Monthly Archives: November 2016

Peers select four Forum teams for recognition

At The Forum’s November meeting, teams of educators shared progress on planning and implementation of initiatives they’ve undertaken to help achieve high priority goals in their districts.

In breakout groups of two to three schools or districts, participants received feedback and selected four of the initiatives for recognition based on the quality of their work to date. The four schools and districts were: Clairton City School District; Lawrence County Career & Technology Center; Pittsburgh Allderdice High School and Sharon City School District.

We’ll be providing individual snapshots of these projects on Fridays beginning Dec. 2, so watch our website for updates. Meanwhile, here are some photos from the latest Forum session.



Students look to technology to solve business challenges confronting PANTHERx

As a highly specialized pharmacy delivering prescriptions nationwide to people with uncommon, if not rare diseases, PANTHERx handles some of the drug industry’s most expensive and perishable medicines. As a result, the region’s fastest growing company needs to stay in constant communication with patients as well as suppliers and shippers to make sure there’s as little damage and waste as possible.

This month, teams of students from Avonworth and Blackhawk school districts began trying to help PANTHERx find ways of using technology to improve communication with patients and upgrade special refrigeration units the company provides for their homes.

The teams took up the challenge through our Student Powered Solutions program, which creates partnerships between schools and businesses to give students project-based learning opportunities to apply STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) skills to authentic  problems.

The Avonworth team visited PANTHERx on November 16 to discuss the company’s challenges and examine the equipment they might modify. Blackhawk’s team visited the company Nov. 23 and, like Blackhawk, quizzed PANTHERx Business Operations Vice President Jonathan Ogurchak about the company’s existing technologies and needs the company would like to fill by improving it.

Following are photos from both teams’ visits and their discussions with Mr. Ogurchak. The first six taken with the Blackhawk team and the final six were taken with Avonworth. We’ll keep you posted as the project unfolds, so check back to our website for updates.


Latest College & Career Knowledge session takes place at Robert Morris

Groups of students from Steel Valley and McKeesport Area high schools spent a half-day learning about college expectations and campus life in November when Robert Morris University hosted the latest session of our College & Career Knowledge (CCK) program.

Campus visits give students considering college a chance to ask questions of staff and importantly, students who already are enrolled in college. Often, CCK participants are be the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education, whether college or apprenticeships.

The kids had lots of things they wanted to find out. “I want to know everything,” said Demere, a junior McKeesport. He ticked off questions that ran a gamut from what majors are available and whether RMU has a winning football team, to what the food service is like.

When one of his peers asked about laundry, RMU student Steven Lopez said it just one of the many things freshman have to learn to do themselves. He told them to think of the college experience as more than continued academic training. “A lot of it is about developing life skills,” Lopez said.

In addition to asking questions, students toured campus and heard presentations about the academic, social and emotional support resources available at RMU and many other schools.

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Career Ready continues laying foundation

Districts see Consortium as bridge to community

School districts participating in our Career Ready initiative are looking to the Consortium to serve its intermediary role in their work, connecting them to the business community and higher education and building a network that facilitates opportunities for students and educators.

Educators collaborated with the Consortium in October to continue laying a foundation for Career Ready. Among other things, the nine participating districts inventoried programs they already are offering to help their K-12 students prepare for post-secondary education and careers.

“Our goal for the day was to identify existing programming that has potential to be scaled up among multiple partners across the region and determine where our partners see opportunity gaps,” said the Consortium’s Executive Director Mary Kay Babyak.

Participants at the latest session held table discussions aimed at sharing career preparation ideas across districts and focusing on unmet needs in specific areas. Among the areas of focus were: building career awareness in elementary school; soft-skill development; professional development needs for educators and forming partnerships with higher education and business.

Representative of goals participants set were those at Allegheny Valley School District, which already has begun outreach to local corporations. The district is enlisting help from those companies to bring perspectives on career and workplace pathways and readiness both to students and educators, said Springdale High School Principal Michelle Walter. As part of Career Ready, her school is looking to do “a true phase three” of its career readiness initiative, involving professional development for educators, among other things. She noted that teachers frequently are a little reluctant about career mentoring with students because they have little exposure to workplaces outside the classroom themselves.

“What we find beneficial is networking and support from the Consortium to stay on track and build out our initiative,” Welter said.

Additionally, districts anticipate tapping programs the Consortium offers—including Student Powered Solutions (SPS), The Future Is Mine (TFIM) and College & Career Ready (CCK) and Power of Peers (POP)—to augment opportunities they offer students for exploring colleges, apprenticeships and career paths and developing the soft skills that can be as critical to success as academic achievement.