Jess Lasky

News Fellow

Jess was accepted as a WESA fellow in the news department in January 2014.  The Erie, PA native attends Duquesne University where she has a double major--broadcast journalism and political science.  Following her anticipated graduation in May 2015, she plans to enter law school or begin a career in broadcast journalism.

Fun fact:  "I own all the Pokemon GameBoy games...and still play them!"

Ways To Connect

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has released a draft of its long-range transportation plan and is asking for public feedback.

“This is a plan that looks far into the future to help set the vision and direction for where we want our transportation system to go,” said PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt. “So it goes beyond a list of projects or future enhancements. It looks at things like where we want to go as a whole.”

Jess Lasky

With the slush, snow, salt, and ice, good shoes are a must for the winter, but for the homeless good shoes are not always easy to come by because often the donated ones are the wrong size or worn out.

That is why Our Heart to Your Soles spent Monday properly fitting brand new shoes to the needy right before the winter hits at its annual give away event.

They gave away about 400 pairs of shoes and anti-bacterial socks to anyone who needed them.

Gas prices averaging below $3 per gallon could spur many Americans to travel this for Thanksgiving, which might cause some traffic delays, according to AAA.

Chelsea Pompeani, director of public affairs at AAA east central, says the best way to avoid the increased traffic is to leave a little early.

City Council has declared Nov. 19 as “Healthy Together Day”, as part of an initiative to help the 2,000 uninsured Pittsburgh children enroll in affordable healthcare plans.

Healthy Together received a $200,000 grant from the League of Cities in July, and has been working with the Consumer Health Coalition and other organizations in communities that have a high concentration of uninsured children to inform parents of available healthcare plans for their children.

Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) are making progress in the graduation rate, and the number of students enrolled in AP classes, but that progress is not seen equally throughout the district according to A+ Schools 10th anniversary report on the 2013-14 school year.

The report examines all schools in several categories including: proficiency of teachers, per pupil spending (excluding transportation, principal salary and building costs), if students feel challenged and cared for, suspension rates, PSSA scores, and a breakdown of most scores based on race and income.

Teaching teens how to drive sometimes consists of crying, yelling, frustration and sometimes some new scratches on the car, but getting angry at teens for their bad driving could actually end up pointing the finger back at parents, according to a new study.

The University of Michigan and Toyota say parents are the number one influence on how a teen will drive.

Pittsburgh has battled the notion that the city is a dirty dusty polluted old steel mill town since the 1950’s, and finally it seems that the world is catching up with Pittsburgh’s environmental friendly initiatives. As a fighter in the battle to make Pittsburgh greener, Construction Junction in Point Breeze will turn 15 on November 12th, marking the changes that Pittsburgh has been making to respect the environment.

 Ten years ago the Children Museum’s “Lantern Building” began to illuminate the North Shore, and to celebrate the anniversary the museum will offer free admission Saturday.

As part of the festivities families can help the museum build a giant lantern. There will also be a family resource fair with booths from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Center for Women and CEASEfire PA.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) has won his seventh consecutive two-year term in the Pennsylvania House, defeating independent Mark Brentley by an 86 percent to 13 percent margin.

Wheatley says that he will focus on three things this term: education, jobs and redeveloping neighborhoods.

Tuesday is  Election Day,  but what happens if you have trouble getting to your polling place?  The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) could give you a lift.

“We do not want to have people prevented in any way to vote, and that’s our mission as B-PEP,” said CEO Tim Stevens.

Most people are expected to stay at a job for about four and a half years, and yet millennials have been labeled as job hoppers, for leaving jobs much sooner. A new survey conducted by job placement company, Express Employment Professionals, found that recent college graduates stay in their first jobs on average for 7 months to a year.

In 2011, 29 Port Authority (PAT) bus routes were eliminated due to lack of funding, and some residents are questioning why the 2015 Allegheny County budget allocates PAT funds to build a PennDOT pedestrian bridge, instead of working to reinstate the old bus routes.

In 2009 a court ruling stated that the drink and car rental taxes could only be used for PAT expenditures , yet the $1 million bridge will be paid for with those taxes and built by PennDOT.

AP Photo/Vincent Yu

Halloween is supposed to be full of treats and colorful costumes and a few harmless scares, but health and safety advocates are warning about potential dangers for trick-or-treaters.

More than twice as many children are killed in pedestrian/vehicle accidents on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Dave Phillips, spokesman for State Farm Insurance, said government data shows that 115 children nationwide have died from being struck by a vehicle on Halloween from 1990-2010.

Ebola has killed thousands of people in West Africa — yet the absence of victims’ names and faces could be just one reason why large numbers of people have not been donating money to the fight the outbreak.

“Unlike many natural disasters that we have seen in the past with massive outpouring of donations support, we’re not seeing people making donations … it’s something that everybody’s talking about, but it’s not driving us to donate,” said Nicole Coleman, assistant professor of business and marketing at University of Pittsburgh.

The Ellis School in Shadyside focuses on unconventional approaches to learning, not only in the classroom, but also for its upcoming “Unconference” where techniques already implemented in their classrooms will be used to address education challenges.

The school will host the “unconference”  Saturday to attempt to solve problems such as how to decrease the fear of failure, and how to show, not tell students.

