Students Take the Wheel, Drive GS Forward

  GS students never stop giving their time to their school and community, and this April, two organizers gave their time to help two community events stand out above the rest.

 

   Dodge for Dementia

   On Saturday, April 8, 256 students from 11 school districts in the region came to GS’ gymnasium for one reason and one reason only: Dodgeball.

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A GS dodgeball team crouches at the line, ready for the Dodge for Dementia tournament to begin. Photo credit: Gabe Vogel

  At some point or another, every high school student feels the intensity of a dodgeball match, but in terms of scale and purpose, GS’ Dodge for Dementia wasn’t the typical dodgeball tournament.

   “We came up with the idea at the National Honors Society [NHS] conference in Pittsburgh back on November 29,” senior NHS President Melissa Paravate said.

   Paravate remembers the date because, whether she knew it then or not, the commitment she made was monumental. At the conference, their task was to create an event for their school that could raise funds “for a good cause.” From the start, Paravate and the NHS organizers were drawn to the Alzheimer’s Association as well as World Vision, an organization targeting international poverty with a focus on children.

   “We wanted to do something to make a difference,” Paravate said.

   And of course they did, but how would NHS raise the funds? What would the event actually be? For Paravate, the answer had to be a sporting event. Paravate and the team of NHS organizers were initially torn between volleyball and dodgeball, but they decided that volleyball was too exclusive.

   “We didn’t want it just to be aimed at athletes,” she said. “We wanted more people to get involved. So we picked dodgeball.”

 

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Seniors Tony Altieri (below) and Kevan Downs (above) competing in their respective matches. Photo credit: Gabe Vogel

  “At our school, we promoted it all over the halls, posters everywhere, announcements all over the place, social media, you know,” she said.

  But that was only effective at GS. To get other schools to participate, Paravate recruited three other NHS members: seniors Erica Faulk, Peter Laskoski and Troy O’Black. Then, like foreign ambassadors, the four drove around the entire county, from Southmoreland to Burrell, meeting with school administrations to get them involved in their event.

  “The amount of people we had to contact and the ways we had to contact them….” Paravate remembered. “Emails, phone calls, messages… any way that you can think of to contact people we definitely did.”

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The participators weren’t just students! Excela Health sent a team to help the cause and compete as well. Photo credit: Gabe Vogel

  After this and months of planning, Paravate’s team finally hosted the event two weeks ago. It was a triumph both for them and for the GS team that won the tournament. Juniors Reid Amundson, Kobe Dinsmore, Dajauhn Hertzog, Lucius Nicolai, Jack Oberdorf, Sage Parsley, Noah Sweeney and one senior, Darren Beirne, made up the winning team.

  “I was really pleased with the whole tournament,” Paravate said. “Everybody showed up, and all our referees came.”

  Paravate wanted to give “a huge shout-out,” to the National Guard, which sent six reserve officers to referee the tournament among teachers and other volunteers.

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On behalf of NHS and the organizers, Troy O’Black thanks their supporters, listed on Paravate’s shirt. Photo credit: Gabe Vogel.

  The NHS President said the event had its share of flaws. For example, Paravate thought she missed the mark on organizing the time slots, meaning they had much more free time than they anticipated. Additionally, it was hard to get teams to sign up at the beginning. The organizers had to do a lot of “chasing.”

  “People were really understanding that this is only our first year doing this; we’re only seniors in high school,” she said. “We did our best.”

  All in all, the event was a success. The event was highly praised by many participants and by GS administration. According to Paravate, the Dodge for Dementia team raised $2,383 just on the day of the event, in addition to all of the sponsorship and participation money raised beforehand. Paravate said she estimated the event’s total revenue at about $4,300, all of which will be donated to their beneficiaries, along with the NHS and the National Junior Honors Society [NJHS].

  “Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped us out with this,” Paravate said. “We couldn’t have done this without everyone’s support.”

 

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

   Dodge for Dementia was a boisterous event, but the art students in room 238 gave to their community in a quieter way, donating symbolic pieces to the Blackburn Center’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®️, which was held at Offutt Field last Saturday, the 21st.

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A group of walkers leaving Offutt near the end of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Photo by: Jules McBride.

   Every year since 2011, the Blackburn Center, a local anti-violence organization, has held a march against gender-related and domestic violence somewhere in Greensburg. The event is largely a fundraiser, and it’s growing in popularity: in recent years, the number of walkers has more than tripled since the first WMHS®️. Mrs. Kelley Audia, art teacher of room 238, spoke of the event.

  “Men come – I know they get the Seton Hill football team to attend – and they wear red high-heel shoes, and they symbolically walk a mile in those shoes to symbolize their support,” Mrs. Audia said.

  In past years, the Blackburn Center has held the event at Lynch Field and St. Clair Park, but no matter where they’ve marched, they always bring one thing: art.

  “Offutt Field is a big space, so I’m kind of hoping we can make enough of a visual impact and provide as much as possible,” Audia said.

  Though she couldn’t attend this year, the art teacher donated a collection of pieces to the March, which were displayed around Offutt’s fence for all the participants to take in. Over the last two years, WMHS®️ has seen in the neighborhood of 1,100 participants, which means the donated work got a lot of exposure.

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A few of Painting II’s many symbolic pieces zip-tied to Offut’s fence. Photo by: Jules McBride.

   Throughout the years, Audia has encouraged her advisory class to get involved and make art for this event. This year, her art students also chipped in.

  “My Painting II kids did the piece out in the hall, and the Printmaking kids were very willing to help,” she said.

  Painting II, which Mrs. Audia has first block, created a set of colorfully painted ink prints of shoes. Some depict the symbolic high-heel shoe used by the Blackburn Center, while others are more inventive. A few are decorated with quotes or positive messages, while others stand alone. This year, the Painting II students took notes from Andy Warhol.

  “We try to do something different every year, but we typically kind of focus on shoes as our subject matter,” Audia said. “So this year we took Warhol as our inspiration, specifically his early work.”

  These pieces were small, but Audia and her class made a lot. Audia said that it might be possible to arrange them like a quilt to strengthen their visual impact, but in the end, they decided to spread them out around Offutt’s fence.

[Junior Molly Krunszyinsky, Sophomore Haylie Roth, Mrs. Kelley Audia, and Senior Matis Stephens hold their respective pieces.]

   

   In addition, the printmakers made a piece of their own.

  “My printmaking class did what’s called a collograph of houses,” Audia said. “They each had to choose and design their own houses, and we did a whole sort of city block.”

  The piece was placed on the front end of the football field so that the participants could see it as soon as they walked in. It boasts a full row of unique houses, accompanied by a quote above the rooftops: “A house where someone feels unsafe is not a home.”

 

   The piece was placed on the front end of the football field so that the participants could see it as soon as they walked in. It boasts a full row of unique houses, accompanied by a quote above the rooftops: “A house where someone feels unsafe is not a home.”

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The printmaking class’s piece, lifted from the fence by the breeze. Photo by: Jules McBride

   Audia and the art classes also donated a mixed media piece entitled “Cultivate kindness,” a collaborative piece by seniors Katelyn DiCriscio, Kendra Kennedy, Claire Simpson and two juniors, Hannah Ahearn and Natalie Susa.

“I think it’s important for people to get inspired to let themselves be heard,” Audia said. “And giving these pieces is something that can accomplish that.”

 

So what?

  GS students will never stop finding ways to give to their school and their community. At GS, there are perpetually student-run or student-oriented events to raise funds, such as Open Mic Night, the talent show, and of course, Mini-THON. But when one is surrounded by student leaders, organizers, dodgeballers and Mini-THONers, it might become natural to ask: Why? What’s the incentive for giving hours of one’s life to a larger cause or a one-night event?

  “You don’t always need to get something out of it,” Paravate said. “There was nothing in it for me.”

  Paravate didn’t know if she considered herself an altruist, but it could be justified. The NHS President claims she has over 800 volunteer hours under her belt.

  “I think it’s really important to give back and make an impact on the people who are coming up,” she said. “Make it something people in the future would look forward to, if they would want to do it again.”

  The NHS President and the art teacher had unique stances, but both thought it was important to inspire others.

  “I always tell [my students], you’re doing something for the community,” Audia said. “And that might not seem like a big undertaking, but when it all comes together that’s going to make a big impact. Art is powerful.”

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As the walk simmered down, participants, some still carrying signs, hang out in pockets by the Offutt locker rooms. Photo by: Jules McBride

  Mrs. Audia hopes to expand NAHS into more than just face painting and donating. She has thought about taking her students to events promoting art and art activism. Paravate is optimistic for the future, too.

  “I do hope [Dodge for Dementia] continues,” she said. “But it really depends on who your [NHS] officers are next year.”

   Paravate in particular wanted to express her gratitude to the multitude of GS staff, students and community leaders who gave their time and money to make Dodge for Dementia work. Greatly pleased with the support and compliments she got, she regards her event as a success.

  “Mrs. Harper told me she didn’t think I was crazy enough to pull this off,” Paravate laughed. “Well, we all learn things about ourselves through a process like this!”

 

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