Donation of school supplies energizes St. Stephen’s students


The Education Partnership and Repsol have energized students at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Academy through a donation of school supplies and backpacks, along with inspirational messages.

This is the second year Talisman Energy, recently acquired by Repsol, has been the sponsor of Power Tool Homework Kits for St. Stephen’s students. The kits are one of the initiatives of The Education Partnership, a nonprofit organization that addresses educational inequities by providing school supplies to schools where a high percentage of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-price school lunches.

Jane McCarty, operations manager for The Educational Partnership, based in Pittsburgh’s West End, said the backpacks come with the tools students need to do their homework, such as paper, pencils, pens and glue sticks, along with crayons for younger students and highlighters for the older ones. But there’s more: Employees of the sponsoring company write an encouraging note for each child.

“Nine times out of 10, the student is going to reach for the note first because it shows someone outside of the organization (school) cares for the kid,” McCarty said.

She said the energy company’s representatives chose St. Stephen’s for its sponsorship. “They were impressed with the work that they do, the good work,” McCarty said.

Glade Run Lutheran Services operates St. Stephen’s Lutheran Academy. The private school is located on Glade Run’s Zelienople campus.

McCarty said including the notes with the school supplies is important. “I think it gives us the chance to encourage the students, to encourage their dreams,” she said. Because of the messages, the program is “not just bringing school supplies, but also love,” she added.

Keenan McGaughey, the assistant principal at St. Stephen’s, said the orange backpacks and supplies were a welcome holiday gift for the students and that he appreciates the support of The Education Partnership and the energy company.

“They always do an amazing job for a holiday distribution of backpacks and school supplies parents may not otherwise be able to afford,” he said.
And, McGaughey said, the hand-written notes, each one different, meant a lot to the students.

“It wasn’t a cookie-cutter type of thing,” he said.

One student asked if people from the company actually wrote the notes and whether they all were the same, McGaughey said. When told the notes were personally written and that “No two notes are the same,” the student was impressed.

Receiving a personal message means a lot, the assistant principal said.

The school has about 250 students in kindergarten through the 12th grade, and each one received a backpack with grade-appropriate supplies, McGaughey said.
Ninety-two percent of the students have special needs, such as emotional issues or autism, and 78 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, he said.
The energy company also donated toys for the school “store.” Students can earn “Jaguar Bucks” for good behavior that they can save and use to make purchases.
Walter Hufford, director of government and regulatory affairs for Repsol, said people with the company are glad to help “a bunch of great kids.”

“We recognize the importance of education, how critical it is not only for our country, but for our industry, making these investments in our future,” he said.
Employees wrote a variety of supportive messages for the students, Hufford said, among them, “You’re a rock star,” “Keep up the good work” and “Follow your dreams.”

About the Author

Madelyn Dinnerstein

Madelyn Dinnerstein is a communications professional who previously worked for Trib Total Media, where she last was a weeklies editor whose job included being the primary editor for the North Journal and McKnight Journal newspapers. An enthusiastic juggler, she has volunteered as a juggling instructor for youths in Glade Run Lutheran Services’ residential treatment facility since 2001. Recently, she has been helping with public relations for Glade Run on a volunteer basis, as well.

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