It was obsolete but it was all the Abington Heights High School had until a benefactor stepped in.

Several years ago, the printing press at Abington Heights High School was a remnant of a by-gone age before digital printing took over. Students were using it to learn but, after graduation, discovered that what they learned in school didn't transfer to the outside world.

Enter the Abington Heights Educational Improvement Organization (AEIO).

"It would be like going from an Apple computer 10 years ago to one of today's Macs," said Tom McHugh, director of program development for the AEIO. "We're trying to bring the future to our students right now. We're trying to replicate the atmosphere in our community to our students. This is what they need right now. They aren't learning on slide rules or a 20-year-old printing press, we are bringing the school district up-to-date with technology."

The AEIO funded a Xante printing press, allowing more than 70 students to experience current technologies in digital printing, creating everything from business cards to posters. The AEIO has also given funds to support the district's Odyssey of the Mind, FIRST Robotics and Arts Alliance, among other extra-curricular activities.

McHugh explained that the AEIO supports and enhances funding received by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as part of its educational tax improvement program. Under this program's guidelines, businesses who pay state taxes can request the state grant them a tax credit if they contribute to either educational improvement organizations, in the case of public schools, or scholarship organizations for private schools. The AEIO is also a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, meaning that individuals wishing to make contributions can do so for a tax credit.

Over the last three years, the AEIO has given back, on average, $100,000 to the Abington Heights School District.

"If Abington Heights didn't have this program, dollar for dollar, we would be missing $100,000 that is supporting all these programs that we have here," McHugh said. "Abington Heights would be stuck with the dilemma as to what to do with robotics or Odyssey of the Mind, for example."

"The school district would eliminate the programs because it couldn't afford to do them," he continued. "The kids have the opportunity to participate in these programs, given the economic times, that they might not necessarily would have had the chance to participate in had it not been for the AEIO."

The AEIO is a separate entity from the Abington Heights School District, having its own board of directors, which is comprised of volunteers. AEIO members work with the Abington Heights School District's administrators and teachers to determine where extra-curricular funding is needed.

"Abington Heights has a lot to offer, it is a great school district," McHugh said. "Unfortunately, as budgets get tighter and tighter, you can either eliminate programming or you can identify alternative revenue. If you eliminate things, you are hurting the students and hurting the district."

Over the next few weeks, McHugh will begin to approach and educate area businesses so that they are aware of the state tax credits.

"There are people out there saying that Abington Heights is a great school district and they would love to give back but they don't know the proper avenues to do that," he said. "I am going to show them that avenue."

For more information on the AEIO, visit www.aeioandyou.org. McHugh can be reached at 446-0751. Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 154, Clarks Summit, PA 18411.