• Alumni Q&A with Michael Krysinski, Class of 2006

    Posted by the Communications Department on 4/30/2018

    M. Krysinski Seneca Valley 2006 graduate Michael Krysinski is a United States Air Force Captain who recently earned Company Grade Officer (CGO) of the Year (2017) for the 54th Helicopter Squadron and the 582nd Helicopter Group (CGOs are 2nd Lieutenants, 1st Lieutenants, and Captains). We asked him to catch us up on what he is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced his life and career.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: I entered the United States Air Force on May 13, 2011 after graduating with honors from Purdue University, Ind. and earning a commission from Reserve Officer Training Corp, Detachment 220. I have since served on active duty for seven years.
    Following my commission, I completed Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training - Helicopters, at Fort Rucker, Ala., earning the Distinguished Graduate Award, Academic Award, Flying Training Award, and Order of Daedalians Air Education and Training Command (AETC) Commander’s Trophy. I then completed UH-1N Mission Pilot Training at Kirtland AFB, N.M. earning the Distinguished Graduate Award. I am a technical expert in helicopter flying and instructing High Altitude Mountain operations, Search and Rescue, MEDEVAC and CASEVAC operations over land and sea, static-line parachute and military freefall operations, aerial gunnery, and armed helicopter security operations.
    I am currently stationed at Minot AFB, North Dakota, assigned to the 54th Helicopter Squadron (HS). I am a UH-1N helicopter Instructor Pilot and my Squadron’s Chief Evaluator and Functional Check Flight (FCF) pilot.
    As an FCF pilot, I work closely with maintenance. When a helicopter is broken, I am responsible for troubleshooting the issue and/or the first pilot to fly the aircraft post-repair to ensure it is operating correctly.
    In 2017, I was the Squadron’s Weapons and Tactics Flight Commander. As Flt/CC, I supervised the continuous review and development of UH-1N tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), oversaw the execution of Squadron, Group, and Wing Level exercises, and directed the tactical training required to effectively employ the UH-1N in order to accomplish the Squadron’s Mission Essential Taskings. My work as Flt/CC earned me the Company Grade Officer of the Year award for the 54HS and 58nd Helicopter Group.
    My current position within the 54HS is Chief of Standards and Evaluations (as of December, 2017). The 54HS operates in support of the 91st Missile Wing and the Air Force Global Strike Command’s (AFGSC) nuclear deterrence mission. We provide armed helicopter aerial/vehicle interdiction, closed air support (CAS), and the rapid delivery of airborne fire teams to ensure the security of our nation’s nuclear enterprise, specifically the nuclear ICBM launch facilities and nuclear convoy operations.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I am happily married to my high-school sweetheart, Brittany (also a 2006 SV graduate). We have been married for seven years and have two children: our daughter, Brooke, five years old, and our son, Finn, two years old.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: While going through ROTC at Purdue University, I was selected and trained to be a USAF Combatives Instructor. I spent several summers instructing hand-to-hand combat to basic training cadets at Maxwell AFB, AL.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: First off, SV is where I met my wife, Brittany. The USAF sends me away more than I am home, and Brittany never skips a beat, supporting me and ensuring our children and home are safe and cared for. Additionally, SV offered many opportunities. The teachers and coaches were always supportive, but never coddling. I feel I earned every achievement and failure along the way.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: Looking back, I appreciate the many opportunities and programs provided by Seneca Valley. In addition to advanced placement math, science, and English programs, I was able to learn valuable life skills in wood, metal working, and home economics. Furthermore, SV offers a wide variety of sports, clubs, and other afterschool activities (I played soccer and volleyball). I played ultimate frisbee on a team organized by my AP Physics class and was also able to co-found the SV Rock Climbing Club which utilized the gym’s climbing wall. Essentially, if there was an activity you were interested in, SV either offered it or helped start it. In addition, the large graduating class size fostered a diverse social experience that prepared me for a successful professional life.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: SV hosted several Battle of the Bands. My favorite memories are mostly from competing with my band, Warn the Neighbors. I still keep in touch with them today.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: Thank you. I appreciate the guidance provided and the individual encouragement to always improve. Honest, straightforward feedback and direction goes further than anyone can realize.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Christen Cappatt, Class of 2010

    Posted by the Communications Department on 4/30/2018

    C. Cappatt Seneca Valley 2010 graduate Christen Cappatt is the director of communications for The Asservo Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to combat human trafficking and child exploitation. Read more about how she fights against human trafficking in The Cranberry Eagle article here. We asked her to catch us up on what she is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced her life and career.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: I am the Director of Communications for The Asservo Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to combat human trafficking and child exploitation. I oversee our education and awareness programs, which helps with both prevention and identification. The more that people can recognize a trafficking situation, the less that people will fall prey to it or the more that can report and possibly get a victim help. Awareness programs can be tailored to whomever the presentation is for, including high school students, parents, law enforcement, medical staff, general public, etc.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I’ll be getting married to Joseph Colangelo in May 2018!

