Ultimately for students, Valentine’s Ball focuses on community inclusion

Sonja Reis | MRCDC
After having made a fuss over their hairstyles and then donning their best attire, 160 Sto-Rox Upper Elementary students could be seen twirling the skirts of their dresses and straightening bow ties as they enjoyed a sense of togetherness during the school’s first ever Valentine’s Ball.

Community inclusion – one of the many efforts being pursued by Sto-Rox teachers and support staff as part of this school year’s reconfiguration process – was evident in all aspects of the Feb. 3 dinner dance.16466177_10154474526126795_606492818_o

Instead of holding grade-level specific dances at the end of the school year as has been done in year’s past, the staff decided to do something for the whole building while also getting the community involved in the planning and execution, says Heather Johnston, head teacher.

Food, music, flowers, photography and other items were provided with the help of local companies like Broadway Brunch, Mancini’s, Muetzel’s Florist and Gifts, McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (MRCDC) and from the talent pool provided by family members of staff members.

Patti Harding, owner and floral mastermind behind Muetzel’s, used the event as an opportunity to allow students to broaden their horizons and learn about the floral trade. She is a member of the Greater McKees Rocks Area Rotary Club and says she has been interested in finding a way to personally help the students in the Sto-Rox School District for some time.

16522012_10154474525996795_1522628165_o-1“I do enjoy teaching the kids. I do enjoy sharing,” says Harding, who recalls a time when she was interested in learning the trade but had trouble finding someone to let her in the back of the flower shop to learn the basics. Because of those difficulties, she says she told herself if she ever got lucky enough to own her own business she would share her passion with others who were interested.

Prior to the dance, select students traveled to Harding’s Robinson florist shop where they learned how to create the centerpieces used to decorate the dinner tables. Harding designed the centerpieces to be easy to create while still “allowing the students the opportunity to express themselves and have a little freedom.”

The students were amazed by the results of a project that took less than 45 minutes to complete.

Haley Corcoran, 12, of McKees Rocks, was one of the 14 students who helped create the floral arrangements.

She said learning how easy it is to create a floral centerpiece was a fun experience that allowed her to be able to help out her school.

Students with an “artistic flair,” were chosen to participate in the “real world application,” said Kristy Shuhilo, 5th-grade teacher and Sto-Rox alumna from Stowe.

“This Valentine’s Day Ball has been a buzz since we put it out there,” said Shuhilo. The students were really excited by it and have been looking forward to having a winter time activity for weeks now, she says.

The trip to learn about floral design is not the first time local businesses have provided the students in grades 4-6 insight into their product or profession. In November, Nick Mancini taught students how to bake Mancini’s Bakery bread using the ovens at the school cafeteria.