WEST MIDDLESEX — Marla Pivarnik graduated from West Middlesex in 2009, but her legacy returned Tuesday — along with some supplies — for a new generation of students.
As the fourth, fifth and sixth-graders of Oakview Elementary School gathered in the gymnasium, they were greeted by Oakview Principal Tammy Mild and Superintendent Raymond Omer.
“We have a lot of great partners in the school district who care about our students, and they don’t ask for a lot in return other than you fill this workbook with the great knowledge that you can use all year,” Omer said, as he held a notebook emblazoned with “Marla’s Notebooks” and a butterfly design on the cover.
But two faces were familiar to some students and new to others, Melinda and Michael Pivarnik, who told the students about their late daughter Marla Pivarnik.
“She loved notebooks, she loved education, I know some of her teachers did journaling, and she loved journaling,” Melinda said of Marla. “I’m not sure what you’re going to do with them this year, but whatever you do, I hope you think of Marla.”
After graduating from West Middlesex Area Jr. Sr. High School, Marla attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania and received a degree with honors in psychology. Marla planned on getting her masters degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, but she died in 2013 when she accidentally overdosed on prescriptions from two different physicians.
For the past three years, Marla’s parents, Melinda and Michael Pivarnik, have worked to keep their daughter’s memory alive through “Marla Makes a Difference,” a supply drive that started out providing school supplies including pencils, crayons, glue, pencil cases and notebooks with “Marla’s Notebooks” on the cover and Marla’s story on the inside cover.
“Also remember that this is for you, because each one of you are special, and think of this as Marla giving these notebooks and supplies to you,” he told the students.
The program has grown to include fifth-grade students at C.M. Musser Elementary School in Sharon City School District, where “Marla’s Notebooks” held a distribution Monday.
After hearing Marla’s story, organizers invited students to take a pencil case with school supplies and a notebook, with each class lining up at tables stacked with supplies.
Fourth-grader Ashton Jones, 9, said she was excited for the new school year and thankful for some new school supplies to start out with.
“I don’t know what I’ll use it for yet, but I’ll think of something,” Ashton said.
Sixth-grader Kate Sowers, 12, said she was thinking of using the folder for her band music, and looked forward to finding a use for the notebook, whether for classwork or for coloring.
“I think it was sad,” Kate said of Marla’s story, “But I think it’s great that they’re doing this for Marla and the students.”
After the students from Oakview Elementary School received their school supplies, the Pivarniks made their way to West Middlesex Jr. Sr. High School, where they shared Marla’s story with the senior class and presented the students with notebooks, pencils, highlighters and composition books of various colors.
Senior Chloe Greer, 17, said she had not heard Marla’s story before the distribution Tuesday.
“It’s sad but they’re trying to do good in memory of her,” Greer said.
Senior Chase Tomko, 17, said he thought it was “great” that the Pivarniks wanted to honor their daughter by supporting Marla’s alma mater.
“A lot of our schoolwork has gone digital, so I could probably use it as a planner for my classes and keep my schedule organized,” Tomko said about the notebook.
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