Ambridge Area School District

901 Duss Avenue, Ambridge PA 15003 | 724.266.2833


who student 150who staff 150who parents 150


Connections Blog Logo 2 sm


Steel Band Groupweb

Photo Courtesy of Alan Freed




It’s shaping up to be a busy – and exciting – year for the Ambridge Steel Band.

Now in its 30th year at Ambridge, the band is celebrating the milestone with a few unique opportunities to shine this year. First on the agenda was the band’s performance in the 38th Annual WPXI Holiday Parade. The steel band was invited to march in this prestigious local parade, which was held on Saturday, Nov. 24. The theme for this year’s parade was “Neighborhoods,” and celebrated the 50th anniversary of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“Much like the heartbeat of the once-booming steel town, the Ambridge Steel Drum Band has established a culture of excellence, hard work and pride for our students and the Ambridge community,” said Steel Band director Mr. Todd Hartman.

The band also will be performing at the revival of the B.E. Taylor Christmas Show at Heinz Hall on Dec. 17 and 18. Taylor’s family is reviving the concert series, and using it as a platform to feature some very talented musicians in the area. Learn more about the performance here.

The band also will be a featured ensemble performance at the 2019 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA)/National Association for Music Education (NAFME) Eastern Division Conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh in April 2019. The appearance as a featured performer at the conference will be a first for any band at Ambridge. “This is an incredible opportunity for our students to be showcased in this way,” said Hartman.

Another thrilling opportunity is in the works for May 2019, when the band is hoping to host a collaborative performance with the River City Brass Band. World renowned steel percussionist Liam Teague is expected to participate in the event. Details still are being worked out for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, said Hartman.

“I think it’s safe to say this year is shaping up to be a big year for our Steel Band,” he said.

Check out the band on its Facebook page here, or at its website for a complete schedule of events.

HS Genetics Conference


On Tuesday November 27, 2018, twenty students from the AP Biology classes and Science Club at Ambridge Area High School attended a local genetics conference at North Allegheny Senior High School with Mr. Eric Harbison, AP Biology Teacher and Science Club Sponsor.

The Genetics Update Conference is held yearly by Sam Rhine. Sam Rhine is a medical geneticist and received his education from Indiana University in Indiana, as well as spending some time at Harvard Medical School. His conferences provide updates on the newest discoveries in genetics and medicine. Some highlights include the discovery of DNA segments that are correlated to common diseases and traits, the ability to use pig organs for transplants into humans to eliminate the waiting list predicament, and the ability to use a medical process known as CRISPR to perform genome editing to remove detrimental mutations from a person’s DNA. With the discovery of the DNA segments that are common in everyday diseases and traits, CRISPR can be used to edit those sequences with the hopes of one day curing ailments such as Autism, Schizophrenia, Type 2 Diabetes, and many more.

The biggest discovery Mr. Rhine shared with our students is that scientists have successfully used CRISPR to remove a harmful mutation from a developing embryo. This success was confirmed and published, as the embryo developed into a perfectly healthy baby that was born ONE DAY before our students attended the conference. It certainly is an exciting time in the world of Science!



Ryan Racioppo and his twin sister, Haley take part in the Westinghouse educational program on Saturdays that are offered here in the Pittsburgh area.  Both also participate in the NMSI AP program in the AASD. 


Ryan was so impressed and engaged with one of the recent Westinghouse presenters he took the initiative to approach him to learn more about his area of specialization. Dr. L. Alberto Cangahuala is the Europa Clipper Mission System Manager with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.  The laboratory works in affiliation with NASA on space exploration missions and projects.

Dr. Cangahuala was so impressed during his interactions with Ryan that he offered to visit his school.  Ryan, along with his Physics teacher Mr. Paul Hladio, corresponding with Dr. Cangahuala, collaborated with AAHS  administration to have the distinguished professional visit Ambridge Area School District November 10, 2018. Dr. Cangahuala's afternoon visit included an awe-inspiring presentation on the Europa Project.   It was truly an event filled with insight and details on how this project will be executed by 2030, including the rational for selecting the Europa moon of Jupiter for exploration, what and how exploration data will be selected to make the trip, why the team believed water exist on the moon and insight how the professional from Baldwin Wallace went on to attend MIT to lead the team for JPL.   We only regret that we actually ran out of time at the end of the school day.


