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Students turn out for McKeesport Area's Tiger Fest

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 4:26 a.m.
Kendra Macey, 3, anxiously places her Plinko chip at Tiger Fest.
Ivori Millender, a McKeesport Area sophomore, gets her nails painted by senior Bryanna Pirl, who is enrolled in the cosmetology program.
Morghan Sims, 8, of McKeesport sits patiently while her face is painted into a tiger.

McKeesport Area High School freshman Justin Cheeseman had one goal in mind at Tiger Fest, the school's annual multi-organization fundraiser.

That was to send his social studies teacher Matt Mols into murky waters on Wednesday evening.

“I'm getting back at him for giving me a low grade,” Justin said when he hit the dunk tank target for the second time. “It felt good.”

The secret of his marksmanship?

“Before I throw the ball,” he said, “I sometimes close my eyes and ask God to help me.”

Mols took his dunkings in good spirit.

“It's just about the kids,” he said. “I've done this for a couple years now. I like giving the kids a hard time. It's for a good cause.”

“It's definitely our moneymaker,” English teacher Jennifer Hairston, the student council advisor, said of the tank, which is sponsored by Turner's Iced Tea and the Patterson family.

All student organizations and athletic clubs participate in Tiger Fest to raise money for a semi-formal dance in January.

Hairston said about $2,000 was raised in the first 60 minutes of the three-hour event.

“The more we raise, the more we get to do; so it's a nice time for everyone,” senior Courtney Patterson, the student council president, said.

Hairston said student council begins organizing the festival at the start of school year. It usually takes place around homecoming, but had to be moved this year to avoid scheduling conflicts with another special event.

Senior Kristen Smith said she was happy to play a role in organizing the fundraiser, having been a participant in past years.

“It's a lot different,” Kristen said. “We're more involved. We're the older ones. We know more of what we're doing. We've watched all the other kids take control of it, and now it's our turn. It had to do a lot with homecoming and bringing everyone back. We got a lot of donations this year.”

Courtney said all student council members solicited businesses and organizations for donations, and some visited schools to promote Tiger Fest.

“I feel like it's going to be a real success this year, which will make my senior year and everybody else's at semi even better,” Courtney said.

About 500 people participated in activities such as face painting, pictures with the Tiger mascot, food sales, a Chinese auction, raffles, games and a “marriage booth.”

“It's kind of a little joking thing,” senior Will Gadson said. “The girl you like or the guy you have a crush on, you go take a picture at the marriage booth. It's a memento of Tiger Fest to show that you had a good time and met different people.”

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965, or