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Mon Valley high-schoolers release their own school documentaries through Hear Me 101

Students from four Mon Valley school districts spent a year of after-school and weekend time confronting the negative images and real issues head on at their schools, and the results are impressive documentaries, says Jessica Pachuta, project manager for the project, called Hear Me 101, from Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab.
 
"Each of their school districts is battling some type of negative stereotype, and most of it comes from the media,” says Pachuta. In two of the districts, for instance -- Clairton and Woodland Hills -- the stereotype is “'We’re only good at football and the students fight all the time.' No one is looking at what goes on culturally and socially. The students saw this as an opportunity to talk about this.”
 
Pachuta is an alum of one of the other districts taking part in the pilot program -- Steel Valley. "It hit home – I know exactly what they’re going through,” she says.
 
The 80 high schoolers "followed the process of making a documentary like a real documentary filmmaker would,” she says. They worked with the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project at the University of Pittsburgh to help students outline their documentaries, then learned from the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts how to execute most of the production. Two workshops at Pittsburgh Filmmakers helped students look at their schools and communities and decide whom to talk to and what to talk about, then put a video camera in their hands -- many for the first time.
 
Interviews with the young documentarians can be heard here. The films will debut on July 15 at 6 p.m. at Community College of Allegheny County.
 
Clairton's doc, Bleed Orange and Black, shows the way students see their community changing and how crime and safety and other issues affect everyone in the community. Steel Valley's The Study of Success takes a local negative -- concern that students from a particular district neighborhood experience low graduation and college entrance rates -- and turned that into a positive message: No matter where you are from, you can’t let it hurt your chances to achieve success.
 
Woodland Hills students worked on several documentaries, including one on the way positive student-teacher interactions can improve student achievement. And McKeesport students produced three films, including a piece on the function of role models, which made the older students realize that they have to be role models today for the younger kids.
 
“It was challenging to ask teenagers to take a mature look at themselves and where they come from," says Pachuta. "It is an incredibly vulnerable thing. But they opened up so much."
 
While the students learned the technical skills of using cameras, audio equipment and lighting, they also learned a lot of interpersonal skills while having to ask tough questions of school administrators and community officials. Pachuta says Hear Me 101 will continue next year with the same school districts: “We started such a great thing here. These kids don’t want to stop talking about these issues.”
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jessica Pachuta, Hear Me 101

Ellis School student with family still in Syria draws attention through July 30 panel

Thirteen members of Laila Al-Soulaiman's family have died in the clashes that began last year between Syria's citizens and its government, which started in her home city of Daraa. She can't discuss the specifics of her family's situation today; that "would compromise what they are actively trying to do," says the North Huntingdon resident, who will be an Ellis School senior this fall. "Many are active in the protest. Many are still silent.”
 
Laila believes none of us can afford to stay silent about the conflict, and so she is doing what few 17-year-olds do -- she is organizing a panel discussion to create citywide awareness of the Syrian situation, which she hopes will lead to further action.
 
“The average Pittsburgher – that’s who I want to come,” she says of the event, which will be held on July 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Squirrel Hill Carnegie Library meeting room A/B. Besides herself, there are two other panelists so far:     Imam Abdu Semih of Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, and Syrian-American Dalel Khalil, author of From Veils To Thongs and a University of Pittsburgh alumna, who believes their common culture can unite Syrians, Laila says. Khalil is also Antiochian Orthodox Christian. That there are also many Christians in Syria may surprise Americans, Laila believes.
 
The panel, being organized with the help of Global Solutions Pittsburgh and the local Syrian community, will give Pittsburghers the idea that they are connected to what's happening in Syria, she says, and that "we have a lot of power to change it. I don’t want to advocate anything politically – that should be left up to the people at the panel."
 
In her opinion, a solution to the crisis "is something that needs to come from the Syrian people. I think the U.S. government should impose heavier sanctions on the Syrian regime. Right now they’re just letting it happen.”
 
In the future, she hopes to hold a rally in Pittsburgh. There have been public protests in other American cities, but those cities have had larger populations overall, as well as bigger communities of Muslims and of Syrians.
 
