For the Taylor Allderdice High School class of 1973, “Know something, do something, be something” is more than a simple school motto.
Rabbi Cheryl Klein, who is part of the 17-member reunion committee for the graduating class, said that the group wanted its celebration to go beyond dressing up and trading stories of yore.
“We saw this as an opportunity to come full circle with a sense of gratitude,” Klein said. “This was an opportunity for all of us to consider giving something back.”
The class decided to honor the school’s motto and reconnect with its educational roots 50 years after leaving the building’s hallowed halls by supporting a scholarship for a Taylor Allderdice senior.
Interestingly, Klein didn’t graduate in the class she’s celebrating with.
The rabbi grew up in Squirrel Hill and attended Colfax Elementary School and Taylor Allderdice High School, then transferred in 10th grade to Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. She remained close with friends she made during her time in public school, though, and attended the graduating class’s 20th reunion. She then began serving on the reunion committee.
“To my knowledge, I’m the only person who serves on the Taylor Allderdice Reunion Committee for the class of 1973 who did not graduate with the class,” she said.
Klein serves as the official “communicator” for the class — a role she relishes because she believes it’s important for people to stay connected. She emails class members and keeps them up to date on reunion plans.
It was one of Klein’s friends from her Colfax days, Alan Katz, who suggested creating a scholarship as part of the 50th reunion. Klein brought the idea to the committee who, she said, thought it was fabulous.
“Alan had been the brainchild and has endless energy to do whatever it takes to raise funds,” she said. “He has created very, very clever videos that we send out asking the class for donations for the campaign that runs from January to May because that’s the reunion.”
The goal is to raise $20,000, about 40% of which was already collected, Klein said. The scholarship will be administered through The Pittsburgh Promise, which will facilitate the process of student selection and direct payment to the institution where the student will be educated.
Class members are encouraged to give in increments that reflect their graduation year, Klein said.
“If you’re able to give $1,973, great,” she said. “So is $197.30 or $19.73 or $73. We’re just encouraging people to think about giving something different than a random $10.”
The videos created by Katz have become something of a hit among classmates. Some are fairly basic —class members saying, “I donated,” or a short piece talking to students who received a Pittsburgh Promise scholarship and the impact the gift had on their lives.
Others are less traditional. One montage intersperses videos of class members and stock footage of people dancing to the Earth, Wind and Fire hit “September.” Still another comical piece titled “The End is Near,” shows Katz chalking the school with “73” while a voiceover describes a scenario — like the type of conspiracy-driven pieces one might find online — of a person being arrested for tagging the school with the numbers.
Katz, who now lives in Arizona, said that the friends he made in Squirrel Hill were special. The neighborhood, he said, was his bubble.
“I wanted to give something back to the community. I wanted to celebrate our 50th reunion, and I wanted to celebrate Allderdice,” he said. “There’s a legacy there from our time and history.”
Katz said he enjoys creating the videos.
“I’ll do this for a little bit and then move on to something else,” he said. “For my own self, it has given me a purpose.”
Steve Cuden is a 1973 Taylor Allderdice graduate who returned to Pittsburgh 12 years ago after spending nearly four decades in Los Angeles as a screenwriter. He teaches at Point Park University and said he decided to donate because he’s a proponent of young people having the opportunity to get an education.
“One of the things I did when I moved back to Pittsburgh was find how to give back to the community,” he said. “That includes not just giving my time and resources to people but also money to various organizations. I think that has a great deal of value. The motto of Taylor Allderdice is ‘Know something, do something, be something.’ Without help financially, there are a whole lot of people that won’t be able to do that. I felt it wasn’t just my honor but my obligation.”
For Klein, the scholarship represents a lasting impact for the class of 1973.
“It’s really an expression of the power of education and how we, as a class, can continue to change one life at a time,” Klein said. “Whether we’re in the twilight of our lives, will be blessed with another 20 or 30 years, or for those who have passed and aren’t able to be here with us, there is a tremendous sense of gratitude and feeling that, wherever we are in our lives, it’s time to give back.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at email@example.com.