Carrie Pannone grew up just over the Pennsylvania border in Springs, where she was raised by her stepfather, who worked at the Kelly Tire plant in Cumberland for more than 20 years before it closed, and her mother, a stay-at-home mom. Though neither of her parents attended college, Pannone was eager to pursue higher education. After high school, she moved to Cumberland to live with her father and go to college, and has called Allegany County home ever since.
“It was a difficult process to navigate on my own,” says the first-generation college graduate. “Coming from a single-income family who had no prior experience, it was challenging to figure out how I was going to apply and pay for college without any support from my family.”
Pannone attended the former Allegany Community College (now Allegany College of Maryland) in the late ’80s where she studied business administration and accounting. “There weren’t a lot of jobs available at the time due to a recession, but a company wanted to hire me while I was still a college student. I left school to work as a full-time loan officer because I knew if I didn’t, the job would no longer be there after graduation,” recalls Pannone. “At the time, it was a good move but not one that I would recommend doing now. Statistics show higher wages are tied to a higher degree of education.”
For the next decade, Pannone worked as an assistant manager at American General Finance and as a licensed insurance agent for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maryland. She also married her college sweetheart, Mike Pannone, and within seven years, they had two daughters. During this time, Pannone decided to become a stay-at-home mom.
Admittedly not one to sit still for too long, Pannone’s daughters were growing up and she saw it as an opportunity to re-enter the workforce. She began working and taking classes at her local church. “Education has always been important to me, so I started taking continuing education classes that focused on youth and adult education while I served as education coordinator at the Centre Street United Methodist Church,” she says. “As director of the Sunday School and overseeing the teachers and managing the curriculum, it was great to be able to put into action what I was learning in class and seeing it all make a difference for the students.”
Pannone wanted to further continue her education. “I had hoped to become a teacher, so I pursued a degree in early childhood and elementary education at the Allegany College of Maryland,” says Pannone. “It was during this time that my mom became ill, and it was important to me that I be there for her and help take care of her. I had planned on matriculating to a four-year college, but after I earned my associate’s degree, I became a substitute teacher for PreK-8th grades for Allegany County Public Schools as well as an afterschool teacher at Northeast Elementary School. This allowed me to still be there for my mom and also be in the classroom.”
After her mom passed away, Pannone pursued administrative opportunities at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and Allegany County Chamber of Commerce. It was also soon time for her daughters to head to college. “It was really great to be able to help my kids transition from Fort Hill High School to college. They only met with their guidance counselors about once a year, but I was able to successfully walk them through the application process and research the financial commitment of attending college,” she says. Her oldest has since earned her master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University in speech language pathology and her youngest is a junior at Frostburg State University studying Wildlife and Fisheries.
While working at the Chamber of Commerce, Pannone signed up to become a member of MBRT’s Maryland Scholars Speakers Bureau. “I had helped MBRT coordinate the program with the Chamber’s education committee and I wanted to also have the opportunity to speak with students,” explains Pannone. “It was such an adrenaline rush; they were captivated by what I had to say and learn what the Maryland Scholars program was all about. I was inspired to join MBRT as a Coordinator because I wanted to continue motivating students and use my connections with the business community to bring in other professionals to speak to them about their future and connect real-world applications to the classroom.”
Pannone is grateful to return to her daughters’ former schools at Washington Middle and Fort Hill High Schools in this new role. “The make-a-difference moment is what I was looking for when I accepted this job, and I’ve already had tons of them in the short time since the initiative launched,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed working in Allegany County schools and I’m excited to use my experience and expertise to help guide our students toward a successful future beyond high school graduation.”
Her passion fuels her commitment to her students. “I am so excited to be an advocate for each student in Next Generation Scholars,” says Pannone. “Now, it’s my turn to show them that while life can certainly get in the way, working hard and going to college can pay off tremendously.”