• Alumni Q&A with Colton Botta, Class of 2016

    Posted by the Communications Department on 3/29/2019

    Seneca Valley 2C. Botta 016 graduate Colton Botta is currently a junior at North Carolina State University pursuing a degree in Computer Science. We asked him to catch us up on what he is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced him.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: After graduating from Seneca Valley in the spring of 2016, I made the eight hour drive to Raleigh, North Carolina that fall to begin college at North Carolina State University. I was accepted into the College of Engineering, with the intent to pursue a degree in Computer Science. I am currently a junior, and I am planning to graduate either in December of 2019 (one semester early, thanks AP credit!) or in the spring of 2020 if I do an internship during the fall.

    Since I started at NC State, I have interned at Covestro, as a Cyber Security Intern, and at the Science of Software Lab at NC State as an undergraduate researcher. I have also had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for two undergraduate computer science courses.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: My go-to interesting fact is that I am a competitive Rubik’s Cube solver. Known as speed solving, this is an
    up-and-coming activity that involves solving the 3x3 Rubik’s Cube, and other puzzles, as quickly as possible.
    For the 3x3, I average about 16 seconds and my all-time best solve is 10.24 seconds.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and
    professionally?
    A: Starting early in middle school, I was encouraged to grow as a learner by my teachers. This push for me to strive for learning the material, beyond the basics, is what contributed to the love of learning that I carry with me to this day. Nearly every teacher I had at Seneca was eager to answer my questions, and supplemented the coursework with additional challenges. An example of this was when my sixth grade math teacher, Ms. Kimberly Belt, noticed that I was performing above average in mathematics. As a result, she placed me, and a few others from the course, into an accelerated math program. This experience allowed me to meet other students who enjoyed math (that became lifelong friends!) as well as skip a year in Seneca’s math curriculum. It is clear that the root of my academic, and personal, growth was the amazing teachers that I had over the years.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: I feel like I could copy and paste my answer to the previous question here, as applauding the teachers is something I could continue to do. However, I will use this opportunity to point out how the community I built at Seneca made my time there such a wonderful experience. Beginning seventh grade on such a large campus was intimidating, but I took time to realize the benefits of integrating so many middle schools into one student body. I made countless friends and joined various clubs as a result of the influx of students from other areas. I have seen how nervous seventh graders are when they make the jump to the big campus, but I have some advice for you. It is not scary at all! Most students are overly friendly and are willing to help you out. I assure you that, if you look in the right place, there are new friends waiting right around the corner.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: Mr. Thomas Magill, Mr. Mark Uhrinek and Ms. Diane Krauland

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: Academic Decathlon, a club that was introduced at Seneca Valley during my senior year, was my favorite academic club during high school. The opportunity to take a competitive test may not sound like fun to most, but I jumped at the thought of studying outside of class for events. Mr. David Reichard was an amazing mentor and teacher, and his love of decathlon was inspiring to see. We spent hours practicing our subjects after school, and we traveled to local colleges for the competitions. Outside of the exams, my favorite two events were speech and interview. I won each of these events at multiple points during the year, and it has continued to be an experience I look back on as I prepare for interviews during college. In our first year, we placed in the top five in the state of PA and our team produced countless individual medalists. I enjoyed being a part of the original team and playing a role in recruiting the next wave of participants was another awesome experience. I have heard that the team is doing really well this year!

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: Keep doing what you are doing. My AP classes prepared me for the rigors of college, and the love of learning that was instilled in me from a young age has allowed me to succeed in college and beyond. Thank you to each and every teacher and staff member that played a role in my education.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: Seneca Valley will prepare you for college. Those who believe otherwise likely have not taken advantage of the AP coursework. If you take a heavy course load (more than four AP courses in one year) you will get a taste of what it takes to be a college student. The material will challenge you, the teachers will push you, and you will learn how to manage your time more effectively. This experience is one of the biggest reasons for my success in college coursework.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Dale Streyle, Class of 1976

    Posted by the Communications Department on 2/28/2019

    Seneca Valley 1976 graduate (and valedictorian!) Dale Streyle spent 40 years with the Coast Guard as an officer and federal civilian employee and is now happily retired. We asked him to catch us up on what he is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced his life and career.D. Streyle