"I’m very hopeful that Syria will find freedom," Laila says, "and the first step is that the international community needs to act more like a community and help the Syrian cause. I hope this little panel will add up to something. Mostly, I hope people will care.”
 
For more information and registration, click here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Laila Al-Soulaiman

Very STEAM-y: AIU's Center for Creativity gives $222,000 to 20 districts' fresh learning approaches

STEM education is still all the rage, but adding the arts to science, technology, engineering and math to make STEAM is catching on.
 
Locally, the movement just got some help in the form of $222,000 in grants to school districts in Allegheny County (and a few in Washington County) from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's Center for Creativity, with money from the Claude Worthington Benedum and Grable foundations.
 
Adding the arts to the more technical STEM subjects makes a lot of sense when you're pursuing high-tech innovation, says Center for Creativity Director Kelley Beeson, since "technology is the way we get here," Beeson says, "but the arts are where the ideas come from."
 
The Center for Creativity is a new initiative to bring students and teachers together to try unconventional learning methods, she explains, and that's exactly what the top grants of $20,000, awarded to five districts, are intended to foster.
 
Allegheny Valley School District, for instance, is using a butterfly garden and bird sanctuary as living outdoor classrooms, working with the Audubon Society, the Rachel Carson Homestead, a landscape architect and others to construct science, math, art and other stations. At Carlynton, they're creating a learning lab to encourage tinkering and making stuff, in the same vein as the MakeShop at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Carlynton K-6th graders will explore the concepts of building and using machines, such as amusement park rides and different modes of transportation, with the Carnegie Science Center, Carnegie-Mellon University's Robotics Institute, among other local institutions.
 
Elizabeth-Forward will use full-body kinetic videogames to allowing students' bodies to be a kind of learning environment for STEAM lessons, while the Washington School District will create a Summer STEAM Academy for grades 2-12.
 
"These projects all share a very similar effort to change the classroom," says Beeson. "Students learn differently and probably more deeply when they're engaged in the learning process -- when they're actually involved in learning."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kelley Beeson, Center for Creativity

Young advisors needed to lend their voices to Pittsburgh Cares

Pittsburgh Cares is creating a Youth Advisory Council for the first time to make sure younger voices have a say in the direction of its volunteer activities.
 
Students 14-18 years old can apply themselves or have a teacher or other mentor nominate them for a one-year term beginning this September. Application deadline is June 29.
 
"We're really looking for a diverse group of youth," says Nina Zappa, Pittsburgh Cares' Youth Engaged in Service program coordinator. "We just wanted to make sure there's an inclusion of youth voices for all our programs so we are better serving our organization."
 
Among the duties, Youth Advisory Council members will be grant reviewers for the organization's mini-grants program and gain professional development and networking opportunities.
 
Pittsburgh Cares already has students taking charge of Martin Luther King Jr. Day projects and school-related donation drives. Young people, says Zappa, are most attracted to volunteer activities involving interaction with even younger kids -- whether it's doing arts and crafts or sports or helping with homework and reading -- and to providing a direct service at a food bank or soup kitchen. But the new Youth Advisory Council will let students have a voice in more of the organization's activities.
 
"This will be more of the youth in charge of actually doing" the activity planning, she says. "Maybe they will come up with a better way [to organize] that is more youth-friendly and get more youth involved."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Nina Zappa, Pittsburgh Cares

Fred Forward leaps into kids' digital-media future

The latest Fred Forward Conference on June 3-5 -- run by the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College -- drew 160 people from major media companies and early childhood advocacy groups alike. "Just the perfect mix of folks for the discussions," says Rita Catalano, executive director of the Fred Rogers Center. "This was a national conference but it was a great opportunity to showcase the work that is happening in Pittsburgh."
 
Chief among its topic was the group's “Framework for Quality in Digital Media for Young Children,” two years in the making and still being built. There's so much media out there, but what's worthwhile for the youngest kids, up to 8 years old. Within a month, the Center hopes to take conference-generated ideas and develop them into "a very clear statement of what quality means," says Catalano. Participants also concluded that they need to help create new partnerships among child advocates and kids' media producers and find other opportunities to advance the quality of what's on offer.
 
