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Kids+Creativity gathers to celebrate year of accomplishment

The Kids+Creativity Network will celebrate its second year with an Assembly on Dec. 12, 3- 5:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Museum of Art. It will be a chance for members of the Network, which aims to remake learning in the Pittsburgh region, to examine what they’ve accomplished individually and as a group.
 
Cathy Lewis Long, head of the Sprout Fund, which supports Kids+Creativity, will give the state-of-the-Network address, outlining how far the group has come since the last Assembly, including its tremendous growth and the way members have built connections locally and nationally.
 
She will be joined by Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, who will speak about how her organization, which assists the county’s school districts, has been teaming with those districts to advance teachers’ professional development and update classroom lessons and activities. Thanassis Rikakis, vice provost for Carnegie Mellon University, will talk about CMU’s new initiatives to integrate art, design and technology both at CMU and with their K-12 school partners. Rita Catalano, head of the Fred Rogers Center, will also add her organization's perspective.
 
They will be followed by brief “ignite talks” by individual Kids+Creativity members – five-minute snapshots of successful programs designed to inspire conversations and motivate members to create new endeavors of their own.
 
Finally, the Assembly will offer four breakout sessions centered around several key Kids+Creativity topics:
 
1. Ways to develop partnerships with schools. Ryan Coon, Sprout program officer, notes that “more and more schools are getting involved in Kids+Creativity and are really interested in partnering with members to bring new ideas into their classrooms.”
 
2. Access and equity for new classroom technology, especially for underserved communities, both in and out of schools
 
3. How to become a part of the new Remake Learning Digital Corps (see Pop City’s coverage here [http://www.popcitymedia.com/forgood/remakelearningdigitalcorps120413.aspx]); and
 
4. A hands-on maker activity led by staff from Garfield’s Assemble space.
 
The Assembly, concludes Coon, "is a good opportunity to see some of the things Kids+Creativity is up to and a chance to make partnerships with some of the network's active members."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ryan Coon, The Sprout Fund

The Bagpiper's Hymnal! A Pottery-at-home kit! Nonprofit gifts are best

The Nonprofit Holiday Gift Catalog is back, and its bagpipe-ier and bully-er than ever.
 
The annual compendium, now in its fourth year from the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, brings together some of the best items available as holiday presents from local nonprofits, “so that you can give gifts that mean something," says Center Programs Team Leader Carrie Richards, who put the catalog together with Evening Receptionist David Little.
 
Among the groups new this year to the catalog is the Balmoral School of Piping and Drumming, which offers The Bagpipers' Hymnal and a Piper's necktie.
 
"I had never heard of them before, but they're here in Pittsburgh,” Richards says. “The Bayer Center works with mom and pop nonprofits … and I was tickled that they wanted to be a part of it."
 
Other organizations new to the catalog are Biggies Bullies, which supports and rescues the bully breed of dog and Volunteers of America, which is selling a bracelet to support people with disabilities.
 
The Union Project, which runs a pottery studio among its projects, is offering The Clay Case this year. "It’s everything you need to work with clay at home with your family," she says. "They're kind of selling you a mess in a kit, which is pretty fantastic."
 
"The nonprofits are always thankful for the free publicity” of the catalog, she adds. “But I always hear from people: 'It made me feel like I was contributing something in my gift buying.'"
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Carrie Richards, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management

Sculptor teams with high-school kids for anti-violence projects

"When you introduce something through art,” says Pittsburgh sculptor Blaine Siegel, “you're opening a different perception, a different doorway. Especially when kids talk about violence, it's just about 'Do this, don't do that.' Not the 'Why?' Art makes you think harder to find meaning. That's when there is a different thought process – kids are more engaged and you get to a much better place."
 
Siegel, an artist in residence in Wilkinsburg High School during the previous school year, is still working with Wilkinsburg students in an effort to use art to deal with violence. Siegel and his students have created videos and will do readings and musical performances at the Society for Contemporary Craft’s “Enough Violence” exhibition on Dec. 13.
 
