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North Hills Monthly

New & Notable June 2020

May 29, 2020 10:21AM ● By North Hills Monthly Magazine
Seneca Valley Students Donate More than 3,400 Masks
With Gov. Tom Wolf asking all residents to voluntarily wear masks when leaving their homes, Seneca Valley students and parents teamed up with the local organization, Cranberry Sews It Flat, to help sew masks for Cranberry Township personnel and other essential business workers in the region. The students include senior Eric Kavanagh; juniors Simren Jayaraman and Alisha Aboosally; sophomore Shannon Jenkins and her sister, Erin, SV Class of ’19; seventh-grade student Sydney Brower; sixth-grader Sophia Aprile and third-grader Leena Aprile. The Cranberry group has donated approximately 3,400 masks to date. To help or donate materials, email

Fox Chapel Area School Board Elects New Superintendent
The Fox Chapel Area Board of School Directors elected Mary Catherine Reljac, Ed.D., as the district’s next superintendent at a virtual special meeting April 28, 2020. Dr. Reljac comes to the Fox Chapel Area School District from the Franklin Regional School District in Murrysville, where she served as the assistant superintendent since August 2013. Prior to that, she was an upper elementary school principal in the Pine-Richland School District from 2011-2013. Dr. Reljac has more than 18 years of administrative experience and has served as a presenter and facilitator for many workshops and programs during the last 20 years. She has also received numerous awards and honors, most recently the Tri-State Area School Study Council’s 2019 Jean E. Winsand Distinguished Woman in Education Award through the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Opera Fundraiser is Going Digital
Pittsburgh Opera’s 36th annual season-ending fundraising gala, Maecenas XXXVI, is going digital. The event, which historically takes place at venues such as the Benedum Center or Pittsburgh Opera headquarters, will instead be broadcast online on Sunday, June 14. From 7-7:30 p.m., Pittsburgh Opera will broadcast a live ‘pre-show’ hosted by Natalie Bencivenga, the syndicated Ask Natalie advice columnist and former editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s SEEN column. The pre-show will be broadcast on Pittsburgh Opera’s Facebook page, and is free. Immediately following, Pittsburgh Opera will release a ‘pay-per-view’-style, 45-minute video presentation featuring brand-new content. The video will encompass many components of in-person Maecenas galas, including three musical performances by Pittsburgh Opera’s acclaimed resident artists. Vincent Sarni, former chairman of the board and CEO of PPG Industries Inc., will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Pittsburgh Opera General Director Christopher Hahn will be presented with the Renaissance Award. Tickets to watch the video presentation are $25, and are available online at

Davison Wins National Gold Medal in Writing Competition
Fox Chapel Area High School senior Gwendolyn Davison was named a national medalist in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards of 2020. She won a Gold Medal for her short story, Blown in by the Hot Winds, which features a glimpse into the life of Señorita Arango, a woman who lives in the abandoned town of Ramita, and her encounter with a group of orphan boys who aimlessly wander the train tracks in search of nourishment and connection. This year, more than 110,000 students submitted nearly 320,000 works of art and writing to the 2020 Scholastic Awards. Only 3,000 works received a national medal, which means Gwendolyn’s short story was in the top 1 percent of all submissions. Gwendolyn’s work will be published in the Online Galleries at in June. Her name will also be listed in the Yearbook 2020, a companion publication to The Best Teen Art and The Best Teen Writing anthologies which feature a selection of work by the national medalists.

Saint Joseph High School Junior Awarded Duquesne University Chancellor's Scholarship
Saint Joseph High School junior Robert Lipnichan III was recently awarded the Duquesne University Chancellor’s Scholarship, based on his exemplary performance at the 2020 Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) Region 7 Competition, academic success, and an essay he wrote. The Chancellor’s Scholarship is a four-year, full tuition scholarship to Duquesne University. Robert is the son of Dixie and Bob Lipnichan Jr. of Bruin, PA and attends Mater Dolorosa Church in Chicora, PA.

