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Innovative Seneca Valley program boosted by donations

| Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, 8:22 p.m.
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Renee Foust, Farmer's National Bank branch manager, gives $2,500 to Seneca Valley Foundation Board of Trustee Vic Conrad. The EITC tax credit donation will benefit the Seneca Valley School District’s Honors Women in Engineering Program.

An innovative program at Seneca Valley has gotten a boost thanks to donations from several local banks.

Over the past month, NexTier Bank, Farmers National Bank and Mars National Bank contributed a combined $18,500 to Honors Women in Engineering through a program that enables businesses to receive a tax credit for supporting an approved scholarship fund or organization.

NexTier contributed $15,000, Farmers National $2,500 and Mars National Bank $1,000.

The state earlier this year agreed to allow the Seneca Valley Foundation, the district's charitable arm, to receive tax credit donations for the engineering program.

District Superintendent and foundation Executive Director Tracy Vitale praised the engineering program because it supports both STEM-related education and women, who are underrepresented in engineering.

“This is one that is near and dear to my heart as a female,” Vitale said.

“I would like to see more programs pushing toward female leadership and see more (programs) where females are actively engaged in math and science.”

The need for graduates in science, technology, engineering and math fields has grown significantly in recent years, Vitale said, and so has the need to engage females in a typically male-dominated field.

The bank's donations offset costs of equipment, experimental and consumable supplies and salaries, Andreassi said.

The engineering program needs $43,092 total, all of which can come through the tax-credit donations.

Honors Women in Engineering, in its third year, consists of one pre-engineering class open to junior and senior girls.

There's also a section of the pre-engineering class open to both sexes. Students can choose which one to take.

Vitale said research shows that when girls are given the opportunity to interact with other girls without boys present, they experience greater success, more self-confidence and tend to take more risks.

The program, one of only a few in the area, has been successful; the number of students in the program has quadrupled since its inception.

With both interest and need growing, Vitale said, the Seneca Valley Foundation would like to continue funding the engineering program and eventually expand it.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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