Last year, Siegel converted Wilkinsburg High School’s woodshop into an art studio where, twice a week, 18 students worked with him on his sculptures, then branched out to do their own artwork. He also visited their classes for talks and demonstrations. In an English class studying writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for instance, he added visual art to the mix, guiding students in creating a mosaic, while in a health class studying the respiratory system he helped students sculpt a model of a body with a mechanical lung that inhaled and exhaled, introducing them also to artists who created body-themed.
 
Wilkinsburg is the most violent high school in Pennsylvania, according to a state study in 2012.  "I don't believe it – but the perception exists," Siegel says. He showed his students a speech by Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban and has since spoken out widely about the violence – and her own reaction to it.
 
"I started to draw parallels between her and these kids' experiences," Siegel says. He noticed them constantly making music – singing, banging on lockers – "representing the beauty these students are able to create in this atmosphere of violence," he says.
 
He first approached the school band, which made a video of drumming a Pakistani beat from Malala's region as they walked through school halls.
 
Then Siegel took a snippet of Malala's speech to the UN, in which she spoke of not wanting to shoot her attackers in revenge, and overlaid it with stills from the school. He asked a group of its students whether they would shoot in revenge for a gun crime, and the majority said yes. Then he played them Malala’s UN speech, and they saw a picture of a girl their age.
 
"Opinions started to change,” he reports, “and it's interesting to see that happen."
 
When he took students to view the “Enough Violence” exhibit, which contains a wide range of artistic responses to our society’s violence, they were most affected by the sculpture at the front of the show, which depicts a toddler with a gun holding up fellow toddlers, some in diapers. It started a vital discussion, he says, about nature versus nurture, and how violence is introduced to people at a young age.
 
"That got a lot of sharing going,” Siegel says. “They're young adults but they're also older kids, so that piece got to them."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Blaine Siegel

Happy hours for globally minded people

"We call it happy hour for globally minded people," says Thomas Buell, Jr., director of marketing and the Study Pittsburgh initiative for GlobalPittsburgh.
 
He's talking about GlobalPittsburgh First Thursdays, held next on Dec. 5 at Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grille in the Strip District from 5:30 to 8 p.m., then in February and following (after skipping January) at Steel Cactus in Shadyside.
 
About 150 people from across the globe and the city usually attend, from 37 countries and speaking 27 languages. The crowd, Buell says, includes "a lot of internationals – professionals, students and ex-pats – but also a lot of local people who are interested in learning about the world… They have travelled or they are interested in seeing how global Pittsburgh has become.
           
"It seems like it's really unlike a lot of networking, where people know each other," he adds. "This one, you can walk up to any table and introduce yourself. It's really friendly and welcoming.
           
Through this "citizen diplomacy," Buell says, the confluence of people can do things "the diplomats in Washington can't really achieve."
 
A hundred years ago, he notes, 33 percent of Pittsburghers were born outside the U.S. In recent years, that has fallen as low as four percent. Currently, it is around 10 percent. "This is a way to make Pittsburgh more welcoming and inclusive for people who live here, not just for newcomers," he says. "The visitors who come in learn from Pittsburgh but we want to make sure that Pittsburgh … learns from the people we bring in.
 
Register here for the event, which is free for GlobalPittsburgh members and $5 for others, and includes complimentary appetizers, prize drawings and more.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Thomas Buell, Jr., GlobalPittsburgh

Remake Learning Digital Corps: fresh troops for tech teaching

The Sprout Fund is looking to recruit up to 30 members of a new Remake Learning Digital Corps: technologists, university students, out-of-school-time teachers, makers, or "anyone interested in promoting and helping teens and tweens learn digital literacy," says Ani Martinez, a Sprout program associate who is coordinating the Corps.
 
The Corps is “going to change how youth develop digital literacy skills in afterschool programs throughout Allegheny County,” says Sprout program officer Ryan Coon.
 
Martinez says there are many tech programs that could use no- to low-cost tools in for their students but don't have the time or resources to train their own experts. “It's been a growing concern for connected educators for a long time," she says, referring to connected learning: the notion that young people learn better when they work with their peers, are personally interested in a subject and connect with the larger community.
 
The new Corps will be a travelling educational force, she says: "Hopefully, it will become a self-sustaining training platform that can be used with any educational site."
 
