Winter Newsletter 2017


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Forest Hills School District Winter Newsletter 2017

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Forest Hills Ranger Review Vol. XXXVII No 2 Winter 2016-2017 A New Journey Begins January 9, 2017


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~ SUPERINTENDENT’S MESSAGE ~ Greetings to all and Happy New Year. A new year is an exciting time; it is a time to reflect, renew, and reaffirm. During this time of reflection, I am truly appreciative to be part of the Forest Hills School District, a district with a rich history of success and a district that remains innovative and dedicated to providing all students a high-quality public education. As we reflect, there probably has not been a more exciting time in the Forest Hills School District—at least not in the last 50 years. In addition to commemorating its 50th Anniversary, the Forest Hills School District reached another milestone: the opening of a state-ofthe-art junior-senior high school. I am happy to report that on January 9, 2017, students in grades 7 through 12, walked through the doors of the Forest Hills Junior-Senior High School. Witnessing this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I noticed that students and adults alike shared a similar reaction: amazement and excitement! The excitement of this day, and I am sure many more that will follow, included visitations by elected officials and the local newspaper and television reporters who captured this special day not only for the Forest Hills community but also for the entire region. The transition from separated buildings into one school, especially in the middle of a school year, presented quite a challenge. Some questioned the decision to transition into one building during the school year. Undeterred by construction completion deadlines and winter forecasts, I realized that the building project’s completion and the transition into one educational facility was collective enterprise, an undertaking that required difficult decisions made on the part of the Board of Education and the cooperation of students, teachers, secretaries, cooks, custodians, aides, and administrators. This collective group of individuals not only achieved the expectations—they exceeded them. On December 21-22, 2016, elementary teachers and custodians assisted middle and high school staff members in packing their belongings for the move. During the Christmas holiday break, custodians worked to assist the moving company in transporting boxes and furniture to the new building. On January 5-6, 2017, teachers, administrators, secretaries, cooks, and custodians helped to unpack and set up classrooms in the junior-senior high school. The dedication and hard work of our district employees underscores why Forest Hills has been, and continues to be, unlike any other school district. In spite of its impressive educational and technological offerings, the new building does not replace or minimize the primary ingredient of Forest Hills’ ongoing success—the people. From the dedicated men and women who serve on the school board to the employees and community members, Forest Hills is blessed to have a supportive network of talent, dedication, and commitment to ensure that all students are afforded opportunities to reach their potential. The excitement generated from building the junior-senior high school is shared in the communities that comprise the Forest Hills School District. Their continued support does not go unnoticed or unrecognized. In appreciation for the community’s support, a grand opening event—a gala of sorts—will be planned for June 2017. Details of the grand opening ceremony and events will be shared in upcoming newsletters and on the district’s webpage. While January 9, 2017, the first day of classes for students and staff in the new junior-senior high school, marked the greatest milestone in my thirty-six-year career in education, it also reaffirmed my commitment to the entire Forest Hills School District. The new junior-senior high school facility will provide students with the ability to acquire the knowledge, skills, and support they need for the 21st century. In addition, I affirm that the long-held tradition of excellence will continue to be the pursuit of the Forest Hills School District. Sincerely, Edwin Bowser Superintendent of Schools 2