Dr. Cangahuala’s family still resides in the Western PA area and he has agreed to visit AAHS again in the future. We look forward to the time that visit can be realized.


The following was Dr. Cangahuala’s note to Ryan Racioppo as a follow up to his time at AAHS:


“Thanks to you and the staff for making yesterday’s meeting possible, and for the pictures.  You showed great initiative in reaching out in the first place; whileI hope I helped with your queries, I must thank you, Mr. Booher, and your classmates for your contagious enthusiasm.  I look forward to keeping in touch; in the mean time I wish you, your class and faculty all the best in your studies in the year ahead.”

AAHS Challenge Science Winners



On October 16th, a team of students from the high school entered into a design challenge at the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh. The challenge was sponsored by Adventure Capital, United Healthcare, and Genyouth. The students competed against 19 other teams and the AAHS winning team won a $1,000 grant to implement the design idea they pitched to the panel of judges.

The winning presentation included ways to promote mental, nutritional, and physical health for the students and members of the community through informative and physical-based activities defined as Step One.

The students presented their ideas in front of a panel of judges and 68 other competing students in a “Shark Tank”-like scenario. One of the judges being former Pittsburgh Steeler, Charlie Batch. There were 10 grants given out in total at the Innovation Challenge. The student team from Ambridge included Lydia Ciani, Kyla Fitzgibbons, and Riley Sas. The group received one of the $1,000 grants as winners.

John Jones and Jake Dunlap also competed and presented their ideas for generating a phone app to help set up after school activities in order to promote physical activity.

Thank you to Mr. Jason Roos and Mrs. Pam Green for sponsoring and chaperoning the students to take part in the challenge.




Tuesday afternoon, Ambridge High School students and their guests celebrated the grand opening of the “lab,” a dedicated space at the school for providing students with hands-on work experience.

Guests also had the opportunity to visit the co-op room to learn more about the school’s recent partnership with PittMoss, an Ambridge-based company that manufactures an organic, recycled, natural cellulosic fiber replacement for peat moss. PittMoss is partnering with the high school to provide workforce training opportunities to students in the Life Skills program.

Special Education teacher Mrs. Teresa Brewer said three Ambridge students participate in a school-to-work program, spending their afternoons at PittMoss learning valuable employment skills from the production line. Additionally, students are able to work in the lab at the High School, building boxes, placing labels and thank you cards and packaging the PittMoss product in the boxes, and then sealing and labeling the boxes for shipping. Students also learn how to inventory supplies needed for each delivery of product, as well as the products they are exporting. To date, students have packaged 200, 10-quart bags of PittMoss.

Special Education teacher Mr. David Bobak said 15 students are participating in the co-op on site at the new lab. Students have the option of selecting from one of five tasks when in the lab:

  • Consumer/Service

  • Construction/Industrial

  • Computer Technology

  • Processing/Production

  • Business/Marketing

Students will rotate in groups of five in the lab throughout the day. When in the lab, they will practice the procedures involves with their selected task. Each student has a work record that will be used to clock them in and out and keep track of which tasks they performed in the lab.

Following the grand opening of the lab, PittMoss General Manager, Mr. BJ Rankin, said he was pleased to be working with the school as part of the co-op program. He said the students who are participating on site have a great work ethic and he is pleased to be helping them to learn the skills needed to enter the workforce. Students who participate in a co-op with PittMoss or any other businesses in the region are paid by the Beaver County Job Training Center for their work. Representatives from the center were present at the event today.

Mr. Rankin presented the school with a check for $1,605. The money was raised through the generosity of local business and industry. He said he received a huge response from the community when he put out the call to donate to the co-op program. “The community really came together on this one. I had set a goal of raising $1,000 and was able to exceed it. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the school and we’re hoping to develop something even bigger in the future.”



By Jacob Bailey (Band PR/Drum Captain)

The Ambridge Area high School Marching Band had a very busy week last week, doing multiple performances for the school and community.

Kicking the events off was the first Ambridge Pep Rally Night on Thursday, September 27. The band opened the event with part of their pregame show which featured the Ambridge Alma Mater, along with the National Anthem sung by Carlina Powell (AAHS Drum Major). The band then performed their “Internet Sensations” show, in which they played the selections “Never Gonna Give You Up,” “September,” “Take on Me,” and a funky drumline groove.