Corps members will learn Scratch, a programming language tool, and Thimble, developed by Mozilla as a way to learn coding. From there, Corps members can help students do everything from exploring Java to building hardware devices and apps, including working on a Hummingbird robotics kit, which teaches kids about circuits, lights, and motion.
 
Applications to be an instructor or site for the program close Dec. 20 and are available here. Sprout is looking 5-10 sites to deploy its first teachor-mentors.
 
"The hope," says Martinez, "is that [students] gain an interest in building and teaching themselves hardware and the Web at large – the 21st century communication skills and job training skills. If they can, early on, they will have a tremendous leg up when they reach the workforce."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Ani Martinez and Ryan Coon, Remake Learning Digital Corps

Community Kitchen to teach food-service to job seekers having the toughest time

Pittsburgh Community Kitchen has been quietly working since July to create a catering business that provides food-service training to people who often have the toughest time getting a job: those reentering society from jail, people who have experienced recent homelessness, and individuals recovering from drug and alcohol abuse or who have experienced behavioral health issues.
 
"And it's often more than one" issue that their clients are getting past, says Jennifer Flanagan, who founded the Kitchen along with Tod Shoenberger, an executive chef with 20 years of operational experience in the food industry. “Food service is a really forgiving industry,” Flanagan says, “if you are responsible and have some skills,” and the Kitchen will offer "more than job readiness – industry-specific training."
 
Flanagan works for Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services, where she co-directs a Department of Justice-funded program offering workforce development for former inmates, so she has important experience creating such a program. And there are 42 other community kitchens with similar missions in the national Catalyst Kitchens Network, which originated in Seattle.
 
The Kitchen has already undertaken catering jobs for nearly half a year. "You can't really train people if you're not running the business well," she says. The free program uses chefs as teachers and also offers clientele access to case managers to provide extra support and make referrals to social-service agencies. "Our goal is to get them through the their barriers and stabilized" in life, she explains.
 
To accompany the training experience, which begins with the new year, the Kitchen already has a shared-use commercial kitchen in Pittsburgh Public Market’s recently opened Penn Avenue location. There, they’ll also train participants in co-packing: working with smaller food producers to produce their products and/or pack them for sale.
 
In addition, the Kitchen is planning a restaurant – at a location to be determined – that will “make the restaurant experience available to folks who couldn't necessarily support it,” Flanagan says. They’re also expecting to put a 10,000-square-foot commissary kitchen, using green technology, in the Energy Innovation Center opening in the Hill District in late 2014.
 
”We're looking to do other things to support whatever communities we go into," she adds, such as making meals from the 30,000 pounds of end-of-shelf-life produce tossed by food banks every month.
 
Concludes Flanagan: "I'm excited to start the training in January, and see where it takes us."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jennifer Flanagan, Pittsburgh Community Kitchen

Thought school was tough? Stigma of mental illness makes it tougher

Getting kids to encourage their classmates to stop stigmatizing mental health issues is somewhat uncharted territory, which is one of the reasons Pittsburgh Cares is teaming with Allegheny County to devise new school-based programs around this issue.
 
The program, Stand Together, began a few weeks ago with workshops in 10 area schools: Pittsburgh's Perry and Allderdice high schools and the Environmental Charter School, Propel Braddock Hills, South Allegheny Middle School, South Brook Middle School, South Park High School, Woodland Hills Junior High School and West Mifflin Area middle and high schools.
 
Working with the county's Office of Behavioral Health in the Department of Human Services, Pittsburgh Cares devised an initial full-day workshop in which the students learn about both mental illness and the stigma that often goes along with it.
 
Nationally, says Holly McGraw-Turkovic, program director at Pittsburgh Cares, 16 percent of school-age kids with mental illness will think about suicide, with up 44 percent of them dropping out of school, while about two thirds do not even receive treatment. “There’s a lot of myths out there connected to mental illness,” says McGraw-Turkovic. “Stigma comes from students being isolated."
 
During the first workshop, students also paint an "awareness icon" – a mannequin that they cover with positive messages about mental health issues. The second workshop uses Pittsburgh Cares' strength as a nonprofit affiliate of the national HandsOn Network – creating service-learning projects – and focuses it on the subject of mental illness stigma. The kids will brainstorm project ideas, then apply for the organization's mini-grant program for $100-$1000 to fund each project.
 