Research on the subject, she adds, “is still very new, so we need to keep providing evidence that certain kinds of content, certain uses of content, works for children.” Creators of kids' media, from apps to new television shows, as well as childhood educators, also need new types of professional development.
           
Keynote speaker at this year's Fred Forward was Jerlean Daniel, executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. “Jerlean reminded us," Catalano says, "that we need to always remember Fred Rogers’ message of always thinking of the children first.”
 
Do Good:
Advocate for early childhood education through the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rita Catalano, Fred Rogers Center

New education-justice video released, aims to affect local school inequities, state budget cuts

“Equal opportunity – that’s the American dream, right?" says Heather Harr, co-director of the Youth Media Advocacy Project (YMAP) at Carlow University. "But in fact the quality of education is different from school to school,” based on the socioeconomics and even the race of the local residents.
 
With looming state budget cuts in educational funding, students in the Racial Justice Through Human Rights group of the American Friends Service Committee, comprised of teens from public and private, city and suburban schools, have been gathering to talk about the differences they've discovered in everything from their school lunches to SAT preparation opportunities, field trips, lab equipment and lab courses, and extra-curricular activities.
 
“The students want to get their message out, particularly when there is a debate over funding for the budget cuts. They want leaders to see it …"
 
So the Racial Justice group contacted YMAP, whose participants are trained to help high-school students learn to navigate the media, thanks to funding from the Heinz Endowments.
 
The result, thus far, is the five-minute version of Education Justice in Pennsylvania, intended to be a half-hour movie, which the high-schoolers will be finishing over the summer. The film, even in preview form, is an effective vehicle for the students, who interview teachers, education policy advocates and classmates who testify emotionally but forcefully about the reduction in teachers and the closing of schools.
 
“The resources and the opportunities are very different from school to school,” concludes Harr. “It’s not equal-opportunity education.”
 
Do Good: 
Stay abreast of the latest Pennsylvania education reform news, and how you can get involved, via the Education Policy Leadership Center.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Heather Harr, Youth Media Advocacy Project

KidsPlay for preschoolers opens at Market Square -- and the Promise celebrates student milestone

KidsPlay is back in Market Square for summer Tuesday mornings, 10-11:30 a.m., through August 21. It’s a free program of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP), and spokesperson Brooke M. Fornalczyk says this year’s arts, safety, cultural and environmental activities for kids and families are even more diverse and interactive than in the previous five years.
 
Also new this year is the Carnegie Library’s Reading Room, happening at the same time. Kids and their caregivers can step over to the mobile library branch and select a new book for just $1-$2.
 
Fornalczyk says the PDP expects 2,400-3,000 children and their families over the 12-week program – that’s 200-250 people each Tuesday, so kids visiting from local daycares and homes will have lots of company in the revamped Market Square. The Square offers many eateries, too, of course, and free nearby T rides to the North Shore. It’s what Fornalczyk calls “the centerpiece and jewel of Downtown Pittsburgh … the perfect destination to host KidsPlay.”
 
If your kids are older, but still kids, you’ll want to help celebrate the success of the Pittsburgh Promise, whose four-year, $40,000 college scholarships for qualified Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) students have now helped 3,200 kids, about 400 of whom have just become the first Promise recipients to graduate from college.
 
Raising Pittsburgh’s Promise Gala on June 14 will feature keynote speaker Sasha Heinz of the Heinz Endowments, while Igniting The Promise Charity Concert and Dance-A-Thon at Stage AE later that night – lasting until dawn the next morning -- will honor the first Promise-assisted college grads and all the high-school grads with performances by Ashanti, G. Love and Special Sauce, DJ Bonics and DJ Zimmie, ending with a sunrise reggae barbecue.
 
Both events will be fundraisers, of course, as well as parties. "It is a pinnacle point in the life of the Promise,” says Lauren Bachorski, the organization’s special projects coordinator. "It's an ultimate opportunity for us to thank all our supporters so far."
 
