Born and raised in Centre County, Abby Minor is a poet and community writing teacher with many years of arts programming experience in central Pennsylvania. She has directed and taught outdoor creative writing programs, summer art camps, poetry writing workshops for adults, and interdisciplinary after-school art classes for kids and teens. In 2012 she founded Being Heard, an award-winning creative writing program honoring the voices and imaginations of Centre County’s older adults, which she directed for five years before it was reimagined, expanded, and reincarnated as Ridgelines. Her commitment to this work grows from her own need to hear the poems and stories that haven’t been written or read yet, and from her belief in the transformative power of language used with courage, curiosity, inventiveness, and care.
Casey Wiley / Board Secretary
Casey Wiley teaches creative writing and rhetoric at Penn State University Park and holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from George Mason University. He writes and publishes fiction and essays on themes such as socioeconomic inequality, language as identity, and gender discovery. He believes everyone has stories to tell and that communities grow stronger and more empathetic by sharing and listening to these stories.
Christine Tyler / Board President
Christine Tyler grew up in DuBois, a small town in northwest Pennsylvania. With a passion for social justice, especially centered on poverty and race, Christine has worked for thirty-plus years as a Human Services Professional and with non-profit organizations in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Washington, DC. While working full-time and raising two bi-racial children with her African-American husband, she earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration followed by completion of all coursework and exam for an Ed. D. at the University of North Florida. Since the untimely passing of her husband in 2013, Christine has shifted priorities in her life. In addition to her work as Executive Director of State College Area Meals on Wheels, Christine writes poetry on a regular basis and dabbles in creating mixed media art and painting. Her passions continue to center on family; social justice; spirituality and religion; the environment; and the arts.
Abby Minor / Founding Director
Leah Poole Osowski / Board Treasurer
Leah Poole Osowski is a poet from Massachusetts who moved to State College in 2015. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and works for the School of Global Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Penn State. Her first book, Hover Over Her, won the 2015 Wick Poetry Prize, and her poetry and lyric nonfiction appear in the Southern Review, Gettysburg Review, the Cincinnati Review and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from Image Journal's Glen Workshop and the Vermont Studio Center. In the fall of 2018, she taught creative writing as the Emerging Writer in Residence at Penn State Altoona, and she currently reads poetry submissions for New England Review and Raleigh Review.
Katie O’Hara-Krebs / Board Member
Katie O’Hara-Krebs is a long-time writer, storyteller, and collector of tales. She is the co-creator of Write to Shine, a creative writing business that works and collaborates with audiences in the Centre region. Write to Shine helps individuals find and use their authentic voices through writing, demystify the act through “recreational writing” as a means to uncover deeper meaning and connection with themselves and the world. Katie’s background is in marketing and corporate communications for companies including The Walt Disney Company and Nintendo of America. She has also spent time as a journalist and freelance writer. But her passion is not to share the words of large organizations, but instead to encourage people to find themselves through writing and relating to the world with words. Katie lives in State College with her husband and daughters, and enjoys writing, reading, hiking, drinking lots of coffee and having inspired conversations.
Carolyne Meehan / Board Member
Carolyne Meehan is a mother to three wild spirited kids, married to a man who loves soccer and maps, who is always up for a spontaneous hike or a contemplative conversation over tea. She is adjunct faculty at The Pennsylvania State University in the College of Education where she works to prepare future secondary level English teachers to be compassionate, present and well-read educators. She co-created Write to Shine, a creative writing company based in State College, to help people of all ages write and tell their own stories and to use writing as a tool to be more mindful and awake in everyday life. From her love of food and farmers, she writes the monthly “Dishing” column for State College Magazine. She works to fill her days with fresh air, deep listening, questioning the status quo and creating intentional connections through language, song, shared meals and gathering.
OUR TEACHING ARTISTS
Ridgelines teaching artists are professional language artists—poets, writers, songwriters, journalists, storytellers, and more. Our teaching artists work in a variety of community settings and local non-profits to provide expert language arts instruction to those who have been impacted by stigma and injustice in our region. Teaching artists design their own programs in collaboration with Ridgelines and in conversation with the organizations where they teach—so that each program is built to fulfill the needs and goals of those who are served by the community non-profits we partner with.
Nico Amador is a poet, community organizer and educator living in Vermont, by way of San Diego and Philadelphia. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Bettering American Poetry, Vol. 3, the Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day series, Hypertext Review, Poets Reading the News, Poet Lore, Bedfellows, APIARY Magazine, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Flower Wars, was selected as the winner of the Anzaldúa Poetry Prize and was published by Newfound Press in 2017. He is a recent grant recipient from the Vermont Arts Council, an alumni of the Home School and Lambda Literary Foundation's Writers Retreat, and helped to found the Rogue Writing Workshop of Philadelphia, which provides workshop instruction with accomplished poets to those writing and learning outside of academic institutions.
Terri Dennis graduated from Penn State University in 1991 with a B.S. degree in Human Development and Family Studies. She went on to be a family counselor for the Big Brother/Big Sister Program at the Centre County Youth Service Bureau for 5 years. As a counselor, Terri supervised hundreds of adult volunteers and worked directly with children and families to coordinate a number of community services. Currently, Terri works with her daughter in their Spirit Guidance and Healing Practice. Together, they are dedicated to offering healing, guidance, and empowerment through their various services and classes. Their private practice has reached thousands of clients worldwide. Terri is a certified Life Coach, and she writes and co-facilitates national workshops and leads guided meditations for
groups across the country. She has received guided meditation training with Dr. Brian Weiss, Lynn Roberts, and John Perkins at Omega Institute in New York. Terri is also the co-founder of Spirit Junction, a community program that meets monthly with themes centered around personal and spiritual development. Terri is also the creator of KindHeart products, which includes her healing paintings, positive affirmation cards, and Kind Card decks, as well as various guided meditation CDs.