At the Stand Together website, the organization will be posting project ideas and guides, local connections and educational material on the issue, mental health fact sheets and a photo collections from finished projects, as well as a blog and project assessment tools.
 
South Allegheny is the only school so far to have completed its second workshop, and ideas for effective programs may be tough to devise, McGraw-Turkovic notes. There weren't many successful national programs to use as models, she says, so the pilot year of this two-year program will be testing how much kids' attitudes and knowledge have changed from its effects.
 
“We’re hoping in two years we can share this model with all our HandsOn affiliates across the country," she says, "giving them all the tools they need to replicate this program.” Stand Together was funded by a $105,000 grant from the Staunton Farm Foundation.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Holly McGraw-Turkovic, Pittsburgh Cares

Eat for a good cause with Bite Catering from Community Human Services

It's not unusual for a nonprofit to engage in social enterprises, or to raise money through side businesses, but it's probably unusual for that business to be catering.
 
That's what Community Human Services has been developing for the last year. The Oakland nonprofit already serves half-price lunches for those in need in its Bite Café on Lawn Street, dishing out about 5,000 a year. With their chef and executive staff aiming to cook up healthy fare for the neighborhood, Director Of Community Programs Trevor Smith said the organization decided it was time to take their talents to a wider audience.
 
The café, Smith says, provides " a chance to make some folks get a hot meal and have a chance to socialize.” However, he adds, "we honestly lose money for each meal that we sell" there. With Bite Catering, the organization is trying make the café services self-sustaining.
 
“Food is a common theme of what we do,” Smith notes, since the group also runs a food pantry and a second kitchen. “So it fits in with the character of the agency.”
 
So far, Bite has catered lots of meals for a number of other nonprofits – for meetings of 10 and dinners for 100, from the United Way and Forbes Funds to neighborhood churches and groups. Now they are trying to build up their business among for-profit companies as well.
 
“Nonprofits are or should be looking for ways to generate funding” from nontraditional sources, Smith says. “It certainly requires that our team work harder but by no means is it beyond their capacity.”
 
His hope for Bite Catering, he concludes, “is that it is able to fund in its entirety the lunches, and that we do an excellent job of catering, that we do great food and great service … If we can do that, the money for lunches will fall into place.”
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Trevor Smith, Community Human Services

How do homeless children do homework?

“The largest percentage of individuals who are experiencing homelessness are children – they far outnumber those individuals you see on the street,” says Bill Wolfe, executive director? of the Homeless Children's Education Fund? in the Strip District.
 
The latest federal stats show there are nearly 1.2 million homeless kids in the U.S. More than 1,700 of them are in Allegheny County. “That is a number that continues to grow,” Wolfe says.
 
And the problem is spread throughout the area, too: “A lot of people think that homelessness and poverty in general is just an urban problem. But there are 43 school districts in Allegheny County and every one of them has children experiencing homelessness. The only way we are going to break this cycle of homelessness is education.”
 
That's why the Homeless Children's Education Fund has services in all 27 county agencies that serve the homeless – 20 shelters and seven places that provide services during the day. “We have become the educational wing for those 27 facilities," Wolfe says.
 
Founder Joe Lagana, the retired head of the local Allegheny Intermediate Unit, "visited some of the shelters and agencies, and he noticed that when the kids came [there] they were basically put in front of a television set," Wolfe says. "The agencies didn’t have anybody to do [education] and the moms and dads were struggling with their own issues.”
 
In 17 of the facilities, the Fund has built learning and resource centers with computers and spots for kids to do homework. It provides tutors and volunteer mentors to work with kids after school and pays reading specialists to work on literacy issues. It brings in art, music and language lessons as well as artists to work with the students.
 
“Those portions of our programs really work to get the parents involved in the educational process with the children,” he says.
 
The Fund also provides books and schools supplies. Each August, with the help of Citizens Bank, the Fund distributes 2,500 new backpacks filled with age-appropriate school supplies.
 
