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Audra Hixson finds that the Happy Valley community contributes to its quality of life

“I think that everyone benefits from a caring community,” says Audra Hixson. “Being active in the community also creates social connections and lasting relationships.” And, she definitely knows about being active in our community.

Although originally from western Pennsylvania and living for a time in Tucson, Arizona, Audra has made Happy Valley her home during the last 16 years. She takes her role in the community seriously, wanting to help make State College a better place through her own connections, hard work, and volunteerism.

There are so many great places to be active outdoors and it’s possible to meet some amazing people through organized events and clubs.

As assistant director of the Penn State Center for Women Students, Audra supports and advocates for Penn State students, both women and men, who are in crises related to sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking situations. Previously, Audra assisted survivors through the Centre County Women’s Resource Center. She also donates her time to Centre County violence prevention boards. Having university and county resources like those provided by Audra is invaluable for helping victims maintain their safety and feel supported throughout their recovery processes.

And, if that isn’t enough, Audra currently is working on her second master’s degree. She is studying mental health counseling, specialization in trauma‑related counseling. After achieving this degree, she will be able to work in private practice.

The reason Audra stays in this area is because of the good quality of life she enjoys here. “I enjoy the easy access to a number of natural and outdoor areas, along with the cultural events that the university draws,” she says. “Having lived in several urban areas, I appreciate the open space that surrounds State College.” She participates in trail running events, such as the Rothrock Challenge, and many road running events. The local state parks and forests provide amazing opportunities for her love of biking and hiking, as well.

When it comes to volunteerism, you will find her hanging out with the local animals. “I have worked in animal shelters as a volunteer, but I currently like to support the work of the Hundred Cat Foundation, which does valuable service related to the care of stray and feral cats.” Audra’s natural ability with animals is well‑known among her friends—she’s the person they all call when they have a sick pet or when find a stray that needs to get to a shelter.

People like Audra are what make State College a wonderful place to live and work. She devotes herself to improving her community while taking time to enjoy it, too. She sums it up best herself, “There are so many great places to be active outdoors and it’s possible to meet some amazing people through organized events and clubs. Along with these places, there is a variety of musical and theater events that are easily accessible downtown or at the university.”

Having lived in several urban areas, I appreciate the open space that surrounds State College.

For the future of State College, Audra hopes that it will “grow in socially and environmentally conscious ways. We have an increasingly diverse community and, through conscious effort, I think we can strengthen a sense of community where everyone can feel welcome.” Luckily, Happy Valley has many residents like Audra who are willing to devote their time and energy to making that happen.

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