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2015-2016 HIGH SCHOOL PERFORMANCE PROFILE SCORES (Buildings with Grade 11 students) DISTRICT* SCORE Blacklick Valley 56.3 Cambria Heights 73.3 Central Cambria 89.7 Conemaugh Township 72.8 Conemaugh Valley 74.7 Ferndale 71.7 Forest Hills 86.8 Greater Johnstown 60.4 Northern Cambria 70.9 Penn Cambria 92.3 Portage 69.7 Richland 82.2 Westmont 82.0 Windber 71.5 KEYSTONE EXAMS SPRING 2016 FIRST TIME TESTERS PERCENTAGE OF STUDENTS SUBJECT Literature Algebra I Biology DISTRICT 79.7 63.0 53.0 STATE 65.7 51.1 57.5 PSSA SPRING 2016 PERCENTAGE OF STUDENTS PROFICIENT AND ADVANCED SUBJECT DISTRICT STATE Mathematics 47.5 42.5 English Language Arts 66.9 60.4 Science 70.4 67.0 *Public information at PA SCHOOL PERFORMANCE PROFILE WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE FOREST HILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT The Pennsylvania Department of Education recently released the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile. This public site ( provides an academic performance score for public schools in the state. This performance score is designed with several purposes in mind: To inform the public of school performance; To provide a building level score for educators as part of their evaluation system; To allow the public to compare schools across the state; To give schools a methodology to analyze their strengths and needs. While public schools across the state have previously received designations under No Child Left Behind (i.e., Made Adequate Yearly Progress, Making Progress, Warning, School Improvement, Corrective Action), schools will now receive an academic performance score based upon many data points. Test scores, progress in closing achievement gaps, and degree of student growth over time are factored into the scoring while other identifiers of high achieving schools are also considered: graduation, promotion, and attendance rates, as well as, evidence of offering rigorous courses factor into the calculation. Schools may also earn extra points beyond the 100 point scoring system for those students who have earned advanced scores on the state, industry, and Advanced Placement Exams. (Continued on page 10) 3


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~ SCHOOL BOARD NEWS ~ The Forest Hills School Directors held their annual School Board Reorganization Meeting on December 7, 2016. The following are the current members of the School Board: President, Mr. Fred Russell, 2nd Vice President, Mrs. Deborah Petrunak, Treasurer, Mr. Robert MacTavish, Dr. Timothy Ondrejik, Secretary, Mr. John Bopp, Mrs. Corina Long, Dr. Richard Knavel, Mrs. Tracy Helsel, and 1st Vice President, Mr. Galen George. Say Thanks to Our School Board Members! Public education is more than just learning the basic math, science, English, and history; it’s a platform for students to reach their potential. It inspires hope for a new generation and a successful future. This institution exists in part because individuals volunteer their time to make informed decisions about the issues facing public schools. Every January we celebrate these everyday heroes—the nine elected school board members who serve our students and educational system. School directors volunteer, on average, 20 hours a month to help run the schools in our community. The school board makes difficult decisions for the betterment of our students. They vote on multi-million dollar budgets, hire staff, select textbooks, review bus schedules and curriculum, to name a few. These dedicated volunteers reside in our community. They are our friends, neighbors, community leaders, parents at your school, and engaged senior citizens. We ask you, the school directors’ fellow community members, to show your appreciation for their service. Please show your gratitude in some way for their time, effort, and dedication to public education’s advancement. Thank them for advocating on behalf of our collective interests and making the difficult decisions. Most importantly, thank them for being everyday heroes and making our students’ success their priority. 4


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~ SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL ~ Principal’s Corner ~ Mr. Curt Vasas Greetings from the new Forest Hills Junior-Senior High School!! We are so excited to be in our new state of the art facility. The students and staff have adjusted very well to our new surroundings. We have just begun to realize all of the opportunities our new home will afford us, but we are already reaping many of the benefits. It may be hard to believe, but the course scheduling process for the 2017-2018 school year will soon be underway. Course selection is one of the most important events for a high school student. As students begin to form ideas about future endeavors and aspirations, the classes they take in high school can help pave the way for future success. The scheduling process will begin with our guidance counselors meeting with groups of students in their Language Arts classes. Information will be discussed, and course selection sheets along with a course description booklet will be distributed. Students will review courses and, with the help of their parents or guardians, select classes that meet our graduation requirements and allow them to further explore a variety of interests. Counselors will review course selections with students individually and verification sheets will be sent home. Again, scheduling is a very important aspect of our students’ academic career. If you, as a parent or guardian, have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s guidance counselor or the senior high school administration. The scheduling process requires input from all parties involved so our students can be in the best position for future success. Thank you. DRUG AWARENESS WEEK Forest Hills High School was busy promoting drug and alcohol awareness during the last week of October 2016. During Drug-and-Alcohol Awareness Week, SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), under the direction of Mrs. Amanda Williamson, decorated the school hallways, windows, and school grounds with over 200 red ribbons and hung posters with drug-and-alcohol facts and statistics throughout the school. They also sold “Rangers of the Drug Free Forest” bracelets during lunch and encouraged students to sign an anti-drug-use pledge poster. SADD then presented fourth-graders from the elementary school with information on making good choices in all aspects of life. A spirit week was also held where students dressed in daily themes relating to being drug and alcohol-free. Mrs. Claudine Yuhas, the high school nurse, arranged for Dr. Robyn King, an emergency room physician on staff at Conemaugh Hospital, to speak with high school students during a special anti-drug and alcohol assembly held on Wednesday, October 26th in the high school auditorium. Dr. King, who grew up outside of Washington, D.C., and who graduated from Florida’s Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, completed four years of emergency room training at Conemaugh. Dr. King quickly captured the audience’s attention with her direct and candid account of her more than seven-year-experience with drug and alcohol patients and of the harmful effects of drugs on those using them. Dr. King feels that educating youth about drug and alcohol issues will enable them to make wise life-choices. Both students and faculty found her presentation enlightening and timely in light of the area’s current drug problem. 5


