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Ruffsdale native revels in Emmy experience

Joe Napsha
| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Kimberly McMichael Snyder of Youngwood (left) poses with actress and comedian Molly Shannon at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony on Sept. 15, 2013.
Kimberly McMichael Snyder of Youngwood (left) poses with actress and comedian Molly Shannon at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony on Sept. 15, 2013.
Holly Hope Yencha (left) of West Newton and Kimberly McMichael Snyder of Youngwood pose in front of the Emmy statuette replica near the red carpet while attending the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony on Sept. 15, 2013.
Holly Hope Yencha (left) of West Newton and Kimberly McMichael Snyder of Youngwood pose in front of the Emmy statuette replica near the red carpet while attending the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony on Sept. 15, 2013.

A Ruffsdale native who won a $10,000 scholarship for her proposal to develop an iPad application to help teachers working with special education students got the chance to meet some Hollywood stars and watch paparazzi in action last month at an Emmy awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

Kimberly McMichael Snyder of Youngwood, formerly of Ruffsdale, was joined by her childhood friend and college roommate, Holly Hope Yencha of West Newton, in walking down the red carpet Sept. 15 into the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony, where television producers and set designers were recognized. Snyder was invited as one of the four winners of the 2013 Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation's Mister Rogers Memorial Scholarship, which is named after Latrobe native Fred Rogers, a pioneer in children's television.

“We walked down the red carpet. That's really incredible for two country kids,” Snyder said of herself and Yencha.

Instead of driving up to the Emmys in a limousine like television stars, the Westmoreland County women drove their rental car to the ceremony, but did enjoy the perks of having preferred parking tickets, Yencha said.

Many of the photographers along the red carpet were yelling the name of every celebrity who walked down the red carpet in an attempt to get their attention, Yencha said.

“They were behind small barriers and under umbrellas. It was just as you would see on television and very frenzied,” Yencha said.

Rather than ignoring the two Western Pennsylvania women who were not the target of photographers seeking cover shots for magazines, Snyder said the celebrities they met “were really friendly.”

“Everyone we met, from actors to writers to set artists, were extremely friendly. I anticipated some of the celebrities being shy and avoiding interactions, except when necessary. It was quite the opposite. Many of the actors even went up to the gated area where fans were and took pictures with them,” Yencha said.

The two 32-year-old women had the opportunity to meet Academy Award winning actor Morgan Freeman, actor Michael Emerson from the television shows “Lost” and “Person of Interest,” comedians Bob Newhart and Seth Green and actresses Lisa Rinna, Katherine McPhee and Molly Shannon, among others. And they have the pictures to prove it.

Not only did they get a good reception outside the theater where the four-hour ceremony was held, but inside they got tickets to sit in the orchestra pit, rather than the upper tier far from the stage.

“I thought we were going up to the balcony,” Snyder said.

Rogers Scholarship

Snyder was selected for the prestigious honor of the Rogers scholarship “because the strength of her work indicated her ability to embody the values of the legendary Fred Rogers as she pursues her career in children's media,” said Norma Provencio Pichardo, executive director of the Television Academy Foundation in North Hollywood, Calif.

The scholarship, which was announced in March, is worth $10,000 to graduate students to support and encourage them to pursue a career in children's media and further the values and principles of Fred Rogers' work, according to the foundation's website.

Snyder is working with a Pittsburgh area computer game developer to create the iPad application that she says will be a positive classroom behavior management program.

“The purpose of the application is to stimulate student motivation and positive behaviors in the classroom by allowing the students to have an opportunity to earn a reward through an interactive iPad game,” said Snyder, who hopes to have it in operation by spring 2014.

“I've always wanted to find a positive motivation for students, rather than the consequences to motivate positive behavior,” said Snyder, who has worked as a behavior specialist dealing with children with developmental disabilities.

The two 1999 Greensburg Central High School and Penn State graduates share more than a social friendship – “she's the best friend you can have” Yencha says of Snyder – they both have a passion for education and want to make it their career.

Snyder is a substitute elementary teacher in the Yough and Southmoreland school districts. Yencha has taught at the Northwestern Human Services Autism School in Whitney, Unity Township.

Snyder earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology at Penn State, while Yencha was earning a bachelor's degree in psychology, also at Penn State.

Snyder has a master's degree in developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh and is working toward a master's degree in early childhood education at Carlow University in Pittsburgh in the spring of 2014. Ultimately, she said she wants to teach in an elementary school and continue developing children's media.

Yencha is working toward her doctoral degree in special education at the University of Pittsburgh. She earned her master's degree in special education with teacher certifications in special and elementary education at Seton Hill University in Greensburg.

She wants to continue teaching after earning her doctorate. Yencha also has been operating her business, Jolly Holly Balloon Art & Co., out of her home in West Newton.

“I also hope to work with kids in some capacity, even if only through my balloon business or a few hours a week at a center,” Yencha said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-836-5252.

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