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: I often find that people who don’t know me all that well are surprised to know that I thrive on being in nature, camping, hiking, etc. I grew up going to a camp where everything was outside. We bathed in the lake with our swimsuits and were pretty sure we came out dirtier than we went in, cooked over a fire, slept in Adirondacks, which are a three-sided wooden structure with the front side completely open to the woods. No indoors at all, except for the port-o-john.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: So, I actually only attended Seneca for my senior year of high school. I previously went to a small, private school, decided to transfer senior year, and LOVED it! To be honest, it felt like I was going to high school for the first time. I felt like the experience that I had was what high school was supposed to feel like. I came from a school that focused mainly on academics, almost neglecting other very important aspects of life. Seneca offered a variety of both classes and extracurricular activities that make a student well-rounded and well versed not only in academics, but also life skills.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: I can honestly say that I felt that my teachers genuinely cared about my success as a student and knew that I could go to them at any time for extra help or direction. In addition to that, I think that they do a great job at celebrating students’ talents and gifts outside of the classroom as well. There are SO many things for students to get involved in, so many ways for them to figure out what they like, what they’re good at, and help them in their life journey of finding their unique place in society and how they can contribute what only they have to offer the world.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: I would have to say Missy Armstrong and Katie Huttinger because I decided to try out for the Pom Pon squad, which was one of the best decisions I could have made as a transfer student. As the coaches, Missy and Katie took a chance on me as a brand new student to Seneca wanting to be a part of the squad who had no previous experience with it and didn’t know any of the other girls who had either been on the team together prior or who were already Seneca students and familiar with how the team operated or what was expected of them. Being part of the team and having that experience was one of the major highlights of my year at Seneca. It allowed me to make friends with the other girls before school started, it gave me something to engage in and be proud of, it showed me that I could do things I wasn’t even aware that I could do (like a kick split! Hello!), it allowed me to be part of high school football games for the first time since my previous school didn’t have a football team. And it was just a whole lot of fun! I really don’t think my experience at Seneca would have been as special as it was without Poms.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: Never underestimate your influence on a student’s life and remember that even the smallest things you do even if you think they’re not watching, they’ll remember, positive or negative. The words and actions of a teacher are very powerful.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: Seneca is full of opportunity for students to be well-rounded individuals, to get a solid education, realize some of their gifts and talents, likes and dislikes, and to launch them into their next steps of life.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Dr. Jeff Rimer, Class of 1996

    Posted by the Communications Department on 3/29/2018

    J. Rimer Seneca Valley 1996 graduate Jeff Rimer has made significant scientific contributions in the areas of energy and drug development and was recently recognized as a ‘rising star’ in his field. Currently, Dr. Rimer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Houston, and is known for his ability to apply multiple scientific disciplines to his research, producing breakthroughs that have immediate applications in materials science. We asked him to catch us up on what he is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced his life and career.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: I am currently a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Houston (UH). After graduating from Seneca, I received dual bachelor degrees in chemistry from Allegheny College and chemical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. I then received my Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware and spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at New York University prior to joining UH in 2009. My research program focuses on crystal engineering with applications in both medicine and energy. In addition to teaching, I manage a research group of approximately 20 Ph.D. students and postdocs.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I am married with two children. My wife, Alejandrina, holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and works for Dixie Chemical in the Houston area. We have two boys – Nicholas (age 5) and Benjamin (age 3) – who keep us very busy with their activities. Our eldest son will be starting kindergarten later this year. Both of our boys are active in soccer and swimming. I serve as their soccer coach on the weekends.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: I am a city person. This may come as a surprise to many given the fact that I spent most of my life in suburbia. One of the most amazing experiences for me was living in New York City for two years, right in the heart of Greenwich Village. This is also one of the reasons why I really enjoy living in Houston.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: High school, in general, is a time for tremendous growth and development. My academic work ethic was largely established at Seneca Valley where teachers provided excellent mentorship and training to prepare us for college and beyond. My involvement in many after school activities created a lifelong passion for the arts, and also led me to pursue a five-year bachelor degree in engineering (instead of a traditional four-year program) in order to receive a liberal arts education. I also believe that the friendly and social atmosphere at SV helped establish my value of friendships and the benefits of establishing good working relationships with colleagues, which has served me well throughout the years.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: I felt that the overall environment that was created by the teachers, staff, and students made Seneca a special place to learn and develop. It also made it very difficult for me to graduate and leave the friends I had made during some of the most formative years of my life. When I arrived to college, I was surprised by the widespread attitude among freshman students who were glad to leave their high schools. This was a foreign thought for me at the time, but it did serve to reinforce my belief that SV is indeed a very special place.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: Mr. Depaulo, who taught Introductory and AP Chemistry, was my favorite teacher and had the most significant influence on my career path. His use of mnemonic devices, such as the “mole highway,” facilitated learning and made class fun. He played a major role in my decision to pursue an advanced degree in the chemical sciences.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: I cannot think of a singular event, but rather a culmination of activities that made my entire experience at Seneca Valley wonderful. I was heavily involved in the music program (symphonic, jazz, and marching band) as well as school musicals. Some of my most memorable moments in high school came from my involvement in these activities. SV has a strong tradition of amazing music and drama programs!

