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Pearl Club aims to help urban girls toward their goals, especially college

Tamasia Johnson is a Promise Coach, part of a mentoring program helping Pittsburgh Public School kids take advantage of the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program. But she thought an extra step was needed to help local girls become Promise-ready.
So Johnson started The Pearl Club as another mentoring resource for young women from Pittsburgh's inner-city neighborhoods.
The program was launched in May for high-school freshmen, sophomores and juniors at Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy 6-12 in Oakland and has already grown to include Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12 students in Homewood.
"What I'm trying to do is create a sisterhood for young women based on certain values: strength, empowerment and success," says Johnson. The program aims to encourage participants to graduate from high school and attend college. "A lot of young women aren't given a lot of opportunity or are in environments where they can succeed despite their situation.
"We just don't go in front of a group of students and say, 'This is what college is like,'" she says of Pearl Club sessions. "We're in the room presenting them with ways to solve problems. We give girls a mentor and we also focus on setting a goal." Each girl then posts her goal on the Pearl Club blog and tracks its progress there.
Club members, Johnson says, "learn together, build together and build trust. That's a support system that college women need and women need throughout their lives."
The Pearl Club will hold its first public event, called “The Pearl Club presents … Promise-ready Pearls, that’s the goal!” on August 17 at the Squirrel Hill branch of Carnegie Library to show girls of all ages the club’s fundamentals and opportunities.
Johnson hopes this fall to expand from the current 22 students in two schools to include meeting sites at two local churches. In the meantime, she is very pleased with the local response: "It's actually taken off faster than I thought it would!"
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tamasia Johnson, The Pearl Club

Not meeting the right non-profits? Speed dating gives volunteers long-term relationships

Tired of hooking up with the wrong nonprofits? Left unfulfilled by encounters that take place only on the Web or phone? Just want to meet the one nonprofit who really wants you for you?
Pittsburgh Cares' second Volunteer Speed Dating mixer, on Aug. 5, is designed to connect 20 participating nonprofits with 100 potential volunteers, explains Amanda Trocki, the group's director of corporate programs. Hopeful volunteers will actually rotate between tables every five minutes, hearing from individual nonprofits and letting the nonprofits get to know them – a little. The volunteers will get a dating card to rate the nonprofits and request further info. 
"This is another way for nonprofits to share their mission with a new group of individuals," Trocki says. Among those signing up are some who have never volunteered before, long-time volunteers and "a lot of people we haven't seen in a while," she reports. "We're almost filled up volunteers, which is very exciting."
The event, at Wigle Whiskey in the Strip, will include new and well-established nonprofits in a variety of areas, such as environmental concerns, senior services, hunger and homelessness.
"We're kind of the matchmaker of the volunteer world at the moment," Trocki says. "Come prepared to get a lot of information very quickly."
The event is co-sponsored by Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP). 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Amanda Trocki, Pittsburgh Cares

You know you want to get your brain wet: RiverQuest creates first RiverFest

RiverQuest has been taking kids out on our rivers for hands-on science experiences on its boat for 18 years now – more than 100,000 students – making it the largest such program in the country. It's also the only river-based science program in the region.
This year, Executive Director Gerry Balbier figured it was about time to help the public share kids' enthusiasm for our waterways.
"We really hope people begin to value our aquatic resources, and don't see them just as something that needs to be crossed on a bridge," says Balbier.
And so was born RiverFest, to be held July 13, 2-6 p.m., at the Fox Chapel Yacht Club's riverwalk and aboard the three-deck RiverQuest boat Explorer. Kids will have a chance to get their hands wet with explorations of aquatic life in on-board aquariums and labs. Each deck will be focused on a different aspect of riverine science: water chemistry, for testing water quality; macro-invertebrates, such as clams and worms dredged from the river mud, whose existence here signals a certain level of health in the rivers; and micro-invertebrates visible under microscopes. 
There will also be special activities brought over by the Carnegie Science Center; fishing instruction from Family Tyes; and a Fish and Boat Commission exhibit on fish that are common in local waters today: walleye, bass, catfish "and other species that are doing well in the three rivers," notes Balbier.
For the first year, RiverQuest will present awards to teacher-nominated science students who have participated in RiverQuest programs in three grade categories, as well as to science teachers the organization chooses to honor. There are also food and non-aquatic activities, such as a climbing wall.
Part of the group's mission is reducing their environmental footprint and increasing the use of green technology, a mission that RiverFest will also highlight.
"You'll walk away with a sense of your connection as a steward of the three rivers," he says, "not only as a wonderful recreation asset but a source of our water and many species."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Gerry Balbier, RiverQuest

