• 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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  • 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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