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North Hills Monthly

New & Notable March 2020

Feb 29, 2020 10:53AM ● By North Hills Monthly magazine
New Primary Care Physician Joins BHS
In February, Kim M. Pierce, MD, joined BHS Primary Care. Dr. Pierce completed her premed studies at SUNY in Buffalo, NY and received her medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She completed her residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Internal Medicine. Dr. Pierce is board-certified in internal medicine and provides outpatient primary care services.

Students Place at Hampton Forensic Tournament
Two Fox Chapel Area High School students and two Dorseyville Middle School students recently placed at the annual Hampton Talbot Invitational Forensic Tournament. Sophomore Patrick Alexander was named the Superior Speaker (second place) in Student Congress. Eighth-graders Camryn Eisner and Isabella White won fourth place in Public Forum Debate. Junior Suparna Agrawal won sixth place in Extemporaneous Speaking.  Additionally, all of the Fox Chapel Area participants contributed to the team winning second place in the team sweepstakes in the small school division. The other participating Fox Chapel Area students were senior Boomba Nishikawa; juniors Hannah Jahnke and Mary Knoblock; sophomores Ian Mackey-Piccolo and Omar Shalaby; freshmen Davina Chang, Lawrence Liu, Silas Owens, and Martin Stanton; and eighth-graders Emmett Gillespie, Emily Torbert, and Gabriella Urso.

Fox Chapel Area Students Candidates in Presidential Scholars Program
Five Fox Chapel Area High School seniors have been named candidates in the 2020 United States Presidential Scholars Program. They are Hanna Chen, J. Oliver Choo, Rajeev Godse, Sina Shaikh and Aaron Wu. More than 4,500 students from across the U.S., from nearly 3.6 million students expected to graduate from the nation’s high schools in 2020, have been named candidates in this year’s program. A total of 118 are from Pennsylvania.

High School Students Place at Duquesne Model Un Conference
Eleven Fox Chapel Area High School students recently placed at the Duquesne University High School Model United Nations (DuqMUN) Conference. Junior Jackson Romero was one of three students to be named a Best Delegate from the entire competition, receiving a scholarship to attend Duquesne University. Outstanding Delegation (first-place) awards went to seniors Rajeev Godse, Boomba Nishikawa, Aaron Santilli, and Felix Veser; junior Abigail Rickin-Marks; and sophomore Janise Kim.  Excellent Delegation (second-place) awards went to senior Jackson Boychuk, junior Aidan Ireland, and sophomores Patrick Alexander and Lance Wilhelm.

Butler Memorial Hospital Wins John A. Hartford Foundation Tipping Point Challenge
The John A. Hartford Tipping Point Challenge is a national competition established to strengthen skills, ideas, and solutions among clinicians to help improve healthcare delivery to the lives of people living with a serious illness. Over the past year, members of Butler Health System’s Palliative Care team have been busy completing an intensive, online curriculum that included enhancing skills in communication, pain management, symptom management, and more. Butler Memorial Hospital is one of 24 organizations to win this prestigious national award in which more than 1,500 healthcare organizations participated. To learn more, visit

Saint Joseph High School Places in PJAS Competition
Saint Joseph High School students participated in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) Region 7 competition in February at Duquesne University.  First Awards went to Skylar Geibel '20; Kathryn Huth '23 (Perfect Score, Director’s Award); Robert Lipnichan III '21; Gabriella Mason '23; Matthew Parsi '23;  Brody Porter '21 (American Chemical Society James Manor Award; Ethan Schroeder '20 (Perfect Score, Director’s Award, Duquesne University Provost Award, Perseverance Award-6 years; Aaron Short '23; and Andrew VanFossen '21. Second Awards went to Joshua Kelly '23 (American Nuclear Society–Pittsburgh Section Special Award; and Sean LeMay '21. Diesel Losch '21 won the Technician Award.

Unitarian Universalist Church to Install Thickstun as Settled Minister
On Sun., March 15, Rev. Jane Thickstun will be installed as the Unitarian Universalist Church’s Settled Minister. Rev. Jane grew up in Potsdam, NY and has degrees in linguistics and philosophy from Georgetown University. She was ordained in 2000 after receiving her Masters in Divinity from the Meadville Lombard Theological School. She has served five congregations, and began serving the UUC congregation as its settled minister in August 2019. Rev. Jane works with ministry teams and staff to achieve congregational goals, conducts services and officiates at rites of passage, and is also involved with other religious communities and interfaith groups working to further the common good. For more information, visit

Beyond Spots & Dots Opens Office in Baltimore
Beyond Spots & Dots, a full-service agency headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, has opened a new office in Baltimore, MD, to help strengthen the agency’s ability to expand and cater to clients and potential prospects in the market. The Baltimore office marks the agency’s second expansion in only three years with the opening of their Columbus, OH office in 2017. The agency offers digital, advertising, marketing, public relations and branding.