It’s also a chance, she adds, for the public to realize again how the Promise is encouraging PPS graduates to stay and work in Pittsburgh – and should encourage families to send their kids to PPS for the scholarship opportunity.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Brooke M. Fornalczyk, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership; Lauren Bachorski, Pittsburgh Promise

iQ Kids Radio puts WQED and Saturday Light Brigade on path to new 24-hour kids' programming

"We think kids and families need an alternative to what is currently available on the radio" all day, says Larry Berger, whose SLB Radio Productions, Inc. produces the long-running Saturday Light Brigade each week. "There really is not a PBS-type approach or a Saturday Light Brigade-type approach that engages children and adults in a way that is fun to listen to, that is educational and informative."
 
That's why Berger and Jennifer Stancil, WQED's executive director of educational partnerships, will be co-directing a newly announced collaborative effort called iQ Kids Radio, which aims to eventually offer 24 hours of innovative, family-oriented kids' radio programming.
 
Right now it's an idea whose time has come, says Berger -- and an idea that was chosen this week as the local Junior League's signature project for the next three years. That comes with a $45,000 grant and, even more importantly, Berger says, the expertise and volunteer energy of the several hundred women who are members of League chapter.

Stancil says iQ Kids Radio content will first concentrate on building from the Saturday Light Brigade to fill an entire Saturday of programming, since that's when parents are listening with their kids most often. The collaborative’s early ideas for programming feature storytelling, language lessons, music and children's literature, kitchen chemistry and other areas that attract both kids and parents and help children become successful.
 
One idea is to adapt PBS television content for the radio, since much of its kids' programming centers on music and songs anyway. "We ask ourselves on a daily basis," she says, "are we maximizing the content we get from PBS to help kids prepare for kindergarten and for life?"
 
"There's a legacy of high-quality programs," notes Berger. "That really would make a lot of sense listening with your family as you drive, or listening on a smart phone." iQ Kids Radio may end up as an app that families can subscribe to, as a traditional radio service supported by underwriting, or as "something they haven't even thought of yet," he says.
 
The task, says Stancil, is to figure out what innovative children's radio sounds like and to get it into schools, museums and other venues, as well as homes. In surveys, she adds, WQED has found that parents are particularly uncomfortable picking educational media for their kids. WQED and SLB hope the new iQ Kids Radio puts them, together, in the perfect position to help.

Do Good:
Connect with others via Pittsburgh's Kids+Creativity Network, formulate ideas for iQ Kids Radio, and let WQED or SLB know your best ideas.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Larry Berger, SLB Radio, and Jennifer Stancil, WQED

Evans City 6th graders' "Archers Vs. Aliens" video game hits bullseye to win national contest

Four 12-year-old Evans City Middle Schoolers won one of 17 youth prizes -- from a field of 3,700 entries -- for their game, Archers vs. Aliens, in this year's National STEM Video Game Challenge.
 
And they had fun doing it, too, their parents say.
 
The White House-inspired contest, designed to encourage learning in science, technology, engineering and math, gave the kids new laptops with educational and game-design software, $2,000 to send to their favorite charity, a cool ceremony at a Smithsonian museum -- and months of design work leading up to the game's completion.
 
"There were many weekends," says Lori Schexnaildre, mother of Connor, part of the winning team with Campbell Kriess, Justin Bicehouse and Drew McCarron. "They worked at it diligently. They really worked together as a team. They had a good time doing it, which was the best thing about it.
 
"I played it," she adds. "It is really well put together." Designed to encourage math learning in 8-year-olds, it awards archers with more arrows to shoot from atop their castle the more equations they answer correctly, allowing them to fight off approaching aliens. Miss the math answers and the archers eventually run out of arrows.
 
"It certainly help[ed] Drew explore what his interests are and what he might see himself doing professionally someday," says mother Kelly McCarron. "He has expressed a desire to explore the engineering and design fields," although it's still a bit early to settle on a career, she cautions.
 
Campbell Kriess's mom Elana says her son is already set on being a game designer and programmer. "This basically validated for him everything he wants to do in his future," she says, while also serving as a great learning experience. "Working with his peers was challenging: dealing with scheduling issues, differences of opinion, et cetera, were all good lessons. And he is also learning about the business side of video game design -- he is now selling the game online and had to learn about how to market it, process payments [and] being customer-friendly, et cetera."
 
