• Today is: Thursday, March 30, 2017
Kristine Sorensen
March29/ 2017

A group of incredibly impressive kids and their passionate, dedicated teacher at Brownsville Area High School in Fayette County, are getting national recognition for helping jumpstart redevelopment in their boarded up downtown.

They started working on this project 6 years ago and just saw their work come to fruition with a brand new park and amphitheater in downtown Brownsville.  Driving through downtown Brownsville can be depressing.  It can feel like time just stopped.  But there is now a bright spot —  a brand new park, new trees and a new amphitheater — all the creation of students at Brownsville Area High School who turned their sadness into action.

Chemistry teacher Kelli Dellarose has been the students’ advisor since the project started six years ago.  She says the students came up with the idea to improve their downtown.  “A lot of the buildings were boarded up, and nothing was down there. There was no green space; nothing down there whatsoever — no economic development, no reason to go downtown,” Dellarose said.

Now, what used to be a dilapidated old hardware store is a park with a stage for the community to perform, gather and celebrate.  The students raised $370,000 for the project, through grants and fundraisers.

Brownsville High School senior Alexandria Seto says of the park, “It’s a light in all the darkness.  It’s very beautiful. It shows the downtown has a lot of nice things and shows you can either look at the nice things or dwell on the not so nice things.”

The students put in a lot of time and work to make this project a reality.  After coming up with the idea six years ago, they worked with the people and organizations involved to get approval, attending many meetings and giving presentations.  They worked with architects and engineers to finalize their ideas.

They raised the money by starting with smaller fundraisers, then applying for grants.  They got the help of the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County, which helped with more grants, leading to support from UPMC Health Plan and the Heinz Endowments.  They even had bigger fundraisers, like a concert with Joe Grushecky that raised about $5,000.

Dellarose said, “Not only have (the students) had lessons in engineering and other aspects that went with the curriculum, they’ve also learned a few lessons in politics along the way, and of course how to become a better citizen.”

The students also learned not to let age hold them back.  Senior Lanieta Waqanivalu said the hardest part was, “just trying to get over the barrier that we are young people trying to make such a big difference.  Usually, it’s not something you hear about all the time.”  Seto adds, “I don’t think it’s a certain age you have to be to get anything done that you want to do. I think it’s more of how much you want it and the heart you put into the project.”

The students’ project helped jumpstart development around the park.  A building right across the street is now being renovated into a senior high rise, the library next to the park is considering an addition, and the Brownsville Revitalization Corporation is renovating some storefronts.

Brownsville Area School Superintendent Dr. Phil Savini said, “It’s bringing back a sense of pride that has been lost for quite some time.”  That pride is in the downtown district, the school, and the students, for the accomplishments and many awards, including regional and national Jefferson Awards for public service.

Dellarose, who also won top student advisor in the country for the Jefferson Awards last year, says she always had faith in her students.  “I’m not surprised at all,” Dellarose says. “I’ve worked with so many wonderful students over the years, and if you just give them that little push, you’ll be surprised at what they will accomplish.”

Now that the park and amphitheater are built, the students are continuing their fundraising for maintenance of the park and facility.  If you’d like to contribute, you can contact Brownsville  Area High School.

Pittsburgh Game Jam delivers a rousing night of free hi-tech play

Sally Quinn
March29/ 2017

Sometimes it is all fun and games.

High school and middle school students can see for themselves at the Future Communities Game Jam from 7-10 p.m. March 31.

The free evening comes from a partnership between the Sprout Fund and Pittsburgh Department of Innovation and Performance to kick off Inclusive Innovation Week.

The game fest is hosted by AlphaLab Gear in East Liberty. For teens fascinated by science and technology, the chance to get an inside look at one of Pittsburgh’s most innovative startup incubators is an incentive all by itself.

Kids will meet app developers, professional game designers, startup leaders and city data scientists who will share insights to the way new technology will shape the future of Pittsburgh.

This is the third in a series on Gam Jams over the past two months.

“It’s actually part of the larger student video design challenge that’s been going on in Pittsburgh over the past few month,” says Ryan Coon, Sprout Fund program director.

Game Jam
Some students have been working on their Games For Change Student Challenge entries since November. Photo courtesy of Sprout Fund

In the national Games For Change Student Challenge, teens design their own video games about issues that impact their communities. They combine their digital storytelling with ways to make a difference. Locally, about 20 teachers have been leading students in the competition curriculum at local school districts since November.

“Game Jam is more of an exposure activity,” Coon says. “There will be an opportunity for young people to work on games they can submit to the competition, but it’s also a fun opportunity to even try some of this stuff out for the first time.”

Gamers from the Center for Arts & Education at West Liberty University will lead a round of Trivia Bingo and do a bit of fortune telling with the Read Your Game Design Fortune. Are you into augmented reality platonic solids activities? (Yes, we had to look it up too.) They’re got it covered.

