Campus News

Sewickley Academy Rallies to Support Teacher and Ukraine

SEWICKLEY, PA – The students, faculty, and staff of Sewickley Academy rallied to show support for the people of Ukraine, and, in particular, Global Studies teacher Nataliya DiDomenico who grew up in the now war-torn country, moving to the U.S. in 2007. Mrs. DiDomenico’s mother and brother still reside in her homeland, and she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of care and consideration from her school community which included monetary donations and countless necessities that will be primarily donated through two organizations, DT Care and Brother’s Brother Foundation.
“The support from everyone has been tremendous,” said Mrs. DiDomenico. “It seems like everyone throughout the entire school wanted to be part of it in any way they could.”
When the threat of war in Ukraine was imminent, Mrs. DiDomenico offered a seminar for anyone at the Academy interested in learning more about the country, the conflict, and her family. To her surprise, she found her office door decorated shortly thereafter in Ukrainian colors and covered in notes of support from her students.
Her Global Studies students then approached her about coordinating a Ukrainian Crisis Relief Campaign with their classmates in Grades 9 - 12 as well as faculty and staff. Additional effort was offered by Senior School mathematics teacher, Mr. Matt Michaels, whose grandfather was born in Ukraine and whose family has always maintained a connection with the country. The relief plans quickly expanded to include both the Middle and Lower schools at Sewickley Academy as well.
To kick off their campaign in the Senior School, participants were encouraged to dress in blue and yellow for school on April 12, 2022, to show their support for the Ukrainian cause. The students then arranged for a group photo which has been turned into a postcard. Everyone was given the opportunity to write notes on the back of the cards, and Mrs. DiDomenico provided cheat sheets with English to Ukrainian translations. The cards have been included with the donations.
Each Senior School advisory group was assigned a hygiene-related item to collect over a two-week time period, ending April 28. In the spirit of competition, the group with the largest collection earned a lunch from Chipotle. Without question, Mr. Michaels' advisory team surpassed all other groups collecting 395 boxes of 50-count cotton swabs. The items will be used to create kits for Ukrainian evacuees forced to leave their homes with very little to no belongings. Items collected included 40 boxes of gallon-size resealable bags along with 200 bars of soap, 86 containers of hand lotion, 72 washcloths, and 60 tubes of toothpaste, as well as travel-size toothbrushes with caps/cases, deodorant, mouthwash, dental floss, disinfecting wipes, lip balm, and hair ties. An individual student and family contributed 20 pre-assembled, zippered toiletry bags with all necessities included. All items were given to DT Care, an organization providing emergency aid response to Ukrainian refugees. Additionally, $273.24 cash was raised and will be donated to Brother’s Brother Foundation. Anyone making a monetary donation was treated to a piece of authentic Ukrainian candy provided by the Ukrainian family of a Senior student, Milla Dobrovolska-Ivanova.
Middle School advisory groups also competed to bring in the most supplies with the final counts being so close, there will be four groups enjoying donuts in the coming week. Their school-wide totals included 36 fleece blankets, 254 bottles of body wash, 312 packs of tissues, 136 bars of soap, 160 deodorants, as well as toothpaste, lotion, hand sanitizer, shampoo and conditioner, bandages, and more.
Additionally, the Lower School students were invited to contribute in any way possible resulting in 357 additional toiletry items. The Lower School faculty made a monetary donation to Direct Relief for Ukraine.
All items gathered by the Middle and Lower schools are being given to Brother’s Brother Foundation who will ensure they are received by Ukrainian citizens and refugees.
Mrs. DiDomenico is quick to point out that it wasn’t just the students of Sewickley Academy who got involved in the relief efforts. “A lot of faculty brought extra items and donations. The staff and maintenance team contributed, too. So this was truly a whole-campus effort.”
Crisis relief efforts are far from over at Sewickley Academy. An amateur pizza chef, Mr. Michaels plans to bring his portable pizza oven to school on May 20 to create and bake custom-ordered pizzas for students and faculty and staff in exchange for a donation to the Ukranian branch of Caritas. Some of the parents involved in Sewickley Academy’s Home & School Association are providing beverages and have offered to cover all expenses associated with the pizza supplies. Mr. Michaels anticipates that with the available time and one oven, he should be able to produce 50 pizzas. Always looking for an educational opportunity, Mr. Michaels will have students help him make and roll out the dough, as well as assemble, bake, and box the pizzas.