Youth Partnership, school district get boost from Rotary

Sto-Rox Jr./Sr. High School Librarian Julie Himmelstein accepts a donation from Rotary members allowing the district to build a Learning Commons in the library.

Sonja Reis | MRCDC

The Sto-Rox Youth Partnership has found a solution to its transportation funding problem for this school year.

The McKees Rocks Area Rotary Club has stepped up to the plate and made a promise of $2,625 to allow extracurricular involvement one night a week for students at the Sto-Rox Upper Elementary.

On learning the vocational and community service organization had agreed to fund 21 weeks of transportation allowing rotarysymbolfor an increase in extracurricular programming for the students, Reena Naik, a Coro Fellow working with the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation, expressed excitement with the promised funding.

“I never dreamed they’d offer support for all three sessions of the program,” says Naik, who was instrumental in asking the Rotary club to consider donating in part or in whole to the partnership project.

The Rotary members received a round of applause when two weeks after Naik and others presented their proposal to club member it was announced a decision had been made. Club members decided they would fund the entire project for this school year.

Additionally, in the past 18 months, the Rotary Club has donated more than $11,000 to initiatives directly benefiting the 1,300-student district.

“We do the best we can do to partner with the Sto-Rox School District,” says Rotary President Abydee Butler Moore, of Butler Gas Products Company.

Last year, several students from Sto-Rox were invited to a job shadowing tour at Butler Gas where Butler Moore is executive vice president.

In addition to the creation of new after-school activities at the school, the transportation funding allows students to attend golfing sessions with Paul Coultas at The First Tee of Pittsburgh’s Pleasant Ridge location in Stowe. During the winter months, the students will have access to golf simulators.

It’s great that [the Rotary] has taken on this responsibility. It started small where they were helping to fund field trips and now that’s ballooned to providing weekly transportation for more than 30 students,” says Coultas of Kennedy.

He’s hopeful this will encourage other groups to get involved with transportation funding.

“The no. 1 barrier is transportation. There are so many programs in the [Sto-Rox area] that are not filled because of transportation issues,” says Taris Vrcek, executive director, MRCDC.

Another addition to the after school programming is Lashawn Reed’s Strong, Ambitious Women, LLC. She’s providing the programming to sixth-grade girls.

Besides this transportation initiative and others, Rotary Club has provided money to cover the cost of several field trips and conferences, professional attire and sheet music for the high school chorus, a nature trail program, a wood saw currently in use at the high school’s tech ed program among other items. The group also funds an annual $1,000 scholarship at Sto-Rox.

The Youth Partnership, a group of community partners in the McKees Rocks and Stowe areas, was formed in 2015. Partners include MRCDC, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, The First Tee of Pittsburgh, Strong Ambitious Women, LLC, Focus on Renewal and others.

In addition to all of the donations benefiting the students of Sto-Rox, the Rotary provides support to many other groups including the Sto-Rox Family Health Center, Ohio Valley Hospital School of Nursing, Crisis Center North, and others.

 The Greater McKees Rocks Rotary Club meets for a networking happy hour from 5-6 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at Olivia’s Banquet Facility, 318 Forest Grove Road, Kennedy. Regular luncheon meetings are held all other Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m. Prospective members are invited to attend.

The Rotary Club consists of about 25 members representing various businesses in the Sto-Ken-Rox area and beyond.