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: I am now happily retired and living with my wife Robin near the beach in Surf City, NC. After graduating from Seneca Valley, I attended the US Coast Guard Academy and began what would become a 40-year career with the Coast Guard as an officer and federal civilian employee. I was privileged to be able to serve in wonderful places around the country including Cape May, NJ; Governor’s Island, NY (right across from the Statue of Liberty); Monterey, CA; and Martinsburg, WV.I have two grown children – Sarah who is a graphics designer living in Washington, DC, and Tim who is an Aviation Electronics Technician with the Coast Guard in Clearwater, FL.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: I was not very athletic during my high school years but have become an avid bicyclist during my adult years. I enjoy bicycle touring and have completed over 20 500-mile trips across the state of Iowa during the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) event. My wife and children have ridden with me on many of those treks and it’s become a source of great family memories.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: The academic skills I obtained while at Seneca Valley allowed me to continue my education at the US Coast Guard Academy. The academy has a strong emphasis on math and sciences for which Seneca Valley prepared me well. My academy major was in Mathematics/Computer Science – a decision spurred on by Seneca Valley providing access to a DEC PDP-8 mini-computer to learn programming skills after school hours. This was before the advent of personal computers – and computer access or exposure during high school was not common. Most of my Coast Guard career centered around computer operations – including developing software that models oceanic drift of search objects and uses the results of searches performed to optimize future search efforts. The basics of this work is still in use by the Coast Guard today to conduct search and rescue operations.
    The band program at Seneca Valley, where I played baritone saxophone in the symphonic and jazz band, had a major impact on my personal life. After putting down the sax for 12 years after graduating from the academy – I picked it up again to join a community band in Virginia. I got back into playing big band style jazz shortly thereafter and spent 14 years managing the Yesterday Swing Orchestra big band out of Winchester, VA. I am now performing with several community concert and jazz bands in North Carolina. Just as in high school, the friendships I made through these musical organizations remain the strongest with me.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: Seneca Valley will always hold a special place in my memories. The staff and instructors were very caring and took a highly personal interest in students’ success. For a school in a rural area – at least it was when I attended – the depth and breadth of opportunities available were substantial – from excellent arts programs, an observatory and planetarium for astronomy studies (another hobby I still enjoy), and great classroom and lab facilities.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: Without a doubt, Mr. Robert Matchett, the father of the current band director, was the teacher who had the most positive influence on me. He taught me not only the music skills and appreciation that I still enjoy today, but more importantly he taught me to strive for excellence in my endeavors and believe that with hard work I could accomplish anything. He taught me the importance of working within a team to accomplish a common goal. Although I was proficient academically in school, I was socially shy and uncertain. The encouragement and trust he showed in me by placing me in leadership positions within the band and his pushing me outside my comfort zones developed the confidence to believe I could survive and be successful in a military academy. I have reconnected with Mr. Matchett via Facebook, and he continues to teach and inspire me to this day.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: My favorite memories all center around various band and music related events – the band trips to parades and away football games, the festivals where we earned Superior ratings, and playing in the pit for high school musicals. These are all special because this is where my closest high school friendships were formed and cemented. These are the friendships that remain to this day!

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: Arts in the schools build many life skills that cannot be measured on a test – confidence, perseverance, teamwork, problem solving, self-esteem, critical thinking, friendship. Never underestimate their importance in the overall education of a student. Many of the soft skills learned through the arts allow the hard skills of math and science to be effectively implanted in the real world.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: Seneca Valley is a school with a long history of quality education and caring staff members.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Dawn Foreman, Class of 1985

    Posted by the Communications Department on 1/31/2019

    Seneca Valley 1985 graduate Dawn Foreman is the coordinator of marketing, communications and community engagement for the Cambrian School District in San Jose, CA. We asked her to catch us up on what she is doing now and how Seneca Valley influenced her life and career. Dawn Foreman

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: I have had a long career in journalism. I graduated from Boston University with a degree in broadcast journalism, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and have been working in media ever since. I have written for numerous magazines, hosted several local television programs, and have been Director of Media for a large non-profit for many years. I recently started a new position as Director of Communications for the Cambrian School District in San Jose, CA.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I have two teenage daughters, one in high school and the other in college in southern California. My sister Tracy (SV Class of '82) is a very successful caterer in Washington DC (with Main Event Caterers).... caters Inaugural Balls, Supreme Court events, etc…, and my sister Missy (SV Class of '83) has been a teacher in Philadelphia for several decades. When I grew up in Cranberry it was tiny; from what I hear that is not the case anymore!

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: When I was in high school and college, I worked as a professional model. Believe it or not, I missed 49 days of school my senior year in high school at Seneca Valley, working (and still graduated!).