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: I would strongly encourage teachers to foster partnerships with local colleges or universities to get your students involved in STEM activities, particularly at an early age. Many professors are eager to get involved in high school activities that can range from curriculum development and class demonstrations to lectures on science and career opportunities in STEM fields. Professors with active research groups often host high school students in their laboratories and mentor projects with the help of their graduate students. These types of outreach activities are heavily promoted by organizations such as the National Science Foundation, so take advantage of any available opportunities, or more importantly, take the initiative to create new ones!

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: As a parent with kids who are beginning to start school, I think about the decisions many of my colleagues and friends have made regarding whether or not to choose public vs. private education for their children. My belief, which derives solely from my experience at Seneca Valley, is that public schools provide tremendous opportunities for students to learn and grow. I would encourage any parent who is about to make this decision to visit Seneca Valley and see for themselves what a wonderful environment it is for getting a well-rounded education.

    Dr. Rimer is the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research. Click here to read more and watch a video on his recent award.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Michael Moon, Class of 2015

    Posted by the Communications Department on 2/28/2018

    Seneca Valley 2015 graduate Michael Moon is a student at Penn State University where he is a studying Aerospace Engineering. This past fall he was an intern at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We asked him to catch us up on what he is doiM. Moon ng today and how Seneca Valley influenced his life.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: This past fall I was an intern working at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, working on ground architecture for a conceptual Mars ascent vehicle, while also working part time on insulation testing in the Cryogenics test lab, and performing helium pressure leak testing on the propellant transfer systems for NASA’s Restore-L project.
    This spring, I am back at school at Penn State (University Park) where I am taking classes for my degree (Aerospace Engineering), as well as working a part-time internship at Siemens PLM Software as a Development Support Engineer. In my free time, I am a member of Lunar Lion, which is a team at Penn State (was part of the Google Lunar X-prize, no longer affiliated) that is focused on developing a functional lunar lander.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I come from a family of five, with two older siblings, one brother and one sister. My brother, Steven, is a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh, and my sister, Kelli, is a high school bioinformatics teacher at PA Cyber. My mother, Karen, and father, Bruce, both work for Federated Investors.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: People may be surprised to know that I want to become an astronaut. Unlike most other people, I never grew out of the childhood dream of becoming an astronaut; but rather guided my life goals towards becoming one. I am pursuing an Aerospace Engineering Degree in hopes of getting one step closer to achieving that goal, and plan to eventually go back to school to pursue a masters degree to be better prepared for achieving this lifetime goal.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: Seneca Valley really helped me to grow into the person I am today because of the vast amount of opportunities that are offered. The National Honor Society played a big role because it challenged me to another level academically, while also allowing me to be engaged in the community through community service. It motivated me to be an active member of the community, and that’s something a lot of other high schools don’t offer.Also, the various Honors/CHS/AP level classes offered really shaped me as an adult. Besides the obvious fact that those classes are more difficult, there is a different standard of the students in those classes. The teachers treated you more like adults than teenagers, and that type of environment really helped me to mature and become more accountable for my actions and myself.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: Seneca Valley is such a special place to grow as a student because of the amount of opportunities it offers. I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in Aerospace Engineering; so having the opportunity to take AP STEM classes was a huge opportunity and advantage to me as a student. Also, the STEM electives offered such as Honors Engineering Experimentation, and Robotics allowed me to get new experiences that most other high schools can’t offer.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: My favorite teacher at SV would be my former AP Calculus teacher Mr. Thomas Magill. Engineering is calculus based, which can be very intimidating for those who may not be the most comfortable with math, but he had a way of making the subject very enjoyable, and his class prepared me greatly for college. He is also just a great overall person with a unique sense of humor.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: One of my favorite memories from my time at Seneca Valley was when we visited the planetarium in elementary school. The astronomy teacher, Mr. Lutz, gave a really interesting presentation on space, and showed us how huge and marvelous space is, and I feel that is what really pushed me towards wanting to learn more about space and work on systems that study space.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: If I had one message for all of the teachers I had throughout my high school time, it would be as simple as thank you. I cannot thank every teacher enough for what they have done for me as a student and as a person, and for getting me to where I am today.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: Seneca Valley is a great school, with more opportunities for students than anyone can ask for. This school is responsible for shaping me into the person I am today, and for preparing me for the different opportunities I encounter on a daily basis. It truly is a great school, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing about my time there.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Anand Mahalingam, Class of 2008