The Fund is always looking for people to spread the word about the need in our community, and for volunteer help" “We are in constant need of volunteers to go in and work with children in the shelters. We will take one day a month if that is all you can give.”
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Bill Wolfe, Homeless Children's Education Fund

Find the right hire, intern to CEO, via Nonprofit Talent

Nonprofits looking for great matches for everyone from executive directors to volunteers now have someplace central to turn: Nonprofit Talent.

On Nov. 1, Todd Owens and Michelle Pagano Heck left spots with other local talent-search agencies to start the new venture. "We are extremely passionate about the work the nonprofit organizations do," says Owens. "We are, at our core, people who care tremendously about people and organizations that are working to help society.
 
"The whole premise of our business is that nonprofit organizations need talent in many forms to meet their missions," he says – from interns to board members, from volunteers to full-time staff. Now nonprofits here and across the state can find people in those four categories through Nonprofit Talent's services and through their website. "We can do a full executive search to find a CEO or someone in other key leadership roles. We can assess current talent and make recommendations on how the organization can better serve its mission."
 
The company has more than 100 positions posted on its website already and gets thousands of hits a day, he says. These postings are also spread through the company's social media and bi-weekly newsletter. This will be a particular help, Owens believes, to the 75 percent of nonprofits who have budgets under a million dollars and don't have well-developed human resources departments – or anyone whose specific job it is to seek and find the right personnel.
 
Nonprofit Talent already works with clients from here to Philadelphia, Doylestown, Lehigh Valley, Lancaster and Harrisburg. Their first major local client is a Pittsburgh Foundation-funded initiative called Talent City (Talent-city.com), a community project to identify those who can best serve in key leadership roles in the new mayoral administration beginning this January. It is also designed to solicit ideas about the future of Pittsburgh.
 
The local nonprofit sector is "fairly healthy," Owens allows, "in a community that is blessed with much largesse," including generous corporate donors, a successful United Way campaign, foundations still giving away the wealth of the industrial giants of the 1900s and new wealth being generated. "That's not to say that there aren't some challenges on the horizon" – including those Nonprofit Talent is designed to overcome.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Todd Owens, Nonprofit Talent

WorkAble finds clients jobs, even in recession

A year after beginning the countywide WorkAble job assistance program, it has a 90 percent job placement rate and is providing other important help for families on the edge of crisis during this recession.
 
The program is funded by the United Way and run by three faith-based groups – Jewish Family & Children's Service (JFCS), North Hills Community Outreach and South Hills Interfaith Ministries – but it is open to anyone who has found themselves un- or under-employed in recent years.
 
Just walk in the door of any of these agencies, call 412-904-5993 or click here and job counselors will take your employment and educational history and help figure out your employment needs and barriers. Do you have skills that could lead to more work in your field? Do you need to retrain? What else is going on in your life that you might need help with?
 
WorkAble has traditional workshops on resume writing, cover letters, job searches and networking as well as nontraditional ones on social media and budgeting, It brings in job recruiters and employers and holds career fairs once a month that offer mini-interviews with employers, not just places to drop off a resume.
 
But the program also provides deeper help, says JFCS Chief Operating Officer Linda Ehrenreich, using personal and group sessions to find out what other economic, social or psychological needs participants might have and helping them get aid for those issues as well. Each of the agencies has strengths in job counseling and all work with people who have barriers to gaining and retaining employment.
 
Of the 500 people served by WorkAble between October 2012 and today, 350 have graduated from the program, so to speak – and 330 have gotten jobs. But WorkAble is helping even after employment, assisting people with other needs that aid them in getting through life and keeping their jobs.
 
Says Ehrenreich: "It focuses on those who are falling off the cliff … the struggling families who are really in crisis.
 
For the future, she sees WorkAble expanding its volunteer base, seeking more corporate partners and developing its website and reach into the community. WorkAble is, she concludes, "a common sense model building on the strengths of three different agencies in three different locations."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Linda Ehrenreich, Jewish Family & Children's Service

MLK essay contest sending winners to Chautauqua

Carnegie Mellon University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards contest for local high-school and college students is calling for entries once again – and winners this year may get the chance to read their works at a special event in Chautauqua, New York.
 
Poetry and prose about students' personal experiences with race and discrimination are invited as contest entries by Nov. 22, with the awards ceremony set for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Jan. 20, 2014).  
 