    Another thing: My passion for writing has landed me in the Oval office...by writing to President Bush about my Dad, our family was invited to visit him at the White House. My parents moved to the Washington DC area andDawn Foreman with President Bush  my Dad had volunteered with the U.S. Parks Service for about nine years. He worked right outside the White House, helping with the crowds for the White House tours. So, in 2000 when President Bush was elected, I wrote him a letter asking him if he could meet my Dad, calling him one of the President's "finest ambassadors." A few months later, I received a call from the White House inviting us to a ceremony honoring my Dad. Apparently, it was National Volunteer Week and National Parks Week. My family attended, and President Bush first met us near the Rose Garden, escorted us to the lawn of the White House and gave a speech to the Press about my Dad (see photo on left). He called my Dad "one of my finest ambassadors." After the speech, he walked us across the grounds to the Oval Office, and gave us a tour of it. It was unforgettable!

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: Seneca Valley made me honest, strong, and empowered me to develop my voice and work ethic.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: Teachers are there because they care. The community supporting Seneca is awesome too.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: At Rowan my favorite teacher was named Ms. Campbell. At Seneca, it was Mr. Dixon, my French teacher. I've been to France many times and I always think of him.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: I loved that our prom was put on by the kids--we decorated the gym and cafeteria and it was free. Everyone could attend. I loved the unity our class (of 1985) had. I still keep in close touch with several members of my class.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: You might not hear it enough, but YOU are making a tremendous difference in the lives of the kids. Bravo!

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: Seneca Valley gave me the foundation I needed to succeed. I treasure my memories from there. I live in California now, and it's a very different environment. I wish my kids could have the experience of school at Seneca because I believe they would have a much more solid foundation.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Liz Buechele, Class of 2012

    Posted by the Communications Department on 12/21/2018

    Seneca Valley 2012 graduate Liz Buechele has spent her time after her college graduation working for various non-profit organizations, driving across the country, but most importantly, continuing The Smile Project that she created when she was 17 years old. We asked her to catch us up on what she is doing now and how Seneca Valley influenced her life and career. L. Buechele

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: After I graduated from Seneca, I went to Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. I majored in Communication Studies, minored in both writing and marketing, and graduated in December 2015.
    In January 2016, I moved to New York City. When I first moved to NYC, I interned part time at two non-profits (doSomething.org and Riverside Church) during the day, did temp jobs in the
    evenings (think things like coat check for fancy library events), and worked at a breastfeeding resource center on Saturdays (which in hindsight, I was highly unqualified for). In August 2016, I started working full time at the American Heart Association.
    In June 2018, I quit my job and subletted my apartment for the summer to fulfill a lifelong dream of driving across the country. I currently work part-time for The Pollination Project (another non-profit). In addition, I organize a 5K race in New York City for the Travis Manion Foundation (a Veteran’s non-profit), am involved with Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) every summer in western Pennsylvania as a counselor, and am a deacon at my church in New York City.

    To catch up on The Smile Project:

    • When I was 17, I was driving home from high school, down the same back country roads I had driven my entire life. It was unseasonably warm for November and I was having a really, really good day. But it was more than that. I didn’t just think about how nice that felt or how happy I was. I had a very clear thought: Day 1: Happiness is.. those perfect car rides where the radio just plays all the right songs. Like any 17-year-old in 2011, I went home and posted that on Facebook. That was Nov. 9, 2011. I have posted over 2,484 consecutive days of Happiness.
    • After doing this for a few hundred days, I realized I had a bit of a following so I started selling inspirational merchandise (think T-shirts and smiley faces made out of clay) to raise money for other non-profits and charities that I cared about.
    • I was blogging about the project, posting Happiness is, and doing public speaking engagements when someone asked me how they could get involved. I immediately set to work creating Random Acts of Kindness Clubs starter packs. I called them SPARKs (Strengthening Positivity and Reinforcing Kindness). These clubs can be started by any group of individuals who wants to join a community of people who care about community. They are in the process of starting one of these clubs at Seneca Valley.
    • In early 2017, I received a $1,000 grant for The Smile Project, became a certified non-profit
      organization, and continued to encourage my SPARK clubs.
    • Each year, I orchestra a “Joy Week/Day” around Nov. 9 to encourage others to look for things that bring joy to their lives. I also use my birthday each year in May as an opportunity to spread kindness. This May was my 24th birthday and I spent 24 hours in NYC from midnight to midnight volunteering and giving back to the community.
    • The main mission of The Smile Project is to spread Happiness through Random Acts of Kindness.
    • The Smile Project road trip took place this summer (June 23 – August 16) and was 56 days of cross country travel to share joy. We worked with different non-profits and communities and individuals to not only volunteer and complete random acts of kindness, but also to facilitate a very intentional Pay it Forward project from city to city. Basically, one group did something nice for the next group who did something nice for the next and so on and so on – proving that no matter where we live, what we look like, what we believe in, or who we voted for, human kindness is something that runs through all of us.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I have the greatest family in the world. My parents still live in Cranberry Township and my grandparents just moved to Zelienople from the south hills of Pittsburgh. I have two older brothers – James (Class of 2005) and Matt (Class of 2008). My parents, grandparents, brothers, and extended family into cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. are the most important people in my life.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: That I am phobia-level afraid of bees. And yes, I’ve been stung before and no, I’m not allergic. I’m just very afraid.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: Seneca Valley gave me so much. I moved to Pennsylvania when I was one year old. I went to Evans City Elementary School from Kindergarten to sixth grade. I bled black and blue. On a personal level, I am still close with my elementary school friends. The six girls I sat with at my seventh grade lunch table and I – despite living in different states – try to get together at least once a year and are still just as close as we were during those tumultuous middle school years. My cross country teammates are still my best friends. I know the friends I made and the teachers who supported me helped shape me into the person I am today.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: I don’t think I realized until after I left, but Seneca Valley is a huge school. It’s a huge school and it’s a good school with lots of opportunity. As a student, I completely took for granted the amazing opportunities that were afforded to me during my time there. Whether you are interested in art, theatre, music, athletics, or all of the above, Seneca Valley makes it possible for you to pursue those activities while still encouraging your academic development.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: I feel like I can’t answer this one without naming a million professors. First and foremost, my cross-country coach (Mr. Jim Nagle) and my band directors (Mr. Bob Matchett and Mr. Varden Armstrong) were integral parts of my growing up. I am forever grateful for their influence in my lives. Mr. Jim Lucot and Ms. Allison Schuster were amazing teachers who taught beyond a textbook. Their life lessons are something I will always be grateful for. Ms. Cheryl Zorich was my tenth grade English teacher and senior project mentor. She challenged me to think big and pursue my dreams. Lastly, Mr. Patrick O’Shea, my eighth grade civics and economics teacher believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I had this man for one class 10 years ago, and his influence still inspires me today.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: Most of my strong memories that have had a continual influence on my life at Seneca stem from the kindness of people who believed in me. I could share endless memories with friends and teammates, but perhaps the most far-reaching influences come from those who always made time for me. My senior year, Ms. Zorich was my senior project adviser. Her door was always open. Whether it was a senior project paper edit or just a good free-time book recommendation, she encouraged me to dream big and act bigger. I am eternally grateful for that.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: Please never underestimate what you are doing. I am continually influenced by teachers who believed in me when I was in elementary school,
    by teachers who challenged me when I was in middle school, and by teachers who supported me in high school and every day since. Thank you
    for doing what you do every single day. I promise it makes a difference.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: When I tell people I graduated with over 500 people in my class, they usually assume it was a gigantic, impersonal group of strangers. By no
    means am I going to pretend I knew everyone in our class, but in no ways did I ever feel like just a number. I made lifelong connections in those
    hallways. I found mentorship in teachers who continuously went above and beyond to support me. To this day, I remain grateful for the education I received at Seneca Valley.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Mark Voelker, Class of 1985

    Posted by the Communications Department on 11/30/2018

    Seneca Valley 1985 graduate Mark Voelker is Veteran who is a contracted helicopter pilot with the U.S. Forest Service FireWatch Cobra Helicopter Program. As we all watched the recent California wildfires devastation, Mark was flying overhead trying to put out the blaze. We asked him to catch us up on what he is doing and how Seneca Valley influenced his life and career.M. Voelker