Shady Side Academy Senior Wins Morehead-Cain Scholarship
Shady Side Academy (SSA) senior Maya Groff of Point Breeze is the first SSA student to win the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship, a four-year, fully funded educational experience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Groff is one of 70 members of the Morehead-Cain Class of 2024. Groff is president of the teen leadership board for The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh, an organization that connects children and youth of varying physical and mental abilities, and is the founder of SSA’s Friendship Circle Club. She also serves as a Peer to Peer Leader at the Senior School, where she provides support for freshmen in their transition to high school, and is a member of the leadership council for LEAD@SSA, a leadership and inclusion training program. She was recently inducted into SSA Chapter of the Cum Laude Society, an academic honor society, and last summer she did scientific research in the Ophthalmic Biomaterials Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. At UNC, Groff is interested in studying chemistry and creative writing. Learn more at

Shaler Area High School Receives SWPBIS Fidelity Award
Shaler Area High School was recognized for its implementation of schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports (SWPBIS) with the Fidelity of Implementation designation. The goal of the SWPBIS program is to create a positive and supportive culture for students and staff alike at Shaler Area High School. A team from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit conducted an onsite review of the high school’s program in late February to measure the extent to which teachers and staff are applying the core features of a SWBIS program, which included interviews of administration, staff, and students, as well as a review of artifacts and documents supporting SWPBIS in the school.

Tri Rivers Doctor William Saar Named ‘Best Doc’ for Fourth Straight Year
William E. Saar, DO, Tri Rivers orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon, was recognized as a “Best Doctor” for the fourth straight year by Pittsburgh Magazine. Dr. Saar joined the Tri Rivers team in 2011 and treats conditions such as plantar fasciitis and bunions, progressive flatfoot deformity and Achilles tendinitis, and foot and ankle arthritis. Additionally, he provides clinical services such as ankle arthroscopy, reconstructive foot and ankle surgery, and ankle replacements. Dr. Saar treats patients at the Butler-Clearview and Slippery Rock offices. 
For more information or to make an appointment, visit

Seneca Valley Teacher Paying it Forward
When a Seneca Valley graduate bought Tracy Richards’ meal at Chick-Fil-A, it sparked an idea to pay it forward. The Ryan Gloyer Middle School Lions Team math teacher purchased a box of food for another family, and then reached out to teachers, coaches, parents and community members to help with the cause. The group has brought in thousands of dollars’ worth of food donations and made 33 deliveries to SV families. Those helping include Bobbi Congdon, Lisa Vescio, Lisa Kasper, Karissa Lambert, Dean Leventopoulos, Tammie Limmer, Meagan Loewy, Mike Manipole, Susan Moury and Tara Schenck. If you are interested in helping or know of someone who needs help, contact Richards at

Therapy Dog Joins Students at Seelos Academy
The first grade students at Blessed Francis Seelos Academy in Wexford recently practiced their reading skills with Clair, a 4-year-old border collie and canine pet of the school’s reading specialist, Patricia Hirsh. Clair is part of the Therapy Dogs International Program, Tail Waggin Tutors, whose purpose is to provide a relaxed and dog-friendly atmosphere, which allows students to practice the skill of reading. The Tail Wagging Tutors Program is offered at many local libraries, including Shaler North Hills Library and Cranberry Township Library.

Caring Center Still Offering Telecounseling for Cancer Clients
The Corona Virus doesn’t stop cancer nor services to cancer survivors. If anything, support is needed now more than ever. The Cancer Caring Center’s Bloomfield headquarters are closed, but they are still offering support to patients and family members via virtual support groups and tele-counseling with Cranberry resident Wendy Myers, MSW, LCSW. For more information, visit, the Facebook page, or call 412-622-1212. 

