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New & Notable July 2021

Bantam Jeep Festival Brings 30,000 to Butler

The Bantam Jeep Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in June, attracting almost 30,000 people to Coopers Lake over the three-day event. The festival had a total of 2,888 registered Jeeps this year; 157 sponsors and merchandise vendors; 14 swap meet vendors and 18 food vendors. There were also 15,000 Jeep lovers in downtown Butler for the Friday night Jeep Invasion, including 1,387 Jeeps in its 10th Anniversary Jeep Parade. Jeepers journeyed from 31 states to the birthplace of the Jeep.

Fox Chapel High School Receives Strength of America Award

Fox Chapel Area High School is a new recipient of the Strength of America Award for the three-year period of 2021-2024. The award is given by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and recognizes schools that have elite strength and conditioning programs. These schools exhibit the highest standards in the safety and success of young athletes and demonstrate excellence to teach, implement, and encourage safe and effective strength and conditioning programs. The award shows the dedication Fox Chapel Area High School has to ensuring the safety of young athletes through the education and promotion of best practices when training on the field and in the weight room.

Carnegie Museums Elects Washington Board Chair

Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh has elected Geovette E. Washington as the chair of its board of trustees. Washington is senior vice chancellor and chief legal officer of the University of Pittsburgh, joining the university after serving as general counsel and senior policy advisor in the White House Office of Management and Budget. She joined the Carnegie Museums’ board of trustees in 2017 and was named vice chair earlier this year. Washington succeeds William E. Hunt, president of The Elmhurst Group, who has chaired the board of trustees for the past seven years.

Old Economy Village Recruiting Volunteers

Old Economy Village, located in Ambridge, is currently recruiting volunteers to assist in the various aspects of operations at its National Historic Landmark site. The village is looking for tour guides, school tour guides, garden volunteers, curatorial assistants, front desk managers, social media and website help and more. No previous experience is required. If interested or if you have any questions, contact Museum Educator David Miller at or 724-266-4500 x 110.

Rotary Dedicates Memorial Bench and Peace Pole at Zelienople Community Park

The Rotary Club of Zelienople recently dedicated a memorial bench and peace pole at the Zelienople Community Park in memory of Tom and Marie Grant, local residents who worked to help others in the world through humanitarian efforts, education and service. Rotary members and family members gathered on Sunday, June 13, at the park gazebo for a Celebration of Life ceremony for the Grants and the unveiling of the memorial bench and peace pole. Tom Grant, a retired high school world cultures teacher who volunteered through Rotary on many peace-building causes, was a long-time ambassador for ShelterBox, a worldwide disaster relief organization. He also worked to promote Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio throughout the world, a disease that he contracted in his teens. Marie Grant was a private practice psychologist who also worked to support humanitarian issues. The Grants were both active members of the Rotary Club of Zelienople.

Shady Side Academy Receives Anonymous $2 Million Student Support Gift

Shady Side Academy has received the largest programmatic gift in its history, an anonymous $2 million donation dedicated to the academic and social support of talented students of promise, whose enrollment at Shady Side presents a uniquely challenging educational or cultural transition. Students from various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds will benefit, and the gift will support both students who receive financial aid and those who pay full tuition. The gift also establishes a permanent endowment for Shady Side’s Equity and Inclusion Fund, a critical step in the Academy’s Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, which was released in July 2020. Specific student support and equity & inclusion initiatives funded by the gift will be announced in the coming year.

Wexford Interior Designer Recognized with Service Award

Suzanne M. Sekula, owner of Studio 312 Interiors in Wexford, is the recipient of the Service Award by the Women’s Business Network (WBN). The award recognizes an exceptional member who exhibits service to, and participation in, WBN at multiple levels. Sekula, a member of the Cranberry Chapter, is not only an active member in her local chapter, but is also actively involved with the WBN organization as a part of the education committee. A professional interior designer with a BS in Interior Design and MS in Interior Architecture, Sekula’s industry credentials include NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) certification and LEED AP BD+C (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accreditation with a specialty in Building Design and Construction.