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: Following graduation from Seneca, I attended Villanova University on a Marine Corps ROTC scholarship. I was commissioned a Marine officer in 1989 and spent the next twenty years as an AH-1W Cobra helicopter pilot, retiring in May 2009. Just prior to retirement, I was offered a contract pilot position with the U.S. Forest Service FireWatch Cobra helicopter program. Our aircraft supports wild land firefighting operations throughout the United States, although we find ourselves primarily in California during the fire season. We provide aerial supervision for other aircraft in the Fire Traffic Areas, conduct intelligence gathering with a variety of infrared and optical cameras, and provide direct tactical support to the fire fighters directly on the fire line. This summer found us on assignments from southern Oregon through northern California and east to Provo, Utah - my busiest season yet with 265 hours spent in the aircraft providing our services to nearly three dozen separate incidents. Of note, we provided support to the Carr and Delta Fires near Redding, CA, and the Mendocino Complex Fires in Lake County, CA, the largest fire in acreage burned in the state’s history.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: My family resides in Johnstown, PA, where I was stationed prior to retiring from the Marine Corps. My wife, Laurie, and I have two sons, Orion and Rigel. Orion will be a sophomore at the University of Maryland this fall and Rigel will be a sophomore at Westmont Hilltop High School.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: During my off-season from firefighting, I volunteer as a team leader with a program in Boswell, PA, titled "Semper Fi Odyssey." Our week-long sessions - held on average around six times per year - assist combat wounded, ill and injured servicemen and women continue their post-service lives with dignity and meaning. Through this program I was introduced to yoga and obtained my 200 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher certification this past winter. Along with being a yogi, I am also the Race Director for the Path of the Flood Historic Races in Johnstown, PA; an event that allows runners to commemorate the 1889 Johnstown Flood.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: Seneca Valley, along with the greater Zelienople/Harmony area, provided a nurturing environment for me to freely and safely maneuver through my formative teenage years, allowing me to accept both the positive and negative events of life with confidence.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: Having had the opportunity to visit the new campus once as a guest of Hal Repasky, I know the size of both the physical plant and the student body have grown dramatically since I attended in the 1980s. What I remember most about the day-to-day environment of Seneca was the wide variety of students - from suburban Cranberry Township to rural Middle Lancaster - that all peacefully coexisted within and amongst the social circles. I honestly feel that everyone was allowed to thrive where they fit best.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: Mrs. Mary McCabe, AP English teacher, who taught at SV for 27 years.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: One afternoon in Mrs. McCabe's AP English class I breached the subject of a recent current event. As she and I entered into a back and forth conversation on the topic, I presented what I thought was a clear argument. Mrs. McCabe asked me how I came to know the facts of my stance. As she continued to press the sources of my information, I frustratingly queried, "What you're saying is I cannot believe anything unless I was actually there?" She responded, "Yes, but even then what you see will be affected by your perspective and beliefs." I have never forgotten that exchange and what it taught me about digging deeply into the facts before forming hard opinions on anything in life.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: Remember that each moment of every day given to us on this earth is a blessing, one to be shared together. Take the time to truly look at each other and see the value that every student and teacher brings to the life of Seneca's community, even those who may cause "friction." Everyone has their own "story" and they may just be seeking the right listener.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: Having seen the school system, particularly the junior and senior high schools, grow from what they were in the 1980s to what exists today, I would like people to know that the same concern still exists for the growth and potential of every student. From what could be considered humble roots has grown a massive "tree" that supports the life of Seneca.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Brenna Gallagher, Class of 2011

    Posted by the Communications Department on 10/31/2018

    Seneca Valley 2011 graduate Brenna Gallagher was recently named Head Coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). We asked her to catch us up on what she is doing and how Seneca Valley influenced her life and career.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:B. Gallagher
    A: I recently just accepted the Head Women’s Lacrosse coaching position at IUP after spending the last year as the Head Coach at Misericordia University.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I have three siblings who all attended Seneca Valley. Kylie who graduated in 2006, Sean who graduated in 2009 and Mollie who graduated in 2015. My brother-in-law Justin Ball also graduated from Seneca Valley in 2006. My parents still reside in the District.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: Something that someone may be surprised to know about me is that I never thought about getting into collegiate coaching until I was a senior in college. After I tore my ACL, I received a medical red shirt and was sidelined. My plan originally was to graduate and hopefully get a job in a counseling center and obtain my Master’s in school guidance counseling.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: Seneca Valley helped me become the person I am today both personally and professionally by allowing me to interact with so many different kinds of people. Seneca Valley is a big school district with so many different groups of people. I think it helped my personal skills and gave me confidence to branch out and try new things in different social circles. Seneca Valley made me a well-rounded individual and gave me different perspectives that I think has helped me on a professional and personal level in my life.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: Seneca Valley is a special place because it gives students so many different avenues to learn and grow. Being such a large school, I am sure parents worry that their child may get lost in the shuffle, but I think that it ends up not being the case because of all of the different clubs, activities and sports that the District offers. It gives everyone a chance to find an interest and social group.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: My favorite faculty member at Seneca Valley was my assistant lacrosse coach, Katie Smolter (now Katie Conn since she got married last summer). I never had her as a teacher, but I spent a lot of time in her classroom during my study hall periods or any free time I had I was usually in her classroom. It got to the point where I would go into my study hall when I had Mr. Ziegler and he would just immediately write me a pass to Ms. Smolter’s room. On the lacrosse field, she was always hard on me but I knew it was because she cared about me and she knew that I had potential and believed that I could reach it. She always gave me tough love and helped me grow a thick skin. I think her being that way with me made me be able to overcome so many obstacles that came my way in college and even in my first coaching job at Misericordia. I graduated seven years ago and to this day we still remain extremely close! Without her I don’t think I would have had the confidence to go play at IUP. If I stopped playing lacrosse, I would have never taken the career path that I have. I owe a lot of my success to her!