Storytellers, comics artists, mad scientists: Do The LAB and Assemble have camps for you!

It may be July already, but there's still time to get your kids into some fun and useful (shhh!) camps.
Over at Assemble, the maker space in Garfield, Literary Arts Boom (The LAB) and Assemble itself are offering one-week camps that allow kids to discover just how far they can take the arts and sciences.
"We're trying to make it light-weight but educational," says Paula Levin, "lead experimentalist" of The LAB.
Each of the LAB camps will involve crafts, drawing, singing and movement. In the Comics Club Camp, kids can work on all sorts of pieces and processes, from penciling to inking, to create a portfolio for themselves and a group publication of selected items at the end. Held August 5-9, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Assemble, the camp gives lots of time for drawing, writing and other activities. It emphasizes team-building and discovery, whether kids are talking about favorite superheroes or continuing each other's drawings without being able to see anything but the edge (known in art circles as constructing an "exquisite corpse").
"It gets the kids to see happy accidents, and we'll challenge them: here's the character, what's the deal with the character?" says Levin. The lead instructor is Juan Fernandez (www.crinkledcomics.com), who has taught at the Toonseum.
In the Storytellers' Studio, kids will work together and with camp leaders to create a story on day one, figuring out the characters and plot, and then build on it all week. On day two, they'll make puppets and scenery to act out the dialog. During day three, they'll adapt their story to comic-book form. Day four means adding raps or other songs with the folks from WYEP, whose Zoobeats machine allows for the creation of samples and mixes. Then they'll put it all together for day five.
"We want to really mix it up, because kids want to move," Levin says.
The Grable Foundation has funded LAB scholarships for the $50 cost of Storytellers' Studio for kids who qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches.
Storytellers' Studio is already underway for the youngest kids, ages 5 to 7, this week through July 12, but there is another week for ages 8-10 (July 15-19) and one for ages 11-13 (July 22-26). The camp runs 3-6 p.m. on weekdays because it doubles as after-camp care for Assemble's Mini-Mad Science Camp, in which kids spend their camp weeks in hands-on experiments as well as art and writing.
Concludes Levin: "We want kids to have fun but still be creating and thinking over the summer."
Photograph by Alessandra Hartkopf

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Paula Levin, Literary Arts Boom

Want to learn how to preserve historic pieces of your neighborhood?

How Pittsburgh-centric is this year's Statewide Heritage Conference, which arrives in Pittsburgh July 17-19? One of the sessions you can attend is called "Babushkas & Hard Hats."
Run by a multitude of statewide heritage groups, the conference focuses on the intersection of historic preservation, transportation and the environment. It is normally held in Harrisburg but last year moved to Lancaster, where the focus was on agricultural preservation. Here in Pittsburgh, the theme is industrial heritage, trails and rivers – particularly those that encourage economic development.
For neighborhood groups trying to keep historic bits of their landscape intact, says Jennifer Horn, program director for Preservation Pennsylvania, one of the conference organizers, "this is a great opportunity for them to get hands-on training and for them to interact with experts on the national level."
The Babushkas & Hard Hats session involves a tour of the Carrie Blast Furnace complex and the Bulgarian Macedonia National Educational and Cultural Center. Other sessions include:
  • “Preserving 19th and 20th Century Parks with a 21st Century Sensibility”
  • “Pittsburgh Underground: A Walking Tour of Pittsburgh’s Archaeological Past”
  • “Good, the Bad & the Uncertain: The Marcellus Gas Play and Pennsylvania Communities”
  • “Pittsburgh: Crucible of Modernism”
There will also be a "Transit and History Tour"; a celebration of Pittsburgh's top ten preservation opportunities by the Young Preservationists Association at Wigle Whiskey Distillery in the Strip; and keynote presentations from Arthur Ziegler and Michael Sriprasert of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and Matthew Christopher, founder of Abandoned America.
The conference attracts a largely professional audience, Horn says, including those involved in cultural resource management, history programs, archaeology, community and regional planning and economic and infrastructure development. "It's an opportunity for experts to share best practices … and through networking to bridge new partnerships," particularly between history and environmental groups, she adds. "We selected Pittsburgh because it really does demonstrate the power of preservation as an economic tool."
The conference is also sponsored by PennDOT, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Heritage PA and the Federal Highway Administration.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jennifer Horn, Preservation Pennsylvania

