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The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies is pleased to welcome a new group of interns for the second year of the Youth Philanthropy Internship program. The eight interns, 2014 high school graduates, will be led by senior interns Kendra Slis and Anthony Wagner V, participants in last year’s inaugural program. This year the program has doubled in size thanks to generous funding from The Heinz Endowments. The Endowments supports efforts to make southwestern Pennsylvania a premier place to live and work, a center for learning and educational excellence, and a region that embraces diversity and inclusion.

During the eight-week program, the interns will learn about philanthropy, community needs and the effective use of media. They ultimately will make available two grants of up to $25,000 each. Those grants will be for projects that are yet to be determined; the interns will announce requests for proposals on July 9, based on their own observations and assessments of community needs. The Foundation’s Program and Communications Officer, Angie Berzonski said, “We are very excited about the Youth Philanthropy Internship and can’t wait to see what these highly motivated young adults accomplish. They have an abundance of ideas on how to improve their community.”

Mikella Buncich is a 2014 graduate of Conemaugh Township High School and plans to major in marketing at Duquesne University in the fall. In high school, Mikella expressed her creative side as editor for both the feature section of the school newspaper and the student life and organizations sections of the yearbook. Mikella could also be found on the sidelines as a cheerleader at football games, or participating in Conservation Club meetings. Her interests don’t stop there as she is also a member of the Ski Club and Spanish Club. In her spare time, she enjoys sewing and blogging about fashion. Mikella has also spent time volunteering at Camp Cadet with her father.

A recent graduate of Bishop McCort High School, Ryan King was very involved in both school musicals and student government. As president of the Student Council, he spearheaded numerous successful programs to better both the City of Johnstown and the environment. Ryan worked closely with Beginnings, Inc. as a member of their Junior Board. As a resident of the Hornerstown neighborhood of Johnstown, he hears constant complaints of the lack of activities in the area and has become dedicated to proving the naysayers wrong. Ryan is devoted to community service and possesses a strong drive to continue serving others. For him, the Youth Philanthropy Internship is a perfect opportunity to do both of those. In the fall, Ryan will be attending Chapman University to major in creative producing to pursue his lifelong love for film.

Dan Klein is a graduate of Richland High School. While there, Dan played the cello and was actively involved in the Richland orchestra and the Johnstown Youth Symphony Orchestra. Dan also helped to start a new video game club at Richland High School. In the fall, he will be attending the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown on a full scholarship to major in mechanical engineering. Through this internship, Dan hopes to improve his communication skills, something that will better prepare him for college, and work towards finding solutions to some of the problems facing our area such as drug abuse.

A 2014 graduate of Forest Hills High School, Nathan Madison plans to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania to major in communications in the fall. Nathan was actively involved in his high school band, where he played the trumpet, and he also competed in track and field. He was also a member of National Honor Society. Outside of school, he enjoys playing roller hockey and producing and editing videos. Nathan applies experience from his extracurricular activities, such as band and roller hockey, to act as a team player and get everybody motivated to accomplish their goals. When asked what he would change about Johnstown, he said he would want to give a facelift to the buildings of Johnstown so that they appear more welcoming.

Abi Paonessa is a 2014 graduate of Conemaugh Valley High School. Whether Abi is showcasing her musical skills in band and drama club or her leadership prowess in National Honor Society and student council, she is always passionately devoting her time to collaborate with others to reach a desired goal. Her interest in helping the community prompted her to apply for the Youth Philanthropy Internship. Abi someday dreams of combining her passions of crocheting and community service to start her own nonprofit organization that produces homemade blankets and sweaters for individuals in hospitals and homeless shelters. In the fall, Abi plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh to major in chemistry and pre-med.

Jonathan Skufca is a 2014 graduate of Greater Johnstown High School where he was heavily involved in their music department. He participated in band, musical, Key Club, and the Scholastic Quiz team. Some of Jonathan’s hobbies include reading, collecting vinyl records, and playing in the Johnstown Reed Band. This fall, he plans to attend American University in Washington, D.C., to study business and entertainment. He someday hopes to go to law school to pursue a career as a copyright entertainment lawyer. Jonathan enjoys helping others and believes others should pursue their passions. When asked what he wanted to see come out of this internship, he said he would like to see more musical opportunities in the region for youth.

Liz Stiffler is a 2014 graduate of Conemaugh Valley High School. At Conemaugh Valley, she participated in basketball, softball, Ski Club, Key Club, Student Council, and National Honor Society. She will be attending Saint Francis University in the fall as a student in their physical therapy program. In her free time, Liz enjoys hanging out with friends, babysitting, and watching her three sisters play softball. Liz is grateful for all of the scholarships she received this year, and wants to help other students just as community members helped her. Liz thinks that participating in the Youth Philanthropy Internship will be a great way to give back to her community.

Kaitlyn Thomas just graduated from Richland High School. She participated in National Honor Society, S.A.D.D., Key Club and Scholastic Quiz. She also was a member of the swim team, and even started her own club, called Cinema Club. In Kaitlyn’s free time she is a lifeguard and swim instructor at the YMCA. She will be attending Saint Vincent College in the fall to major in biochemistry. In the future, Kaitlyn hopes to establish her own medical practice and open a free clinic. Kaitlyn knew she wanted to take part in this internship so she would be able to give back to the community. She feels good being able to give back and has learned not to take things for granted.

PHOTO CAPTION: The Community Foundation’s 2014 Youth Philanthropy Interns recently visited Phipps Conservatory to meet their 42 peers from the Pittsburgh area who will be participating in The Heinz Endowments’ Youth Philanthropy Internship. Back row (left to right): Anthony Wagner, Jonathan Scufka, Ryan King, Nathan Madison, Kaitlyn Thomas, Dan Klein. Front row (left to right): Kendra Slis, Liz Stiffler, Mikella Buncich, Abi Paonessa.

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 10:03 AM by Angie Berzonski

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