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On Centre | Centre Region: Penn State students learn to produce fun

Someone will die at the Centre Region Senior Center next week, but it’s all in good fun.

The center will become Maui for a few hours while a group of Penn State students present “Lei’d to Rest,” a Hawaii-themed murder mystery featuring a tiki bar, leis, tissue paper flowers and, no doubt, a little hula dancing.

The students have written the script and planned the event as part of Kathleen Raupach’s two sections of an event production course in the department of recreation, park and tourism management.

A murder will be committed in the dining room, Raupach said, then participants, in groups, will visit different rooms for activities and to gather clues before hearing the coroner’s report and solving the mystery.

Student Carlo Arnone said the clues will be delivered by way of flashbacks acted out by the seven participating students in the group.

“The seniors really seem to love the energy of the students,” Raupach said.

And the murder mystery is only one of 10 events her students have planned for the coming weeks.

Each semester, in conjunction with local nonprofit and campus organizations and state parks, students plan, promote, implement and evaluate special events, many benefiting area children and youth.

Organizations such as Tides, the Bellefonte Youth Center, Youth Service Bureau and Millbrook Marsh Nature Center all benefit from the students’ talent and hard work.

And it is hard work, Raupach said. The students must work together to come up with a plan, then pitch it and market it, secure sponsorship and solicit donations for refreshments and door prizes. They must have at least 50 participants, and they are expected to produce organized, professional events.

“I want them to succeed, and I have high expectations for myself and for my students,” she said. “I work them quite hard.”

There’s an educational component to the events, too, so students must be able to teach while keeping the events fun for everyone. They have to be experts, Raupach said.

Other events include a golf tournament, an Earth Day Birthday and the annual Salute to the Military Family Fun Fair, which in the past has drawn as many as 500 people, she said.

All of the events are free except the murder mystery, which includes lunch, and the organizations provide behind-the-scenes assistance and, of course, the venue. Otherwise, it’s all the students, and, Raupach said, “the events almost always go quite well.”

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