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West Mifflin gathers to celebrate at Community/Curriculum Night

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 4:41 a.m.
Kenny the Kangaroo greeted childen as they arrived at the community and curriculum night at West Mifflin Area Middle School on Thursday evening. Cindy Shegan Keeley| Daily News
Tyler Schuster, a sixth-grader, demonstrates Smart Music, an at-home music practice tool, under the supervision of West Mifflin Area Middle School band director Devon Smeal. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
WQED-13's Rick Sebak autographed posters and DVDs for Drew Chelosky and his daughters Molly, 18 months, and Caroline, 4. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Title 1 teacher Heather Vidic talks with Peggy and Brian Loosz while their daughter, Cloe, a fourth-grader at West Mifflin Area Middle School, picks out a free book. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News

West Mifflin Area School District's Community/Curriculum Night at the middle school on Thursday was an evening of fun, friends, families, food and more.

The second annual event drew hundreds of students, community residents and local leaders and more than 70 vendors and community groups.

WQED documentary filmmaker Rick Sebak was among the evening's special guests. The Pittsburgh Pirate Parrot and Kenny Kangaroo from Kennywood also were in attendance.

Sebak, who made the program “Kennywood Memories” about the amusement park 25 years ago, noted that he neglected to mention that most of the park is in West Mifflin in the original television release of the video.

After the special aired, Sebak recalled, he received a letter from the borough telling him about his omission. Sebak said he corrected the error in subsequent versions of the film by adding the “high in the sky above West Mifflin” to his voiceover.

Sebak was invited to the event by Becky Cibulka, who teaches at the high school and Homeville Elementary, because he knows her through her online food blog Sabor PGH.

Food was one of the evening's many attractions. Tables with baked goods, hot dogs and other snacks were spread throughout the school. High school senior Kayla Andress had her frozen treat stand Soul Ice set up near one of the entrances to the building.

Andress, who created the stand last year as a business project and uses proceeds to fund scholarships, said the enterprise has grown. Last year there were two students operating the stand at various school sporting events; this year there are six.

Community organizations like the West Mifflin Baseball and Youth Softball leagues used the evening as an opportunity to register players for the season staring on April 20.

“It helps with the signups,” said the baseball league's Dan O'Connell, who estimated about 25 boys and girls grabbed registration sheets at his table.

High school biology teacher Veronica Mattson handed out about 20 registration sheets for the school district's family vegetable garden program, which is in its second year. The garden can accommodate about 20 families, she said, and is located behind the high school. Participants start their seeds in April and plant in May for harvests later in the summer.

“We're trying to get families with young children,” Mattson said.

Musical performances took place throughout the evening, including a sampling of the high school theater department's upcoming musical “Willy Wonka.”

Senior Alex Tkach, who is playing an Oompa Loompa in the show, was dressed as one of the green-haired characters, working the crowd with some of her co-stars.

“We're advertising,” Tkach said. “We're getting them psyched up for the show,” which runs March 15-17.

Candice Downs was among the many parents taking advantage of various school services offered at the fair, by gathering information about preschool for her daughters Jada and Taylor, ages 3 and 4, respectively. With the information at hand, Downs was guiding the soon-to-be preschoolers and their older sister Makala, 5, who is in kindergarten, to a face-painting station.

“It's all they've been talking about,” Downs said.

District Superintendent Daniel Castagna, who noted the entire evening was funded through donations from individuals and community organizations, said the district wanted to “create an evening outside the typical open house and parent/teacher night” when it introduced the program last year. “We wanted to give the community a reason to come together.”

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or

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