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: As a student, I always enjoyed Friday night football games. It was the one thing that we always looked forward to during the weeks in the fall. I think it was such a fun experience, but also was a time when you saw everyone in the community get together to support the school.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: If I had one message for teachers or staff at Seneca Valley it would be a big thank you for setting a solid foundation for me to build success in my future.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: One thing that I wish people knew about Seneca Valley is that even though the district is large, each student has an opportunity to be unique and be a part of something!

     

     

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  • Alumni Q&A with Zane Latess, Class of 2017

    Posted by the Communications Department on 9/28/2018

    Seneca ValleyZ. Latess 2017 graduate Zane Latess is in his second year at Georgia Tech. We asked him to catch us up on what he is doing and how Seneca Valley influenced his life.

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today.
    A: Fall 2018 marks the beginning of my second year at Georgia Tech. I am majoring in Biomedical Engineering and applying for minors such as Leadership Studies and Engineering and Business. One of my goals for this academic year is to further develop a medical app to improve recognition and treatment of mental disorders.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I would like to thank my family for always supporting me. I would not be the man I am today without them and the lessons they have taught me.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: Someone might be surprised to know that I studied at The University of Oxford this past summer. The study abroad experience was the greatest in my life. The first six weeks of the program were focused on studying European art and culture as my group and I bused around continental Europe, visiting a new city every two to three days. Assignments included visiting some of the most esteemed art galleries in the world including The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy and The Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The next six weeks of the program was the in-residence portion where I was based at Mansfield College of The University of Oxford. I took engineering classes Monday through Thursday. The program was scheduled with extended weekends to encourage students to travel. On the last weekend of the trip, I met one of my friends in the French Alps where I went bungee jumping at the first elastic jump site in Europe. It was the greatest mental battle as I overcame my fear of heights for the craziest experience of my life.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today?
    A: Seneca Valley helped me become the person I am today because the schools have a special culture that encourages students to embrace their full potential. The school district provides a personalized experience with caring faculty who communicate with students to make the school day more effective and enjoyable. Faculty who cared about me after the school day was over were the reason why I got so involved with the school district. They inspired me to want to make the school day more enjoyable for all other students. These motivations were what led me to becoming the President of the Class of 2017. Working with the student body and school officials gave me early exposure that prepared me for leadership roles in college and in the work place.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: The thing that truly makes Seneca Valley an inspiring school is the faculty’s care for the students and each other. The family environment makes students feel like they are truly valued.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: My favorite teacher at SVSD was Mr. Tom Magill. He was always willing to do more than just the job description. He genuinely cared for the students inside and outside the classroom and appreciated new approaches to old problems.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: One thing that changed my life forever was joining the Seneca Valley Lacrosse program. Being a member of the lacrosse team taught me lessons that could never be learned in a classroom, and I also made bonds with people who would become my best friends for the rest of my life. The players and I share many great memories. My favorite memory was walking across the field with my parents on Senior Night 2017. The night was so meaningful for me because I got to play one last game with the guys who had been by my side for so many years.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: I would like to encourage the staff to reach out to other faculty members and students more often. It is not often recognized how big of a difference a staff member can make in a student’s life. Improving and continuing the sense of family between members of the school district will create an inclusive environment that makes the school day better for everyone.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: I wish that people knew that Seneca Valley offers so much more than just an academic program. The school is a great creative outlet for students to explore their passions and meet others with similar interests. There are always going to be obstacles to success; SVSD teaches students how to work hard and cooperate with others to overcome those obstacles and achieve their goals.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Cynthia Wylie, Class of 1976

