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In 11th grade, Kerry Benninghoff got his first real look at how the government works in Mr. Beiemsderfer's American history class. He learned about the different branches of government, what lobbyists did and, in a nod to his future calling, won the mock election. At the time, serving in the government wasn't on his career list, but it made a huge impression. “I really understood what a great commonwealth we live in, and what a great country we have. Later, when I was a father of five, I wanted to be involved with that.” And, since 1997, that's exactly what he's done.

Kerry's been reelected as a PA State Representative every term since 1997. In November 2018, he was selected by his colleagues to serve as Majority Whip. We talked with him about his heart for children with cancer, his advice for today's students, and what the school means to him. Read on!

SCASDEF: What does induction into the Maroon and Gray Society mean to you?

KB: I'm humbled. I'm honored to be a State High alumnus, and to represent my alma mater in the commonwealth.

SCASDEF: How did State High prepare you for your career in government?

KB: My time in Mr. Beiemsderfer's American history class gave me a true understanding of representative government, but I never dreamed that I would get the opportunity to live it out. I'm very humbled to be able to represent Centre and Mifflin counties.

SCASDEF: Do you have a favorite memory or funny story about your time at State High?

KB: I have many great memories of State High. I remember my bookkeeping class teacher telling me she couldn't keep teaching until I stopped blinking. It was toga day, and I rigged my toga with so many blinking lights, it distracted the class. I was really involved in high school. I was the high school mascot, I was on the wrestling team. Mr. Kovalchik (who is also being honored by the Maroon & Gray Society this year) helped me learn to play trumpet, and later when I was serving as a state representative, he would come to lobby days in Harrisburg. What a great teacher and band leader – learning music has stayed with me and really impacted my life.

SCASDEF: Your passion for advocating for children with cancer (as well as your own personal story with your daughter, Ryleigh, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2010) has been well documented. Can you tell us about your current involvement with THON, and what it means to you?

KB: I started the Cancer Caucus, which is a bipartisan non-voting committee to better educate both Republicans and Democrats in the Commonwealth. I wanted representatives to be better educated and enlightened about cancer so they can advance cancer-combating initiatives like cancer research and educational advocacy. I want to support THON because the students are doing such a good work, and they represent so many parts of the commonwealth. They are helping people they don't even know. I try to help them put a face to cancer families, taking them to chemo clinics. Often times, students volunteer at these clinics after THON, and I am a cheerleader for them and remind them how grateful we are. Public participation is a very good thing.

SCASDEF: What's your advice to students as they prepare for adulthood?

KB: My advice to today's students is threefold. First, don't grow up too fast. Meet as many people as you can in this world. Finally, don't let electronics be your lifeline. As an employer, I am so impressed with young people who have impressive interpersonal skills. It's so crucial. Technical skills can be automated, so don't assume just learning electronics are going to make you successful in life. There is a shortage of people with good social skills. If you learn to do that well, you will be more successful.

State High provides so many great opportunities – things that have affected my whole life – and you should take advantage of them and get involved.

Kerry Benninghoff is a 2019 Maroon & Gray Honoree. The Annual Maroon & Gray Society Banquet will be held on May 18, 2019. Individual tickets are $80. To register, click here.