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High School Drama to Present: The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon This winter the Drama Club is proud to present the first-ever production in the new theatre: The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon. The show is one of the most-performed in high schools around the country and it loosely, yet comedically, follows the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. The show boasts a large cast, all of whom are very excited to perform on the new stage. Show dates are February 23, 24, 25, 2017. Curtain rises at 7:30 PM with the house opening at 7:00. Tickets will be available at the box office: high school students $3 and adults $5. Join us to support the arts in our district. Join us because there will never be another first opening night on this stage. Cast and stage managers Join us to see the amazing new lighting and sound systems. Join us to help us fill the 780 seats to capacity! Just join us! We need you to fill all these seats! See their excitement! 6


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Visit to Fallingwater Fallingwater, the house built over a waterfall, is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most widely acclaimed works. A group of 48 students from Mrs. Smith’s Interior Design class, Mrs. Cecere’s Art classes, and the Technology Education Department classes toured the house and surrounding grounds in November. Fallingwater was designed and built by Wright in 1935 for Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann. The house exemplifies Wright’s concept of organic architecture: the harmonious union of art and nature. The students enjoyed the opportunity to experience an architectural wonder. The students were amazed by the design, beauty, and art work. Courtney Cecere joins the Seton Hill Lady Griffins Senior guard Courtney Cecere #24 decided to continue her athletic and academic careers at Seton Hill University in Greensburg where she will help with the Griffin’s continued success in the PSAC. Seton Hill University women's basketball head coach Mark Katarski has announced one of our Lady Rangers as one of his three signees during the recent early signing period. "We have always focused on recruiting winners both on and off the court, and these three young ladies continue that pattern," Katarski said. Courtney plans to pursue a degree in business. Courtney holds a 4.01 GPA and is very active in her community and school. She is the president of the National Honor Society, and participates in Student Council, Spirit Club, FBLA, and the Spanish Honor Society. As a junior, Cecere averaged 13.5 PPG while helping her team win its second consecutive PIAA District 6 Class AAA Championship, as well as advancing to the Second Round of the PIAA Class AAA Championship. For her efforts, Cecere was named Third Team All-State in Class AAA, as well as earning All-Conference honors for the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference. In addition, Cecere has been a four-year starter in volleyball, and qualified for the PIAA Class AA Championships in discus as a junior. She played AAU basketball for the Doug West D-Fenders. "Courtney comes from a successful athletic family, and is a leader on and off the court in so many ways," Katarski said. "We are excited to add all of those attributes to our program." 7


