Shady Side Academy students celebrate King Jr. Day by serving the community

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 2:01 p.m.

Students from Shady Side Academy didn't take the day off to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Instead, they “had the day on,” said Academy President Tom Cangiano. “Instilling the value of service has long been a hallmark of Shady Side Academy education.”

Nearly 325 students, staff and parents participated in hands-on service projects Jan. 21 around the region to mark the school's third annual MLK Day of Service.

Locally, students delivered sweet treats such as root beer floats to patients at the Heinz campus of the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System in O'Hara.

Others helped prepare handmade crafts for a party with patients at HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital in Indiana Township.

“It is important to us to be deliberate in finding ways for our students to engage with and serve the communities beyond our campus gates,” Cangiano said.

He said the day of service is a chance for all of those involved with the school to come together and be educated about social issues, engage in service and reflect on its impact.

More than a dozen students in the seventh through 12th grades visited HealthSouth last week.

There, under the direction of music teacher Stan Nevola, they prepared meals and crafts to provide a party for patients.

The interaction reaps significant benefits for both sides, Nevola said.

“It's important for us to all do something that is not financially rewarding but rewarding in another ways,” Nevola said.

“Many of our kids have done volunteering before, but this experience really helped them get what it means to help. Rather than stocking shelves, they worked with people firsthand who need their help. They saw the joy they brought.”

Last week's projects included making toiletry kits for Operation Walk patients in Honduras, which provides free hip and knee replacements to people in developing countries.

Students also prepared meals to be delivered to Bethlehem Haven Shelter, which provides transitional housing and other services to needy women.

Still others helped clean and organize books for the library at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and others built rain barrels for the Kingsley Center of East Liberty, a group dedicated to the rejuvenation of Pittsburgh's Larimer community.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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