Wag if you're going: it's the first South Side Dog Fest

Steve Zumoff, co-owner of Double Wide Grill on the South Side, was looking for a fresh, family-friendly event to bring to the neighborhood – and a way to use the restaurant's just re-opened dog patio.
"We wanted to have a more community-based event, something that wasn't crazy, without alcohol and loud bands," Zumoff says. "We wanted something that was mellow, but fun."
So was born Lucky’s South Side Dog Festival, to be held on June 30 from 11 a.m.to 3 p.m. on 24th Street between East Carson and Sidney. People and pups are invited for a variety of contests and to learn about local places that provide canine services.
Nonprofits taking part include local members of the Frankie's Friends, who support improving veterinary care and are bringing a mobile spay and neuter facility for free services, as well as Animal Friends, Western Pennsylvania Human Society, Animal Rescue League, local pitbull-advocacy groups Hello Bully and Biggies Bullies, local independent pet rescue group Wearwoof and others. Some of the groups will be bringing dogs as potential adoptees as well.
For kids, there will be a bounce house and of course many creatures to pet. For the adults, there are competitions for best owner/dog lookalike, furriest human, best-dressed dog, best trick, best owner/dog kiss and a doggie Simon Sez game. For dogs, there are many fellow canines to sniff and a dog menu on the fenced-in dog patio of hamburgers, chicken, tofu and dog biscuits. The area can also host "dog birthday parties, dog showers, any event" related to canines, Zumoff says.
Local companies collaborating on the festival are Big Dog Coffee, Urban Dog, Grandma’s Dog Daycare and others, who will join many other businesses having booths at the festival as well.
"We're just trying to do something new on the South Side so people see the South Side as a nice place to go," Zumoff says. "It's the first year, so hopefully it goes smoothly so we can do it again in the future."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Steve Zumoff, Double Wide Grill

Tour local artists' studios and help our health-care system

The new documentary on Healthy Artists' work shows Pittsburgh why it's important to keep reforming our health-care system – and how local artists' studios are very cool.
The 30-minute film "Healthy Artists (the movie!)" by Garret Jones and Anthony DeAngelis of the local Studio Corrida documents the participation of more than 30 Pittsburgh artists in the Healthy Artists Movie Poster Exhibition in January, which illustrated the need for health-care reform for artists and other freelance workers.

The Sprout Fund Seed Award-funded work features Seth Clark, Lizzee Solomon, Jim Rugg, Andy Scott, Steph Neary, Brett Yasko, Laurie Trok and others, including Julie Sokolow, head of Healthy Artists.
It will be shown as part of Film Kitchen on July 9 at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room, with a reception at 7 p.m. and the presentations at 8 p.m. Accompanying the new documentary will be short works from Brooklyn-based comedian/filmmaker Travis Irvine, whose work has been featured on Funny or Die and The Tonight Show.