    Posted by the Communications Department on 8/31/2018

    C. Wylie  Seneca Valley 1976 graduate (the Bicentennial class!) Cynthia Wylie is a children’s book author who lives in California. 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 in the tireless pursuit of telling educational stories to inspire children to live a healthier lifestyle. I am a children’s book author with five books through Rodale Kids, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. I am also the C.E.O. and founder of Bloomers Island, the #1 Kids Healthy Lifestyle Brand.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I am the black sheep of the family who moved to California. My three brothers and my mother still live in Butler County on our family farm. I have raised four children of my own a block from the beach in Venice, California, and most of them like eating vegetables.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: I feel guilty that I was not able to raise my children on a farm like I was.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: In some ways it made me tougher. It was a big school and I had to develop social skills to navigate the school – which I did! In California, there are many school options so if your children don’t do well in one school, they can go to another. But that wasn’t an option in Harmony, so it forced us students to be adaptable and socially adept. That has served me incredibly well my entire life.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: I touched upon this a little above. Additionally, it was and is a good school. I received a good education. I was able to assert a lot of independence in my educational decisions. It prepared me to go to a great college (Penn State main campus) and then a great graduate school for my M.A. degree (Georgetown University) where I received a full teaching and research fellowship.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: I remember many great teachers at SV, but without a doubt my favorite was my organic chemistry teacher, Mr. Roy Crawford. He believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. I event wrote a whole blog post about him. (To read blog post, click here). Sadly, he passed away several years ago.

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: I remember skipping out of school when I was a junior and only 15 (I was young for my grade). I rode my horse across the football field. I was called into the office (of course) the following day and my guidance counselor was going to suspend me. He looked at my grades and saw that they were very good. He asked me how old I was and was surprised to hear that I was only 15. He then told me that I needed to make sure I went to college. He then let me off with no punishment. I had not really thought about going to college before he encouraged me. My mom and close friend subsequently championed me going to college as well, but he made me feel worthy for the first time. It changed the trajectory of my life.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: Keep up the good work. I’m so impressed with the current generation of kids. I work with them often and every time I think about it, I feel confident about the future of our country. Don’t give up on your students. Don’t label them. Kids who you may not think are college material, may be if given the chance. I was that kid. And also, encourage reading as much as possible!

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: Seneca Valley is a gem for our community, sitting on an old cemetery in the middle of an old cow pasture. It is a quality school, educating quality students and even though it is not an upscale private school in a big city, that doesn’t mean it is not incredibly effective in educating our future citizens. I’m proud to be an alum.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Paige Foley, Class of 2014

    Posted by the Communications Department on 6/28/2018

    Seneca Valley 2014 graduate Paige Foley recently graduated from college and works as a mechanical engineer for Aerotch Inc. in Pittsburgh. We asked her to catch us up on what she is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced her life and career. P. Foley

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: After graduating from Seneca Valley, I attended Grove City College (GCC) where I recently graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Robotics. During my four years at Grove City, I joined numerous clubs and organizations and held many leadership positions. I was a member of Grove City’s Student Government Association where I served as the Senator of Academic Affairs for my class for two years. I was also the President of the Crimson and White Society, an organization that acts as a liaison between the GCC alumni and current students. I was a member of the Tri-Zeta Sorority, where I held numerous positions, and also served as the Pan Hellenic Council President. I participated in other organizations and honorariums such as The Crown and Scepter Society, the GCC Ski Club, the Society of Women Engineers, and various other groups. I have learned a lot in my time as a student and since graduating in May, I have started working for Aerotech Inc. in Pittsburgh as a mechanical engineer in the control systems group. I have also recently purchased my first home in the Fox Chapel area, and am planning on moving in this coming August after marrying my fiancé Jerrod Borkey.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: My parents are Patrick and Celeste Foley, and I am their youngest of two children. I am the second SV alumni as my brother, Connor, graduated in 2012 and also went on to graduate from Grove City College in 2016. My mom is also the Assistant Business Manager for Seneca, keeping me connected to my alma matter even more. I will be getting married on Aug. 18 to my fiancé, Jerrod, who I met during my freshman year at Grove City. My family also has an adorable pug, Jack, that we spoil daily.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: I love art and traveling and have been to many different countries and islands. During my junior and senior years at SV, I took pottery with Megan Bonistalli, and grew to love art. I was able to combine both of my interests after my sophomore year at Grove City when I studied abroad in France and took an Art History class. I was able to study with so many great artists, view their artwork throughout the country, and was even able to attend musical performances such as an opera and a piano concerto. I hope to one day own my own pottery wheel and kiln and make some more of my own artwork.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: Personally, Seneca Valley provided me with a wonderful culture where I learned great morals and character. It also provided me with lifelong friendships. It helped me to realize that although hard work and dedication can pay off, life won’t always be easy and I won’t always succeed, but it is always worth it. Professionally, it provided me with a great background in engineering prior to entering college as I was able to take two years of calculus and physics, two honors engineering classes, and even a course on robotics. These helped to prepare me for the rigorous academics of college and helped me to really decide to pursue a career in engineering. It also taught me that your peers and your teachers are always willing to help and that people really do want to see you succeed.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: The teachers, staff, and students are always willing to lend a helping hand. I can recall many hours that I spent on my senior project. I was able to use the expertise of my teachers, and the equipment that I had access to as a high school student was unbelievable. Seneca Valley is doing a great job at staying ahead with technology and offers a significant amount of hands-on experience. I was able to learn how to program robots, use instruments such as an accelerometer, and learn from teachers many techniques as a high school student that I never would have at most other schools. The push into the STEM field by Seneca Valley definitely helped to give me an edge up on my peers when I entered college and even the workforce.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: Staff member has to be my mom, but I have many favorite teachers and coaches. All of the softball coaches were so wonderful; both coach Trews (Big and Little), and coach Megan Meeder were so wonderful throughout my time at SV. I had so many great teachers, it is hard to pick a favorite! During my senior year, though, Mark Uhrinek and Joe Logsdon both really helped prepare me for my future career and Ms. Bonistalli was just an all-around wonderful teacher to have, and made school fun and interesting in the pottery room!