Crucial to the early stages of this learning experience was the training workshop run by WQED in January (since PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are contest sponsors), which half the winning Evans City team attended. The workshop began with training by another contest sponsor, E-Line Media, in GameStar Mechanic, their free game-designing platform, and continued with lessons in how to increase kids' math literacy through games, as well as gaming principles, from rule-changing to storyboarding and using paper prototypes.
 
"Making a game isn't just about the digital programming -- it's about the narrative behind it," notes Jennifer Stancil, executive director of educational partnerships for WQED.
 
The day continued at Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center, where the kids walked into the middle of a 48-hour game-building challenge for adults called the Global Game Jam. Game Jammers mentored the children by exposing them to new games under development.
 
"We will be a game institute to facilitate more of this" training for middle schoolers in the future, says Stancil, referring to WQED's new Game ON! Institute. "I hope the boys come back and be mentors for the new kids who are trying to win the contest."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Lori Schexnaildre; Kelly McCarron; Elana Kriess; Jennifer Stancil, WQED

Unique collaboration using art to help kids: Warhol and Allegheny General trauma center

Teaming an art museum and a kids’ trauma center is “a very novel collaboration … very different and very new," says Dr. Anthony Mannarino, director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital, which is beginning a pilot program with the Andy Warhol Museum.
 
The Center already uses psychotherapy to treat kids with PTSD, and the Warhol currently uses art to aid kids with autism at the Wesley Spectrum Highland School. Now the two institutions will add art making and teaching about art to the therapy regimen of some of the Center’s patients to see how that can help. The lessons will focus on recognizing the true expressions on people’s faces, which can be a problem for traumatized children.
 
"About 40 percent of all children by age 16 have been exposed to a traumatic event of one type or another, and probably a sizable percentage of those kids have some post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms," Mannarino explains. "It's an adaptive thing to do to see anger on someone's face before they're going to hit you, to keep you out of those situations … But after, it is not adaptive," when faces that show neutral, mixed or even positive expressions can be misinterpreted and cause unnecessary anxiety.
 
The Warhol will employ Andy Warhol’s film portraits, dubbed Screen Tests, which feature the famous and the then-unknown, who were told to sit still but nonetheless display a variety of emotions on screen. The museum will also use the photo-booth studies Warhol used as inspiration. In addition, the kids learn to create sculpture and stop-motion animation.
 
Teams from both institutions have begun training each other in their own specialties this month. The pilot program will attempt to gauge whether and how the art component helps -- in particular, whether it helps children who are hardest to reach through psychotherapy.
 
"We want [kids] to have a positive experience that helps them be in the moment," says Tresa Varner, curator of education and interpretation at the Warhol. “Hopefully, just having the experience is beneficial, and is a respite from the world."

Do Good:
Sign a child up now for inspiring art classes at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Anthony Mannarino, Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents; Tresa Varner, Andy Warhol Museum

Propel kids' winning videos get creative with anti-bullying message

Local schools were challenged back in November by The Marcus L. Ruscitto Charitable Foundation to get creative when it comes to anti-bullying education, and Propel Homestead’s winning effort leads a slate of videos designed to show kids how pervasive bullying is, and how they can start to combat it.
 
Propel’s video features students speaking directly to their peers about bullying situations that may not be obvious or gain other kids’ attention, such as sending harassing messages via text or social media. This increasingly common bullying method “is less intrusive to others and those who are being bullied … so it's harder to detect,” says foundations spokesperson Jonathan H. Rosenson. “They're trying to raise awareness -- if this is happening to you, tell someone."
 
The Propel students in the video also display posters with surprising statistics, showing, for instance, that one in four students is bullied during his or her pre-college school career, and "even more surprising, one out of every five students admits to being a bully," Rosenson says. "Almost half of kids are afraid of being harassed while they're in the [school] bathroom.
 
"We felt this type of approach would be very well received by the other kids in their school district," he adds, earning Propel Homestead the top prize of the day-long “Bullyproofing Your School” program in the fall of 2012, presented by Dr. Adolph Brown. Brown also has his own story to tell of being bullied and finding a solution.
 
Other winners of $2,000 each were Hyde Elementary in Moon Township School District, Highland Middle School in the Blackhawk district and the Belle Vernon Area High School. Moon’s McCormick Elementary and Penn Trafford Middle School each won $500.
 