Amulya Garimella Named NCWIT Winner
Fox Chapel Area High School junior Amulya Garimella has been named a winner of a 2020 National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Award for Aspirations in Computing. She is one of 40 young women chosen from across the nation, and one of only two winners from Pennsylvania.  Additionally, junior Vivian Shao was one of 360 young women nationwide designated as an honorable mention winner. The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing recognizes high school students in grades nine-12 for their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing as demonstrated by their computing experience, computing-related activities, leadership experience, tenacity in the face of barriers to access, and plans for post-secondary education.  

412 Food Rescue Expanding to More Counties
Over the past five years, Pittsburgh-based no-profit 412 Food Rescue has taken a giant bite out of both retail food waste and food insecurity in western Pennsylvania. Now the organization will be strengthening that network in areas surrounding its flagship location. It has secured a USDA grant that will be used to increase service in areas where public transit is less accessible in Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette and Butler Counties. Working full-time to identify food donors and nonprofits in these areas, as well as spread the word, will be Food Rescue Hero Regional Expansion Manager Mel Cronin, an Incline Who’s Next: Food and Beverage honoree.

SVSD Receives $35,000 Grant
Building on his commitment to prepare students with the computer and technology skills for in-demand jobs, Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced that the Seneca Valley School District will receive $35,000 in grant money as part of the PAsmart Targeted grants, a statewide effort to expand computer science (CS) classes and teacher training. Seneca Valley was one of only a select number of western Pennsylvania schools to receive the grant and the only one from Butler County. 

Local Fire Companies Receive Grants
Three area fire companies are receiving more than $40,000 in state grant funding to help purchase equipment, maintain their facilities and train first responders. Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department received $12,878; Etna Volunteer Fire Co. received $14,248, and Millvale Volunteer Fire Co. received $13,015. The grants were made possible by the Fire Company and Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program, and can be used toward repairing, building or renovating facilities. The money also can be applied toward purchase of new equipment, training and certification of staff, or to repay debt related to equipment purchases or facility building and maintenance.

Michael Greppi Wins Aquinas Academy GeoBee
Aquinas Academy of Pittsburgh fifth-grade student, Michael Greppi, recently won the school-level competition of the National Geographic Bee, during which students answer oral questions on geography. Michael will move on to compete at the state level by submitting a written test. The championship round came down to Michael Greppi and eventual runner-up, fourth-grader, Sam Ennis.  For more information, visit

Kerr Elementary Named Title I Distinguished School
Kerr Elementary School has been named a Pennsylvania Department of Education Title I Distinguished School for the 2019-2020 school year. Kerr Elementary is one of 94 schools to receive the designation in Pennsylvania out of a total of approximately 1,800 schools who use Title I funds to support educational programs.

Ammerman Named New ED for Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial
The Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial have named Andrew Ammerman as the organization’s new executive director. He brings a vast array of experience, most notably his extensive work with the Pentagon Memorial Fund, where he served as the senior executive director for more than 13 years. To learn more about the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, the board committees, volunteering or to donate, please visit

La Roche Graphic Design Professor Wins Gold Medal Award for Illustrations
Stacy Innerst, an adjunct professor of graphic design at La Roche University, received the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Picture Books. The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come was written by Sue Macy and illustrated by Innerst. The gold-medalist biography focuses on the founder of Yiddish Book Center, Aaron Lanksy, who dedicated himself to rescuing Yiddish language books and making sure that the language and culture would not fade. Innerst will receive his award at the Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries in June. The winners also participated in a blog tour from Feb. 9-13, 2020.

