Laura Ratica-Federovich is unquestionably the greatest swimmer to ever graduate from Elizabeth Forward High School. She accumulated multiple individual titles and records at both the high school and collegiate levels in addition to qualifying for the U.S. Olympic trials. Perhaps her greatest personal achievement didn't come in the natatorium. It happened 2019 when she finally received her college diploma.
Needing only to complete her student teaching to earn her special education degree, Federovich decided not to return to Clarion University in the fall of 1997. Twenty-six years later at the age of 43 after suffering multiple life-related setbacks, she returned to college to get her degree. In 2019, she earned her bachelor's degree in social work from California University of PA.
This opened up the door for so many more employment opportunities for her. Two years ago, Federovich started her new career as a caseworker for the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau. It brought stability to her life and gave her the opportunity to do something she loves - protecting the children, providing needed services to families and empowering parents.
Federovich left an unmatched mark in EF swimming history. After her senior year, she held 10 of 11 possible school time records. And now almost 30 years later, she amazingly still holds three of those marks. As a high school senior, she was ranked in the top 25 in the U.S. in the 50-yard freestyle. She placed seventh in this event at the U.S National championship. While swimming occupied most her time, she did well in the classroom and was named to Who's Who among American High School Students. She was elected class historian by her peers.
Selection of a college to pursue her swim career was a difficult task. Federovich chose Clarion to dedicate her next four years of life after considering offers from the University of Tennessee, University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Texas A&M among others. She studied special education but her main focus at the time was her swimming career. She set two Clarion school individual records, was a 28-time Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference champion, won three (two in the 100 fly and one in the 50 free) NCAA Division II national titles and earned NCAA All-American honors 27 times, one short of the maximum of 28.
When she decided to leave Clarion without a college degree in hand, Federovich turned to her passion which was being in the natatorium in some way, shape or form. In 1997, as luck would have it, there was a swim job opening at EF which allowed her to instill her knowledge of the sport to student-athletes. Two of her boy swimmers won WPIAL titles and medaled at state competions under her guidance.
In 2001, she started her family where she was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom, raising her family for the next 13 years. This ended in 2014 when she was divorced. The next several years posed a huge financial struggle as she searched to find jobs after 13 years out of the work force and without a college degree. Federovich worked as a therapeutic support staff aide and a teacher's aide before being hired by the Norwin School District in 2016 to work as a paraprofessional and back of the deck as a coach for the high school swim team and on the track as the middle school track and field coach. During her five years with Norwin swimming, her natators won both individual and team honors at the local and state levels.
Employed but still barely able to make ends meet, Federovich went back to college to get that degree. She credits her upbringing, the unconditional love of her parents, support from her brother and sister, and the time management skills that were instilled by her teachers and coaches for the ability to finish what she started.
Raised in the Mt. Vernon section of Elizabeth Township by loving and devoted parents, Michael and Margaret Ratica, she is the youngest of three. Michael "Ted" Ratica and Cheri (Ratica) Bowser are her older siblings.
Federovich and her life time partner, Dr. Tom Smith, reside in North Huntingdon Township. She is the mother of five. Matt, age 20, is studying psychology at Bucknell University; Summer, age 18, graduated this spring from Norwin High School in three years and is now a successful photographer and business owner, and Adison, age 15, is a sophomore at Norwin and is very active in extracurricular activities. Stepchildren Taylor, age 18, is a freshman studying elementary education at Indiana University of PA and Tommy, age 14, is a freshman at Norwin and active outside the classroom, too.