Each of the schools will hold video screenings of the winning submissions and check award presentations at assemblies during the next several weeks.
 
Do Good:
Need anti-bullying resources at home? Check out the Carnegie Library’s page about teen violence, abuse and bullying page.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jonathan H. Rosenson, The Marcus L. Ruscitto Charitable Foundation

Children's Festival brings new Luminarium, theater for youngest kids, free outdoor activities

There are so many free, outdoor activities at the 26th Annual Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival May 16-20 in Oakland, from storytelling to dance and magic, that “some people miss that it’s a theater festival at its heart,” says Pamela K. Lieberman, the festival’s executive director.
 
Lieberman is hoping that one festival event in particular inspires patrons to try some of the ticketed theater performances. Artist Alan Parkinson is back with another Luminarium, called Mirazozo – a colorful, football field-sized inflated light labyrinth. The experience of being inside this structure, she says, could “help inspire audiences to see something [else] that is in a more traditional theater setting.”
 
They include “Plop!” by Australia’s Windmill Theatre, a play about a courageous rabbit, the unpleasant Plop and the fear of the unknown, geared to the very youngest children, ages 1 to 5. “Children are ready to see theater when they are that small,” says Lieberman, but “it’s a new aspect of the field,” and parents may not yet understand how their kids can benefit from, and enjoy, theater as preschoolers.
 
Other theatrical features are World of Rhythm by Netherlands’ Drums United, featuring percussion from across the globe; Dudes, described as a “mix of song, dance, juggling, puppetry and slap-stick comedy” for 6-year-olds and up, also from the Netherlands; Scotland’s Shona Reppe Puppets performing Cinderella; and Origami Tales from Kuniko Theater, whose folded paper creations are part of Japanese storytelling.
 
The free activities encompass everything from last year’s Silent Disco (offering kids headphones that pick up several DJs) to a hula-hoop maker and interactive demonstrations by artists who have won the Sprout Fund’s Spark Awards for innovative ideas at the intersection of the arts and technology aimed at children.
 
“Our mission … is that the children are seeing culture and art from around the world, and walking away with new ideas and creative inspiration,” says Lieberman. “It’s really important that families are experiencing this together. We’re now seeing the third generation come through as audience members, so it’s really exciting.”

The Pittsburgh International Children's Festival is a production of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
 
Do Good:
Join the Kids+Creativity network for the latest on the intersection of education, arts and technology – and to lend your own talents.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Pamela K. Lieberman, Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival

Pittsburgh Promise recipients give back through community service, dance marathon, more

The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship fund for Pittsburgh Public Schools students is celebrating its first year of awarding $40,000 to qualified seniors – twice the scholarship level of previous years – with four events across three weekends: community-service days, a career fair, a dance marathon fundraiser and a gala.
 
First up is the community-service weekend.
 
On May 31, seniors who are eligible to receive the scholarship and graduate – potentially 1,100 district students – will be fanning out across the city to participate in up to 40 different service projects selected by Pittsburgh Cares.
 
“We wanted [students] to have the opportunity to say thank you to the city,” says Gene Walker, the Promise’s benchmarks manager, “and to start their life of volunteering.” Also participating that day will be students who are enrolled in the Promise’s Community College of Allegheny County extension program, which is in its third year. This program helps students who showed potential to be Promise-ready when they graduated from high school but weren’t eligible for the Promise at the time, due to a low grade-point average or other factor. If participants get through the highly structured extension program at CCAC, they become eligible for the Promise for their remaining three years of college.
 
Volunteering on June 1 will be some of the 3,200 current college students and graduates who received the Promise scholarship in previous years.
 
The upcoming service weekend will be followed by a “Career Launch” career fair June 7-8, aimed at the 400 college grads who have received the Promise, as well as those who haven’t graduated yet but who could use help with resumes and interview preparation.
 
The dance marathon June 14-15 at Sunrise Stage AE will feature performances by Ashanti and G. Love and Special Sauce and DJs, and will be hosted by Kiya and Mike Tomlin, with proceeds going to the Promise. 
 
