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Local entrepreneur receives national accolades for work in promotional products industry

The president of local branded merchandise company Clayton Kendall recently received the 2015 Counselor's Distributor Woman of Distinction award for her achievements within the promotional products industry.

Regina Broudy, who is also the chair of the board at Clayton Kendall, was recognized during the Advertising Specialty Institute's national trade show in Chicago earlier this month. 

Broudy co-founded Clayton Kendall in 1999 and now oversees the company finances and fulfillment operations. Broudy built and grew the Monroeville-based company into what is now the largest promotional products and decorated apparel distributor in Pennsylvania. Today, Clayton Kendall has distribution centers in Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Toronto and Melbourne, Australia.

Feds partner with energy sector to aid employment of vets and military

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz and officials from the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs met with Pittsburgh area CEOs in the energy sector this month to mount a public-private partnership that will connect local military veterans and service members to energy jobs in the region.

“A combination of factors, including continued technological advances and planned investments in the nation’s energy infrastructure, will create 1.5 million new jobs in the energy sector in the next 15 years,” said Moniz. “We need to recruit, train and employ these workers to be ready to build and maintain our energy infrastructure and implement emerging technologies.”

The CEOs and federal agency members implemented action steps to fast-track the training and hiring of veterans and transitioning service members into energy and manufacturing jobs. Potential jobs would include industrial machinery mechanics, machinists, utility workers and CDL drivers with Hazmat certifications.

According to the Allegheny Conference for Community Development, the region currently has more than 25,000 open positions, about 10 percent of which are concentrated in high-demand energy and related manufacturing occupations. At the same time, analysis of U.S. Census Data shows the region anticipates a gap of about 140,000 potential workers as Baby Boomers retire over the coming years.

Additional research conducted by the Allegheny Conference found that veterans possess the training, experience and teamwork skills that can make them effective candidates for energy and manufacturing jobs. About 200,000 veterans reside in the Pittsburgh area, and thousands more are expected to return in the next five years.

UPMC makes U.S. News & World Report's Honor Roll

Once again, UPMC made the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of the country’s Best Hospitals for 2015-16. UPMC ranked 13th on the list of nationally recognized hospital systems. They’ve now held a place on the Honor Roll 16 different times and ranked 12th on the 2014-15 Honor Roll.

Of the nearly 5,000 hospitals evaluated, only 15 made the Honor Roll. Hospitals on the list achieved high scores in at least six specialties. UPMC’s earned the strongest specialty rankings in ear, nose and throat; gastroenterology and GI surgery; and rheumatology.

Only one other Pennsylvania hospital received this year’s distinction. The University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian hospitals in Philadelphia ranked ninth. Topping the list was Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. 

The entire list of Honor Roll hospitals can be found here.

Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates 50 years of pairing youth throughout the region

After a mentoring relationship that lasted 7 years, two young men from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh network officially graduated from the community-based program this spring. The timing coincides with graduation of Ramello, the Little Brother, from Central Catholic High School in June. Frank, Ramello's Big Brother, supported his Little with guidance on everything from scoring touchdowns to academics as he grew into a successful young man. 

This fall, Ramello will start college at Youngstown State University to play football. And the volunteer-supported mentoring network organization that matched the pair during Ramello's most transformative years will mark 50 years with a celebration in September, too. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh is celebrating a half-decade of fostering essential connections like Ramello and Frank's with its annual Fly Away Bash, set for Sept. 10. The Fly Away Bash takes place at the Voyager Hangar at Allegheny County Airport, 1901 Lebanon Road, West Mifflin. For more information, call (412) 204-1216.

Back to school: What local STEM students can learn from Israel

In a matter of days, Pittsburgh-area schools will open their doors to welcome students and teachers to the start of another school year. But a group of educators will head back to school armed with a professional experience abroad that has opened their minds: a seminar trip to Israel to study science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM subjects in academic and research circles.

Pittsburgh-based nonprofit Classrooms Without Borders (CWB) sponsored the 21 educators who spent 12 days exploring Israel's cutting-edge technology through visits to facilities such as the Asher Space Research Institute; the Rambam Hospital underground emergency crisis center; the factory that produces the Iron-Dome technology; Israeli branches of Intel, Microsoft and Google; Palestinian startup companies; and the Jewish-Arab Nazareth Industrial Park.

Principals and teachers on the trip represented 20 private, charter and Catholic schools including Oakland Catholic High School, Propel Braddock Hills High School and the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park, said Tsipy Gur, founder and director of CWB.