Next comes the debut of the four-minute "The Intuition Artist" by local filmmaker Tim Murray, profiling Gabe Felice setting up his psychedelic art show and explaining what it’s like to be uninsured. Sokolow's six-minute "Everything Will Probably Be Fine" follows, depicting CMU graduate Jenn Gooch's experience with bankruptcy due to medical bills.
The featured Healthy Artists documentary, says Sokolow, " is instructive about how to get a grassroots effort going and have it take off in a national way." It shows how, following the poster exhibition, her group was invited to blog for Michael Moore and won an Emerging Artist Award in the MacArthur Foundation’s June 2013 Looking@Democracy Competition.
"We've had our message resonate nationally," she adds, "but it's important to address the issue in Pittsburgh," especially given the controversy over health-care giant UPMC's role as a nonprofit in the community.
After the screening, pediatrician Scott Tyson, president of Health Care 4 All PA‘s Education Fund, will talk about a new economic impact study by Prof. Gerald Friedman at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This research, Sokolow says, demonstrates how the state could save $17 billion a year while providing medical, dental and vision coverage to all residents and create jobs in the process. "Republicans can get behind this study because it's about getting financially responsible," she says; after all, former GOP officials, such as state House Rep. David J. Steil, are on Healthcare 4 All PA's board.
Current state Sen. Jim Ferlo will then speak about his recent reintroduction of Senate Bill 400 as single-payer health-care legislation for the state.
"Our big approach has been to address the health-care crisis in our quirky voices," says Sokolow, "so it's interesting to get a politician to step onto our turf. We think it will be inspiring to see somebody meeting us halfway like that."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Julie Sokolow, Healthy Artists

Hurry, Athena Award nominations close Friday, June 28

The Athena Award "is the only award that really recognizes women for giving back to other women," notes the chair of this year's host committee, Beth Marcello, director of women's business development at PNC.
Nominations for the award (see the form and rules here) close on June 28, so get your submission in now, she says. No matter how prominent a woman may be in our community, Marcello cautions, the winner is based only on the nomination form.
The awards program, given in hundreds of cities around the world, regularly attracts a large following here, drawing more than 850 people to its annual luncheon (on Sept. 30 this year), making Pittsburgh one of the top 5 Athena sites in the city's 23rd year of participation. Pop City is again one of the sponsors.
Winners are women who excel in their profession, give back to their communities and act as role models to other women. While nominee numbers vary from year to year, Marcello says, the group averages 25 submissions for the main award and 12 for the award honoring a young professional, which is only in its third year. "It is very competitive," she says. "It's a tremendously difficult task for both selection committees," which choose five Athena finalists and three for the young professional award.
Marcello emphasizes that past recipients get involved with the Athena for the future, including winners from the last several years: Athena winner Kim Berkeley Clark, a judge in the family division of Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, and Young Professional Award winners Christy Uffelman, a partner in Align Leadership LLC, and Jennifer Cairns, executive director of Sarah Heinz House, which houses the local Boys & Girls Club of America.
"The intent is very much to keep these women in the Athena loop," Marcello says. "The Athena Awards are tremendously important for the Pittsburgh region. Pittsburgh has won a ton of awards recently ... but there is still sometimes a perception that Pittsburgh is not a welcoming place for women in leadership. It's pivotal to communicate within and outside the region that we are a community where women are doing great things."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Beth Marcello, Athena Awards