Fox Chapel Area Students Win Regional 2020 Scholastic Art Awards
Several Fox Chapel Area School District students recently won awards for their entries in the Pittsburgh Region of the Scholastic Art Awards 2020. Gold Key winners were seniors Ethan Alfery, Macey Balk (portfolio Gold Key for “Shadows”), Amelia Bothe (4 Gold Keys), Nicolina Damian, Anzu Sekikawa, William Urso (2 Gold Keys), and Yervant Yeterian; juniors Annabelle Cullen, Kristian Kerschbaumer, Jing McCann, Jocelyn Morningstar, Amara Ostroff, Annabella Zgurzynski, and Wenyu Zuo (2 Gold Keys); sophomores Elia Gillespie, Sarah Giuffre, and Paloma Pelfrey (2 Gold Keys); and freshman Monique Coutu. Additionally, Jing McCann was selected as an American Visions nominee for her jewelry piece entitled, “Consumption.” This honor is given to five regional Gold Key winners and their pieces are considered to be among the very best of the show. All of the Gold Key winners will have their work sent to New York for national judging where they will be competing with other regional winners from across the United States for national awards. The winners of the national contest will participate in The Scholastic Art Awards National Exhibit. Silver Key winners were seniors Macey Balk, Amelia Bothe (3 Silver Keys and a portfolio Silver Key for “Animal Caricature and Design”), William Carnevale, Nicholas Guy, Grace Han, Anzu Sekikawa (2 Silver Keys), Kavya Soman (2 Silver Keys), Shane Susnak, William Urso (4 Silver Keys), Alexis Vivino, and Yervant Yeterian; juniors Kristian Kerschbaumer, Jing McCann (2 Silver Keys), Amara Ostroff, and Wenyu Zuo; sophomores Sarah Giuffre and Noah Snider; and eighth grader Isabella White (2 Silver Keys). The Fox Chapel Area Honorable Mention winners were seniors Amelia Bothe (5 Honorable Mentions), Edward Farrell, Nicholas Guy, Grace Han, Emily Noonan, Nicholas Perico, Anzu Sekikawa (2 Honorable Mentions), Kavya Soman, and Shane Susnak; juniors Kristian Kerschbaumer (2 Honorable Mentions), Anabel Kirk, Jing McCann (4 Honorable Mentions), and Amara Ostroff (2 Honorable Mentions); sophomores Iain Condron, Matthew Marquette, and Julia Stutzman; and eighth grader Isabella White (2 Honorable Mentions). The Fox Chapel Area High School art teachers are Joan Marangoni, Mary Jo Montgomery, Christine Smith, Sarah Stewart, and Amy Wickman. The Dorseyville Middle School art teachers are Cheryl Etters, Nanci Goldberg, and Mackenzie Seymour.

Spondike Selected for PMEA All-State Jazz Band
Shaler Area High School junior Zachary Spondike is one of 18 students in the state to be selected for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association’s All-State Jazz Band. He was selected to play tenor saxophone following the audition process for the ensemble. This is the second consecutive year that he has advanced to the All-State level. This year, he was also selected for PMEA District I West Honors Band, PMEA Honors Jazz Ensemble, PMEA District 1 Orchestra, and Allegheny Valley Honors Band. The Jazz Band rehearsals and performance will take place at the 2020 PMEA All-State and NAfME Eastern Division Conference at Kalahari Resorts in the Poconos from April 23-25, 2020.

Fox Chapel Team Finishes in Top 16 at Black Hawk Forensic Tournament 
Two Fox Chapel Area High School students were octofinalists in the Bethel Park Black Hawk Invitational Speech and Debate Tournament. The Public Forum Debate team of seniors Boomba Nishikawa and Felix Veser advanced to the octofinal round and finished in the top 16 teams at the tournament. Approximately 432 students from 46 public and private high schools from six states participated in the tournament.

Shaler Area High School Student Selected for Summer Ambassador Program
Shaler Area High School junior Gabe Ruano will represent the country this summer in Brazil as part of the U.S. Youth Ambassadors Program. The three-week exchange focuses on human rights, multiculturalism, social justice, and social transformation. Participants in the U.S. Youth Ambassadors Program engage in workshops, meetings with community leaders, community service activities, interactive trainings, cultural presentations, visits to high schools, local cultural activities, homestays, civic education programming, and more. Students also are asked to complete post-trip activities to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired by implementing projects that serve the needs of their community. Gabe hopes to return and focus on serving the Latin American community in Pittsburgh.

Davison Wins Regional Scholastic Writing Award
Fox Chapel Area High School senior Gwendolyn Davison recently won an award for her submission to the Pittsburgh Regional Scholastic Writing Awards 2020 competition. She was awarded a Gold Key for her short story entitled, Blown in by the Hot Winds. Her entry has been sent to New York City for national judging. More than 400 submissions, spanning a variety of different genres of writing, were received from students from across Allegheny County.

