The Season of Giving with Ms. Annie Mersing
Ms. Annie Mersing, Seneca Valley Foundation Director of Development
Ms. Annie Mersing earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Concentration in Management from Robert Morris University. Ms. Mersing has been in the Seneca Valley School District since 2019, first serving as the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools. Now in the role as the Director of Development for the Seneca Valley Foundation, Ms. Mersing also serves as the District's Director of Advancement and provides assistance with securing and writing District grants.
IN THIS EPISODE, WE WILL REVIEW
Episode 48 - Annie Mersing
File Name: Voices E48 Annie Mersing.mp3
File Length: 00:10:10
FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)
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Introduction: Welcome to Voices, a National Award winning podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District.
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Jeff Krakoff: I'm Jeff Krakoff. Today we're speaking with Annie Mersing, who's director of development for the Seneca Valley Foundation. Welcome. Thanks for talking to us today.
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Annie Mersing: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
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Jeff Krakoff: So this is kind of the season, and we're going to highlight all the great things the Foundation does, some of the schools and programs that have benefited from it. But so this is the tenth year that the Foundation has been in existence.
00:00:38:18 - 00:00:39:03
Annie Mersing: Yes.
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Jeff Krakoff: What is the foundation and what exactly does it do?
00:00:44:02 - 00:01:20:01
Annie Mersing: So the Seneca Valley Foundation is the nonprofit arm of the District. We are a 501-c3 dedicated to encouraging excellence and innovation in Seneca ValleySschools. We work to give students and staff the "extras" that the district's budget cannot necessarily support, but things that set Seneca Valley apart from other districts. Things like the Aquaponics Lab at Ryan Gloyer Middle School, equipment for the genetics and robotics lab and the senior high, or the small lab at CVE, which is essentially a giant iPad about the size of a boxing ring that allows the next type interactivity while learning.
00:01:20:09 - 00:01:52:25
Annie Mersing: So something great for students over there. All of these things and so, so much more are possible because of the Seneca Valley Foundation and the support of our tremendous donors. We typically focus on things involving STEM, early literacy and global citizenship. However, more recently, because of COVID and this pandemic, we did step in to support the District with COVID relief, helping deliver meals, fund child care assistance for our families in need, things like that, all those.
00:01:53:03 - 00:02:30:20
Annie Mersing: But as those needs start to diminish, we are eager to get back to supporting academics. We have an engaged board of trustees for multiple facets of the community, like business owners, teachers, parents and administrators. They have such incredible insight, and they have a deep commitment to making Seneca Valley better than it already is. And I think it's important to note that not every school district has a foundation. When Dr. Vitale our Executive Director and the District Superintendent thought to create this a little over ten years ago, it was done with such forward-thinking mentality.
00:02:31:12 - 00:02:36:21
Annie Mersing: And the Foundation has been instrumental in Seneca Valley's growth and progress for those years.
00:02:37:03 - 00:02:50:02
Jeff Krakoff: OK, so you mentioned it helps students and staff of all grade levels. If I'm a student or if I'm a teacher or other staff member, and I think that the Foundation could help me with something I'm working on, what's the process?
00:02:50:27 - 00:03:21:20
Annie Mersing: So they should reach out to me. They can find out my contact information from our website. Of course, if they're staff, they have it just through our internal processes, but they should reach out to me. We'll talk it over. We'll see how the Foundation can help. We are here to support the students and staff of the District in order to keep it thriving and flourishing. I can tell you, in this past year alone, we have funded things like the outdoor learning spaces that folks will see at Rowan, CVE, Haine and Evans City.
00:03:22:20 - 00:03:53:12
Annie Mersing: Those tents essentially give students a chance to have a mask break and get out into the fresh air. We've funded upgrades to elementary playgrounds, professional development and mindfulness training for staff, extras for our graduates doing what we could to make the past two senior years memorable ones and in a good way. We funded the Welcome Back event for staff, a SHOUT group and a mentoring program at the IHS. The list just really goes on and on of who we support and how we do that.
00:03:53:18 - 00:04:03:20
Jeff Krakoff: OK. Is there any particular set of criteria for deciding whether to fund something or is it just, hey, tell us what you need, what your idea is and we'll look at it.
00:04:04:16 - 00:04:22:24
Annie Mersing: So typically we do like it to fall into the focus of STEM or global citizenship, like I said. However, we will look at everything on a case-by-case basis, and we do like to make an impact on this on the greatest amount of students that we can. But we'll look at everything on a case by case basis.
00:04:23:04 - 00:04:39:23
Jeff Krakoff: OK, so so since we are a school district and it is a 10 year anniversary, what kind of grade would you assign to the work the Foundation's done, you know, from the beginning to now? How's it been doing and what are some of the highlights now? Would you grade it?
00:04:41:01 - 00:05:07:06
Annie Mersing: Well, I may be biased, but I would give it an A. I would say a solid A. I think it's been great how it's been grown over the years. However, until my position came into play, there wasn't a person dedicated to all the work that goes into it, it was on a volunteer basis, so we had administrators volunteer their time to get this really going.