Shaler Area’s Music Education Program Receives National Recognition 
For the third year in a row, Shaler Area School District has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education. Now in its 21st year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in effort to provide music access and education to all students. Shaler Area is one of 754 school districts in the nation and 115 districts in the state to be named among the Best Communities for Music Education. For a complete list of all school districts, visit

Shaler Area Students Take Top Awards in Japanese Speech Contest
Shaler Area High School students took top awards in the annual High School Japanese Speech Contest held at the University of Pittsburgh. The Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh’s Asian Studies Center hosts contest at Pitt’s Oakland Campus each year for Japanese learners of all levels. This year, more than 100 students from schools throughout western Pennsylvania participated in the competition. Shaler Area students took all top places in the Advanced Plus level: senior Carley Soley won the grand prize with a speech on the cultural impact of the Olympics on Japanese society; senior Nathan Hayward placed second and Evan Baldwin placed third. In the Advanced level, junior Zoe Babbit placed first and junior Roman Kurz placed second. Mai Swendsen placed second in the Intermediate level. 

Shaler Area Latin Students Excel on National Latin Exam
Shaler Area students participated in and received recognition for their performance on the National Latin Exam, which tests their knowledge of Latin vocabulary, Roman culture, mythology, and their translation skills. The National Latin Exam is a test given every year to students in Latin I-V. Winners include: Latin I Achievement award winners--Aydan Grundler, Samuel Himrod, Alayna McGuire, Dominic Mullen, Matthew Purucker, Ellie Moore-Swogger, Matthew Webster and Ethan Williams. Latin II, Silver Maxima Cum Laude: Frank Babicka, Kaylie Eagle, Candace Kozej and Samantha Walker. Maxima Cum Laude: Sophia Duty, Danielle O'Conner, Taylor Page and Lance Woessner. Cum Laude: Jacob Ciganik, Jessica Dwyer, Noah Long, Noah Pare and Aidan Sanders. Latin III, Silver Maxima Cum Laude: Rebecca Schiavone. Maxima Cum Laude: Joseph Lombardo. Cum Laude: Kiera Harger. Latin IV/V (prose) Magna Cum Laude: Alec Battaglia.

Shaler Area Students Recognized in Chemistry Essay Contest
Two Shaler Area High School juniors were recently recognized for their entries in the 2019-2020 Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP) High School Essay Contest. Jillian Sullivan earned third place and Emily Peterson earned an honorable mention for their essays that looked at examples of marketing that used scientific claims inappropriately and debunked the myths with accurate scientific principles. The essays were judged and scored by 10 scientific professionals from SACP. 

Seneca Valley Video Production Students Win Awards
Even while out of school, Seneca Valley students in Dan McKosky’s video production classes brought home six awards from Robert Morris University's (Virtual) Digital Media Arts Consortium (DMAC) student video festival earlier this month. Seniors Cerrina Hagood won for her Video As Art submission Past vs. Present and Liz Guenther won for Black and White Photography with her photo Brooke. Together, Miss Hagood and Miss Guenther also won in the PSA category for their film Liking Isn’t Helping. Juniors Hayden Smith won for his News Package about the new SV Aquatic Center and Ashley Matuszak won in the Special Effects category with Space Chase Chaos! Lastly, senior James Rickard won a Founders Award for his amazing contributions to SVTV and the video program over the last four years. More than 500 students from western Pennsylvania participated in the contest. 

412 Food  Rescue's App Wins Fast Company's World Changing Ideas Award
412 Food Rescue has been recognized with one of the most prestigious global media recognitions as a winner of Fast Company’s 2020 World Changing Ideas Award, which honors the businesses, policies, projects, and concepts that are actively engaged and deeply committed to flattening the curve when it comes to the climate crisis, social injustice, or economic inequality. 412 Food Rescue’s Food Rescue Hero app won the Apps category and was selected as a finalist in the Food category. The app coordinates over 10,000 volunteer food rescue drivers in Pittsburgh and is now scaling food recovery in six cities nationwide. Since its launch in 2015, 412 Food Rescue’s volunteers have redirected over 9 million pounds of food in Pittsburgh alone. 