Fox Chapel Area Students Named 2020 National Merit® Finalists
Thirteen Fox Chapel Area High School seniors have been designated as National Merit Finalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program conducted by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). They are Paige Asbury, Amelia Bothe, Hanna Chen, J. Oliver Choo, Hazel Cline, Claire Fenton, Rajeev Godse, Noah Hertzman, Christiana Paljug, Sina Shaikh, Jake Sperry, Felix Veser, and Aaron Wu.

Seneca Valley Students to Participate in Regional Orchestra Festival
Four Seneca Valley students are gearing up to participate in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Western Region Orchestra Festival in March. Junior Jacklyn Ko and sophomores Erin Keppler, Aaron Sedlak and Lindsay Walls Rivera were chosen through auditions, which took place during the PMEA Districts 2, 3 and 5 Orchestra Festival at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) in January. Additionally, Mr. Sedlak placed first chair cello in a section of 14 cellists. The festival was directed by guest conductor Dr. Alexandra Dee, currently the director of Orchestral Studies and assistant professor of violin and viola at IUP. Students are led by Sarah Miller, secondary orchestra instructor.

Seneca Valley Academic Decathlon Team Scores Three-peat
For the third time in a row, the Seneca Valley Academic Decathlon Team placed first in a regional Academic Decathlon Competition, this one held at Edinboro University on Feb. 8. The Regional Competition team includes Nishant Jayachandran, Megan Neely, Abigail Roeckmann, Mia Chevallier, Logan Glatz, William Firman, Julia Allman, Gabriel Sutherland and Matthew Stewart. As of February, Seneca Valley ranks first in total points for Decathlon teams all across the state. At the competition students participated in all 10 events: art, music, literature, social science, economics, math, science, essay, speech and interview. The group will compete in a state competition in March.

La Roche University Named a Military Friendly® School
La Roche University earned the 2020-21 Military Friendly® School designation by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs®, STEM Jobs SM and Military Spouse. The list of Military Friendly® Schools is provided to service members and their families each year, helping veterans select the best college, university or trade school to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career. La Roche has been consecutively named a Military Friendly School since Victory Media’s publication of the list in 2009. An affiliate school for the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force ROTC program in western Pennsylvania, La Roche now offers ROTC classes on campus. Participating students find opportunities for scholarships, tax-free stipends and opportunities for fully funded summer study abroad programs or internships.

Jason Brown Named Director of Carnegie Science Center 
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh has announced that Jason Brown has been named the Henry Buhl, Jr., director of Carnegie Science Center. Brown has served as interim director since the December 2018 retirement of former codirectors Ann Metzger and Ron Baillie, and previously served as senior director of science education. A former high school and university educator, Brown has led the Science Center’s efforts to inspire more young people to consider and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and led his team in the launch of the BNY Mellon Fab Lab Carnegie Science Center digital design and maker space, the creation of the Teaching Excellence Academy, and the expansion of the Carnegie STEM Excellence Pathway from three participating pilot schools to more than 800 schools and districts in 31 states and 13 countries. 

XXX Promoted to Executive Director at The Lighthouse Foundation
Victoria XXX has dedicated the last 10 years of her life to The Lighthouse Foundation’s mission, and has recently been promoted to executive director. For the past 13 years, she has worked with nonprofits, church groups, and various organizations that deal with mental health, addiction and breaking the cycle of poverty. XXX obtained her B.S. in Social Work and Criminology/Criminal Justice from Slippery Rock University. 

Four Shady Side Academy Seniors Named National Merit Scholarship Finalists
Four Shady Side Academy seniors were named semifinalists in the 65th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These academically talented students will be considered for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million that will be offered this spring. The SSA semifinalists are Akshay Amesur (Hampton), Nicole Caputo (Indiana Twp.), Arusha Nirvan (Murrysville), and Giri Viswanathan (Monroeville).

Students Win Awards at Regional PJAS
Several Fox Chapel Area students recently won awards at the 86th Annual Region 7 Meeting of the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS).  A total of 18 of those students qualified for the state competition. First-place winners are senior Rajeev Godse and Ameya Velankar; juniors Amulya Garimella, Jackson Romero, Vinisha Sant, Sanjay Seshan, Dong Hyun “Simon” Shin, and Nishi Thawani; sophomores Mona Gerges, Janise Kim, Zoe Lakkis, Theodor Urban, and Siddharth Yende; freshmen Arvind Seshan and Alina Stiger; eighth-graders Lakshanya Rajaganapathi and Jillian Stahl; and seventh-grader Rohit Velankar. The first-place winners qualified for the state PJAS competition which will be held May 17-19, 2020, at Penn State University. Second-place winners were juniors Catherine Heidenreich, Anthony Nguyen, Elizabeth Schwartzman, and Victor Yang; eighth-grader Adhitya Thirumala; and seventh-graders Anna Delale-O’Connor, Alex Kim, and Varad Sant.