Patrick Dowd takes kid advocacy experience to Allies For Children

The region has gained a new children's advocacy group but lost a city councilman.
Patrick Dowd will resign in July from elected office after 10 years on the school board and council to become executive director of Allies For Children, a new public-policy advocate for children.
While it already has funding from the Heinz Endowments, The Grable Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, the local United Way and others, Dowd called it "a start up" at the announcement on June 17. "I think we have an office; I don't know if we have a phone," he said. "I don't even know if we have a bank account."
From temporary offices in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, the group will work across the state on the health, education and well-being of children – "all their basic needs," said interim President Martha W. Isler. While anchoring the western part of the state, she added, Allies For Children will team with partner organizations here, in central Pennsylvania and in the Philadelphia area to push local and state governments to act on a variety of kids' issues.
Locally, Allies For Children will join with such organizations as the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children. PAEYC's leader, Michelle Figlar, seemed very pleased with the new group's role in creating better government access and influence. "Building relationships with the grass roots and the grass tops is the key to success," she said. "Our collective and amplified voice can now advocate with all public officials."
In Dowd, said Pittsburgh Foundation Senior Program Officer Kevin Jenkins, "we believe we did find the person who ... is going to be able to do good things in the public policy arena."
"I am eager to be able to listen to you, to learn from you and to collaborate with you," Dowd told the crowd. "There is a real urgency to this work," Dowd added. In a region with 250,000 kids, 1 in 6 lives in poverty and nearly 1 in 2 is in a low-income household, forcing them to start life with a deficit.
"You will see Pittsburgh held up across the nation as a model," he concluded, "where people will say, 'Yes, that is the place where they are doing the most …'"
The group may be contacted here.
Writer: Marty Levine

Who else knows you are reading this? And why? PublicSource panel has the info

The June 25 showing of the documentary "We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks" by Pittsburgh Filmmakers at the Harris Theater seemed the perfect time to hold a discussion on government information gathering, says Sharon Walsh, editor of PublicSource, the local online investigative news organization. With governments seeking more information from ordinary citizens and attempting to reveal less to us, the panel will discuss the public's right to know, as well as the government's, and the press's role in all of this. It will concentrate on "privacy and the advantages and disadvantages of what we know not just the government but everyone is collecting on us," Walsh says.
Panelists will include:
  • Attorney Tom Farrell, previously a Greater Pittsburgh ACLU board member, who has sued the Obama administration, contending that a National Security Agency (NSA) program that collects telephone information violates the Constitution; 
  • Kim deBourbon, executive director of the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition, a nonprofit that tries to ensure Pennsylvanians have access to federal, state and local documents to which the law entitles them; and
  • Carl Prine, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writer who has reported on the NSA and whistleblowers.
Walsh will moderate the discussion, which is free with the price of a film ticket and will take place prior to the movie, at 7 p.m.
"As a journalist, you want the government to be transparent, but when you find out what they are collecting, you're not sure you want them to be transparent about you," Walsh says.
While certain records are supposed by law to be publically accessible, she points out, "there are lots of different gradations to who is supposed to have access to what under law." Members of the public, she adds, "don't realize that journalists are asking [for documents] on behalf of the public, but they have as much of a right to these documents as we do." Politicians and bureaucrats stand in the way, as does the lack of public knowledge of how to request government documents.
Walsh says that, as a journalist, she tries not to have a public opinion about issues, but that "public information is the one thing journalists can have an opinion about."
Do Good:
Learn how to use Pennsylvania's Open Records Law at the ACLU's "YOUR Right to Know" workshop, June 27, 7:00 p.m., at the Homewood Library (7101 Hamilton Ave., 15208) with Sara Rose, ACLU staff attorney. To RSVP or for more info, email here or call 412-681-7736x322
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Sharon Walsh, PublicSource

Inspiration to action: Public Allies to hold first leadership conference

Public Allies Pittsburgh is hosting its first Leadership Conference to share the wisdom of a local group of leaders who rarely get to take center stage, says Misti McKeehen, the group's site director.
"We took a look at who in our community was doing innovative things and taking action but may not always be the presenter at typical conferences in town," she says. The event, June 25 at the Senator John Heinz History Center, will feature 10-minute presentations from 27 different people – representatives of the United Way of Allegheny County, Fitwits and The Garden of Peace project as well as those who have been serving with Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program of Coro Pittsburgh and Public Allies' national group that sends people into a 10-month service experience with local nonprofits and their communities.
The short presentations will concentrate on professional development, community engagement and issues specific to western Pennsylvania. Over lunch, participants will decide the action they will take as a result of what they've learned at the conference: perhaps mentoring a young person in the community or changing the way they perform their own leadership.
The conference begins with a keynote address from Cris Ros-Dukler of Milwaukee, who brought the Electronic Benefits Transfer card to the national food-stamp program, reducing both the cost to government and the perceived stigma of using the program.
Says McKeehen: "We wanted someone who could share with the audience how innovation and action could really have a huge impact."
Admission to the conference is free for students and AmeriCorps service members. The $10 fee for others includes lunch and admission to the Heinz History Center afterwards.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Misti McKeehen, Public Allies Pittsburgh

Who's the oldest kid in Pittsburgh?

