WPSU is taking a look at how central Pennsylvanians decide whether to make their home here, or move on, in our new series “Reasons to Stay.”
Every morning before he heads to his day job at Penn State, Jason Browne co-hosts a morning radio show on B94.5.
“OK, pieces of my life just happen. The radio station gig actually came about because I was doing a promotion for a Rotary event. Apparently the banter that I had with my current co-host was funny,” Browne said. “And then two months later I’m on the radio. It's really cool that you have a Black guy and a white girl in the morning radio show in the middle of central Pennsylvania. It just kind of works.”
Doors have opened for Browne, but he’s also constantly pushing himself and others to be the best they can be. He says his cohost sometimes has to tell him to calm down and enjoy their success.
“Like on the radio, Angela gets so annoyed because I keep saying, ‘Hey, what can we do? What can we do?’ She's like, ‘Jason shut up already. We're doing okay all right. Just be quiet,’” Browne said. “But it's good energy. I’m making light of the situation but unless things are being improved and you’re working on them and you're finding ways of doing something better then you know what? Why do them?”
Browne says he hopes the radio show will build a community of people who enjoy and will spread their feel-good energy.
Browne’s full-time job is a little more sedate. But he’s not coasting there, either. He’s worked his way up an IT manager position at Penn State in the ten years since he graduated from the university. And last year he finished an MBA while working full-time.
He’s also heavily involved in the Downtown State College Rotary Club.
A recent Wednesday night saw him working the club’s annual charity dinner, which raises money for organizations like the YMCA, the food bank and the Women’s Resource Center.
“Spaghetti dinners used to be one of those things that my grandparents used to go to,” Browne said. “Now I'm like, ‘Yeah, I'm helping make the spaghetti dinner happen. I'm OK with that.’"
The next night he’s at a West Coast Swing dance class.
Browne is trying to build his social life back up now that he’s done with his MBA.
“There's a great community in dance,” Browne said. “There's an openness that's hard to find elsewhere.”
With all his positive energy, it might not be a surprise to find out that Browne doesn’t beat up on the State College area for its lack of diversity. Though he does sometimes feel singled out.
“Unfortunately, when you're in a place where there's limited diversity and you're one of the few black people that people know, you then become the representative of a group of people,” Browne said. “And so people look at me they're like, ‘Oh there's no problem with diversity. Jason's cool. Dah dah dah dah dah.’ But that's just me and I've been fortunate and I've been placed in the right situations.”
So with all his involvement and everything that’s gone right for him in State College, does Browne see himself staying in the area forever?
“No, I can't see myself here for the rest of my life,” Browne said. “There's a lot of different things that I want to accomplish, and I don’t think I can accomplish them all here."
Browne isn’t sure whether his future will be in IT or radio or in some sort of public speaking. He thinks he might be able to do youth development or some sort of personal empowerment work.
Browne says for now he’ll stay in State College. He’s happy as long as doors keep opening for him and he feels like he’s learning new things. And for now the radio DJing gig is keeping him interested. He’s also in line to be president of his Rotary Club starting next summer.
Visit the multi-media side of the Reasons To Stay project to follow Jason Browne in pictures and video to his DJ gig, Rotary Club volunteering and to check out the band he was a part of. You can also join the conversation by going to Instagram and posting pictures of your reasons to stay in the State College area with the hashtag #wpsureasonstostay.