CWB chose Israel as a destination because the nation is a global leader in the world of science, technology, engineering and math, Gur said. The country also boasts the highest number of scientists, technicians and engineers per capita in the world, according to Gur. 

Gur said that the trip provides a worthwhile opportunity for educators to experience multi-disciplinary approaches and innovative programs that work at solving serious national problems, such as water scarcity. Those new ways of thinking translate to teaching STEM subject matter in the classrooms, she added. 

"When a teacher speaks from experience and radiates enthusiasm in a subject matter -- especially STEM subjects -- students become engaged and inspired in ways that text books are unable to duplicate," Gur said.

Classrooms Without Borders, which also sponsored a study seminar in Greece this summer, is a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

For those local students whose teachers didn't travel the world for STEM experiences, a new fabrication lab at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore will open later this month. The Fab Foundation and Chevron, among other organizations, are opening the FAB Lab for students, teachers and the general Pittsburgh community to create, experiment and build their STEM skills.

Equipment at the FAB Lab will include 3-D printers, laser cutters, computers and software, electronics workbench equipment including robotics, sewing and embroidery machines, and projectors and documentation cameras. A mobile FAB Lab will travel to the region's schools during the upcoming school year.

FAB Lab Carnegie Science Center is the third of 10 Fab Labs that Chevron is developing in partnership with The Fab Foundation. Chevron has invested more than $140 million in education in the United States since 2010, according to a press release.


Pittsburgh rated a favorite foodie city

Pittsburgh comes in at No. 3 in Livability.com’s top 10 foodie cities for 2015. The reason: consistent rave reviews by local and national food critics, as well as recognition from the James Beard Foundation. 

Of course Primanti’s  is mentioned, but Livability also noted the top-rated local dining establishments posted on Yelp. The food spotlighted? The Liege waffle at Waffallonia, the menu at Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, and the cuisine at Cafe Du Jour French Bistro. And not to be upstaged -- the kebabs and kazandibi at Istanbul Sofra -- all testament to the diverse palates of local foodies. 

Pittsburgh was edged out of first and second place by Coral Gables, Fla., at No. 1 and Omaha at No. 2. 

See the full list of Top Foodie cities here.

Free jazz pops ups in unexpected hot spots

Pittsburgh's summer jazz scene just got a whole lot hotter -- and it won't cost listeners a cent.

A few surprising venues are popping up in Pittsburgh to draw jazz aficianados outdoors during July, August and September. 

Pittsburgh's Smallest Jazz Club was installed at a bus shelter on Liberty Avenue across from 9th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh on July 6 thanks to a $1,000 grant from Awesome Pittsburgh last year. 

MCG Jazz, which is a music program of the nonprofit Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, dreamed up Pittsburgh's Smallest Jazz Club as a bus shelter on Liberty Avenue across from 9th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. Thanks to a $1,000 grant from Awesome Pittsburgh, the project was installed on July 6 and will run through the end of September. The shelter's interior walls feature photos of Pittsburgh's jazz legends, while speakers pump out a Grammy Award-winning recordings from MCG Jazz, which has hosted luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams and Stanley Turrentine through the years.

"The intent is to promote jazz music as Pittsburgh's greatest arts export, and to remind people that jazz music -- and art -- is fun, familiar, and everywhere," Kline says. 

A patron waiting in the bus shelter simply pushes a button, which connects to an iPod playing the songs. Lamar Outdoor, which owns the bus shelters in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, helped to put the idea into action. MCG Jazz, whose mission is to preserve, present and promote jazz, aims to introduce both national and international audiences to Pittsburgh's jazz legends.  

Meanwhile, across the Allegheny River on the North Side, City Of Asylum is introducing a series of free concerts from local jazz icon Roger Humphries and RH Factor every Wednesday from now through Sept. 16. 

Jazz Wednesdays are part of Summer on Sampsonia, the summer programming series from exiled writers sanctuary City of Asylum. The events will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Wednesday at the City of Asylum's pop-up venue, the Alphabet City Tent, at 318 Sampsonia Way in the North Side. 

The free tickets for Jazz Wednesdays are available online.

To learn more about Pittsburgh’s Smallest Jazz Club, visit the project’s Facebook page.

Hike through Pittsburgh's urban wilderness with the WALKATOP event

In the sparkling crown of Pittsburgh that is Mt. Washington, one little-known gem twinkles quietly amid the inclines, the upscale eateries, the breathtaking views. At just 10 years old, Emerald View Park is a relatively new and as-yet unheralded addition to Pittsburgh's collection of green spaces. But in some ways, the 257 untamed acres of vistas and wildlife has been there all along.