Braughler Selected for PMEA Region 1 Orchestra
Adam Braughler, a junior in the Shaler Area School District, was selected to participate in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Region 1 Orchestra. He will play the French horn in the PMEA Region I Orchestra Festival to be held at North Allegheny High School on March 12-14, 2020.  This honors band festival is comprised of students from school districts in Mercer, Lawrence, Beaver, Butler, Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland, Greene, and Fayette counties. Brian Norcross, conductor of instrumental ensembles at Franklin & Marshall College, will serve as the guest conductor.

Four Shaler Area Students Selected for PMEA Region 1 Band
Four Shaler Area students have been selected to participate in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Region 1 Band. They are senior Michael LaBella and juniors Zachary Spondike, Adam Braughler and Luke Franks. The festival will be held at Moon Area High School on March 26-28, 2020.  This honors band festival is comprised of students from school districts in Mercer, Lawrence, Beaver, Butler, Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland, Greene, and Fayette counties.  Dr. Donald McKinney, director of bands at the University of Colorado Boulder, will be the guest conductor.

Record-breaking Number of SV Students Selected for PMEA Chorus
A record-breaking 19 students from Seneca Valley were selected to attend the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) District Chorus in January, and 17 moved on to perform in the PMEA Region I Chorus Festival in February. They are Ethan Bannon, Sammi Carter, Seth Cratsley, Cole Eckenrode, Nick Folino, John Gargasz, Trey Hixon, Micah Link, Sarah McKinley, Alex Mortier, Eli Peel, Greta Schmidt, Jonah Smeltzer, Cassidy Spencer, Bryce White, Mark Wimer, and Caroline Zulick. Seneca Valley also had five vocalists make first chairs including Cole Eckenrode, Micah Link, Sarah McKinley, Alex Mortier and Bryce White. PMEA District 5 Choir is a representative ensemble from Butler, Beaver, Lawrence and Mercer counties. These students are led by Aaron Magill and Bobi-Jean Alexander, secondary choral instructors.

Waitlevertch to Continue Training at Point Park Conservatory Photo SV Dance Scholarship
Senior and Seneca Valley Academy of Choice (SVAOC) Dancer Marissa Waitlevertch will be continuing her training this fall at Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts. Marissa recently received an Artistic Achievement Scholarship and Point Park University Award. Having attended Point Park’s International Summer Dance Intensive for four years, she was admitted by audition to the prestigious college dance program prior to her junior year of high school. Marissa has been part of SVAOC Dance since seventh grade and has studied at the Pittsburgh Ballet House for 14 years.

Ryan Gloyer Middle School Students Participate in Jr. High District Chorus
Twenty-four students in grades 7-9 participated in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Jr. High District Chorus at Mercer Area High School in January. Seventh and eighth-graders include Ayla Alexander, Connor Benson, Nina Buggan, Josh Cantella, Daniel Edwards, Isaac Hixon, Nick Kaufman, Dakota Koenig, Graham Logue, Sloan Meyers, Sophia Tillotson, Leilani Wallace, Callum Williams and Emma Zelesnak. Freshmen include Allison Alexander, Anna Byers, Joe Cantella, Kyle Davidson, Elizabeth Hixon, Leta Hixon, Christian Johnson, Anya Maschmeier, Elliot McMahon and Dorothy Vogel. Jr. High District Chorus 5 is made up of students from Beaver, Butler, and Lawrence and Mercer counties. Vocal instructors on the secondary campus include Aaron Magill, Bobi-Jean Alexander and Claire Barker.

SV Raider Robotics Team Finishes Season with Second-place Finish
The Seneca Valley Raider Robotics FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Team finished their season with two trips to the semi-finals and a second-place finish on Jan. 11. Seneca Valley Robotics Coach and Applied Engineering and Technology Teacher Steve Fortunato said the team worked tirelessly to prepare for all three of their state qualifying matches this year. This was SV’s first year starting an FTC team and consists of 10 students who signed-up as an advanced experience opportunity. The students involved include Bri Buccini, Felipe Junqueria, Dalton Reese, Emily Richards, Mackenzie McIntyre, Jocelyn McNany, Kyra Rodgers, Charlotte Purcell, Zach Garcia and Jocelyn Krieger. The FTC is designed for students in grades 7–12 to compete head-to-head, by designing, building and programming a robot to compete in an alliance format against other teams.