Hazleton, Pa. – A lot can be said about Penn State Hazleton senior Madison Polumbo (Freeland, Pa.). Teammates describe her as an independent, quiet leader with resilience. That last bit couldn't be truer as Polumbo faced down multiple challenges early in her collegiate career but in each case, Polumbo embraced the moment and overcome every obstacle in her way.
In February of 2016, Madison Polumbo became the first recruited student-athlete to commit to the newly announced women's soccer program at the campus. It was a lot of pressure, Polumbo recalled, but she was ready for it. "Soccer has always been a huge part of my life, so to have that distinction and be able to lead the program forward was truly an amazing feeling."
That first season started out great for the new squad, knocking off the previous years' champions in just the second game in program history, however as the year progressed injuries mounted for the team forcing the squad to play short-handed in a couple of instances. Eight games into the season, Polumbo would herself fall victim to the injury bug, tearing her ACL and jeopardizing a career that was just getting underway.
"That was definitely a tough moment for me", Polumbo stated. "It challenged me mentally more than anything though. Knowing I wouldn't be able to complete my first season or play in any off-season leagues was very upsetting." But Polumbo knew that she would do whatever it took to get back on the field. After a successful surgery, Polumbo went through the rigors of countless physical therapy and training sessions and seven months later, Polumbo was cleared for action. "It was a great feeling hearing from all these professionals, telling me I was making progress like they had never seen in as many years on the job," said Polumbo. "One of the hardest moments of my life had become one of my greatest achievement."
No sooner than Polumbo's clean bill of health, the 2017 season was underway. After just two weeks of practice, Madison was back on the pitch helping Hazleton to victory. The Lions roared back from a two-goal deficit in the final ten minutes of the season opener with Polumbo serving up an assist and the game winning score in the 89th minute of play. Her comeback was complete.
But Madison's road to recovery went beyond athletics. Compounded by her efforts to regain her health, Polumbo faced difficulties in the classroom that jeopardized her future as an engineer and left her academic path at a crossroads. She remembers hating the idea of quitting so Polumbo sought out a new challenge. Little did she know, the memory of high school friend creating a basic video game and conversation with a professor would shape her future and help her discover a new passion in her life.
With zero experience, Polumbo enrolled in some information systems and technology classes that year, thanks to that fateful recollection and the support of professor, Barbara Brazon. It was humbling at times knowing that many of her classmates had experience in programming but professor Brazon gave Polumbo the confidence to stick with the courses. Polumbo declared, "Even when I didn't believe in myself, Barbara Brazon reminded of what I was capable of and having that reassurance from a professor who was dedicated to my success is something I'll always be grateful for." With Brazon's commitment and focus on real-world applications in today's industry, Polumbo had discovered a new passion and fell in love with her new major.
Those first few semesters were crucial to Polumbo's collegiate experience. She had beaten a devastating injury and discovered a path forward to a successful and rewarding career. In the two years since, Madison went on to earn multiple Penn State University Athletic Conference Awards as one of Hazleton's top women's soccer players. She earned the John Fritz Sportsmanship Award and two straight 1st-Team selections to the PSUAC's All-Conference squad and helped Hazleton to back to back appearances in the conference championship. "It's one of the best feelings I could ever asked for!" remarked Polumbo about her role in the program. "Watching the team grow from the very beginning and seeing the conference become more and more competitive each year, I'm really proud of what we've achieved and where the sport is headed."
With her athletic career at an end, Polumbo set her sights on graduation and beyond. After several months of searching, Polumbo landed an intern position with Air Products & Chemicals Inc., a Fortune 500 company based in Allentown, Pa. The company operates in over 50 countries worldwide, and Polumbo's work in the Environmental Health and Safety Department has a global effect throughout the organization. There, she performed a variety of information technology tasks for the department but spends much of her time working on an application for the company. One designed to integrate information from multiple systems, allowing users to view a variety of information on a single dashboard.
Madison Polumbo has come a long way since her start at Penn State Hazleton. In the spring of 2020, the senior will exited the university with great optimism for her career and looking to pursue a master's degree in Data Analytics. As far as the future goes, Polumbo sees herself as a Database Administrator, looks forward to travel and experiencing life at the absolute fullest….and of course staying involved in the game of soccer. She's earned every bit of her success on the field and in the classroom, displaying the hard work and exceptional values we come to expect from all Penn State students.