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: My senior year, we did the first-ever SV Lip Dub. This was so much fun and it really fostered a sense of community. This was probably one of my favorite memories at SV as we got to practice with all of our friends and we ended up winning the competition. It was an extremely fun event and I will always associate Imagine Dragon’s “On Top of the World” with fond memories of my senior year!

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: Continue to always take an interest in your students, encourage them, and believe in them! What you teach and do for each student truly helps each one throughout their lives. I would also just add to always encourage questions and hands-on activities for students to learn for themselves as learning from your own experiences is often extremely beneficial.

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  • Alumni Q&A with Ben Ranayhossaini, Class of 2004

    Posted by the Communications Department on 5/31/2018

    Seneca Valley 2004 graduate Ben Ranayhossaini is an engineer at Westinghouse Electric Company and has more recently been participating in US Olympic bobsledding and skeleton tryouts. We asked him to catch us up on what he is doing today and how Seneca Valley influenced his life and career.BR

    Q: Catch us up. Tell us what you’re doing today:
    A: I’ve been an engineer at Westinghouse Electric Company in the Instrumentation and Controls department for 10 years, starting in 2008. During my time at Westinghouse, I’ve had the opportunity to serve on several projects, and have traveled the globe performing various engineering services at commercial nuclear power plants.

    After graduating from Seneca Valley, I attended Penn State University and received my bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. Shortly after, in 2009, I enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in their graduate program while working at Westinghouse. I studied for three years, and in 2012 I graduated with my master’s in Electrical Engineering. Most recently, I took the Professional Engineering Exam in October 2017, and I am now a registered Professional Engineer, with a focus in Electrical Power.

    Q: Please share with us some information about your family.
    A: I am half Persian, and my other half is of other European descent (primarily Italian). I have two brothers, Nick and Dan, who are also Seneca Valley Graduates. I am the oldest sibling.
    I recently married my beautiful wife, Anna, in December 2017.

    Q: What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
    A: Outside of work and academics, I also have several hobbies I enjoy. While at Seneca, I didn’t really participate in sports or extracurricular activities, but during my college years I started to develop a liking for my own athleticism, starting with powerlifting, bodybuilding, running, etc. Over the years that has grown into a passion, to such an extent, where I am now participating in US Olympic bobsledding and skeleton tryouts. I’ve been attending the US Bobsledding and Skeleton tryout events for the last three years (since 2015); each year I have measurable progression in my physical aptitude.

    Q: How did Seneca Valley help you become the person you are today, both personally and professionally?
    A: Honestly, Seneca Valley is one of the best schools around. I started from kindergarten, and through the years, Seneca really enriched my learning; I’m proud to be an alumni. The credit really goes to all of my teachers, who allowed me to grow each year.

    Q: What do you think makes Seneca Valley such a special place to learn and grow?
    A: The education is challenging; toward the high school and senior high school years, the school provides an environment which sets a pathway for a student to succeed and project themselves into several career opportunities. Seneca Valley provides all of the educational “tools” necessary; it’s up to the student to apply them, and use them to build themselves into success.

    Q: Who was your favorite teacher/coach/SV staff member?
    A: They were all my favorite!

    Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Seneca Valley?
    A: I have to say that my favorite memory is high school graduation. I recall the whole student class meeting in the senior high auditorium, anxious to walk down to the football field and receive our diplomas. I was proud, being the first born in my family, to finally finish and begin my trek into the real world. At the time, it felt like I had accomplished a huge milestone.

    Q: If you had one message for teachers or staff, what would it be?
    A: I am grateful for all they have done, and continue to do. Teachers are a fundamental component in providing a solid education.

    Q: What do you wish other people knew about Seneca Valley?
    A: Seneca Valley is a great school, rooted in a wonderful community.

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