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~ JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL ~ Principal’s Corner ~ Mr. Ed Alexander Welcome back! The second semester is well under way in our new state-of-the-art Junior-Senior High School. We are excited and prepared for a successful transition, as we enter this new era of Forest Hills. The first few weeks have brought much excitement, along with a bit of confusion, but has overall been a wonderful transition! The most important thing in the lives of adolescents and teenagers are peers. Peer pressure is at an all-time high, so it is critical for parents to influence as much as possible. Managing peer pressure and avoiding dangerous behaviors is a collective responsibility. As a school, we want to work with you throughout these years. Please contact us with any questions or concerns you may have. As we are now a grades 7-12 building, it is very important to stay connected with your children, especially during this time of change. It is ever so important to stay in the loop, even though your teen prefers independence. Ask specific questions, invite his or her friends into your home, and use car time as a great opportunity for conversation. These are a few suggestions to help you navigate your child’s adolescence. National Junior Honor Society The middle school held its National Junior Honor Society induction Wednesday, November 16, at 6:30 PM in the middle school auditorium. Eighteen students met the middle school qualifications and the Honor Society qualifications of scholarship, leadership, service, citizenship, and character. Skyler Hostetler welcomed guests and presided over the ceremony. Lighting of the candles and their meaning was conducted by: Knowledge, Kaitlyn Rusnak; Scholarship, Jonathan McCall; Leadership, Kelsey Josephson; Service, Thomas Hockensmith; Citizenship, Donovan Faith; and Character, Rosalie DiPaola. Mr. Alexander, Principal, and Dr. Miller, Dean of Students, presented certificates and officially inducted the students. Those inducted were: Garet Connor, Rosalie DiPaola, Luke Docherty, Donovan Faith, Lacey Greathouse (vice-president), Thomas Hockensmith, Skyler Hostetler (president), Kelsey Josephson, Jonathan McCall, Sydney McCormick (treasurer), Ashley Pauley, Hadan Romanow, Kaitlyn Rusnak, Megan Rusnak, Abigail Seese (secretary), Baylee Snedden (historian), Natalya Teno, and Rebecca Williamson. A reception to honor the inductees was held in the middle school cafeteria immediately following the induction. One hundred twenty guests attended. 8


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9TH Grade Students Visit Gettysburg On October 18, 2016, Mr. David Satka, Middle School U.S. History teacher, concluded his unit of study on the Civil War with a field trip to Gettysburg National Battlefield. Freshman students expanded their knowledge of the battle through an IMAX movie, Cyclorama exhibit, museum and a licensed professional guided tour of the battlefield itself. Students noted a mock “Pickett’s Charge” and exploring Little Round Top as highlights of their experiences. Special thanks goes to Mrs. Shannon Curry for coordinating fundraising for the trip. Wildlife Leadership Academy In July, 2016, ninth grader, Donovan Faith, attended the Wildlife Leadership Academy’s Brookies camp on a scholarship. Donovan was nominated for the camp by Mr. Pat Nelen. The camp was held at the Siege Conference Center through Lock Haven University. In addition to trout fishing, Donovan gained valuable knowledge about conservation, keeping a healthy environment, as well as brook trout’s habitat, diet, history and species. As a student at the camp, Donovan stated that he learned about the importance of leadership among peers, as well as how to work together as a group. One of the major benefits of attending any of the Wildlife Leadership Academy’s camps is the possibility of receiving a college scholarship to further participant’s careers. Another benefit of attending the Academy is the student outreach, which is teaching others the importance of conservation and keeping our native species and natural resources. 9


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Kick Up the Kindness Forest Hills Middle School continued its Kick Up The Kindness campaign by honoring our Veterans with a t-shirt sale. Proceeds from the sale benefited the Disabled American Veterans. The Veterans Day theme "Every Step For Every Soldier" was printed on the back of the t-shirt. Freshmen students Rosalie DiPaola, Lacey Greathouse, and Skyler Hostetler designed the t-shirts. A check for $250 will be presented to the Disabled American Veterans organization. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ PA School Performance Profile What it Means for The Forest Hills School District (continued from page 3) In addition to the scoring aspect of the site, the public can compare schools within and across the state. Also, the site offers supports for schools to consider as they identify needs in the academic profile. For an overview of the Forest Hills School District’s School Performance Profile, go to and click on the School Performance tab on the homepage to link to Pennsylvania’s School Performance Portal. Forest Hills School District’s School Performance Profile Scores for the school year 2015-2016: Forest Hills Elementary School score – 74.8 Forest Hills Middle School score – 71.9 Forest Hills High School score – 86.8 Score Key: >100 90-100 80-89.9 70-79.9 60-69.9 <60 Significant evidence that the school exceeded the standard for PA Academic Growth Significant evidence that the school exceeded the standard for PA Academic Growth Moderate evidence that the school exceeded the standard for PA Academic Growth Evidence that the school met the standard for PA Academic Growth Moderate evidence that the school did not meet the standard for PA Academic Growth Significant evidence that the school did not meet the standard for PA Academic Growth 10