Brooklyn Leo is a first-generation, non-binary Cherokee and Sephardic Jew who’s pursuing a dual-title PhD in Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Their research concentrates on abject embodiments, resistant aesthetic practices, and decolonial theory. As a poet and trans activist, they are currently a teaching artist in residence for Ridgelines, providing spoken word poetry workshops for local queer and trans youth in Centre County PA high schools. They are especially passionate about dispelling the myth that queer love and trans life does not exist within rural contexts. Rather, students are exploring themes of radical self-love, queer futures, and trans creativity, offering poetry as a way to bridge the knowledge gap surrounding LGBTQIA+ life in rural spaces.
Robyn Passante is an author, journalist and essayist based in State College. She is editor of Centered Magazine, a quarterly health and wellness publication, and is associate editor of State College Magazine, covering the Centre Region. In addition to working as a freelance writer for varied publications, including The Washington Post, GQ.com and SUCCESS Magazine, she runs a copywriting and editing business at WellPhrased.com. She also has been a college lecturer on writing and interviewing, and has authored two books for the wedding industry. She earned a degree in journalism from Penn State University, and her journalism honors include being named “Reporter of the Year” by the National
Alliance on Mental Illness in South Carolina as well as numerous South Carolina Press Association writing awards. She devotes her time and energy to her two boys and to volunteering, most notably with a local hospice agency, where she helps patients and their families face the final stage of this life with dignity and love.
Born in State College, Pennsylvania and raised in North Carolina, Eric Ian Farmer has returned to his birthplace sharing his songs about relationships, social awareness, and finding one's path in life while keeping alive classics by artists like Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and Bob Marley. Life as a full-time singer/songwriter heavily features live performances in Centre county restaurants, bars, and concert halls but also schools, churches, and the county jail (i.e., Centre County Correctional Facility). Additionally, Eric recently released Journey of a Love So Strong (Live), his first live album.
This current chapter seems a departure from the path of nearly ten years as a
classroom teacher plus graduating from Penn State University's doctoral program in educational leadership (2016). As a classroom teacher, Eric mainly taught English at two schools out west. One, Life Learning Academy, is a small charter high school in California's Bay Area created in the late 1990s as part of the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Initiative. The other, Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, is a small residential, nontraditional, independent high school in Estes Park, Colorado for youth from around the U.S. Both Life Learning Academy and Eagle Rock School are for youth who might not otherwise graduate from high school. However what looks like a departure could also be seen as an expansion of the path. In addition to performing, Eric has stayed connected to youth by using music with high school students in (central Pennsylvania and northern Colorado) to facilitate both songwriting and conversation related to identity and social issues.
Abby Minor has taught poetry-writing and storytelling workshops in low-income nursing homes, senior centers, and personal care facilities since 2012. Her award-winning programs honor the voices and imaginations of older adults from all walks of life. Her students have been farmers, dancers, teachers, mothers, fathers, artists, hunters, mowers of graveyards, and more. Abby specializes in working with adults who have physical and cognitive disabilities, including memory loss—her classes meet people where they are at and celebrate each person’s contributions. Each program responds to the specific interests and needs of participants, but the goal is always to learn more about ourselves, each other, and poetry. Through discussions, readings, listening, and sharing, participants gain a deeper sense of who they are and what the world is.
Abby was born and raised in Centre County, where she still lives. As well as being an alumna of Smith College and the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Penn State, she is a poet, an artist, a gardener, and a community writing teacher. She believes in the power of poetry to cultivate empathy, knowledge, and joy.
PAST TEACHING ARTISTS & BOARD MEMBERS
Teresa is a storyteller from West Helena, Arkansas, who moved to State College in December 2009. She teaches writing courses in the English Department at Penn State University and serves as a writing coach and advisor for undergraduate and graduate students with the Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs. Teresa is co-founder of State of the Story, a moth-styled storytelling group who tell stories in the Attic at the State Theatre. She believes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Danger of a Single Story" where humans are extremely complex and cannot be reduced to a single narrative. We need more stories to help make sense of the world.
In 2017 Sarajane Snyder took over Mondragon Bookstore in Lewisburg, home of 5000+ used books, a refuge for the tech-weary, and a delight for the curious. She believes that writing and storytelling are essential for any community to thrive. As people practice writing and storytelling, they find their voice. When people find their voice, they find their ability to speak up. When they can speak up and be heard, communities grow stronger. She envisions a rural renaissance in central PA filled with small farms, handy craftspeople, wise governance, radical librarians, happy babies, healthy parents, good art & song & dance & stories galore.
Nicole is a wearer of many hats, her personal favorites being artist, geographer, waitress, and cat-whisperer. Originally from Southwest Florida, she grew up at the confluence of the Gulf of Mexico and the Everglades. After migrating 1,000 miles north, she has spent the last decade in central Pennsylvania with her twin domestic long-hair daughters.
Nicole graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Geography Education where her studies focused on social justice, aural landscapes, and climate change. She worked as a high school social studies teacher, encouraging students to engage the world with curiosity and spunk. Though she enjoyed being in the classroom, she now proudly waits tables full-time. Not only does serving allow her to develop unique relationships with a diverse array of people, but it also enables her to pursue musical and other artistic interests. She fulfills her passion for social-justice and education through her work with Ridgelines, where she has worked with young women to explore their identity through music. She believes that immersing ourselves in art, laughter, and the hearing and telling of stories leads to richer experiences and deeper relationships with ourselves, others, and the worlds around us.