continue the great standard of excellence that is present on the campus.

One of the memorable experiences that Salvo highlighted from his experiences in the program was the opportunity to travel to Hawaii in the summer of 2022. The trip gave Honors Scholar students the opportunity to learn and experience Hawaiian culture firsthand.

“Being able to travel halfway across the world and learn about the culture of Hawaii with some of my closest friends is something I would have only dreamed of,” Salvo said. “Being such a small-town kid, I am still in shock at the opportunities that this program has given me.”

On the baseball diamond, Salvo has been part of the baseball team at Penn State DuBois for four seasons, including the 2023 season that is currently in progress. Coming into this season, he appeared in 35 games for the Nittany Lions, hitting for a .297 average at the plate, with two home runs and 11 RBIs in his career. Defensively, Salvo has a perfect fielding percentage, never committing an error in his 14 total chances that he has seen. For this season, Salvo is dealing with an injury that has kept him off the field so far. But he remains part of the team and continues to offer his support to his teammates at each game.

As part of the Honors Scholar program, Salvo has been working on research related to his major, interning with the DuBois Area School District. Specifically, he has been studying how to use the principles detailed in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to provide a tool that children could use to easily and comfortably express their feelings, using a Rubik’s cube.

“What really drew me to this topic was the implementation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs withing the classroom for kids to better understand how to express themselves with the use of play therapy,” Salvo said. “I picked this topic because the idea of ‘bottom-up’ processing is widely used in school counseling in particular.”

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological (food and clothing), safety (job security), love and belonging needs (friendship), esteem and self-actualization. Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to higher needs. The hierarchy is often represented into a multicolor pyramid, said Salvo, with these colors relating to colors on a Rubik’s cube for users to express what they are feeling on a given day.

Salvo is currently serving as a counseling intern at the elementary level, where he works directly with students in grades kindergarten through fourth grade. His research project and internship has allowed Salvo to gain real-world experience, he said, and learn about social-emotional learning and how to implement it within a classroom setting. It is this knowledge that he said he hopes to be able to use himself after he graduates and enters the professional world, as well as giving him a better understanding about all that it takes to be a school counselor and developing relationships in the classroom with students.

After he graduates this spring, Salvo said he plans to attend Slippery Rock University in pursuit of a master’s degree in school counseling. He also plans, he said, to obtain his teaching certificate. While at Slippery Rock, Salvo will also be working as a graduate assistant in the admissions office.

While he will be leaving the campus of Penn State DuBois after graduation, Salvo won’t be leaving the DuBois community behind in his mind or his heart, he said.

Words cannot express how grateful I am to have been part of this amazing community here in DuBois.

—Lukas Salvo , Penn State DuBois graduating Honors Scholar student

“Words cannot express how grateful I am to have been part of this amazing community here in DuBois,” Salvo said. “My experience here has been unbelievable, and I would like to thank the Penn State DuBois community for making my experience be that way.”

The Honors Scholar program at Penn State DuBois provides opportunities for students who excel academically to participate in specialized courses and activities, allowing them to engage at a higher level. All current students are welcome to apply at the beginning of the fall semester for the Honors Program. The application for Honors Scholars opens in the fall to incoming students for the following fall semester. Those interested can visit the program website to find more information and to learn how to complete a program application.