Local Educator and Business Owner Named Woman of the Year

Lauralee Zelesnak Lees was recently honored as Woman of the Year by the Women’s Business Network (WBN). Owner of Oils & Aromatherapy with Scott and Lauralee, she was recognized as an exceptional member who exhibits service to, and participation in, WBN at multiple levels. As a member of the Cranberry Chapter, Zelesnak is an enthusiastic promoter of WBN and its members' accomplishments. She has contributed to educational events and was instrumental in creating the organization’s virtual chapter. She recently became a part of the New Member Experience Committee and was also voted to sit on the Women’s Business Network’s board of directors. Raised in the Beaver Falls area, Zelesnak is a certified clinical aromatherapist and holistic aromatherapy practitioner as well as a certified life coach.

Science Center Partners With GSK, The Franklin Institute to Present Free Science Program

This summer, in an effort to keep the learning going for students entering second through sixth grade, Carnegie Science Center will administer GSK Science in the Summer™ programming to students at 15 local organizations. Sponsored by GSK in partnership with The Franklin Institute, Science in the Summer is a free, hands-on science education program that aims to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. To view the participating organizations and program dates, visit

Greek Restaurant Opens in Bellevue

Bellevue native Chris Balouris and his family have teamed up to bring their heritage to life by opening EVIA, an authentic Greek restaurant in Pittsburgh’s Bellevue neighborhood. The restaurant held its official grand opening on June 10. Located at 546 Lincoln Avenue, EVIA offers the Pittsburgh food scene authentic Greek cuisine that’s made with seasonal, fresh, local ingredients. Guests are able to order Greek staples such as dolmades, pastitsio or spanakopita, as well as authentic Greek dishes and specials that can’t be found anywhere else in the city.

Fox Chapel Area Students Win Awards at International Science & Engineering Fair

Two Fox Chapel Area High School students won awards at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (Regeneron ISEF) 2021. Junior Zoe Lakkis received a third-place Grand Award of $1,000 in the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics category. Sophomore Arvind Seshan received a third-place Grand Award of $1,000 in the Systems Software category. He also received a special award of $1,200 from the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) and an American Statistical Association special award. Students were judged for their projects’ creativity, innovation, and scientific inquiry. More than 1,800 young scientists representing 49 states and 64 countries around the world competed for prizes worth more than $5 million.

UPMC Children’s Again Ranks as One of the Best Pediatric Hospitals in the U.S.

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has been recognized as one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country, earning the ninth position on the 2021-22 U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. The Best Children’s Hospitals rankings feature the top pediatric hospitals, out of 250 nationally, who are ranked in each of 10 specialties: cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, pulmonology, and urology. UPMC Children’s Hospital is ranked for excellence in all pediatric specialty areas and is among the top ten again in three specialties: cardiology and heart surgery (No. 2); diabetes and endocrinology (No. 7); and gastroenterology and gastroenterology surgery (No. 9).

Fox Chapel High School Student Among Best in Nation in Student Congress

Fox Chapel Area High School 2020-2021 junior Patrick Alexander was a quarterfinalist in Student Congress at the National Catholic Forensic League Grand National Championship Tournament. This accomplishment places him in the top 20-25 percent of the students in the nation. The Grand National Championship Tournament was held virtually May 28-30, 2021. A total of 2,800 students representing 516 public and private high schools from 35 states across the country participated. Alexander qualified to participate in the national tournament at the Pittsburgh Diocesan Qualifying Tournament in March.

Aquinas Academy’s Middle School Students Perform Three Narnia Plays

Aquinas Academy of Pittsburgh’s middle school students recently performed three Narnia plays from the works of C.S. Lewis. Unlike previous years, when there was only one large middle school play, Director Mike Flynn chose to perform one play per grade in order to keep within social distancing guidelines which were in effect at the time of the play. The eighth grade students performed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; the seventh grade students performed Prince Caspian; and the sixth grade students performed The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. With the performance of these plays, Flynn has now directed 33 drama productions for Aquinas Academy. Senior Benjamin Stalder was the music director for all three plays. Maria Taglianetti and Brady Buchanan painted the scenery and designed the sets, respectively. Rosemary Meland provided costume design.

Shaler Garden Club Turns 100

One hundred years ago a seed was planted, and it is still growing in the Shaler Garden Club, which celebrates its centennial this year. The club’s first civic project in 1922-24 was planting the grounds of the B&O Railroad Station, and it endeavored to educate children in horticulture, helping them plant seeds on school grounds. The club held its first public plant sale in 1953 and the sale continues as the club’s main fundraiser, which supports club projects and more than a dozen charitable horticultural organizations. The Shaler Garden Club was awarded the prestigious Governor’s Trophy in 2019, given to outstanding garden clubs in Pennsylvania, and continues to strive to be a positive force in the community. The club will celebrate its birthday with a luncheon at the Wildwood Country Club on Oct. 14, 2021. For more information, visit

Butler Memorial Hospital Among Nation’s Top Hospitals for Treatment of Heart Attack Patients

Butler Memorial Hospital has received the American College of Cardiology’s NCDR Chest Pain ̶ MI Registry Platinum Performance Achievement Award for 2021. The hospital is one of only 212 hospitals nationwide to receive the honor. The award recognizes Butler Memorial’s commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients and signifies that the hospital has reached an aggressive goal of treating these patients to standard levels of care as outlined by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association clinical guidelines and recommendations.

Heritage Valley and Encompass Announce Reopening of Inpatient Rehab Unit

Heritage Valley Health System and Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Sewickley have announced the renovation and re-opening of a 12-bed inpatient rehabilitation unit located on the fifth floor of Heritage Valley Kennedy Hospital. Officially named the Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Sewickley at Heritage Valley Kennedy, the unit will function as a satellite expansion unit of the main facility located in Sewickley. The location will provide rehabilitation care for patients recovering from strokes and other neurological disorders, brain injuries, hip fractures, and complex orthopedic conditions.

Millvale Preservation Group Awarded Funding for Historic Church Improvements

A Millvale organization is receiving state funding thanks to a grant program through the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka is receiving $100,000 through the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program. The organization will use the money to improve the building envelope of St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Millvale. The church is home to one-of-a-kind murals painted by immigrant artist Maxo Vanka. The grant will allow the SPMMMV to replace all copper flashing and gutters, provide new shingles, and provide historically appropriate solutions to prevent water infiltration in other areas. The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission awarded $2.3 million to 54 projects across the state.

Fox Chapel Area Students Place in State Science Competition

Several Fox Chapel Area School District students recently won awards in the virtual State Competition of the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS). Fox Chapel Area first-place state winners were seniors Jackson Romero and Sanjay Seshan; juniors Zoe Lakkis and Siddharth Yende; sophomores Lawrence Liu and Arvind Seshan; freshman Adhitya Thirumala; and eighth-graders Anna Delale-O’Connor and Etash Jhanji. Second-place awards went to freshman Lakshanya Rajaganapathi and eighth-grader Rohit Velankar. The students researched their science projects for several months and each was required to submit a voiceover PowerPoint presentation on his or her science project for a panel of judges. All of the Fox Chapel Area students participating at the state level were named first-place winners at the virtual 87th Annual Region 7 Meeting of the PJAS this past winter.

Shady Side Academy Unleashes Bulldogs Logos and Branding

Shady Side Academy ushered in a new era of school spirit in May with the launch of its new Bulldogs logos and branding. The new Shady Side Bulldog was “unleashed” in a virtual event that was live streamed to the entire PK-12 school community at noon on Friday, May 28. The event featured a high-energy reveal video, the SSA cheerleaders, and remarks from SSA President Bart Griffith ‘93 and Athletic Director Gene Deal. After the event, T-shirts with the new logo were given to all students, faculty and staff. The brand was designed by Rickabaugh Graphics, a nationally renowned firm based in Ohio that has created award-winning brands for professional teams, colleges, K-12 schools and sports organizations nationwide.

SVSD Students Win Awards in DMAC Contest

Two Seneca Valley students in Dan McKosky’s video production classes brought home awards from Robert Morris’s Digital Media Arts Consortium (DMAC) student video contest earlier this month. Sophomore Evelyn Vogel won in the News Package category for her video detailing the instructional changes arising from inclement weather this year and senior Ethan Bannon’s original senior project film “Opus” won in the Digital Cinema category.