Now, one extended clan that has lived in and around Mt. Washington for generations has set out to share the Emerald View Park experience with all of Pittsburgh through a new event, WALKATOP.

Billed as an urban hiking adventure, the first WALKATOP event on Sept. 20 will offer curious Pittsburghers the choice of five routes to explore, from a child-friendly ramble to a leisurely 2.3-mile hike to a heart-pumping nine-mile challenge. Hikers check in at the parking lot on Grandview Avenue across from the Duquesne Incline, where they will receive maps for the routes, said Betty Kripp, one of WALKATOP's organizers. One immersed in the thicket of Emerald View Park, participants can get guidance from volunteers stationed along the routes.

"It always feels like home," says Kripp, who grew up in Mt. Washington and now lives in the South Side with her husband. "The park incorporated trails from many years ago. We were never allowed to go over the hill, but of course we did because it was part of our back yard."

The newest park in Pittsburgh, the scenic Emerald View Park wraps around Mt. Washington from Grandview Park near Arlington to Skookum Field in Duquesne Heights and back around to Mt. Washington Park near Grace Street.

Kripp has also helped to organize similar fundraising events such as StepTrek in the South Side Slopes and the Historic South Side Home Tour, which support neighborhood organizations. But she says she and her family members created WALKATOP to benefit The Thomas Brown Alton Foundation, which is dedicated to suicide prevention by helping those in need toward improved mental health.

"The foundation has been fortunate to find a partnership at UPMC Mercy in the psychiatry department to help with funding," Kripp says. "We want to make sure they have the resources to help with the areas of suicide prevention and improved mental health. That’s the goal for the work we’re doing."

Early bird registration is $15 and ends Sept. 1; advance registration is $20 from Sept. 2 through Sept. 19; and admission on Sept. 20 is $25 at check-in. Children age 10 and under are free. Advance tickets are available online.

NPR guides listeners through in-depth tour of the Mattress Factory

NPR reporter Bob Mondello recently visited the Mattress Factory on the North Side and described the unforgettable experience, installation piece by installation piece, for radio listeners. As a museum that hosts installation art designed to be not only seen, but experienced, the Mattress Factory received a surprisingly comprehensive review from Mondello's words-only report.

Free from visual cues, let alone experiential samples, the story, "Find Unforgettable Art In A Most Unlikely Place: A Pittsburgh Mattress Factory," tested the limits of listeners' imaginations. 

"Filled not with paintings or sculpture -- and certainly not with mattresses -- it is now four stories of ... well, of stories in a way," Mondello reports. "Installations that take you places you don't expect to go in an art museum."

Any visitor to the Mattress Factory can attest to the remarkable experience housed in an unlikely place. Now NPR listeners near and far can get an earful -- if not the experience itself -- of our most surprising museum.

Listen to the full NPR story here.

East Liberty redevelopment garners international attention

In an article last week, U.K. newspaper The Guardian asked its 9 million international daily readers: What can East Liberty teach us about the transformative power of regeneration?

The article, "How community-led renovation is helping a rundown Pittsburgh neighbourhood fight crime," focuses on the work of East Liberty Development Inc. (ELDI) for its efforts to revitalize and redevelop the East End community.

The article chronicles ELDI’s 1999 launch and ongoing investments to end the worsening crime and resident vulnerability, the organization's strategic purchase of real estate in the neighborhood's most dangerous blocks and the redevelopment of those properties into stable low-cost and market-value housing. 

The article also underscored East Liberty's the drop in crime, citing the results of a Numeritics study. The Pittsburgh consulting firm was commissioned by ELDI to track the incidence of crime against the sites where the group had intervened.

“Between 2008 and 2012, serious crimes against persons -- aggravated assault, homicide, rape and robbery -- decreased by 54 percent in East Liberty’s residential areas. Total crime -- including property crimes and crimes reported in the commercial center of East Liberty -- dropped from 221 crimes per thousand residents in 2008 to 164 crimes per thousand residents in 2012.”  

Read the full article from across the pond.

Local teen competes on U.S. fencing team at Maccabi Games in Germany

Squirrel Hill teen Guy Waks Beresteanu will compete on the U.S. Juniors Male Fencing team at the 2015 European Maccabi Games in Berlin this summer. The competition takes place every four years and represents Europe’s largest Jewish sporting event from more than 30 countries worldwide. 