A Pittsburgh-based charity is continuing its efforts to help fight the spread of Ebola in Africa. Brother’s Brother Foundation (BBF), which provides medical supplies, food and other humanitarian goods to countries around the world, will load another container of donated medical supplies and equipment  Tuesday for hospitals and clinics in Freetown, Sierra Leone. 

“If they know that more [medical supplies are] coming they will just use it faster and they’ll use it better, which means more protection for both the patient and the caregiver,” said BBF President Luke Hingson.

A doctor’s office on wheels, which looks just like an RV on the outside, is taking to the streets Monday.

Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s (PMHS) new mobile medical unit features: three private examine rooms, one for therapy and psychiatric evaluation, and the other two are physical exam rooms, one of which can double as a dental clinic.

“For all practical purposes, the luxury on the inside is as good as any physician’s office in town, but it offers that level of care to people who don’t normally get it,” said PMHS CEO Ray Wolfe.

When an emergency strikes a skyscraper the pressure is on for the in-house safety workers to act quickly, but if the building’s security officers don’t even know where the elevator keys are, first responders could remain stuck on the first floor looking for keys.

On Wednesday, security officers from several downtown Pittsburgh buildings rallied outside of the PPG building with paramedics, elected officials, clergy, and firefighters to encourage unionization.

Reading Day In Pittsburgh

Oct 6, 2014

Reading will be celebrated at the Carnegie Library in Oakland Tuesday October 7th as the Community College of Allegheny County joins forces with local libraries, high schools and correctional institutions to promote literacy in our county through its program The Big Read in Pittsburgh.

“Literature is transformative by its very nature, but to have different people and races connect with a novel, it allows them to ignite a love of reading through engaging activities,” said Barbara Evans, Big Read Project Director at CCAC. 

Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is working on a 4-year Recreation Plan, and Pittsburghers have a chance to comment on the ideas before it is implemented.

The DCNR with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will host an event to take public comments on Thursday October 9th at the Schenley Park Skating Rink.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

It’s October, and that means it’s time for cider, sweaters, pumpkins and colorful leaves, but for the Pittsburgh area it might be a couple more weeks before the yellows, oranges and reds really emerge.

Rachael Christie, Environmental Education Specialist at the 58,000 acre Forbes State Forest in Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland Counties, predicts this year will be great for fall colors, “we’ve had the cooler nights, and we’ve had the nice sunny days as well. So [this is] very ideal fall weather patterns to have some really beautiful fall foliage.”

After a 12-year $35 million renovation effort, Point State Park has been named nationally as one of the “10 Great Public Spaces of 2014” by the American Planning Association.

Lisa Schroeder, President and CEO of Riverlife, says the restoration was much needed.

To earn a living wage for a family of four while only making minimum wage, the two adults in that family would each have to work 68 hours a week. Another option, according to state Rep. Dom Costa (D-Allegheny), is to raise the current $7.25 minimum wage so that families in Pennsylvania could buy groceries and live comfortably while earning minimum wage.

Talking to your baby could be one of the best things a parent can do developmentally, and to help get that idea across Allegheny County the Department of Human Services has launched what it is calling the “Use Your Words” campaign.

The campaign encourages parents to talk to their infant about things that they are doing. For instance “I am cutting up orange carrots” in an expressive manner is the best way to help children develop.

All the great "character" that comes with Heinz Hall being an 87-year-old building originally built as a cinema, has also led to some problems functioning as a modern-day theater, but Tuesday the state awarded $1.5 million to help with some renovations.

“You cannot walk from the backstage area to the front of the house if you are in anyway at all incapacitated, and so if you cannot go up and down steps you really literally have to go out through the parking garage, and come into the lobby area,” said James Wilkinson, CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Jess Lasky

Facing more than $9 million in debt, a possible foreclosure and two proposals for solutions, the August Wilson Center for African American Culture’s fate rests in the hands of the legal system, and the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) is urging that the center be left for it's original purposes.  

On Sept. 29 a trial will determine if the AWC has to uphold covenants that were set in place to protect the center when it was built just five years ago.

Fewer than 2,000 people receive a lung transplant yearly, yet 200,000 people die every year from lung disease, and to lessen this number, a Carnegie Mellon University researcher has received a $2.4 million grant to research artificial lungs.

CMU associate professor Keith Cook received the grant after demonstrating the device lasted longer than two weeks, compared to most other artificial lungs that normally only last a few days, which will allow patients to use the device at home.

Driving in Pittsburgh is notoriously difficult, and increased deer collisions are only going to make it more difficult for people to avoid crashes, especially as deer activity starts to rise during the fall.

Pennsylvania has climbed the chart for highest projected deer crashes, rising from number five, now to number two, according to the 2014 State Farm Deer Collision Report which predicts the number of crashes that will happen during the fall season.

To keep Pittsburgh kids on track as yet another school year picks up speed, United Way’s middle school mentoring program has expanded to two more Pittsburgh Public Schools, Brookline and Colfax.

As part of the expansion the program is looking for more mentors to visit their mentees at 1 of the 14 participating schools at least once a week from October-May.

From 1990 to 2012, the number of Hispanic entrepreneurs in America tripled from 577,000 to more than 2.0 million, and to address the growing population a new accelerator program at Duquesne University will focus on minority entrepreneurs.  

“Really what an accelerator means is that, you’re going to intervene and offer services that are really going to… accelerate the growth of that business, beyond what they might be able to do alone,” said SBDC Director Mary McKinney.

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