At Shady Side Academy, we’re encouraged by the steadfast support of our community to step up and grow our impact. To uncover our students’ motivations, goals, and dreams. To expand their view of the world by connecting with classmates from across neighborhoods, regions, and seas. We move with the world, but only with your support in doing so.
The tour–which was a longtime dream of Senior School Math Teacher and BSU advisor Justin Jackson-Strong and falls in line with SSA’s commitment to equitable experiences for its students–finally came to fruition thanks to a generous donation from Pittsburgh’s Tristate Capital Bank, which fully funded the experience.
Sterling H. Murray, Employee Engagement Manager at TriState Capital Bank, was instrumental in building the bridge between SSA and TriState to realize the spring break trip. “My nephew was a junior at Shady Side Academy at the time, so I felt like this was the perfect time to help support students who look like him,” Murray says. “It’s important for businesses and institutions to give back to communities like SSA to show our support for the future and provide tools and resources on how to be successful as an adult in this world.”
Jackson-Strong, who had what he describes as a “transformative experience” at Morehouse College, a HBCU in Atlanta, GA, noticed that in years past graduating students weren’t choosing to attend HBCUs, likely because they didn’t have exposure to them. He set out to find a way to put HBCUs in view for SSA’s black students because, as he explains, HBCUs, while open to all students, “end up becoming a cultural center for young, black academics and a place for us to be in a space that is ours.” Melvin M. Washington, Chief Audit Officer at TriState Capital Bank and another Morehouse graduate, agrees. “These types of schools have played and continue to play an important role in our education system due to the curriculum offered and how they can help assimilate the Black population into this melting pot that we call our society,” he says. “It is important for these students to see how these schools and the people that have attended these schools have positively impacted this country.”
Chief Equity, Inclusion & Community Relations Officer Lillian Grate, who chaperoned the trip along with Jackson-Strong and three other adults, says that the goal of the trip was to expose the students to the variety of spaces open to them. In her role at SSA, Grate says, she is “tasked with creating the structures and the spaces for inclusion and for equity to make sure that all of our students have an equitable process and outcome.” The spring break trip offered an opportunity to extend a space of belonging to the attending BSU students. The group visited North Carolina A&T State University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Morris Brown College, and Clark Atlanta University, all HBCUs, as well as Emory University and Georgia Tech. “The point of this trip was to give them actual cultural experience and enlightenment,” Grate says.
“The trip was eye opening for the students and it awakened them to other possibilities they hadn’t even considered because they didn’t have the exposure prior,” Jackson-Strong says. Student Trinity Brock ’24 attested to that notion when she described the journey as “awe-inspiring.” With college applications in her near future, Brock says that this trip encouraged her to add some of the visited institutions to her list.
Jackson-Strong is grateful for donations that allow him and other SSA leaders to envision bold opportunities for SSA students. “At Shady Side Academy, we put students in a position to find their place in this world,” Jackson-Strong says. “When people donate, they are directly contributing to the opportunity for students to find their place.”
Grate recognizes the power of donating as well. “If it weren’t for the donation we received to realize this trip, it wouldn’t have been possible,” she says. “Giving the students this opportunity meant everything to me. They were not the same people when they came home.”
Both Grate and Jackson-Strong hope to continue serving BSU students with similar college tours in future years. If given the opportunity, Brock encourages other students to jump at the chance. “Do it,” she advises. “It’s life-changing in the best way. You learn about yourself, about others, and about what you want to do.”
To him, and to many other members of the Class of 1966, the library is representative of all the academic advantages that Shady Side Academy has to offer its current and future students–and that’s why they were so moved to help support the fundraising effort to establish the $2.2 million conversion of Memorial Hall to an innovative and contemporary Class of 1966 Memorial Hall Library.
Dr. Bartley Griffith Sr. ’66 offered a generous lead gift and challenged his fellow class of 1966 alumni to get involved, with the hope of naming the new space after the class. When Varadi heard about Dr. Griffith’s challenge, he was quick to join the fundraising effort. Varadi, who worked as an executive recruiter for more than 40 years and serves as the class of 1966’s class agent, had already worked diligently over the past few decades to get his classmates engaged with the current SSA community. He was glad to reach out again in support of the fundraising effort for the new library space.
“The library is the heart of education,” Varadi says. “The library is where you get your fuel for your academic endeavors. It’s got the research, the bricks you use to build your papers and your thesis. That’s why this endeavor is so important.”
The new 5,500 square-foot library, which will honor the building’s original architectural features, will house enhanced digital platforms, a host of collaborative learning spaces, a large, multi-use classroom and meeting space, and a small presentation stage in support of events and gatherings, as well as a spacious mezzanine. The project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2023, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated during Homecoming weekend.
With an emphasis on confidence building, McGeever tailors instruction to each grade level’s emotional readiness, beginning with body and spatial awareness, eye contact, and courage for kindergartners, then building up, as the students age, to emotional improvisation, line memorization, and full performances.
The skills learned in theater arts classes are meant to serve the students throughout their time at SSA, and as they move beyond the quad to their lifelong endeavors. “Ensemble building is at the very core of what I'm trying to do with this program,” McGeever says. “I want to create classes of kids who rely on each other and lift each other up.” Through the process, she has watched students showcase dedication, empathy, and courage. “At the end of the year, those kids who initially came to me with stage fright were the ones who sought me out the most to say, ‘Thanks for pushing me. Thanks for showing me what bravery is,’” she says.