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~ ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ~ Principal’s Corner ~ Mr. Lucas Jacobs I enjoy taking time to reflect upon the wonders of the New Year. Watching your children flourish with the guidance of the talented teachers at Forest Hills Elementary School is a great feeling. While visiting classrooms, I witness children who are engaged and excited about their learning. I am very proud of the children and teachers at Forest Hills Elementary School, and I look forward to all of the beneficial learning opportunities that will happen in 2017. With an exciting 2nd half of the school year upon us, I would like to take this opportunity, once again, to emphasize how important it is that we continue to maintain a quality partnership between home and school. It’s the parents’ enthusiasm, support, and involvement that inspires a son/ daughter to do his/ her best, and it is the teachers’ ongoing instruction and support to assist our students’ overall achievement and academic growth. I look forward to working with each of you to provide our students with an education that will prepare our students for the challenges of the 21st Century. It is important to pay close attention to your child’s current progress. If your child is progressing smoothly, keep the momentum going! If extra work or effort is needed, now is the time to raise expectations for rigor and practice. If you have any questions / concerns or need assistance, please contact your child’s teacher or the elementary administration. We must all work together to help each child reach his or her fullest potential. Forest Hills is an amazing community of students, parents, and school personnel. Once again, thank you for all that you continue to do as our community partners. On behalf of Forest Hills Elementary School, we wish you a safe, happy, and healthy 2017! Grade 4 Visits St. Francis University St. Francis University hosted our 4th graders on November 22, 2016 for a career day and girls basketball game. Students first learned how several adults found their way to the career that was right for them, and then cheered on the Red Flash to a victory over Canisius. Making the day even more special was rooting for Jillian Scott, a 2015 Forest Hills Alum. Jillian even made time after the game to thank the students for their support and pose for a photo. 11


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Bright Ideas in Mrs. Faith’s 3rd Grade Students in Mrs. Faith’s third grade class were excited to learn more about past inventions after reading a story in their reader titled, Young Thomas Edison. Each child was given a modern day product/appliance to research on the internet during class computer time. Each child discovered who invented the product, when it was invented, and if there were any exciting facts that made the product unique. They concluded that some inventions were made by accident, while some were made for convenience. Mrs. Faith explained to the students that without the invention of the computer and the internet, they would not be able to do the project easily. Some of the children are even interested in inventing their own products someday! It was an assignment enjoyed by all! Paleontologist in Training Joe Wise, a sixth grade student, is a Paleontologist in Training. He shared his knowledge with the students in Mrs. Myers’ second grade class. Mrs. Myers’ class was conducting dinosaur research in conjunction with their language arts story The Dog that Dug for Dinosaurs by Shirley-Raye Redmond. Joe’s presentation included in-depth descriptions of his favorite dinosaursTyrannosaurus Rex, Spinosaurus, and Carnotaurus. He also answered multiple questions from the children. Joe was very professional, and he provided the children with a wealth of knowledge. Mrs. Myers and her students would like to thank Joe for a wonderful presentation. 12


