Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School CEO and Kent State alumna Rebecca "Becky" Manning has come full circle. "Sometimes you can follow your dreams and go through the backdoor," says the administrator who has seamlessly combined her leadership abilities with her love for music, theatre and dance. Manning, who once dreamed of becoming an actress, earned a bachelor's degree in speech and special education from Kent State University after starting at Kent State University at East Liverpool. Although she immensely enjoyed theatre and speech, jobs were scarce and she decided to specialize in special education. Due to Kent State's excellent program, Manning became a guru in the field.
"Because of the background I gained at Kent State, I was able to advance in special education and become an administrator," she says of the education she received. "People were impressed when I said I had a degree from Kent State. The program was well known." Manning taught special education for 27 years in the East Liverpool, Ohio, City School District, and served three years as its Supervisor of Special Education.
In 2003, Manning used her experience to take on the role as Director of Special Education at The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. She blazed the trail and set the standards for the delivery of special education instruction in an online environment. The successful program is a model for other cyber schools. In 2006, Manning's love for music, theater and dance, coupled with her leadership skills, proved invaluable when Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School was opened. The school, comprised of 500 of Pennsylvania's most talented and gifted high school students in performing arts, has achieved national recognition. It is a model for other performing arts charter schools.
Under Manning's guidance, the school has numerous partnerships with businesses, colleges and universities, including Kent State University through the Columbiana County Campuses and the College of the Arts. Through this collaboration, Kent State faculty and students have held numerous performances and master classes at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School. In addition, ensembles from Lincoln Park regularly perform during the Salem Symphonious Series. Currently, the charter school offers its students various associate degrees through the Community College of Beaver County. Talks are underway to look at the possibilities of Lincoln Park students continuing their education at Kent State University.
Manning added that every year a few students from Lincoln Park choose to attend Kent State University. Due to the partnership, she is learning of more and more students who are considering attending her alma mater. Listening to her students talk about Kent State and visiting the campus from time to time brings back memories of her college days. "I truly enjoyed the student theatre," Manning says, fondly recalling her tryout for "Dancing Donkeys." "The director asked me what I was going to sing, and I said I was trying out for a non-speaking part," she laughingly recalls. "She then told me that these parts were just for guys!" Manning said she sang the only song she knew, and ended up landing a part. Although she didn't become a famous actress, Manning performs a cameo in each of Lincoln Park's plays or musicals and receives so much enjoyment watching her students on the stage.
In addition to earning a bachelor's degree in speech and special education from Kent State University, Manning holds a master's from the University of Dayton with certification in secondary administration.