Our local kids' museum turns the decidedly un-kid-like age of 30 today, but the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is unabashedly celebrating with a very kid-friendly and public birthday party and free admission on June 22.
In 2004, when the museum was considering its recent expansion, it was receiving 100,000 visitors a year. "This year we expect to break all records; we're on track to pass 260,000," says museum spokesperson Bill Schlageter. When it opened, the museum's annual budget was $540,000; this year it is $5.4 million.
"It's a big moment for us," he says. Indeed, the museum was featured in May in a new book called Magnetic Museums, which covers five museums in the country that have "become vital players in the social, civic and economic vibrancy of their communities," he explains. The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh was also invited to join 20 other American institutions to start the “Wonder Collective” to show families across the country what attractions and assets they all offer.
The 30th birthday celebration runs 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and features:
  • Live music from the local Soundwaves Steel Drum Band and Elliott Sussman, who plays ragtime blues, Tin Pan Alley tunes and doo-wop on everything from dobro to banjo, ukulele, dulcimer and autoharp
  • Performances by Ben Sota, unicyclist and founder of Zany Umbrella Circus
  • Hula hooping with Stefanie Moser of Spinster Hoops, and
  • The chance to make birthday hats and die-cut birthday cards in the museum's studio and musical instruments in its MakeShop. "The kids will come up with their own musical instruments, and we hope everyone bring their instruments to the parade" at 2:00, says Schlageter.
The day is sponsored by the Jack Buncher Foundation.
Writer: Marty Levine  
Source: Bill Schlageter, Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

Custom dog collars and photos: winning businesses for Entrepreneuring Youth

Two teenage entrepreneurs split nearly $3,000 in prize money from the finals of the George W. Tippins Business Plan Competition here June 6 – and one of them is headed to New York City in October to compete for a $25,000 prize.
The winner of the Up-Start division for younger high-school students, Derica Sanchez of Urban Pathways Charter School downtown, pitched a business designing custom dog collars, beating out more than a dozen other students earlier in May's semi-finals.
"Derica is a quiet, responsible young lady who in the end revealed a greater depth of ability and talent for marketing than I would have expected for someone so young in her career," says Jerry Cozewith, head of the local nonprofit Entrepreneuring Youth, which sponsored the contest and preparatory programs educating kids about business success in Allegheny and several other local counties. "The judges were impressed by the prototypes of her products. She had a firm grasp on the competitive edge she needed to go forward."
Besides winning $1,200, she'll be attending the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition this month as a guest of Entrepreneuring Youth, and Cozewith expects her to be back next year to compete in the Start-Up division for older high schoolers.
There, the $1,500 top winner was Meghan Boboige, founder of Meg’s Photo Booth, which
sells her own and custom-commissioned photographs printed in high resolution on canvas. She was in the eleventh grade in Moon Area High School this year.
Meghan will be competing in the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship business plan competition this fall, where last year's Tippins Start-Up winners, teens Jesse and Joziah Council of Beaver Area High School, took their line of all-natural skin-care products to New York and were runners up, winning $5,000.
Says Cozewith: "Meghan clearly had a quality product and understood the limitation of her business, so she had a very strong grasp of what her product was, what her business is, and the opportunity to grow it. She was very, very confident in her presentation."
In general, he adds, most kids only know the world of business from a consumer angle. Entrepreneuring Youth will be working over the summer to teach Meghan more about inventory, taking orders and other skills needed to make her idea work in the real world.
"Her fundamentals are strong, but we really need to get her thinking about the future, where the opportunities are, and what the costs and resources are," he says. "She'll be up against kids with more experience. We'll find someone in the photography business who can really speak to the world and really steel her to do a great job in New York."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jerry Cozewith, president, Entrepreneuring Youth