    Posted by Katherine Huttinger on 1/31/2018

    A. Mahalingam

    Seneca Valley 2008 graduate Anand Mahalingam ended up in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, where he works as a writer/producer during the day and moonlights as a stand-up comedian at night. He has been doing stand-up for the past two years and will be having his first special in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Feb. 10.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: I’m a producer for a digital media company called DanceOn in Los Angeles. I work in developmental programming for social media platforms in addition to producing mini documentaries for their
    Facebook and Instagram pages. I’ve also been working as a stand-up comedian for the past two years
    while I’ve been out here. In my spare time away from those two things, I write screenplays (short film and feature length) and act.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: My brother (graduated 2007) spends five days a week traveling as a consultant for Accenture.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: My first brush with drama was taking theater with Miss Mihalcin at Seneca Valley. My first big laugh I ever got was playing the Pirate King in a knock-off of Pirates of Penzance that we did, called Pirates of Pizzazz. I had a death scene that I played out very long and dramatically. Easily the biggest laugh I’ve gotten to date.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: When I was at SV, I wasn’t a part of any sort of clique, I had friends all over. Football players, cheerleaders, band/chorus people, JROTC, gifted programs and remedial programs. I had friends in all of them and I could talk to any one of them. That skill served me greatly moving on into college and beyond. Those kinds of labels are kind-of worthless after high school, and I never really felt out of place as a result.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: I haven’t been back in a while, but to me my favorite part of going to SV was I had some very special friends. And the teachers that I was lucky enough to have were really, really something. It always comes back to the people for me.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: Too many to count. Eighth grade was a special year for me - I had Mr. Patrick O’Shea, Mr. Matthew Durst, and Mr. Lucas Sample. I felt like I was friends with all of those guys. I loved Miss Megan Mihalcin and Mrs. Cheri Mihalik. I got along very well with my Honors Physics teacher Mr. Dean Walker. I loved shooting the breeze with Mr. James Ziegler, as well. These were people who I felt brought something more than just teaching and challenged me in different ways.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: You’ll have to forgive me since it’s been ten years and I don’t have the best memory. But things that stick out to me include my dramatic pursuits from answer #3 and also becoming student body secretary junior year. I remember I was sick with the flu on the day that they announced results, so I remember getting a bunch of text messages from friends saying “YOU WON” or “THEY SAID YOUR NAME WRONG ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT.” Yeah, that was great.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: If you have an out-of-the-box idea, use it. High school tends to get boring and monotonous, and kids are just begging for a breath of fresh air.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: It’s a huge school, with a great mix of personalities. It can get a little intimidating, but there’s plenty of room for you.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Karen Wonders, Class of 1996

    Posted by the Communications Department on 12/22/2017

    Seneca Valley 1996 graduate Karen Wonders founded Maple Tree Cancer Alliance and is a professor at Wright State University. We asked her to catch us up on what she is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced her career.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: In 2011, I founded a non-profit organization called Maple Tree Cancer Alliance. We provide free exercise tKaren Wonders raining, nutrition counseling, and emotional/spiritual support to individuals battling cancer. At present, we operate out of seven offices in and around Dayton, Ohio and have hopes to expand on a national level over the next few years. In addition to my work at Maple Tree, I also am a Professor of Exercise Physiology at Wright State University and serve as the Program Director for the Sports Science Undergraduate Program. Finally, I am in my final year of study at Cedarville University, where I am working on a second Master’s degree in theology. I published a book on Nov. 7 that is a devotional I wrote for cancer patients to encourage them to trust God and make healthy lifestyle choices in their recovery. It is called “Beauty for Ashes.”

