• Jan. 12, 2018

    Upper St. Clair looks to alumni for added educational value

    Alumni initiative Upper St. Clair School District is reaching out to its alumni in order to leverage their collective expertise and experience to provide a richer learning experience for current students.

    “Enhancing curricula content and classroom learning with visits from experts – whether in-person or via video conferencing – will provide added value to the educational program,” Dr. Sharon Suritsky, deputy/assistant superintendent, said. “Imagine the possibilities for students interested in pursuing careers in medicine, business, law, engineering, journalism, performance arts, etc. to have the opportunity to connect with working professionals who once walked the halls of their high school.”

    The Upper St. Clair School Board recently approved a contract with Almabase, a centralized alumni relations software product, which will enable the district to create an online community for graduates and friends of the district. Participating alumni and others will be able to volunteer for a variety of capacities including classroom visits, career exploration events, and job shadowing experiences. The software will enable district teachers and other staff to search participating alumni by expertise to match the educational goals of the classroom and/or project.

    “We believe that there is enormous potential for this endeavor,” Gordon Mathews, student services intern and project coordinator, said. “To be able to engage with our alumni to offer authentic and real world perspectives will be incredibly impactful.”

    Each year, the Upper St. Clair School Board approves goals for the year that correlate with the district’s strategic plan. One of those goals for the current year is to “engage the expertise of alumni and other external professionals to assist students and staff with field expertise and career guidance.”

    The initiative originated from former school board member Becky Stern. The Lawrence & Rebecca Stern Family Foundation has generously provided funding to support the project through the 2019-20 school year.

    “Many of our most transformational initiatives would not have been possible without the shared vision and private support of generous individuals,” Dr. Patrick O’Toole, superintendent of schools, said. “We are enormously grateful to Becky Stern and the Lawrence & Rebecca Stern Family Foundation for their foresight and commitment to Upper St. Clair School District.”

    Almabase will provide the software necessary to manage the alumni data. Mr. Mathews will spend the next several weeks developing the platform in order to launch the initiative – branded as Connect2USCSD – to a select group of alumni in January with full implementation by spring.

    In addition to the software platform, Mr. Mathews offered two career exploration luncheons for Upper St. Clair High School students during the fall semester. A business-focused event was held in October and a technology-focused event occurred in early December. USC alumni participated in both events.

    An Alumni Spotlight section has been added to the district’s website. Each month, a new alumnus or alumna will be featured – reflecting on his/her experience at Upper St. Clair. To date, the section features musician Benny Benack III, class of 2009; college football coach Kirk Ferentz, class of 1973; and author, actress and producer Eleni Romanias, class of 2010. January’s Alumni Spotlight will focus on clinical psychologist and college professor Dr. Lindsay Orchowski, class of 1999. 

    Those interested in learning how to get involved with the new alumni initiatives should contact Mr. Mathews at gmathews@uscsd.k12.pa.us.

    To discuss partnership opportunities that would enhance the mission and vision at USC, contact Mrs. Sheila Gorgonio, director of advancement, at 412-833-1600 ext. 2826 or via email at sgorgonio@uscsd.k12.pa.us

    Mrs. Gorgonio works with individuals who have an interest in supporting strategic, integrated and visionary initiatives that will significantly enrich the district’s mission. Other privately funded initiatives include the Innovation Hub@USCHS, which opened in 2014 and includes a MIT-certified FAB Lab and SHOP@USC; the Innovation Hub@Boyce and SHOP-Boyce@USC; the Innovation Hub@Fort Couch; the development of the Professional Learning Communities model in all six USC schools; and the recent renovation of the high school’s cafe321 (formerly the commons).