by Jonathan Weaver
Although all not in attendance, Armstrong Junior/Senior High added more than 100 River Hawks to its school LEO Club last night.
During the about-30 minute ceremony in the high school auditorium, three-dozen students were recognized in-person by Advisors Erin Burkett and Lauren Craig, Ford City Lions Club King Lion Brad Baillie, past District Governor Tom Toland and student officers.
Craig, an eighth-grade Learning Support teacher, said the 105 new members include students in seventh through 12th grade.
“I believe the majority of our members are seventh, eighth and ninth graders,” Craig said. “Which is awesome that these younger kids want to be involved. Hopefully they’ll stay involved throughout their high school career.”
According to Toland, the Armstrong River Hawks LEO Club – an organization dedicated to community service through Leadership, Experience and Opportunity – is the largest in the state of Pennsylvania.
“Every time anything’s presented, the kids step up,” Burkett added. “It’s always more than we ask for.”
Both Craig and Burkett were advisors for one year at Ford City Junior/Senior High before it closed.
Many siblings are also part of the new inductees – including siblings of chapter Vice-President Abigail Trithart and Secretary Emma Halutick. Trithart – a senior – identified her brother, Matt, as a new member and said sister Hannah was inducted last year.
“Most of the time it’s me signing them up for things, but my brother’s a huge help in LEO Club this year. He really helps a lot,” Abigail said. “It just feels like a really nice family thing to do. We’re all really different, and this is something that can help bring us together.”
The organization was brought back 20 years ago by former Ford City teacher and current State Representative Jeff Pyle – who was in-attendance after daughter Katie was elected chapter president.
“I think it’s an excellent effort by these kids. They’ve proven themselves time and again, and the contribution they make to this community is often times unseen but always felt,” the state representative said.
With the new inductees, about 200 students are part of the student organization.
Katie was surprised to see how many students is now part of the group.