This story first appeared on NEXTPittsburgh, which publishes Kidsburgh.
By Kristy Locklin
With the arrival of new businesses and residents, there are plenty of reasons to dance, sing and make merry in Millvale. Soon local high school students could earn college credit through these same unbridled displays of creativity.
The R.E.A.A.D.Y. (Redefining Education Achieving Associate Degrees for Youths) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) & Performing Arts Charter School is expected to open in 2020 in the former Holy Spirit School on Farragut Street in the borough.
A public forum to discuss this public, tuition-free institution will happen at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at Millvale Community Library. (Interested in going? You can RSVP to email@example.com.)
The forum will be “an opportunity for us to share our ideas and visions for the school,” says the nonprofit R.E.A.A.D.Y. Foundation‘s Communications Director Cheryl Aughton, “and to hear from the people about what they want and need.”
From dance, theater and filmmaking to music production and culinary arts, high school students attending the charter school would take courses that might not otherwise be available at a traditional high school, while also focusing on core academics. And eligible juniors and seniors can earn an associate degree from Community College of Allegheny County as they receive their high school diploma.
Kenneth Nickel, a former principal dancer and a dance educator, launched the R.E.A.A.D.Y. Foundation to give students financial and developmental support as they reach for their dreams.
As plans for the school take shape, the foundation is also focusing on awarding partial and full scholarships to current high schoolers in Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties who need funding to attend workshops, performing arts camps or other art-based programs that already exist in the region. Applications for these scholarships will be accepted March 31 through April 30. Students who apply will receive information about auditions later this spring.
Nickel, 60, of Greenfield, says he was a hyperactive child whose parents — a nurse’s aide and a butcher — enrolled him in dance classes to help channel that energy. Turns out, he was a natural.
He joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre at age 16 and by 21 was a principal dancer. He pirouetted around the world, from Japan and Russian to Venezuela, and established performance art degree programs at La Roche College, California University of Pennsylvania and the Community College of Beaver County.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career,” he says, admitting that it’s not always easy for artists to find a job doing what they love right out of high school.
Through the R.E.A.A.D.Y. curriculum, he says, students will be exposed to an array of opportunities in the arts, including the administrative side of them, all while helping Millvale: Nickel envisions culinary students cooking meals for people in need. He also plans to hire custodians, cafeteria workers and other employees from within the community.