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The Hour of Code Students in Mrs. Wehner’s science classes had the unique opportunity to be involved in “The Largest Learning Event in History” through an international program including tens of millions of students. THE HOUR OF CODE is a one-hour introduction to computer science where the students are allowed to choose between a variety of activities on, including Minecraft, Star Wars, and Moana. The Hour of Code inspires every child to be excited about learning with computers. In the 21st century, each child deserves the opportunity to learn how to create technology. By coding with these programs, students are working on cross-curricular subjects, such as, computer science, math, physics, reading, history, English, and more. The basics of computer science help people with problem-solving skills which is pertinent in any future career path. Furthermore, there will be enhancements to the STEM hands-on curriculum through lessons on coding within the topics of storytelling and music offered in conjunction with Roxanne Jenner from the University of Pittsburgh of Johnstown. Elementary School Music Program Toes have been tapping, hands clapping, and voices singing to the many songs of the seasons! Spooky sounds filled the air for the Halloween Parade videos. Pre-K – 3rd Graders giggled and gobbled to the tunes of The Turkey Game. Christmas carols were enjoyed by all around the Christmas tree. In November, Coleston Clifford, Colten Danel, Adyson Dombrosky, Makenna Konchen, Bailey Sheppard and Anna Wirfel represented Forest Hills at the Junior High County Chorus festival. In December, the 6th Grade Rockin’ Rangers Chorus spread holiday cheer to local personal care homes. In May, selected 5th Graders will attend SongFest. Mr. Kearney’s 5th and 6th Grade band rehearsals are in full swing, preparing for the upcoming Spring concert. In April, selected 6th Graders will participate in BandFest. We hope you will join us for our annual Spring Concert on Thursday, April 27 at 7:00 p.m. on the new high school stage! The concert will feature the 5th and 6th grade bands and the 6th grade Rockin’ Rangers Chorus. 13


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~ JUNIOR HIGH ATHLETICS ~ Junior High Boys’ Soccer The 2016 Junior High Boys’ Soccer season came to an end on October 20, 2016. The boys started the season excited for the new experience with positive attitudes. The boys worked hard throughout the entire season never giving up. The boys all developed their individual skills while learning the importance of working together as a team. The 2016 team captains were Mikel Grey (7), Cayce McCall (8) and Lucas Smay (8). The Rangers finished their season with a record of 3-7-3. The studentathletes would like to keep up with their skills by practicing indoors throughout the winter months, which shows their dedication and love for the game. The returning 7th graders are excited for the 2017 Fall season, while the 8th graders are looking forward to their Varsity years ahead. The 2016 Forest Hills Junior High Girls’ Soccer Junior High Girls’ Soccer The Lady Rangers ended season came to an end in the season with October 2016. The girls a winning record came in to pre-season of 9-8-1. with excited and driven Mackenzie attitudes. Throughout the Hoover shut out entire soccer season, the her opponents in girls worked hard and 3 games. The never gave up during Lady Rangers games. The Lady Rangers scored a total of showed tremendous im- 46 goals this provement on their indi- season against vidual skills as well as their opponents. team work. The returning Lydia Roman 8th graders used their scored an out- leadership skills and standing number previous knowledge to of 30 goals! help the incoming 7th graders and the players new to Overall, the Lady Rangers had an exciting season! the program. Three 8th grade girls took the role as The returning 7th graders are excited for the 2017 captains, Madeline Cecere, Lydia Roman, and Fall season, while the 8th graders are looking for- Josilyn Wehner. ward to their Varsity years ahead. Best of luck to those who are playing Varsity soccer next year! 14


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Junior High Cross Country Congratulations to the Forest Hills Junior High Cross Country team on another successful season in the books! It is a great feeling to look back after months of hard work and to see all that these young athletes have accomplished. The girls finished with a record of 7-1, second place team at the Forest Hills Invitational, first place team at the Uniontown Invitational, and second place team at the Laurel Highlands Conference meet. Remi Smith, Katie Beyer, Paige Debias, Nikki Rorar, and Mackenzie Hoover earned individual honors at one or more invitationals. The boys finished with a record of 7-3, third place team at Forest Hills Invitational, second place team at the Uniontown Invitational, and third place team at the Laurel Highlands Conference Meet. Jude Martyak and Dylan Wechtenhiser earned individual honors at one or more invitationals. Almost every runner on the team ran his/her personal record goal time. The running Rangers continue to prove the future of Forest Hills Cross Country will be bright! The Junior High Football team progressed as the season went on ending with two wins and six losses. The group was competitive in most of the contests and even had leads at halftime in 3 of their 6 losses. If the group of 27 young men stay together and work hard, they will be able to be a part of the success at the varsity level. Junior High Football 15



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