Next up was Homecoming Friday, in which the band performed during the in-school pep rally, Homecoming Parade, and Homecoming football game. The band got their Bridger Spirit on during the pep assembly by playing songs from their show, along with the stand cheer “Planet Rock” performed by the drumline. The band had a blast on Homecoming night, and is ready for next year’s festivities.

Saturday morning, the band was honored to participate in the Fall Festival of Churches Parade for the Ambridge Community. Afterwards, the steel band performed for the community at the gazebo.

Later that same day, the marching band performed at the 41st Annual Beaver county Invitational Marching Band Festival (BCI) along with many other bands from Beaver County. The band performed their halftime show, which the crowd loved. BCI, or “Geneva,” is a performance of which every musician of the band loves. It is the most energizing, along with usually being one of the best performances of the year. This year was no different, earning a standing ovation from the crowd.

Although the band had a very busy three days, they loved every second of it, from performing supporting the football team, to performing for the community, to representing Ambridge at BCI. The band cannot wait to do the same next year!


In July, 27 Ambridge Area School District teachers participated in academic training provided by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). The trainings are in support of the NMSI program, which is designed to improve students’ growth in the areas of English, Math and Science through participation in the Advanced Placement (AP) program.

The training is part of the NMSI three-year grant the District secured in January 2018. The grant covers the cost of the professional development for teachers, including the accompanying course materials. Ambridge is the only school district in Beaver County to receive a NMSI grant.

During the first two weeks of training, teachers from grades 3-10 received lessons in NMSI’s Laying the Foundation program. The program provides supportive instruction for students that will build skills and higher-level thinking, allowing more students to participate in the AP program.

Ambridge High School AP teachers received training in their specific course during the second week through the College Readiness Program. The training they received has been proven to help students score higher on the AP tests, allowing students to receive college credit for high scores, which will in turn help to lower the cost of tuition. The NMSI program also has permitted the High School to offer the following additional AP courses: Chemistry, Computer Science, English Language and Composition and Statistics. The new AP courses will be added to the English, Math and Science AP courses Ambridge High School already offered.

Throughout the year, the English, Math and Science teachers will continue training in the NMSI model, and our students will have the opportunity to participate in regional study sessions with students from other schools within the Pittsburgh area. At the end of the year, the students participating in the AP classes will be able to take the corresponding AP exams at no additional cost.

Additional information on NMSI’s Laying the Foundation and College Readiness Programs can be found here.  

During the 2018 Commencement Ceremony, held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at Ambridge High School, four new members of the Ambridge Hall of Honor were inducted.


Superintendent Dr. Jo Welter introduced the four new inductees. They are:




Dr. Ken Cirka-1989 Graduate

Dr. Cirka is a 1989 graduate of the AASD. Dr. Cirka received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Grove City College and a Master of Arts degree from Slippery Rock University. He attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, where he received his Doctorate of Dental Medicine. Dr. Cirka is a cosmetic dentist who was named "Best of Philadelphia," America's Best Dentist,Life MagazineTop Dentist and a six-year recipient of Consumer Research Council's Top Dentist award he is the senior dentist and owner of Philadelphia Dentistry.

In addition, Dr. Cirka is a philanthropist and is active with the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, American Cancer Society, Feeding America and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Additional volunteerism and charity include Mom and PA dental, Purses Full of Hope, AIDSWalk, Have a Heart, Feeding America and Share Food Program.




Mrs. Karen Larrimer-1980 Graduate

Mrs. Karen (Petcash) Larrimer, a 1980 AASD graduate, received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Point Park University. She is currently the executive vice president, head of retail banking and chief customer officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. Mrs. Larrimer is the first female chairwoman of the board for the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and a board and executive committee member of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.

Mrs. Larrimer has been recognized as one of the Most Powerful Women in Banking byAmerican BankerMagazine (2017, 2016, ,2015); was selected to receive a Most Powerful and Influential Woman Award by the National Diversity Council's Pennsylvania Awards Committee (2014); and was a finalist  for the 2014 Athena Award. She received the Girl Scouts of America Award of Distinction in Business (2013) and was named "Mother of the Year" (2010) by the national publicationWorking Mother.She also was named a"Women Worth Watching"byDiversity Journalin 2009 and was one of the Best 50 Women in Business in Pennsylvania in 2003.