Students Earn High Marks on National Latin Exam
Six Fox Chapel Area High School students earned high marks on the 2020 National Latin Exam.  A Summa Cum Laude Gold Medal award was earned by junior Ryan Kenyon. A Maxima Cum Laude Silver Medal award was earned by freshman Silas Owens. Magna Cum Laude Certificate awards were earned by junior Amulya Garimella and sophomore Aurora Sauereisen. Cum Laude certificates were earned by junior Divine Eyth and freshman Salvatore Smith. The National Latin Exam is a test given annually to Latin students across the United States and around the world.  Depending upon their score, students may earn certificates, medals, and may even qualify for scholarships.

Seneca Valley Math League Team Places First
Seneca Valley High School Math League team placed first in the region and 16th out of 34 high schools in the state at a recent Math League contest. Individually, junior David Choi tied for 18th place in the state with a cumulative score of 27 out of 30 over the six tests. Rachel Spear, sophomore, tied for 24th place in the state with a score of 26 out of 30. Math League contests give students an educationally enriching opportunity to participate in an academically oriented activity and to gain recognition for mathematical achievement. Each contest covers topics appropriate to the contest grade level, a variety of difficulty ranges, and involve topics of interest to above-average students.

Sreenivas Places Second at Shady Side Academy Virtual Forensic Tournament
Fox Chapel Area High School freshman Prajval Sreenivas recently won second place in Impromptu Speaking at a virtual freshman-sophomore forensic tournament hosted by Shady Side Academy.  The virtual tournament took place in April, with a total of 50 students representing 12 high schools from across western Pennsylvania.

Three Seneca Valley Students Win NCWIT Awards  
Junior Kaitlyn Moore and sophomores Rachel Spear and Veronica Pimenova were recently recognized by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). Moore and Spear were selected as 2020 Central and Western Pennsylvania Affiliate Honorable Mention recipients of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. Pimenova was named a 2020 Central and Western Pennsylvania Affiliate Rising Star recipient of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. They were recognized for their computing-related aspirations and for their demonstrated, outstanding aptitude and interest in information technology and computing; solid leadership ability; good academic history; and their plans for post-secondary education. 

Cecil and David Rosenthal Memorial Fund Distributes Tablets to Help People Stay Connected During COVID-19
Over 70 recipients of Achieva home and community services have received a Samsung tablet, courtesy of the Cecil and David Rosenthal Memorial Fund. The tablets will provide a creative outlet and way to stay in contact with family and friends while travel, outside activities, and visitors have been restricted due to COVID-19. In addition to Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order, disability service providers like Achieva have instituted temporary no-visitor policies to some residential services to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus to vulnerable populations. Tablet recipients now have the opportunity to connect with friends and loved ones via remote video chats as well as participate in online events such as concerts, yoga classes, and religious gatherings. 

Butler Memorial Hospital Recognized with an ‘A’ in Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade
Butler Memorial Hospital was awarded an ‘A’ in the spring 2020 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, a national distinction recognizing Butler Memorial Hospital’s achievements providing safer health care. The Leapfrog Group is an independent national watchdog organization committed to health care quality and safety. The Safety Grade is a letter grade assigned to all general hospitals across the country and updated every six months, assessing how well the hospital prevents medical errors and other harms to patients. To see Butler Memorial Hospital’s full grade details and access patient tips for staying safe in the hospital, visit

Seneca Valley Sophomore Receives Gannon Scholarship
Seneca Valley Sophomore Veronica Pimenova was recently awarded a scholarship from Gannon University for her work on a nanoparticles project for the Covestro Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair (PRSEF). As part of her project, Synthesis of Spiky Nanoparticles, she created gold nanoparticles that can be used to make paints more environmentally friendly.