Dr. Jennifer Asmonga, Head of Lower Schools, echoes McGeever’s views on the skill-building potential of this program. “There is no job that exists in this world where you don't benefit from having communication and collaboration skills that allow you to speak with confidence,” she says. “It is a skill set that will benefit a student for their entire lifetime.”
The third, fourth, and fifth grader’s end-of-year plays bolstered the students’ conceptual knowledge gained in other classes, as their performances focused on American history, ancient Greece, and Shady Side’s five guiding principles, Honesty, Kindness, Responsibility, Respect, and Safety. Going forward, McGeever expects the Junior School’s theater arts program to impact generations of SSA students. That work is made possible by the community’s generous financial support.
“When people donate to the Blue & Gold Fund, it enables us to evolve as an institution and create innovative experiences for our students so they’re well prepared to enter the world,” Dr. Asmonga says. “The theater arts program is such a great example of that benefit.”
That’s why Nick, President of Marathon Strategic Advisors, LLC, and his wife, Maria Terezis, an Office Manager and Client Service Associate at Fairview Capital Investment Management, are passionate about monetarily supporting the SSA community. “I want to support Shady Side because it’s so important for the development of our children,” Nick says.
To do so, Nick and Maria take advantage of a Pennsylvania program that allows individuals to direct their state tax dollars to financial aid funds at SSA. Through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs, SSA can provide financial aid scholarships to qualifying students. An individual or couple may donate to these scholarship funds and receive a 90% state tax credit by participating in a Special Purpose Entity (SPE).
Working in the financial field, both Nick and Maria are aware of various tax credit and deduction opportunities, but “this just stands out as the best way to give to Shady Side,” Nick says. And it’s one way to make sure you know how your state tax dollars are getting put to work. “It’s all directed to the school, and it makes a real impact,” Maria says.
Nick is a supportive alum of SSA, and both he and Maria are proud SSA parents–their daughter Ava, a student at SSA since pre-K, will graduate in 2025. But Nick points out that it’s not only parents and alumni who can help finance a great education for worthy students while earning a tax credit. He encourages the SSA community to invite everyone they know who pays taxes in Pennsylvania to participate in the program and enrich the lives of aid-seeking students at SSA.
A21 Academy Inc.
Alexander Gilfillan Charitable Trust
Allegheny Intermediate Unit
Allegheny Mineral Corporation
American Eagle Outfitters
American Endowment Foundation
American Online Giving Foundation
Atlanta Jewish Foundation
Bank of America Charitable Gift Fund
BNY Mellon Community Impact Program
Broudy Printing Inc.
Brunins Law, LLC
Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools
Casey Equipment Corporation
Central Pennsylvania Scholarship Fund
Church Brew Works Foundation
Citizens Bank/Citizens Financial Group
Cleveland Brothers Equipment Co., Inc.
Diehl Automotive Group, Inc.
Edward A. & Sherley F. Craig Charitable Trust
Estate of Eugene B. Strassburger III
Federated Advisory Services Company
FEIA HockeyFidelity Charitable Gift Fund
First National Bank of Pennsylvania
Frank Calandra, Inc.
Gailliot Family Foundation
Glimcher Group, Inc.
Goldman Sachs Gives
Gookin Family Foundation
Grune Family Foundation
Imlers Poultry Inc.
Isaly Company Charitable Trust
James & Nancy Wolf Family Foundation
James and Marilyn A. Gilmore Foundation
Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
JP Morgan Chase
Kassling Family Foundation
M. R. Metzger Family Foundation
Marin Community Foundation
Marotta Chiropractic & Massage
Merle E. and Olive Lee Gilliand Foundation
Metz Culinary Management
National Philanthropic Trust
NexTier Bank, N.A.
Northern Trust Charitable Giving Program
Oppenheimer & Co. Inc.
Paul G. Benedum, Jr. Foundation
Personal Finance Club
Phillip H. and Betty L. Wimmer Family Foundation
Pittsburgh - Mt. Oliver Intermediate Unit #2
Pittsburgh Jewish Educational Improvement Foundation
PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
PNC Foundation Matching Gift Program
Ron Lewis Ford Kia
Ross Development Company
Roy A. Hunt Foundation
Salvitti Family Foundation
Shady Side Academy
Smith Richardson Foundation, Inc.
TD Ameritrade Clearing
The Alvin Weinberg Family Foundation
The Ayco Charitable Foundation
The Benevity Community Impact Fund
The Cariño Fund
The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida
The David S. Shapira Foundation
The Denver Foundation
The Double Eagle Foundation
The Fitzberg Foundation
The Foster Charitable Trust
The Fund for Charitable Giving
The Golden Bone Pet Resort
The Henry L. Hillman Foundation
The Hillman Company
The Jeff & Christine Coury Family Foundation
The Marie Christine Foundation
The Muscari Family Foundation
The Obernauer Foundation, Inc.
The Pittsburgh Foundation
The Rehab Centre, Inc.
The Rockwell Foundation
The Ron Lewis Automotive Group
The Rosewood Foundation
The Rust Foundation
The U.S. Charitable Gift Trust
TriState Capital Bank
UGI Storage Company
United Way of Rhode Island
Western PA Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery