Two students win Valley Independent-Cal U awards
Stanley Jobie Rossell spends much of his free time processing maple syrup on his family's property, but Thursday evening was more sweet than sticky for the California Area senior.
Rossell and Charleroi Area senior Jasmine Naccarato each received one-year academic scholarships to California University of Pennsylvania at the 13th annual Scholarship for Outstanding High School Seniors.
The Valley Independent and Cal U sponsor the scholarships.
The two were selected from a group of 17 finalists – one male, one female – from each of the nine schools in The Valley Independent's circulation area during a ceremony at the university's Natali Student Center.
The awards were announced and presented by Dr. Timothy Susick of Cal U and Regina Stefan of The Valley Independent.
Rossell, an Eagle Scout who plans to study electrical engineering in college, has gone from boiling his first batch of maple syrup on a stovetop five years ago to drawing and producing syrup from 500 taps.
He is the son of Stanley and Robin Rossell of Coal Center.
“I upped by production from 2½ gallons my freshman year to 40½ gallons the next year, and that's when it became a commercial operation, so-to-speak,” Rossell said.
The enterprise is now a “family business,” one he hopes to continue with the purchase of a reverse osmosis machine to take on the workload while he's in college.
“From three miles of tubing out in the woods and a lot of help from my neighbors, this year we made 182 gallons,” he said. “Instead of me boiling for eight hours when I get home from school every night, it might only take two hours.”
Naccarato, the daughter of Brian and Donna Naccarato of Charleroi, has logged 50 volunteer hours at Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township and plans to major in psychology at Cal U.
“Volunteering there showed me there are so many people helping others on a daily basis,” she said. “It made me realize, more so, I wanted to work to help others.”
A percussionist with the Charleroi Area marching band since seventh grade, Naccarato said she hopes the beat goes on at the college level.
“I actually started playing percussion in third grade,” she said. “I'll probably take a year off and get my foot in the door academically, but I definitely think it's something I'll pursue again. It's not something I'm wanting to go without.”
Each candidate received a gift pack and a check for $500.
The nominees were as follows:
• Belle Vernon Area: Daniel Bednarczyk and Cassidy Truckenmiller.
• Bentworth: James Liermann and Betsy Ann Stowinsky.
• California Area: Rossell and Gia Bitonti.
• Charleroi Area: Sam Ames and Naccarato.
• Elizabeth Forward: Corey Behanna and Kelsey Meyers.
• Frazier: Corey Lutska and Sydney Marks.
• Monessen: Rosalyn Burger.
• Ringgold: Jeffrey Toth and Samantha Middlemis.
• Yough: Aaron Morgan and Tiffany Nestor.
A video presentation by CUTV displayed childhood and current photos of each of the nominees while highlighting their academic achievements, athletic and extracurricular activities, and community service.
The program featured remarks by Geraldine Jones, interim Cal U president; Rob Hammond, general manager of The Valley Independent; and Jon Difilippo, a Cal U sophomore and 2011 scholarship recipient.
Jones, a former public school teacher, said the scholarship is more important than ever for continuing education in tough economic times.
Hammond praised the students' spirit of volunteerism while quizzing the audience on the history and modern-day state of the newspaper industry.
“You kids do so much in the communities that you live in. Our world would be a much better place if all of us did just a portion of what you do,” Hammond said.
“It's our pleasure to provide the financial support for this program. … We've enjoyed our relationship with Cal U and plan on continuing this.”
Difilippo, a California Area graduate majoring in communication studies, encouraged the students to always keep their eyes and ears open to opportunity.
“Remember that a first impression is a lasting impression,” he said. “You never know if who you meet next will be the key to your future success.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-684-2635.