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Shaler Area alumna challenges classmates to donate to foundation

| Wednesday, June 7, 2017, 4:03 p.m.
Dorothy Petrancosta of Shaler.
Dorothy Petrancosta of Shaler.

A Shaler Area alumna hopes to inspire others to enrich current students' educations.

Dorothy Petrancosta devised the idea of challenging alumni to donate to the Shaler Area Education Foundation from March through Homecoming weekend.

Founded in 2014, the Shaler Education Foundation is a nonprofit with the mission of supporting the educational needs and curricular advancement beyond the district's budget.

She launched the “Foundation Challenge” by making a $500 donation and printing a solicitation letter inside programs at the “A Taste of Shaler Area” fundraiser in March.

“Our Shaler Area education is our foundation,” she wrote. “It provided us with fundamental and portable skills essential to our ability to convey and receive information critical to our subsequent training and life successes in our homes and in our workplaces.”

Foundation President Ruth Modzelewski said she found Petrancosta's initiative appealing because it is the foundation's first “foray into this type of fundraising, and it is a great way to begin to engage alumni.”

A 1981 Shaler Area High School graduate, Petrancosta went on to earn a bachelor's in accounting from Penn State University and a law degree from Duquesne University. She owns Dorothy J. Petrancosta Law Office.

“We're so new as a foundation, that we're trying to see what fits and what works as we're trying to do outreach to the community and getting them to know us and understand what we're trying to accomplish within the school district,” Modzelewski said.

The foundation uses its funds to distribute grants to Shaler Area students, teachers or staff members meeting its approval. Relevant requests include those for innovative educational programs, scholarly travel, school supplies, pilot projects and professional development for staff and teachers.

Modzelewski said the foundation currently distributes $3,000 during each of the year's three grant cycles.

“The idea being that, as our fundraising increases, we would certainly be increasing our grant making, as well.”

“My goal is to say to my peers, who have done things with that foundation that they have got from this institution, let's give the kids money,” Petrancosta said.

“I think the important part, too, is that it's any amount of a donation. It doesn't matter. Any amount goes somewhere.”

Modzelewski said she “would love to see ... feedback from every class. It's more about engagement than the actual number for us right now.” She expects to announce the amount raised sometime during homecoming festivities.

In an effort to commence and maintain contact with alumni, the district and foundation are partnering on the first alumni directory project in 20 years. They are working with Publishing Concepts, or PCI, to verify alumni contact information. Alumni will have the opportunity to purchase digital, soft- and hard-bound versions of the directories from $50 to $130, according to Bethany Baker, district communications specialist. She said the directories can be used for reconnecting with classmates, networking and reunion planning.

To donate to the Foundation Challenge, send a check to:

Shaler Area Education Foundation, 1800 Mount Royal Blvd. Glenshaw PA, 15116. In the memo line, write “Foundation Challenge” and class year, if relevant.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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