For the first time since World War II, the games will be held in Germany. The event also occurs 50 years after the establishment of German-Israeli relations. This celebration of Jewish unity, culture and heritage takes place next week at Olympic Park in Berlin, the same location where Jewish athletes were prohibited from participating in the 1936 Olympic Games. 

“I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the United States and the Pittsburgh Jewish community at this historic world event,” says 14-year-old Beresteanu, who will attend Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill this fall. 

Beresteanu has been fencing since he was 6 and has competed at the 2014 USA Fencing National Championships, where he earned a C15 rating. He has also qualified for the 2015 U.S. national competition in San Jose, Calif. 

“I love fencing because it is very intense,” he says. “You have to be extremely fast and accurate, and it’s also a mental game.”

The 2015 European Maccabi Games take place July 27 through Aug. 5. For more information, visit http://www.emg2015.de/en.

ARTnews recognizes Pittsburgh gallery

The nationally acclaimed publication ARTnews regularly scours the most notable exhibitions across the country and selects only one per day for its "Pictures of an Exhibition" section. Last week, this section featured work from James Gallery’s current exhibition, All Terrain Vehicle. 

The group exhibit explores contemporary landscapes via photography and abstract paintings. It can be viewed in person at James Gallery in the West End Village now through Aug. 2 or in ARTnews here.  

Images from All Terrain Vehicle are also available to view on the gallery’s website.

Art Institute alumni exhibit turns practical on its head

Each year, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh celebrates its alumni. This year’s exhibit, Impractical Magic: The Other Side of Practical, defies the expression long told to art students: “You can’t do that!”

Works from departments across the school will display the unusual and unexpected paths this group of alumni have paved. The disciplines represented include media arts and animation, fashion illustration, fashion and retail management, digital film and video production, industrial design, visual communications and game art and design.

Curated by Media Arts and Animation Professor Angela Love, the exhibit demonstrates achievements in different vocations, all built on a foundation learned at their alma mater.

Impractical Magic is showing now through July 22 at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, 420 Boulevard of the Allies, Downtown. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about the Art Institute of Pittsburgh's alumni, call (412) 291-6200.

Two summer TV series feature illusionist with Pittsburgh roots

Illusionist and West Mifflin native Michael Grandinetti will appear on two television series this summer: "Masters of Illusion" on The CW and "Don’t Blink" on Pop TV. 

Grandinetti’s levitations and vanishing acts were popular with audiences in last year's "Masters of Illusion" series and will return for a second season. The 13 half-hour episodes will present such cutting-edge illusions as interactive mind magic and comedy routines, performed in front of a live audience in Hollywood. Hosted by actor Dean Cain, "Masters of Illusion" premieres at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 10. 

"Don't Blink" on Pop TV delves inside the world of underground street magicians as they perform publicly and before celebrity guests. Grandinetti, now residing in Los Angeles, carried out his illusions at Venice Beach, The Grove, Universal Studios and on Hollywood Boulevard for the series.

"I'm so proud of how both shows turned out and can't wait for people to see the new magic we spent the last year creating,” said the Duquesne University graduate.

Now 37, Grandinetti started practicing card tricks more than 30 years ago in his bedroom. He also performed in shows throughout Pittsburgh and has gone on to perform his magic on prime-time television, NFL and NBA half-time games, and as a headliner at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nev.
View Grandinetti’s 2015 reel here.


Pittsburgh celebrates its champions

The inaugural Celebration of Champions reception and awards ceremony recognized six locals as leaders in Pittsburgh's industries on June 18 at the Station Square Sheraton. 

After the community nominated and voted on the winners earlier this year, the award recipients each received $1,000 to donate to their favorite local charity.

In addition to living or working in the Pittsburgh region, the winners were chosen for demonstrating excellence in their field through leadership, achievement and volunteerism.

The six industry categories included health care; technology; education; tourism and hospitality; first responders/military/veterans; and sports/arts and entertainment.

The following individuals accepted their awards:
  •  Health care: Nancy Stitt, co-founder of International Transplant Nurses Society
  •  Technology: Jim Jen, executive director and co-founder of AlphaLab
  •  ?Education: Cindy Bostick of Communities In Schools Pittsburgh Allegheny County, mentor coordinator within the Be A Mentor Program
  •  Tourism and hospitality: Sylvia McCoy, founder and owner of ‘Burgh Bits & Bites
  •  First responders/military/veterans: James O’Conner, veteran and local platoon leader of The Mission Continues organization
  •  Sports/arts and entertainment: Joe Negri, jazz guitarist and teacher at the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and Carnegie Mellon University

Additional information about the Celebration of Champions can be found here.

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