Just as the Promise is designed to aid the academic achievements of students while keeping them in or near Pittsburgh, these celebratory events are “our way of getting [students] out there and hooked into Pittsburgh, whether it’s for a job or volunteering,” concludes Walker.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Gene Walker, Pittsburgh Promise

MCG Invitational high-school art show: 5 new schools, more than $100,000 in awards

For 25 years, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild has displayed and celebrated student art from Pittsburgh Public Schools. But for the newly dubbed MCG Invitational, opening on May 10, the pioneering arts-education organization will also be including art from students in five suburban school districts – West Mifflin, Wilkinsburg, Duquesne, Homestead and McKeesport – who will join in the competition for more than $100,000 in scholarships, awards and prizes.
 
“We are glad to have the chance to regionalize” the event, says Dave Deily, director of MCG Youth & Arts. "The regionalization has helped with drawing a high level of art in all mediums. This is one of the strongest shows we've had."
 
The show’s entries incorporate drawings, watercolors, oils, charcoals, ceramics (both sculptural and functional), textiles, photography, printmaking, and mixed media, including a large-scale hanging piece made from at least 1,000 Port Authority bus passes.
 
Alecia Shipman, who attended MCG classes from 2000 through 2002 while a student at Schenley High School, remembers winning the Eleanor Friedberg Art Scholarship (via The Pittsburgh Foundation) for her ceramics. Her MCG art portfolio got her into Alfred University, where she earned a BFA in sculpture. She subsequently became a certified teacher and taught art, then received a Master of Art Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University. Today she is cultivation manager for downtown’s August Wilson Center, running their educational programs, including those in the arts.
 
The MCG experience, Shipman says, “gave me an appreciation for what art can mean for a person who is in such a critical time in their lives. It was a chance for people to have such positive role models in their lives, both extra-curricular and academic.
 
"There's a lot of things you can do after 3:00" while in high school, she notes – some of which can get kids in trouble. "It gave me an opportunity to do something productive with my spare time. That ultimately prepared me for my future in the arts."
 
The MCG Invitational Awards Reception begins at 6 p.m. on May 10 at MCG. The exhibit of student art is open for two weeks.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Dave Deily, MCG; Alecia Shipman

Intel's "Olympics of science fairs" here has local high-schoolers competing

Elizabeth Posney has finally reached what she calls "the Olympics of science fairs" – the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) (www.societyforscience.org/isef/), a program of the Society for Science & the Public – to be held May 13-18 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
 
"The competition is stiff,” she notes – after all, she’ll have 1,599 competitors. “I expect to go and make connections and do other stuff that's important to my future."
 
Right now, Posney is a 17-year-old junior at Freeport High School and lives in Sarver. Twice she’s made it to the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair. But this is her first entry into the big time. For her project, she rebuilt a model human knee joint out of leather and springs and simulated forces, impacts and rotations on the knee, showing when the knee would experience various injuries. She says the project helps in her biology class right now and will aid her physics class as a senior.
 
The importance of entering the fair "is more than just learning about [science],” Posney says, “it's learning how to do it. It's learning how to talk about your project, so it's learning communications."
 
She doesn't know what she wants to do for college and a career, but her number one choice is physical therapy. Her experiment in biomechanics certainly relates to any career in PT.
 
Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation, says the ISEF aims “to encourage young innovators to explore their curiosity for how the world works and develop solutions for global challenges.” And the ISEF has seen student projects turn into professional research and discoveries. “We see this every year in this competition,” Hawkins says. “In fact, this year alone, we have 32 finalists who have already received patents, and 383 – that’s 25 percent – are currently seeking patents.”
 
Indeed, among Pittsburgh finalists alone there are projects detailing an alternative cancer treatment, a navigation device for the visually impaired using an iPhone, and a vehicle powered by pavement heat. All of these and more are competing for more than $4 million in awards.
 
Concludes Hawkins: “We see a driven group of high school students who often already have career goals in mind.”
 
Do Good:
Check out what Asset Inc. does as a nonprofit aiding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education statewide.

Writer: Marty Levine (forgood@popcitymedia.com)
Sources: Elizabeth Posney; Wendy Hawkins, Intel
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