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October 2010

Erica Wachtel makes a difference in Beaver County

Erica Wachtel makes a difference in Beaver County

The mission of Geneva College is to glorify God by educating and ministering to a diverse community of students for the purpose of developing servant-leaders, transforming society for the kingdom of Christ.

This mission is lived out one person at a time. Meet Erica Wachtel, a product of the mission of Geneva College and a servant-leader who is impacting her corner of the world every day.

Born and raised in Beaver County, Erica Wachtel (′06) is the youngest president the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce ever had. She may also be the youngest chamber of commerce president in the country. And it looks like this Geneva alumna is in a position to make real difference in Beaver County and the lives of its citizens. Between her current position, running for mayor of Ambridge in 2009 and serving as co-director of the Ambridge Chamber of Commerce, she has often been considered to be the face of the community. She is talking to business owners, local government officials and citizens of Beaver County every day.

But there is one thing that may be surprising about Erica: It was not very long ago that the things she is doing today were not even on her radar as opportunities. She explains, “I used to let fear control me.” Throughout her younger years Erica was too afraid to try new things because of what other people might think.  After her family moved in fourth grade she had a tough time adjusting to a new school and struggled with grades until her ninth grade year.

Finally she found her niche in math when a teacher of hers, Mrs. Gonzales, helped her to understand the subject. Mrs. Gonzales′ teaching had such an impact on her that she decided to go to college to be a math teacher herself. That is what brought her to Geneva College

However, Erica′s struggles were not over after she got to Geneva. With little knowledge on how to study and manage college work, she found herself struggling with classes again. After a few tear-filled conversations with her mother, Erica decided it was time for a major change. She bounced between a couple of majors and landed in the communications department.  At this point, things began to slowly turn around for Erica. She gives much of the credit to her professors saying, “Todd Allen, Pete Croisant, Todd Hughes and Jeff Schindel all helped me overcome my fears. They saw something in me and pushed me.”

 Erica says she had a bad habit of saying “sorry” all of the time, even when there was nothing she truly needed to apologize for. Her professors at Geneva helped her to gain confidence in herself as a child of God. They encouraged her and invested in her. Geneva, she affirms is where she began to mature as a person.

After becoming established in a field of study that fit her, Erica began pursuing internships. “All of my internships helped me figure out what I did not want to do for the rest of my life,” explains Erica. Being a public relations major she had internships with corporate PR firms and radio stations. But this did not have enough public service involvement for her taste. Once again one of her professors at Geneva, Dr. Neikirk, impacted her life through his class. Her senior political science class with Dr. Neikirk helped to spark an interest in politics and local government. Although she would not immediately go into a career in local government, the passion for public service was ignited.

After she graduated in 2006, Erica managed a coffee shop and worked part-time jobs to make ends meet. Eventually through those jobs, and being involved with different people in the area, she was approached by the director of the chamber of commerce in Ambridge about co-directing the chamber. Erica took the job and her involvement in the community continued to increase. She was realizing that public service was her passion. Erica was so passionate about the community that she ran for mayor at the same time she was enrolled in graduate school in May of 2009.

After a tight race in the primaries, Erica lost by a small margin of 100 votes. But this was just the beginning for her. Doors continued to open for her in public service. In July 2010 she applied to be president of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce. “When I applied, I didn′t get my hopes up, I was prepared no matter the outcome,” Erica says.  With being young and new in the workforce, Erica was going against the tide. Then, out of a true answer to prayer, she got hired.

With this great new opportunity comes great responsibility. Erica has been balancing her transition from Ambridge Chamber of Commerce to Beaver County Chamber of Commerce. “My staff has been helping me a lot with the transition.”

Erica shares that she is truly excited and happy about her position. She is able to advocate for businesses, and make Beaver County a better place. She enjoys planning events and developing strategies to draw people into this county that she loves so much. “She is a very dedicated and driven young woman who strongly believes in the principles of servant leadership. The way she has returned to serve her local community is not only admirable but represents the kind of student our program and college seek to produce,” says Dr. Todd Allen, one of Erica′s communication professors at Geneva.

You don′t get to success as Erica Wachtel has without learning some valuable lessons and gaining insightful wisdom. Erica says, “Don′t knock the little experiences.” Without managing the small town coffee shop and working several part time jobs she never would have gotten involved with her community. Erica sums her experiences up when she says, “Don′t let fear stop you.”

- Micah Yarger '12



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