New 412 Food Rescue Program Supports Restaurants While Feeding the Hungry
With food insecurity at an all-time high and the restaurant  industry in crisis, Pittsburgh-based nonprofit 412 Food Rescue has launched a new program to provide assistance on both ends of the food supply chain problem. Community Takeout will pay locally owned restaurants to prepare 1,500 meals per week for people in need of food assistance. Inspired by Double Play, a program independently launched by Dr. Mark Baratz, a longtime 412 Food Rescue supporter and food waste warrior, the program will launch with five independently owned restaurants—Arnold’s Tea, Bae Bae’s Kitchen, Khalil’s, DiAnoia’s Eatery, and The Warren—which represent a broad swath of Pittsburgh’s diverse food community. After each day’s meals are prepared, 412 Food Rescue volunteers will make no-contact deliveries of the food to the organization’s nonprofit partners and also directly to people who are home-bound and experiencing food insecurity. The cost of each Community Takeout meal is $10, with $6 paid directly to the restaurant, $2 covering logistics and transport coordination, and $2 donated to the Greater Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Mutual Aid fund. 

Fox Chapel District Named One of Best Communities for Music Education
The Fox Chapel Area School District has been named among the 2020 Best Communities for Music Education. This is the ninth year in a row that the district received this prestigious designation!  Fox Chapel Area is one of 115 in the state of Pennsylvania and one of 754 school districts in the nation chosen for this honor that recognizes outstanding commitment to music education.

Saint Joseph High School Students Advance to National History Day State Competition
In a National History Day (virtual) awards ceremony, two Saint Joseph students advanced to the State Competition. Sam Wygonik, ’22, took second place in the research paper category, and Ethan Schroeder, ’20, took first place in the individual performance category. Both students also received the King Award.   Ethan is the son of Edward and Maryellen Schroeder of Tarentum, PA and attends Mt. Saint Peter Parish in New Kensington, PA. Sam is the son of David and Heather Wygonik of Natrona Heights, PA and attends Our Lady of The Most Blessed Sacrament in Natrona Heights, PA.

Fox Chapel Area High School Literary Arts Magazine Available Digitally
For the first time ever, Fox Chapel Area High School’s literary arts magazine, Tapestry, has been published digitally.  In order to finish the magazine this year, the Fox Chapel Area High School senior staff members had to work remotely, coordinating with their sponsor, English teacher Jessica Green. The magazine contains student artwork and writing submitted by students in grades 9-12. The issue can be found at

Wrestlers Earn All-State Academic Honors
Four Fox Chapel Area High School senior varsity wrestlers recently received All-State Academic Honors. Joshua Miller and Luke O’Connor were named to the first team, Alexander Wecht was named to the second team, and Eddie Farrell was named to the third team. The award is given by the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association to students who excel both on the mat and in the classroom.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania (BGCWPA) Provides Food Truck Meals to Housing Authority Communities
In May, local families in need were able to have access to more than 1,500 free, hot meals delivered to (BGCWPA) and MedExpress Urgent Care. BGCWPA and MedExpress brought Pittsburgh-area food trucks, including South Side BBQ, to six communities in partnership with Allegheny County Housing Authority, Larimer Consensus Group and Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP). Food trucks offered families hot meals, free of charge, to help mitigate food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. MedExpress also provided families with activity boxes that included kid-friendly projects and supplies like sidewalk chalk, crayons, jump rope and activity sheets to help children stay physically and mentally active during the shelter-at-home order. In addition, BGCWPA distributed food pantry items and STEAM Activity Kits, as well as information regarding its upcoming summer camp, which will provide both in person and virtual options with available scholarships. Follow the movement on social media @BGCWPA or visit To support BGCWPA Relief Efforts, visit

Shaler Area Team Wins First Place In Fairchild Challenge At Phipps
The Shaler Area High School team placed first overall in the high school category in the Fairchild Challenge, a yearlong environmental competition consisting of five different challenges. Students receive scores for each challenge and the scores are totaled for the overall winners. Due to the statewide school closures, individual prizes were not awarded for the final two challenges. The Shaler Area High School team consisted of a core group of students who worked on the five challenges throughout the year: senior Aliza Zelina; juniors Olivia Jarzynka, Alyssa Juzwick, Hannah Coleman, Jamie Eichmiller, and Caitlin Fedorek; and sophomores Rebecca Schiavone and Anna Sheets.