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BVA High School and Middle School receive $13,400 in Grants from BVA Charitable Fund

Belle Vernon Area middle and high school students will be beneficiaries of $13,400 in special projects as a result of the latest round of gift-giving by the BVA Charitable Fund.

    Directors of the non-profit organization announced the following awards after reviewing a total of eight applications:

    -- $6,050 to fund the startup of a STEM-like lab as part of the middle school library, utilizing special books, videos, tools and materials for innovative student projects related to science, technology, engineering and math studies.

    Also known as a “Maker Space,” the lab is being developed under the direction of science instructor Dan Vekkeli, who will use the BVA Charitable Fund grant to leverage additional funding and donated materials. Nationally, one-third of all schools already have “Maker Space,” while another one-third have plans to implement one.

    -- $6,500 toward the cost of a computerized numeric control router, a high-tech device to enable high school engineering students to manufacture and fabricate items instead of sending their designs to an outside firm to produce.

    Proposed by STEM instructor Michael Pappas on behalf of his classes, the equipment cost twice as much, but matching funds will cover the full cost, including related software and tutorials. The CNC router also will be used by students building robotics for BotsIQ competition.

    -- $850 toward creating a therapeutic area for special needs students at the high school. Instructor Cindy Pierce said the space will provide a least restrictive environment to help students better prepare for social interactions and instruction. Paint, artwork and other items are being privately donated.

    A month ago, the BVA Charitable Fund approved a $1,000 donation from its working capital account to fund a self-sustaining small coffee shop in the high school Media Room. The shop providing start-up business and marketing skills for a diverse group of students is being developed in cooperation with owners of the Perked Up Café in Charleroi.

    The latest grants bring to $32,000 the total amount of money awarded by the three-year-old BVA Charitable Fund for creative projects that enhance educational opportunities in the Belle Vernon Area School District.

    Approximately $4,000 remains available for a second round of grants to be awarded in spring 2020.

    “Interest is growing and the public is becoming more aware of the relevance of our group,” said Tom Svrcek, vice president of the BVA Charitable Fund and owner of CSC Insurance Options. “We had three times as many applications for almost twice the amount of gift-giving than was available. This demonstrates the need for a higher level of support.”

    Meanwhile, students recently rolled out their own “Roar Store,” where they create, market, produce and sell Leopards brand merchandise. An earlier $5,000 grant from the BVA Charitable Fund provided seed money for materials and purchase of a sales kiosk.

    Currently, 10 school, business and civic leaders in the Belle Vernon Area School District make up the volunteer board of directors who raise money for the fund, which is affiliated with the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County and, in turn, the Pittsburgh Foundation.