Capt. Charles D. Rowley-1952 Graduate

Capt. Charles D. Rowley is receiving this honor posthumously. A 1952 graduate, Capt. Rowley retired after 30 years of service in the United States Navy. After graduating from the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School, he completed seven deployments, including two tours of duty and more than 160 missions during the Vietnam War. The Commanding Officer of the Naval Training Center from 1985 to 1990, Capt. Rowley was responsible for 1,300 people. He also was the Director of Computer Resources and Avionics with the Navy as well as the principal and chairman of the Joint Services Review Committee for Avionics.

Capt. Rowley's personal service awards include: the Distinguished Flying Cross; Meritorious Service Medal; National Defense Medal; Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross; Armed Services Expeditionary Medal; and 12 Air Medal Strike/Flight Awards.




Ms. Rhonda Wozniak-1979 Graduate

Ms. Rhonda Wozniak is a 1979 AASD graduate. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Art History from the University of Colorado at Denver; her Master of Arts Degree in Art Conservation from the State University of New York, College at Buffalo; and her Certificate of Advanced Studies in the Conservation of Marine Archaeological Objects at the Western Australian Maritime Museum. Ms. Wozniak was the objects conservator and only female crew member aboard the 1994 RMS Titanic expedition that recovered over 400 artifacts from the shipwreck under the direction of IFREMER, the French Oceanographic Institute. The expedition was featured as a National Geographic documentary. Ms. Wozniak lived and worked in France for two years as the primary conservator to prepare the Titanic objects for world-wide exhibit. Rhonda also held the post of Objects Conservator at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh for ten years, and now owns and operates her own MWBE certified art conservation laboratory in Pittsburgh.


The Hall of Honor was established to commend outstanding Ambridge Area School District alumni for their accomplishments, successes, service to others and state or national awards. In order to be eligible for nomination, alumni must meet the following criteria: they must have made a significant community contribution and/or career-related accomplishment. One-time distinctions or awards may be appropriate if they were given at a state or national level. The primary goal of the Hall of Honor is to have our current students aspire to the greatness that other Ambridge Area graduates have achieved," said Dr. Welter. "Those successful graduates add to our greatness and allow us to encourage and motivate current students toward future aspirations."


Information about the Hall of Honor is available here.





It is with pleasure that we announce the Technology Student Associations (TSA) State conference results.


Twenty-seven high school TSA members attended the 40th annual TSA State conference.  The conference took place on April 18-21, 2018 and was held at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Each student member competed in several individual and team events. There are over 80 different events to compete in, many of them involving public speaking, problem solving or STEM concepts. Ambridge took two 3rd place spots, one 9th, two 10th and several finalists (top 12).


Semi-finalists are listed below with their events:

Systems Control: 3rd  Dinah Bailey, Kyla Fitzgibbons, Fiona Ozenich;  PA LOGO Design: 3rd Rocco Niven,Finalist: Gabriella Milcoff; Structural Engineering & Design: 9th Dimitrios Nairos & Riley Sas, Finalist: David Brock & Tom Swaney;  Chapter Team: 10th-Dimitrios Nairos, Madeline Smith, Jacob Shoup, Jordan DeWeese, Samantha Freed, Fiona Ozenich; Prepared Presentation: 10th Dinah Bailey; Sci-Viz:  10th Xavier Albring, Jethro Bell, Alex Elwell, Samantha Freed & Riley Sas; Digital Video: Finalists: Kyla Fitzgibbons, Dinah Bailey, Amelia Freed; Debating Tech Issues: Finalists:  Josh Peters & Madeline Smith. 


Please congratulate these members of the high school TSA chapter on their accomplishments.  There were over 1800 competing students from across the state in attendance at the conference.  High School Advisors, Mr. Ben Holmes, Mr. Jason Roos and Mrs. Kristin Holmes accompanied the students over the 3 days and extend congrats on their accomplishments.  We look forward to another successful year in 2019.


For more information on TSA, check out the national website: