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Cornerstone students take lead in fundraiser to buy building from South Park district

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

With the lease for Cornerstone Christian Preparatory Academy expiring in June, the small private school's 39 students are spearheading a fundraiser to buy their building from the South Park School District.

“Cornerstone is like my second home. I don't want to see it fall apart, and I don't want to go anywhere else,” said sophomore Bri Pope of McMurray.

The school is approaching the end of its second year in South Park's former Stewart Elementary School along Brownsville Road. Unless the district renews its lease, Cornerstone must either find a new home or raise $105,000 to buy the building outright, said Principal Brandon McCall.

“The building, for us, is great,” he said. “We've all invested a lot of sweat equity.”

South Park School District Superintendent Jeanine Gregory said the district has a sales agreement with the school, and she is optimistic Cornerstone could meet its goals, but if it did not, officials would go to the school board to talk about renewing the lease, which expires at the end of June.

Cornerstone students have taken the lead in soliciting donations, raising more than $18,000 in seven days for the “A Home for the Stone” campaign on youcaring.com.

They want to meet their goal by early June.

Many credit the school, founded in 2008, with improving their academic performance and their faith.

“There's such a difference in terms of the students and environment at Cornerstone,” said Amanda Arvay, a sophomore from Peters who attended public schools until eighth grade. “If I have a problem or questions, here I feel like I can ask anybody.”

Pope and Arvay said they worked with their classmates and parents to write letters to friends, family and business people seeking donations to the campaign.

“The kids are definitely driving this boat, and it's been great to sit back and watch them,” said science teacher Ethan Anastas, who also coaches the school's robotics team.

That team won first place in the BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) Robotics tournament in 2012 at Auburn University and took second place in 2013 at a BEST competition in Fargo, N.D.

Anastas said the technical skills the students demonstrated and the marketing, networking and presentation skills they built during those robotics competitions are helping them to pitch the school to potential donors.

McCall said the school had a relatively large graduating class last year, and a successful open house earlier this spring.

He anticipated enrollment going up to about 70 students in grades seven to 12 next fall. Cornerstone's tuition will be $6,950 for the 2014-15 academic year.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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