Umoja honoring 25 years of African-influenced arts at Asanté Awards

After 25 years of bringing African culture to Pittsburgh, Umoja African Arts Company will be holding its first Asanté Awards on June 28 for local artists in many categories. Asanté (Kiswahili for “thank you”) nominees were chosen because they worked with Umoja in the past, perform an art form that is tied to African cultures and are known to be community arts leaders.
"We realized that it was time to thank those who have contributed in the arts," says President and CEO Darcel Madkins.
The Asanté award nominees are:
  • Blues: Jill West & Blues Attack, Muddy Creek Blues, Pittsburgh Blues Society
  • Hip hop: Chris Edmunds, Hip Hop on L.O.C.K,, Jasiri X
  • Jazz: Joe Negri, Kevin Howard, Roger Humphries
  • Performing arts: August Wilson Center Dance, CAPA High School, Hill Dance Academy Theater
  • Spiritual: David Dance Team, Macedonia Baptish Church, Northside Institutional Church
  • Spoken word: Christina Springer, Kimberly Ellis, Leslie “Ezra” Smith
  • Theater: Bricolage Production Company, Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh Playwrights
The winners will be announced at the ceremony, which Umoja plans to hold every year from now on.
The honorary chairs of the event, including Oliver Byrd, will be honored for their arts leadership in the local community; Byrd helped create the August Wilson Center (where the awards will be held) and served on the board of the Multicultural Arts Initiative of the Heinz Endowments and Pittsburgh Foundation. The Umoja “Unity” Award goes to Damien Pwono, who founded Umoja when he was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, while the Cultural Spirit Award will be given to visual artist Thaddeus Mosley. Lynn Cullen will MC the event.
The semi-formal evening begins at 5:30 with a VIP reception featuring jazz and Congolese dance; the awards begin at 8. Says Madkins: "This is a way for people to showcase their work, for people in the community to see what they have done." Tickets are available here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Darcel Madkins, Umoja African Arts Company

25 schools get STEAM spaces thanks to AIU, Grable, Benedum

Since 2009, Allegheny Intermediate Unit's (AIU) Center for Creativity has been making grants to fund education focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). "It's the concept of thinking in a more integrative way" about these educational subjects, says Rosanne Javorsky, the AIU's director of teaching and learning. "Science class doesn't end after a 42-minute period."
Since last year's experiment of giving larger grants was so successful, she says, this year the AIU has once again teamed with the Grable and Benedum foundations to make more and larger grants among a wider range of schools. On June 3, they announced $500,000 in funding to re-design or create spaces in 25 schools to involve students in STEAM subjects and projects. They awarded $20,000 each to 25 school districts in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland counties.  
Javorsky says they received more than 80 applications. "I could have awarded another 25, because they were just that good," she says. "People really had a vision for what STEAM education could look like in their schools, to engage kids in learning across different content areas."
Allegheny Valley Junior-Senior High School, for instance, received a grant to form Rachel's Neighborhood Garden as an outdoor classroom next to the Rachel Carson Homestead. East Allegheny students will spend a year designing a city with a local engineering company, while the Elizabeth Forward Middle School will create The DREAM Factory for kids to become makers. In that same spirit, Fox Chapel's Kerr Elementary will form the Creative Learning Maker Studio to use digital media in literacy education, and Keystone Oaks Middle and High School's Digital Playground project will teach computational skills through computer programming and gaming. North Hills will turn its Junior and Senior High libraries into research centers and media labs, while South Park Elementary Center will get a new "SPEC-TECH-ular Studio" where, they say, students will "explore STEAM through five pods including an art and music Creation Station, green screen, editing, robotics and discovery spaces.
"Our focus has always been on engaging students in meaningful learning," Javorsky says, leading to "kids who have not been very excited about school who are suddenly wanting to stay after school.
"On the national level there's a lot of talk about STEAM," she adds, "but we've been doing it here for five years, so I feel like we're ahead of the game."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rosanne Javorsky, AIU 3
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