Imagine you’re using an app on your phone, looking for somewhere to eat. Your camera shows the neighborhood street, and icons for bakeries, restaurants and Yelp reviews pop up. That reality has been “augmented.”

Game Jam
City of Play’s game of Joust combines elements of tag with egg-in-a-spoon races. Photo courtesy of Sprout Fund

City of Play will be responsible for activating both right and left brain lobes with tabletop games and more physical play.

“We wanted to give kids lots of different ways to participate, so if they’re not video game fans, there’s still lots for them to do,” Coon says.

Tabletop games include card games and cooperative games that encourage people to work together to solve problems. A more active game called Joust mixes the chase of tag with the cautious qualities of egg-in-a-spoon races. Players hold a very sensitive wand-like controller and try to set off their opponent’s wand without setting off their own.

Along with the mental and physical stimulation, Game Jam serves up snacks and drinks – plus goodies to take home.

Those who miss out on this week’s Game Jam can plan ahead for similar activities during Remake Learning Days in May.

Register for Game Jam at EventBrite.

From Our Sponsors: BAM! Summer Camps

Phipps Conservatory
March29/ 2017

Join us at Oakland Catholic High School and Central Catholic High School for BAM! Because Academics Matter, an academic summer enrichment program offered June 19-30 for girls and boys entering 7th and 8th grades. Girls will experience the camp on Oakland Catholic’s campus, and boys will be at Central Catholic.

BAM! is a great way to get a glimpse into the academic programs found at both schools. By coming on campus, engaging with experienced Faculty and current Students, and meeting campers from other elementary schools, your daughter or son will feel better prepared for high school both academically and socially.

Each day, campers will engage with several academic subjects that will inspire curiosity for deeper learning. BAM! concentrates on developing the Writing and Math skills crucial to a successful academic high school experience. Campers will participate in one session of each Math and Writing each day of camp. In addition, campers will choose two of four available electives focused around interests in a variety of STEM fields. Elective options include: Robotics Challenge, 3D Design and Printing, CSI Central, Engineering Solutions, Mad Scientist and SCRATCH Computer Programming. Each course is taught by Oakland Catholic and Central Catholic faculty who are passionate about their fields of study and will provide applicable instruction to all campers in a fun and inviting atmosphere.

Space is limited for this exciting program!

What: BAM! (Because Academics Matter) Summer Camps

Who: Girls and boys entering the 7th and 8th grades

Where: Oakland Catholic High School and Central Catholic High School

When: June 19-30 from 9 AM – 1 PM

For information and registration visit BAM-PGH.COM.

Pittsburgh Hello Hijab dolls catch worldwide attention of girls — and media

Kidsburgh Staff
March28/ 2017

A new non-profit, For Good PGH, started out with a bang. Their first project, “Hello Hijab,” had the simplest of beginnings, but it’s gotten worldwide attention in just a few weeks.

Partners in For Good PGH, Giselle Fetterman and Kristen Michaels work to make Pittsburgh a kinder, more hospitable place for kids and parents. Their recently launched Hello Hijab dolls have caught global media attention, from The Huffington Post, CNN, German television, Hello Pakistan! Magazine, and even FOX News.

“My daughter has toys from all over the world, dolls with all kinds of skin colors, even one in a wheelchair,” Fetterman says. “We were looking one day and realized she didn’t have any dolls that looked like the mothers of her friends, the grandmothers of her friends.”

Some of those women are Muslim, who wear the traditional veil called a hijab. Fetterman wanted girls to see:  “Here’s this doll. She has a headscarf. Now she doesn’t. It’s the same doll underneath.”

It’s a gentle way to say, “We may look different on the outside, but underneath, we’re the same.”

Catch the complete story — and where to order dolls — at NEXTPittsburgh.

My Favorite Pittsburgh Thing To Do With Kids: Kelsey Friday

My Favorite Thing
Sally Quinn
March28/ 2017

Kelsey Friday, former lead singer for Brownie Mary, is the consummate rock star turned rocker mom.

Friday found inspiration from her two young sons — Cooper, 12, and Mason, 10 — and some of the grating children’s music they forced her to listen to in the car. She translated her success as an alternative rock singer/songwriter into music that kids relate to, but parents can tolerate as well. Her family-friendly CD is “Kelsey Friday & The Rest of the Week.”

But it’s not all about the music for Kelsey and her husband John, a senior sales advisor at Dentsply Sirona. The O’Hara family’s favorite destination is the Fox Chapel Racquet Club.

“It’s a huge part of our social life – we love it there,” she says. “We love to play platform tennis, tennis and ride bikes together. We are a very active family and love to play sports. It’s a healthy dose of activity.”

Family time is vital for the Friday family.

“With our busy schedules from school and sports and other responsibilities, we try and eat a family dinner every night if we can,” Kelsey says. “It’s hard at times — and we might even eat late — but if it means coming together and talking about your day and then going to bed, then it’s worth it.”