00:05:07:08 - 00:05:07:23
Jeff Krakoff: Got it.
00:05:08:05 - 00:05:19:26
Annie Mersing: I think now that I'm able to really dive into the to the growth, it's only going to get better. But gosh, those those folks sure did do a great job in getting us to where we are today.
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Jeff Krakoff: Okay. So it started out in about 2011 with volunteers. How long have you been in this current role?
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Annie Mersing: Well, I've been here for just about two years.
00:05:29:17 - 00:05:30:02
Jeff Krakoff: Okay.
00:05:30:09 - 00:05:32:12
Annie Mersing: I'll be here two years in this position.
00:05:32:22 - 00:05:37:07
Jeff Krakoff: All right. So what's next? What are some of the goals for the Foundation down the road?
00:05:38:05 - 00:06:13:21
Annie Mersing: Well, our main goal is always to cultivate support of our mission, whether that's through donations, through making connections or through engaging the community, families and alumni in our efforts. Something we will be focusing more on this year, is expanding our support through Pennsylvania's Education Improvement Tax Credit, or EITC. This program allows businesses to receive a tax credit for contributions made to educational improvement organizations like us, like the Foundation. So essentially, businesses are able to support us while reducing their tax liability, which I think we can all agree is a win-win for all involved.
00:06:14:25 - 00:06:54:15
Annie Mersing: Another goal, which is more in the immediate, immediate future, is making this year's annual support campaign the most successful one to date. We have just two fundraisers each year. Our golf outing and then this campaign. Historically, we've been quite successful, tapping into only Seneca Valley staff. In fact, we've quadrupled the number of donors over the past five years, despite two of those years of being in the midst of a pandemic. This year, though, I really want to extend our ask to community members, businesses, families and alumni, people who experience or who have experienced firsthand how incredible this District is.
00:06:54:29 - 00:07:25:04
Annie Mersing: We know people in this District are generous. We know people are seeing more and more what the Foundation does and how it supports students and staff. And we know this community cares, and we know the community wants to see Seneca Valley continue on its path to excellence. So folks can stay tuned for additional information as we begin to launch this campaign. It'll happen in the beginning of December, which is, by the way, the perfect time to make those final tax-deductible charitable contributions. And as always, if interest, if more information is needed.
00:07:25:18 - 00:07:45:03
Annie Mersing: As I said before, we can check out the website - svsd.Net. We have our own page there under the Our District tab. Again, my contact info is there and the many ways people can donate are there, as well as check out other things that we do. You can really dive deep into who the Foundation is and what it supports.
00:07:45:11 - 00:07:45:26
Jeff Krakoff: OK.
00:07:46:09 - 00:07:53:04
Annie Mersing: I'd also encourage everyone to follow us on Twitter and check out our section in Raider Pride, which is the District's monthly e-newsletter.
00:07:53:15 - 00:08:17:09
Jeff Krakoff: Okay, so individuals can still get a tax deduction. But the interesting thing was businesses big and small can actually get a tax credit by donating to an organization such as the Foundation. You had mentioned that it is unusual for a school district to have a foundation. Do you know roughly, you know, if we're looking at the greater Pittsburgh area, how many other school districts have something similar?
00:08:18:05 - 00:08:53:10
Annie Mersing: So I want to say there's less than 10 in our local region that would be, you know, southwestern Pennsylvania. A lot of times foundations are set up and nothing was done with them, and each education foundation in each district is unique. For example, we differ how we operate than North Allegheny does, so each organization is unique, but it is definitely something that is not typical for a school district to have, but we find it incredibly important.
00:08:54:02 - 00:09:04:20
Jeff Krakoff: OK, so if I'm a community member or a parent, or if I'm a business, how exactly do I go about making a donation to the Seneca Valley Foundation?
00:09:06:05 - 00:09:34:23
Annie Mersing: So those folks can check us out on our website. There is a link to make donations through a Mighty Cause site, which is an online processor, always checks are accepted and can be sent to my attention at the administrative office. And I would just encourage people to not just make donations, but make connections. Reach out if you're willing to help and just keep tabs on what we're doing, I think no one will be disappointed.
00:09:35:28 - 00:09:41:06
Jeff Krakoff: Right. OK, is there anything else that you'd like everybody to know about the Foundation that we haven't discussed yet?
00:09:41:29 - 00:09:55:18
Annie Mersing: I think I would love staff to know that we are here for them. We're here to support them. And I would want the community to know that if they want to get involved, they're more than welcome. We would love to make more and more connections throughout the District.
00:09:56:05 - 00:10:05:02
Jeff Krakoff: All right. Awesome. Thanks again. That's Annie Mersing who's director of development of the Seneca Valley Foundation. Have a great rest of your day.
00:10:05:17 - 00:10:06:16
Annie Mersing: Thank you. You as well.
00:10:06:23 - 00:10:07:17
Jeff Krakoff: All right. Take care.