Throwback: Upper St. Clair - Our "Rich" Community

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Upper St. Clair - Our "Rich" Community

September 1994 (First Edition) page 16-17

By Harla Brown

Upper St. Clair - Our "Rich" Community September 1994 (First Edition) page 16-17

Often our community is referred to as the "rich" community. After my sixth trip with the sixth level students, parents, teachers and administrators to the Deer Valley YMCA Camp for three days of intensive environmental study, I agree that we do have a rich community. Rich in treasures that cannot be purchased with money. Rich in people, old and young, who inspire, share, laugh and love.

The Deer Valley Trip was created nine years ago by Howard O'Shell and several other sixth level teachers at Boyce Middle School. There have been 2,250 twelve year olds and 1,575 adults from Upper St. Clair to experience the trip. The PTA and the students raise money to pay for the trip by selling wrapping paper. The hands-on lessons include water quality, noise pollution, making a terrarium, fossils, garbage pollution, fishing for fun, magic spots, hiking Mt. Davis (highest point in Pennsylvania) and climbing the tower, skits and even gopher duty at meals. More important than the lessons is the interaction of the children, the teachers and the parents. The relationships built and the memories made go beyond the three-day trip. They become a part of the web of life of Upper St. Clair.

photo credit to Kelly Parks

The students do not want to leave. The teachers are exhausted with the pace and the enthusiasm that they have expended into every lesson. The parents are in shock over the fast tempo of the schedule and all the fresh air that was inhaled.

What makes this trip each year so special? Howard O'Shell put 110 percent into the program. He is like a big cuddly teddy bear. He loves our kids and is hoping to make a difference in their environment. Jim Reeves, Myrna Wiese, Jim Smoyer, Bill White and Daria Lacey spend three weeks at Deer Valley expending every ounce of their energy to make each of the six groups of students and parents feel like they are the first group to experience the lessons and the fun. The staff at Deer Valley is phenomenal. They provide good meals and smiles and will even help a baby bird. They, too, help make the trip memorable.

photo credit to Kelly Parks

The "richness" of our community is demonstrated by the doctors, professionals and others who spend their time with their children and other children, showing and sharing information that relates to the lessons. At water quality, one child found a leech; Dr. Ross DiMarco shared that leeches are being used again in medicine to remove accumulated blood. Another doctor shared his knowledge of fossils with a group of children, showing them the intricate details of a seashell.

Another source of wealth in our community is laughter shared. During the days, the kids are smiling and laughing even while trudging through the rain. At night, some of the parents and teachers meet in a large room to talk and laugh together. This is a fun time with Jim Reeves starting Chinese Numbers and Group Charades. It is a great way to get to know people who live in your community. From Cliff Rowes' quiet calmness to Cindy Balouris' frenzied determination, the variety of personalities blossom while searching for the secret code of the Chinese Numbers. Fun and laughter is missing in so many of our homes and families because our busy schedules and television steal time away from our communication with each other. At Deer Valley, the fun is scheduled. There are no televisions or telephones to distract from the communication. The only distraction is the desire for sleep!

photo credit to Kelly Parks

How does Jim Reeves keep smiling for three weeks? During the late nights of the 1994 trip, a community comic was discovered. Jeff Koppel was hysterical with his quick wit, his knack for Chinese or any numbers, and his ability to laugh and get others to laugh with him. He even invented the game of "Guess My Occupation", similar to "What's My Line?".

The waste inspectors, from Marjorie Heins to John Macuga, made the meal times a real treat, chasing children and adults who left a piece of toast on their plates. "Thou Shall Not Waste!" they roared. And we did not!

Little glimpses of others are remembered, like Clare and Doug Watkins holding hands as they walked to dinner; Myrna's tears and a hug; the night group grokking with Jim Reeves; Kathe Patrinos' laughter; the midnight ride to the tower and signing "A Thousand Stars in the Sky" while it rained; Daria's songs with the guitar by the fire; power walks with Myrna at 6 a.m.; camera crew Tom Hudson and John Laboon; Eileen, the French Babe; the group charade of the vibrating bed; Greg Fino, Nancy Heffernan, Carol Freid and about ten other parents in the adult lodge with "little critters"; the clean mouse that is now living in Upper St. Clair; and actually seeing deer one night! The new friendships formed and the old friendships renewed - all are memories from my six wonderful experiences at Deer Valley.

The most richness came from the Mt. Davis tower. Everyone climbs the steel stairs one step at a time with a little fear and knee shaking. Everyone except for Bill Campbell. Bill, father of six children, pulled himself out of his wheelchair and made it to the top and back down again with a smile on his face. Bill's legs are amputated above the knees. His courage and bravery, his humor and wisdom were demonstrated throughout the Deer Valley trip. He is a trooper willing to take on any challenge and not afraid to laugh. He, too, stayed up the late hours to talk, laugh, and play games. He is an outstanding example for the sixth level students and for us adults who often gripe about what we do not have or cannot do. Bill said "I am just a little crazy"! We all need to be "...just a little crazy" like Bill.

Our community is filled with inspiring interesting people from all walks of life. If it were not for Howard O'Shell and the outstanding teachers who invite us parents, I would be deprived of knowing community neighbors that I cherish, as well as the memories we shared with out children. our web of life becomes strengthened through the relationships with our families, our friends and our neighbors. Thank you, Howard, and thank you to my children for inviting me to share the experience.

We are RICH, very rich, in the greatest resource of all - the people in our community.

There are many stories of interesting people and trips in our community. If you know someone or if you are interested, please submit your story to UPPER ST. CLAIR TODAY magazine. Thank you.

Harla Brown is the mother of seven children and a resident of the Township for sixteen years. She is a volunteer at Cable 7, the School District and the community. She completed her Masters in Corporate Communication at Duquesne University in December.

Deer Valley, in the View of a 6th Grader

By Melissa Lentz, Class of 2000, Ecker/Smoyer Team

September 1994 (First Edition) page 17

Deer Valley is a unique and tremendously influential two years' worth of preparation and a three day excursion I will never forget. Door-to-door selling colorful wrapping paper and ribbons, earning money for this extraordinary trip that put us all in tune with ourselves and Mother Earth. Responsibility for our actions, awareness, and respect for other organisms were stressed. We brought these feelings and care to Deer Valley, and I believe that everyone brought them back to their everyday lives, in some shape or form. Every student and parent aboard the bus had made a promise to themselves, to put their busy everyday schedule out of reach, and listen to the call of the wild. Weather seemed not to exist; we walked miles in pouring down rain to our various activities where we learned about nature, life, and man. We learned how animals and their habitats suffer from man's greedy, ignorant mind, and how we have affected the world around us. Yes, we have manipulated the environment, but the scary truth is one day we may be endangering ourselves as a human race. Who will we blame, the blacks, the whites, the teens, the senior citizens? We all are at fault, and in this scenario there is no room for prejudice, or selfishness. Maybe the endangering of ourselves will one day bring the whole world together in peace, as one, where we can work together for a better tomorrow. Deer Valley was a time set aside where we could watch birds in flight, become a tree in our writings, venture through the forest observing life, and get to know our fellow classmates a little better. Rain or shine, we all profited from this trip of life, and I believe we all have become better and more aware people because of it. Deer Valley, a trip that transformed us from 12 year olds to enlightened young adults.

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