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I married my college sweetheart, Andrew. Together, we have seven children! Abby (11), Claire (9), William (7), Henry (6), Julia (4), Isabelle (2), and Charlie (1). We have lived in Dayton, Ohio for nearly 12 years! We have two family mottos: “Go Big or Go Home” and “If you think our hands are full, you should see our hearts.”

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: When I was in high school, I was not a Christian. But thanks to the grace of God, I am now! Every day I try to glorify Christ in my thoughts, words, and actions, and I have seen His help in the growth of my business in ways that have both amazed and humbled me!

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: I really loved high school and am thankful for the time I spent there. I still have friendships to this day that I made in ninth grade French class! While I don’t feel I pushed myself very much academically when I was in high school, I had the opportunity to participate in athletics and that has given me a confidence that is needed for public speaking (which I do often).

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: Seneca Valley is special because it is a big school - so the students don’t feel like a fish out of water when they go to college, yet it has a small school feel in that the teachers and administration are supportive and involved with their students.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: Mrs. Carol Wilson was our cheerleading coach, and I have many fond memories of her. I also very much enjoyed Mr. Eric Semega’s math classes (so much so, that I almost majored in math in college!).

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: My favorite memory of high school was in 1995, when the football team beat NA and everyone stormed the field and we all celebrated together. It was a time of pure joy and excitement that I will never forget!

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: What you do makes a difference! You might feel like it goes unseen or unappreciated, but rest assured, you matter and you can positively impact the trajectory of someone’s life with a simple kind word or smile!

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: It is one-of-a-kind and I am thankful for my time there!

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  • Alumni Q&A with Michael Pegher, Class of 2003

    Posted by the Communications Department on 11/30/2017

    M. Pegher Seneca Valley 2003 graduate Michael Pegher is currently living in Germany as a professional opera singer. We asked him to catch us up on what he is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced his career.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: I have been living in Germany and working as a professional opera singer for the past seven years. I am currently employed full time at the Staatstheater (State Theater) in Darmstadt, with prior full time and guest appearances over the years at different opera houses throughout Germany.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I am the proud father of two shockingly amazing kids, Jack and Jeannie, and the lucky husband of my wife, Dodo, who is way too good for me. :) We met during my first engagement in Dodo’s hometown of Oldenburg, Germany, which has also become my hometown away from the Burgh.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: Probably that I am basically a normal guy from western PA. Most people think of an opera singer as some pretentious weirdo surrounded by little busts of composers, scarfs, constant classical music in the background, and herbal teas. Not at all. Although I love the music I get to sing and believe some of it to be among the finest art ever created, I bleed black and gold, can’t wait to binge on Game of Thrones again with my wife, and my favorite piece of clothing is a Penn State T-shirt I’ve had since I can remember.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: High School is one of the most tumultuous and formative times in a person’s life. It isn’t easy. It helps if you have something to hold on to, and for me, Seneca provided a strong music program which served as an expressive and personal outlet. I found there both outstanding musical instruction and a group of people who not only worked toward the same goal, but also became my closest friends.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: Seneca is a place where community can grow while also encouraging the individual. That is vital. I was able to choose where my interests were and SV did a great job of providing the courses and teachers with which I could explore those interests.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: Oh man... So many. Of course the music staff: Toni Keefer and Bobi-Jean Alexander gave me my real start. Without Bob Matchett’s course in music theory, I wouldn’t have been HALF as prepared for college as I was. Marie Latagliata. Latagliata was perhaps the most patient and caring of these teachers. She crystallized for me where exactly my path was taking me. Before her, I wasn’t exactly convinced that I could or should be an opera singer. It just seemed like a weird thing. She made me see that it wasn’t. Lynn Stewart, the director of the musicals, then came and showed me where and how I was meant to perform. On the stage. Aside from the music staff, Bob Harsh in AP Biology was awesome. I am a fan of science the way some people are fans of opera, and Bob Harsh was an all-star. There are many more, but I couldn’t end without mentioning Alison Schuster. I am not sure I ever met a non-music teacher that cared so much about the arts or how it affects our lives. Her class was great.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: That is a difficult question to answer. I have always liked to argue and debate, and I often did that with my former eighth grade chorus teacher. Although it might not have been her aim, she taught me that it is possible and indeed necessary to challenge authority, but to remain polite and open to change while doing so. I believe that a person only grows by stating an opinion and hearing a challenge to it, which makes you question, refine and/or adapt your thoughts. She was a great sparring partner, and I know that she also remembers those exchanges with fondness.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: Protect the students from pseudo-science and people with agendas. Guide them toward critical thinking. Objective truth is what counts. PS. Carl Sagan’s ‘A Demon Haunted World’ should be standard reading.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: I hope that people are aware of just how many professional musicians and artists SV has produced. It is a special thing and we should all take pride in that achievement.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Brooke Hohlbaugh, Class of 2009

    Posted by the Communications Department on 10/31/2017

    Seneca Valley 2009 graduate Brooke Hohlbaugh is currently a teacher at the Ohio School for the Deaf. We asked her to catch us up on what she is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced her career.Brooke H.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:

    A: I graduated from Kent State University with a degree in Deaf Education and currently work at the Ohio School for the Deaf in Columbus as the high school social studies teacher. This is (technically) my fourth year at OSD (with a year off last year to go to Thailand). I am the only social studies teacher in grades 9-12, so I teach all social studies subjects (U.S. history, world geography, financial literacy, American government, and global issues).

    My first two years here were in the middle school, and it was definitely a rough few years! During my second year here I was already feeling the new teacher “burn out” and decided I needed to branch out a little bit. That’s when I started looking into teaching abroad. After extensive (very extensive) research, I decided to move to Thailand for a year. I ended up applying and accepting a position as a third and fourth grade English teacher at the Nakornpayap International School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. OSD was so wonderful, and my superintendent wanted to make sure I was easily able to come back to this school so he helped me petition to the State Superintendent to allow a one year unpaid leave of absence and he approved! Definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

    When I returned to the states and to OSD, they offered me a position in the high school. Yes, it’s difficult and some days are better than others, but overall I love working in the Deaf community and specifically with Deaf students. Sign language is such a fun and unique language and I love being a part of the culture/community.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?

    A: Seneca Valley was such a wonderful place to learn and grow because they created a safe place where students could be themselves. I definitely have the teachers and staff of Seneca Valley to thank for the person I am today!

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?

    A: It’s so hard to pick one! I think the two who had the biggest impact on my teaching career are definitely my middle school social studies teacher, Mr. Jay D’Ambrosio, and my high school social studies teacher Mr. Jim Lucot. Both of them instilled in me a love of history starting in middle school with Mr. D. I still have a goal to cover every inch of my classroom with posters and flags just like Mr. Lucot. I also say to my students what Mr. Lucot always said to us, “I don’t care if you vote for Mickey Mouse or Walt Disney, you just better go out and practice your right to vote.”

    One of my other favorite teachers has to be my high school art teacher Mr. Jim Nagle. Thank you for creating a safe haven for us art kids! I’m pretty sure I spent 50 percent of my school day in the art room my senior year. Even going there during lunch to work on projects!

    And last but certainly not least, thank you to Mr. Gary Watkins. I think I speak for everyone when I say that he had such a tremendous impact on every single one of his students. I’ll never forget walking into first period freshman year with a tie on and he taught me how to tie it properly. I know my future husband will have him to thank for that!

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?

    A: What you do matters. To every single student you come across. Even though you will have hundreds of students throughout your teaching career, your students will only have so many teachers. What you do matters! The impact you have on them, whether big or small, will shape them into who they are today. Believe me, I know!

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  • Alumni Q&A with Kayla Valentine, Class of 2014

    Posted by the Communications Department on 9/29/2017

    K Valentine Seneca Valley 2014 graduate Kayla Valentine is currently a senior at the University of Alabama. We asked her to catch us up on what she is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced her life.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:

    A: I am majoring in Management Information Systems with a specialization in Business Information Technology and a Minor in Computer Technology and Applications. I chose MIS because I have a passion for networking and a strong interest in technology which is exactly what this program highlights here at UA. We work with real companies on Capstone Projects to provide a technical solution for everyday business problems. This past summer, I was proud to be one of two interns in the Technical Advisory Program with Ernst & Young LLC in their Atlanta Office.

    At school, I work part time as a Student Developer at the Center for Advanced Public Safety. Over the past four years at UA I have had the great pleasure of being involved in numerous organizations and societies. Last semester, I was inducted into the XXXI Senior Women’s Honorary. The XXXI is Alabama’s most prestigious all Women’s Honorary on campus that taps only 18 rising seniors every Spring for Active Membership. There is no application for this society and candidates are only considered through secret nominations by the current XXXI members. Its goal is to highlight the most influential, powerful, and outgoing women on campus and in the State of Alabama. Over the past couple of years, I served as the President of the Women in Technology Organization where we strive to be a diverse, forward thinking network of students who endeavor to improve our overall professionalism, work to empower the local community, and increase our networking efforts through the technology field. My sophomore year, I served as one of 12 MIS Program Ambassadors, one of three GBA 145 Peer Mentors, and became a brother of the Alpha Kappa Psi Professional business fraternity. Later in my junior year, I became the first Teaching Assistant for the Business Communications class in the Culverhouse College of Commerce. There, I worked with Professors and Program Department Heads to reconstruct the curriculum to be more industry and professional development focused with an emphasis on professional writing.