It's sometimes difficult to get entries from kids in high school unless their teachers get involved and oversee the writing process, says organizer Jim Daniels, Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English at CMU. "It's a hard subject for [kids] to write about and they need a lot of encouragement," Daniels says, "but if we ignore or don't talk about it, it's just beneath the surface and horrible things happen."

Among the increasing subjects of past winners has been the experience of international students here and in their own countries, "a reminder that it is not just an issue for this country," he says. Last year's winners included a student from Sri Lanka who talked about her experience there and in Lebanon as a family of immigrants finding their way. Another winning essay concerned a student whose mixed Latin American heritage, he said, was not evident, even to fellow Latinos. The first time a stranger approached him as a fellow Hispanic, asking him in Spanish what country he was from, was a thrilling moment he was able to record for his essay.
 
For the contest's 15th year, says Daniels, the awards ceremony and reading will also involve a performance by the CMU drama department's gospel choir. But bringing winners to Chautauqua is the most exciting development, he says, helping both students and the audience ponder the issues of race and discrimination more often than one day per year.
 
"None of them had been there before," he says of the students he brought to New York. "They were particularly surprised by the enthusiasm of the audience. They wanted us to stay longer." The group had a lunch and tour and were interviewed by the local daily for a long article. "They want us back. We want to go back. It's an exciting development."
 
Daniels hopes this year's entrants include more college students too. "The more people who get involved in responding, the more rewarding the awards will be," he concludes. "There are always surprises; I learn something every year from these pieces."
 
Entries should be less than 2,000 words and double-spaced (or up to five poems) and should be sent as Microsoft Word attachments (.docx preferred) here or to MLK Writing Contest, Department of English, Baker Hall 259, CMU, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213.?Include your name, school, age, title of work(s) submitted, category of work(s) submitted (fiction, poetry, nonfiction), email address, home address and home phone number.

Selected entries are published by CMU.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jim Daniels, CMU

All nonprofits need apps, and CodeFest can design them

Nov. 15 is the deadline to submit your app needs to Steel City CodeFest, the 24-hour app-building event, which for its second year will concentrate on creating apps to help with the challenges nonprofits face.
 
"We see that nonprofits in general are very risk-averse in spending precious resources and investing in technology," says Garrett Cooper, director of innovation for the Forbes Funds, one CodeFest's organizers. Perhaps an expensive but unsuccessful technological fix burned them in the past, "so they are really cautious looking at the next generation of technology that might help them most efficiently," he says. Yet external demands from government and the public for accountability will force them to look for improvements. Cooper believes the majority of nonprofits can benefit from having even a single, simple app to help staff communicate or work more efficiently.
 
CodeFest started last year when Google Pittsburgh asked to team with a city agency and approached the Urban Redevelopment Authority, says Jennifer Wilhelm, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategist at the URA. CodeFest 2013, in February, designed apps mostly for local government agencies but found that implementation of the apps has been slower than they'd hoped, she says. Organizers intend for this year's focus on apps for nonprofits – likely 10 of them -- will lead to their use more quickly in the community.
 
Last year's winning apps were ParkIt, for commuters wishing to pay for parking with their mobile devices; OpenDataPgh, "for connecting the communities of Pittsburgh and city government through an open data platform"; and enLightened, for people to share energy-use data for cost savings and conservation. About 20 teams in all designed as many apps.
 
"We really want a bridge for technology groups between the for-profit world and the non-profit world," Cooper says. Thus, Forbes and the partnering organizations – which include American Eagle, Google, Maya Design and the University of Pittsburgh – will continue to help develop the apps after CodeFest is finished. He believes these apps can show the rest of the city how technology can be beneficial for its charitable groups.
 
Concludes Cooper: "We think we are going to come up with several apps that really help the local nonprofit sector."
 
Get an application for CodeFest here and direct any questions to Brittany Schrenker.
 
Writer: Marty Levine 
Sources: Garrett Cooper, Forbes Funds; Jennifer Wilhelm, URA

At TRETC, tech meets education in and out of classrooms

The Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference (TRETC) returns Nov. 19 and 20, and this year even more emphasis will be on helping educational efforts that happen outside of schools. Last year more than 400 educators from K-12 schools, universities and nonprofits attended the event.
 
The conference is growing in the number of attendees, educational sessions and vendors from the many local educational tech startups, says Justin Driscoll of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, one of the organizers.
 
TRETC, says another organizer, Norton Gusky of NLG-Consulting, "has kept the conversation alive in terms of the roles of technology as a better strategy for meeting the needs of learners, both in school and out of school." The conference aims to help educational programs best use, and use the best, technology in their learning spaces.
 
This year's first keynote speaker is Andrew Slack, Executive Director of the Harry Potter Alliance, a self-described group of "wizards and muggles" who are working for social change. Slack is a Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow spending the year in New York City developing the Imagine Better Network, which will try to enlist an even broader fantasy fandom into improving the real world. He'll be talking about participatory learning, civic engagement and mobilizing social media to do social good.
 
The other keynote speaker is Richard Culatta, acting director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education. "He's very involved in the whole idea of using technology to remake learning," Gusky says.
 
TRETC's local presenters will include Nikki Navta, who authored the Zulama curriculum, which blends classroom and online learning. She will be demonstrating how game-based learning – not just playing but conceiving and developing games – has become a powerful tool for education. Also presenting is Ed McKaveney, technology director for the Hampton Township School District, who was named Chief Technology Officer of the Year for 2013 by the Consortium for School Networking – the first such awardee in Pennsylvania.
 
"We feel really fortunate he is here in our backyard," says Gusky. He'll be speaking about such new tech developments as 3D printing and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).
 
Justin Aglio and Joe Oliphant, co-principals at Propel Braddock Hills High Schooj, will talk about Propel's new focus on innovation and design. The Sprout Fund will also have a Remake Learning Zone to showcase the projects they've funded at the intersection of digital learning and media. Another part of the program will highlight the roles of women in technology.
 
TRETC has been so successful, says Gusky, that organizers are thinking about expanding it into a national conference. "How do we highlight the region, not just for the region, but for the entire country?" he says.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Norton Gusky, Justin Driscoll

HE-HO -- not a holiday fair, but housing and health help for artists

Individual artists are pioneers, of a sort--the first to move back into neighborhoods that have fallen on hard times. Then, once these places are made safe and attractive for the rest of us, real estate prices begin to rise--and artists get priced out.
 
Since they work for themselves, artists have also had a hard time getting health insurance, due to cost and availability. But with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) offering health insurance to more people--and requiring adults to buy it--now seemed the right time to reach out to help local artists with both issues. So was born HE-HO: Artists’ Health and Housing Fair for the Community from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, a free seminar to be held on Nov. 16, noon-6 p.m. at the Kingsley Association.
 
GPAC, says CEO Mitch Swain, "has made a commitment as an organization to do everything we can to help individual artists. We feel individual artists are an important cog as Pittsburgh seeks to redevelop itself."


HE-HO--for health and housing, of course--can benefit any low- to moderate-income Pittsburgher who needs help in these areas. HE-HO will include a home-buying workshop by sponsor Dollar Bank and another by Kingsley's NeighborWorks and a home-improvement session from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

With help from the other sponsor, Highmark (Blue Cross Blue Shield), the event will also have free health screenings, and information and advice from the local Healthy Artists and Be Well!, PA Health Access Network and the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center of New York City.

From this last group, Renata Marinaro, who has been helping artists get health insurance for two decades, will talk the previous evening at 6 at Pittsburgh Filmmakers on "Navigating Health Care Reform for Arts Organizations, Collectives, and Arts Businesses," then address individual artists' needs at HE-HO.
 
GPAC has been hearing from its 67-member artists' advisory group that health insurance and housing are two big, tough issues for the local arts community. HE-HO organizer Christiane Leach, GPAC's artist relations coordinator and office manager, knows the artist's dilemma first-hand. She and other friends in the local arts community have donated their art to raise money for other artists' hospital bills. She has heard artists ask, "How can I live in a neighborhood, own a house and be part of the resurgence that is going on?" she says.
 
The event also includes information from local arts groups, yoga, massages, music (by Phat Man Dee, the Delicious Pastries and vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield), poetry, food and drink.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Mitch Swain and Christiane Leach,  Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council
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