Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series that features Alle-Kiski Valley people and the notable things that they do.
Burrell High School librarian Megan Aranyos believes her desire to educate and help children was passed down from her mother.
She grew up in North Huntingdon under the watchful eye of Norwin School District seventh-grade computer teacher Barb Popovic, who’s set to retire at the end of the school year after 35 years in the district.
“She’s an inspiration to me,” Aranyos said. “I saw how much she loved working in schools and working with kids, and I wanted that, too.”
Aranyos, 37, of Cheswick has 13 years in education under her belt, including five as Burrell’s student government sponsor, and she still seeks advice from her mother.
“I think my mom’s proud,” Aranyos said. “I went to her for advice on how to approach my administrators, my coworkers to get their support. With all of her teaching experience, she helped me out.”
Aranyos graduated from Norwin High School in 1999, earned a bachelor’s degree in English education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2003 and a master’s in library science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006.
She was hired as Burrell’s librarian shortly before graduating from Pitt.
Aranyos said there was a plethora of librarian positions open in the mid-2000s, and had a feeling Burrell would be a good place for her.
“I just took the chance and let them know I would finish my degree,” she said. “It just felt right. I liked the way the job description sounded. I knew I wanted to work with high school students, so I just went for it. I think I did three rounds of interviews, and it just fit and I loved it. … Everyone’s really supportive here.”
Student government has about 70 active students involved. The group plans prom, dances, fundraisers and various other district activities.
Aranyos said she’s most proud of the annual senior citizens luncheon, at which students serve meals and share stories with about 100 community members each fall.
She started the “Buccaneer Boutique” this school year across the hall from the library. It’s a closet full of various clothes and supplies for students in need.
The initiative began with a few homecoming dresses and suits.
It quickly filled to include 30 pairs of jeans, 50 pairs of shoes, 25 hoodies, 20 scarves, several winter coats and around 100 T-shirts.
“It’s all free to them,” Aranyos said. “It’s donated by the faculty and staff, some community members and some post-graduates.
”It’s a safe space. It’s all anonymous,” she said. “People really gave. It was impressive. The kids that come to us with the needs are super appreciative.”
Aranyos said she modeled the boutique after similar projects at Kiski Area and Apollo-Ridge high schools.
“It really has taken off in other schools, so I thought why not here,” she said. “There are a handful of kids in there every day, pretty steadily. Nothing (merchandise) really stays for long. I see a kid that needs something and I just give it to them. Someone did give some questionable crop-tops, and I just gave those to Goodwill.”
Any staffer can help students with the boutique, which also serves as a great asset for students in violation of the dress code or who may have spilled something on themselves.
“Students have been pretty open about their needs,” Aranyos said. “I don’t feel like there’s a stigma here where they’re going to put down the clothes, or if they see a student wearing a specific hoodie that they saw laid out. … It’s just a good feeling to know that we’re helping our students right inside the building.
“A student came in and was super excited for her own toothbrush and her own toothpaste,” Aranyos said. “She didn’t have to share anymore with her sibling. That was really tough.”
People can donate clothes, hygiene products, snacks or give monetarily to the boutique at 1021 Puckety Church Road in Lower Burrell.
Aramyos said she has at least 22 years before calling it a career.
“I hope to stay here till I retire,” she said. “The faculty, the staff, it’s like a family here and the students are awesome.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, email@example.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.