    I am very fortunate to have found my home at the University of Alabama and cannot begin to thank all the Professors, Faculty, and classmates for helping me in my journey.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?

    A: Seneca Valley will forever hold a special place in my heart. In my opinion, what makes Seneca Valley so unique is its inclusive and positive environment. I loved being able to walk down the hallway and say hello to Earl, the Middle School Security guard or go on a trip to Europe with 25 other classmates that I had never spoken with before and form such strong bonds with throughout the trip. SV taught me that every person is important and that every smile or wave does not go unnoticed in a person’s day. And that being kind is one of the most important lessons in life and for that I am grateful.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?

    A: I have so many favorite teachers that it would be hard to name just one, so I will name three.
    The first is Heather Sibeto. I first met her (Frau) my junior year when I went to her informational session about a Europe trip she was leading over the summer. After spending two weeks traveling and eating gelato together, I decided to change over languages from French to German for my final year at Seneca. Her bubbly and warm personality is absolutely infections and her passion for her students does not go unnoticed. She is one of the most kind and genuine people I have ever met and I have learned so much from her. My only regret was not taking German sooner. To this day, we are still in contact and I look forward to traveling with her again soon!

    The second is John Fetchko. Mr. Fetchko was my sophomore grade Chemistry teacher. Even though science is not my favorite subject, Chemistry soon became my favorite period of the day all because of John Fetchko. He is constantly finding ways to motivate his students to not only understand but enjoy what we are learning in class as well as opening and creating a positive environment for every student to feel comfortable participating in. I will always remember him giving me a shout out at my very last football game as a Varsity cheerleader.

    The third is Jim Lucot. I met the charismatic teacher my third day of my junior year as my classes had moved around and I was then put in his honors US history class. I am forever grateful for not only the curriculum he taught but the life lessons and real world issues he brought in to the room as well. I appreciated his teaching style so much that I knew I needed to take his AP Government class my senior year. Mr. Lucot created an environment that was challenging yet rewarding, passionate yet welcoming, and most of all a place where you could form your own opinions and help understand other points of view. I will always be grateful for his class and appreciate his guidance and knowledge.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?

    A: One of my favorite moments was my senior year when the senior high decided to participate in the Lip Dub competition. I was the very last “singer” in the video and I can remember all the hard work we did bringing the entire school together to create such a big production. It is something that to this day I still show my friends because I am proud not only of the fact that we won but because it is such a good way to bring everyone together and celebrate our school.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?

    A: My one message for the teachers is to not be afraid to go “off script”. The teachers I respected the most were not the ones that sat around and did the same thing but the ones that were truly passionate about what they were trying to convey to their students. Whether it was a life lesson or an academic lesson, I always appreciated when you could tell how much the teacher cared. One of my favorite quotes that I feel conveys this message perfectly is “people don’t care to know until they know you care”.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Conner Gillooly, Class of 2012

    Posted by the Communications Department on 8/31/2017

    Conner Gillooly Seneca Valley 2012 graduate Conner Gillooly debuted on Broadway this month! He is a cast member in in the musical “School of Rock.” We asked him to catch us up on what he is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced his life and career.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:

    A: After high school at good ol’ SV, I didn’t end up too far from home. I went to college in downtown Pittsburgh at Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts. During my four years there I studied acting and performance technique. Through college, I worked as an acting teacher for Jeter Backyard Theater in Mars township. I graduated with a BA in Theater Arts.

    My final year, I was cast in the Conservatory’s Senior Showcase. We spent the final semester crafting a half hour show full of individual 1-2 minute performance pieces, and at the end of the year we would take a trip to New York City to perform the show for a bunch of folks in the biz (casting directors, agents, etc.).

    Luckily enough, I was able to land an agent who wanted to sign with me immediately. Suddenly I realized I was going to have to move to New York City! However I wouldn’t be moving right away. The SV musical Director, Stephen Santa, was putting a show together that he wanted to take to The Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. He asked if I wanted to or a part of it, and I emphatically replied, “Abso-freaking-lutely.”
    So the month of August 2016 I was in Edinburgh, Scotland. Undoubtedly it was one of the most compelling and inspiring months of my life.

    I moved to New York City the following October. I landed a job as a nanny during the afternoons (thank you Jeter Backyard Theater). This worked out quite well because it allowed me to go out in the morning for auditions, and then work in the afternoon/evening. My agent would send me out on appointments for TV, musicals, plays, and Commercial gigs. For nine months I spent my time auditioning, working, and auditioning some more.

    Throughout this whole period I wasn’t getting much response, none at all actually. It wasn’t until my agent hooked me up with an audition for the lead in the national tour of School of Rock the musical that I got my first New York callback.
    I had two callbacks, my second and final was in front of the entire creative team, including Andrew Lloyd Webber. That was something. Then after a long Fourth of July weekend, I got a call from my agent that told me I hadn’t booked the national tour, but that they want me to join the Broadway cast, and rehearsals started the following day.

    Since then I’ve been at the theater nearly every day understudying the role of Dewey Finn, in addition to working in the adult ensemble. To say that this is a dream come true is a gross understatement. Monday I had my first official Broadway performance, audience and all. I’m scheduled to go on in the ensemble every night from now on, in addition to being ready to go on as the lead if need be. It’s been an incredible journey thus far.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.

    A: I have one older sister, Margaret, who also is a Seneca Valley alum (class of ‘09. People called her MJ back in that day). She played volleyball at SV and continued her volleyball career at Point Park University (with me!) studying marketing. She now works downtown for PNC. She’s the single greatest person on the planet, and a much stronger singer than me.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?

    A: I have a strong passion for film editing. Whenever I get the chance, I try to edit as much as possible. Skits, music videos, all that jazz. The concept of taking a bunch of shots and sounds, gathering the raw materials, and then meticulously putting them all together, felt truly rewarding to me. I certainly have Mr. Dan McKosky and Mrs. Jan Plutnicki to thank for that. Through their production classes, I was finally able to understand how the multiple aspects of visual entertainment work. Up until that point I solely wanted to be an actor, but through those courses, I found another passion behind the camera. I also mismatch my socks. The sensation of wearing two different socks never really bothered me, so now I just wear mismatched socks on purpose.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?

    A: If it weren’t for the choir program at Seneca, I can honestly say I would be a different person. Up until then, I had a hard time reaching out to make real friendships. I still have trouble with that today, but back then I could get, or at least I felt, really shy. Through chorus from seventh to senior year, I was able to build and nurture deep relationships that I still treasure to this day. Not only that, but Mrs. Toni Keefer, Mrs. Bobi-Jean Alexander, Mrs. Claire Barker, and Mr. Aaron Magill helped me to develop my voice and technique. Without their vast array of help, I wouldn’t have developed the skills that got me accepted into the Point Park Conservatory.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?

    A: The options. There is a place for everyone, and it all hinges on the interests of the student. No matter what you’re naturally drawn to, Seneca provides the proper institutions to outlet your thoughts, feelings, strengths, weaknesses, and creativity. It’s easy to feel isolated in a big school, but the only way to change that is to go after your interests. I promise, after that first step, you’ll find a friendly group of people with open arms ready to embrace your every idea. It’s everything a student needs to prepare them for the big world out there.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?

    A: I couldn’t possibly pick one. There are so many teachers who are responsible for who I am today. It’s got to be a tie between Mrs. Amber Hugus and Mr. McKosky. One of the greatest gifts they gave me was comfortability. They made me feel safe and encouraged my creativity. I have a lot to thank them for, but I couldn’t be more grateful to call them my dear friends to this day.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?

    A: Nothing beats the yearly musical. From freshman year to senior year, each show was an absolute joy to work on. The entirety of the staff was courteous and attentive to the students while simultaneously treating them as equals. I remember thinking, “Wow, I bet this is what it’s like on the professional stages.” Sitting here, writing this in my dressing room, waiting to go onstage, I can really appreciate how close they are to the real thing. For any student, regardless of your interests, it’s absolutely worth the experience.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?

    A: Keep it up. I can only speak for myself as a student, but the biggest message I could send is to capture their curiosity. Keep them hungry. Change up the routine. Shake up the system. Let them know that learning starts with them. You can commit anything to memory. It is only when a student is driven by curiosity that their education becomes a part of their being. Of course that’s much easier said than done. What you do is so important, and I have infinite respect for your hard work. Keep it up.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?

    A: Whatever it is that you think you know about Seneca Valley, there’s more to it. The teachers, courses, and opportunities are all more than meets the eye. The only way to truly know Seneca is to go there yourself. It was an experience that I continue to look back on fondly. Thank you Seneca Valley!

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