State recognizes two AASD schools

McAuliffe Heights honored for its high PSSA scores

Three schools in the Altoona Area School District are showing off accomplishments in education and community outreach.

The Altoona Area Junior and Senior high schools, through its Rachel’s Challenge program, have opened Rachel’s Closet to help students in need, while McAuliffe Heights at Irving Elementary School received the Keystone Award for Academic Excellence from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Rachel’s Challenge, inspired by Rachel Scott, the first student killed in the Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, was brought to the Altoona Area School District in 2018 to inspire students to create positive change in the lives of others through acts of kindness.

The closets, available to all students, are stocked with clothing, shoes, toiletries and school supplies.

Bridget Stroh, junior high guidance counselor, said the closet is part of the district’s message to be kind to everyone.

“We promote kindness,” Stroh said. “Our club spreads kindness throughout the school and this was one of our endeavors this year.”

Stroh said the students put in all the work of stocking and organizing the shelves with donations from school parents and staff.

“The students sorted the clothes, hung the clothes and organized the closet. They did everything.” Stroh said. “All the donations were given to us by parents and our staff. Our cafeteria workers, teachers and janitors. Everyone donated.”

McAuliffe Heights has been recognized as a Title I distinguished school for its high PSSA scores.

To be eligible for the Keystone Award for Academic Excellence, the school had to be in the top 5 percent in academic growth over the last two school years.

Superintendent Charles Prijatelj said that being in the top 5 percent means that the school is in the top 95 percentile or higher of all the Title I schools in the state.

“That is huge accomplishment,” he said. “There are not many better.”