Fairview Students Win Awards In County Battle Of The Books Competition

Four Fairview Elementary School students recently placed in the top 10 at the 2021 Children’s Choice Awards Battle of the Books competition, sponsored by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and the Allegheny County Library Association. Fairview Elementary fifth-grade student Corinne Sample placed first overall in the Battle of the Books event. Fourth-grader Maya Vyas took sixth place and fifth-graders Addison Sacco and Felicity Anderson took eighth and ninth place, respectively. Students were asked to read as many books as possible from a list of eight selections. In addition to the competition, they also participated in interactive sessions about the texts and met with author Melissa Savage and local illustrator Joe Wos. More than 100 students in grades 3-6 from throughout Allegheny County participated in the Children’s Choice Awards event.

Fox Chapel Student Qualifies for Team USA in International Geography Olympiad

Fox Chapel Area High School sophomore Elijah Conklin will be part of Team USA in the International Geography Olympiad (iGeo), an annual competition for geography students from more than 40 countries. He earned the honor of being on Team USA by placing third in the varsity division of the U.S. Geography Championships. The top four students in the country make up Team USA. The 2021 iGeo will be held online August 11-15 and hosted by Turkey. The national and international contests require students to have a thorough understanding of both the physical side of geography, including country locations and capitals, as well as the human side, including languages, cultures, and population trends. Elijah has competed in the U.S. Geography Championships for the past three years.

Seneca Valley Retirees Honored

In May, Seneca Valley retirees were recognized by members of the Seneca Valley School Board and Administration, and thanked for their combined 616 years of hard work and dedication to Seneca Valley.

Retirees are as follows:

30+ years—John Fetchko –Intermediate High School Chemistry Teacher –30 Years; Larry Foster –District Delivery Driver –33.33 Years; Max Gandy –Ryan Gloyer Middle School Custodian –32 Years; MaryAnn Graziano –Ryan Gloyer Middle School Health and Physical Education Teacher –31.8 Years; David Wilson –Ryan Gloyer Middle School/SVAOC Health & Physical Education Teacher –30 Years; and Kathy Wilson –Ryan Gloyer Middle School Science Teacher –31 Years.

20+ years—Andrea Adrian –Senior High School/SVAOC Spanish Teacher –26 Years; Joyce Andreone –Rowan Elementary Third Grade Teacher –25 Years; Susan Brinker –Rowan Elementary Building Paraprofessional –21 Years; Wendy Carson –Rowan Elementary Music Teacher –24 Years; Susan Dinger –Connoquenessing Valley Elementary Music Teacher –20 Years; Patricia DiVito –Connoquenessing Valley Elementary Personal Care Assistant Paraprofessional –21 Years; Jennifer Fiorenzo –Senior High School Cafeteria Cook–26.5 Years; Tammara Gill –Ryan Gloyer Middle School Mathematics Teacher –21 Years; Kathy Mahony –SV Academy of Choice Business Teacher –22 Years; Julie Mann –Haine Middle School Sixth Grade Teacher –28.5 Years; John Motyl –Ryan Gloyer Middle School/SVAOC Health Teacher –29 Years; Patricia Smith –Central Office Secretary –23.75 Years; Robin Williams –Connoquenessing Valley Elementary 12-month Secretary –29.12 Years;

10+ years— Sandra Courson –Central Office Secretary –19 Years; Carla Mantick –Ryan Gloyer Middle School Classroom Paraprofessional –16.5 Years; Gerald Miller –Director of Special Education –12.5 Years; Janet Negri – Connoquenessing Valley Elementary Cafeteria Cook – 19 Years; Deborah Schettler –Connoquenessing Valley Elementary Cafeteria Manager –12 Years; Jacalyn Sokoloski –Senior High School Cafeteria –14 Years;

5+ years—Stephen Campos –Senior High School Classroom Paraprofessional –7 Years; Kathleen Masters –Senior High School Personal Care Assistant Paraprofessional –6 Years; Laurie Melberg –Intermediate High School Cafeteria Cook–5 Years.

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