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

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.

New helmets, devices and regulations are coming out increasingly as people learn more about the severity of concussions, and as part of the trend UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh have been working together to study the effectiveness of a new concussion screening tool. 

As the cooler weather moves in so do the heavier jackets and sniffles, and the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD)  is gearing up for the coming flu season by offering vaccinations.

Starting Monday (9/15) the ACHD’s vaccine clinic in Oakland will provide flu shots for $25.

“The single best way to protect against the flu is to vaccinate people, and it’s recommended for everyone six months of age and older,” said Sharon Silvestri, the Chief of Infectious Disease at Allegheny Health Department.

In 1961 the Hill District was cut off from downtown with the building of the Civic Area, and with the demolition of the arena developers have been drawing up plans to hopefully reconnect the two.

The city has been granted $1.5 million to hire engineers to start drawing up plans to being bidding for the construction of a cap that will be installed over 579 between downtown and the old Civic Area.

Jess Lasky

  Mayor William Peduto has officially named this week “National Welcoming Week” in Pittsburgh, and as part of the week the City County Building is hosting an exhibit showcasing some immigrants to Allegheny County for the next month.

“What better way than to open up city hall and promote that message of immigrant integration, so that passersby, just regular people who are coming in and out of our building are getting to see the faces of our growing immigrant community,” said Betty Cruz, nonprofit and faith-based manager for the mayor’s office.

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has chosen Allegheny County as the pilot site for Project LAUNCH, a new program focused on the mental and behavioral health of children. The effort will be seeded by a $4 million federal grant and will be augmented by an estimated $50,000 "in-kind" contribution from the county.

The project will focus on children ages 0-8, and will combine at home nursing care, screenings, and various promotions about metal health.

According to the state Department of Education, a high school dropout earns $1 million less than a college graduate over a lifetime, so to aid students in the long run Pennsylvania school districts were invited to participate in a new voluntary program aimed at preventing middle schoolers from developing habits that could eventually lead to them dropping out.  

35 school districts and charter schools in 23 counties will participate in the Early Warning System and Interventions Catalog for this school year.

A Pittsburgh based company known for its reviews of colleges and universities has released its list of the 100 Best Overall Colleges and it includes a pair from Southwestern Pennsylvania., also known as College Prowler, looked at more than 2,000 4-year non-profit colleges.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf made a campaign trip to Pittsburgh Friday, and the topics of discussion were as diverse as the site of his stop.

Wolf toured the Bidwell Training Center in Manchester which offers students career-learning opportunities in fields ranging from chemical laboratory technician to the culinary arts, from horticultural to jazz.

Sporting a pair of Toms will sometimes make you feel like you’re helping out those who are less fortunate, and the clothing sold by the University of Pittsburgh could be headed in that same wholesome clothing direction. Pitt has given its apparel licensees an ultimatum that many hope will make safety a priority in factories where the clothing is made.

Since the fall of 2012 students with the Pitt chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy have been advocating for the University to make changes to its licensee agreement through the #NoSweat Coalition.

The Cultural District is adding to the “culture” with locally designed bike racks. The racks come in all shapes and sizes, including one that looks like the Fort Duquesne Bridge and another standing 6ft tall.  

The first of the bike racks will be installed on Tuesday, while the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust begins the search for more racks to be placed downtown.

In an effort to make Pittsburgh more welcoming, a 40-member-council has been formed to listen to ideas, implement changes and make new residents feel at home. 

“It’s part of what’s called ‘Welcoming America,’ which is a national movement to bring on cities and counties across the country to get them to commit to become more welcoming in their practices to their foreign born residents and really to encourage immigrant integration,” said Betty Cruz, nonprofit and faith-based manager for the mayor’s office.

Nearly $35.9 million in state funding has been approved for rail freight improvements. The grants will help support about 34,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.

“Freight rail is actually very important in Pennsylvania, because we have the highest number of short-line railroads in the entire country, and we’re in the top five as far as the number of miles we have of track,” said Penndot spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt, “so we need to keep investing in those resources, because they support good paying jobs and they keep goods moving through our state.”

There are still five weeks left before summer is over, but Pittsburgh is already gearing up for the holiday season and many more events throughout 2015 with zombies, quartets and craft beers.  

With Halloween not far off, nationally-recognized Scarehouse is amping up the Zombies.  Scarehouse is using their 100-year-old building, former "Elks Lodge No. 932" which is alleged haunted and taking the building back to the 30’s with props from the era.

Youth employment has been on a decreasing trend since 2000 and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (3RWIB) believes that educators and employers could work to get young people more engaged.

The number of 16-24-year-olds who work summer jobs in the region has decreased by 55 percent, and the level of youth employment overall has decreased by 39 percent in the past 14 years. Also, one of eight young people in the region does not work or go to school.

The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh has received a $1.5 million grant to be used in aiding the renovation of its Pediatric Specialty Hospital.

The Economic Growth Initiative Grant will be used to add 14 private hospital rooms and a new common area complete with a kitchen.

“Over the last couple of years we have been filling our beds, and what we don’t ever want is for a child who needs our services to be on a waiting list,” said Jennifer March, director of External Affairs at the Children’s Home.

The entire project will cost the hospital $5.3 million.

From clothes stores on East Carson Street on the South Side to the small back-street food vendors of Oakland, Pittsburgh is a hub of small businesses, but according to, local government could be a little friendlier to coffee shops, dog groomers and other retailers. gave Pittsburgh a "D" rating for a multitude of reasons.

The Pittsburgh Biennial has begun at the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) with a local artist showcasing his two-and three-dimensional works, and the Pittsburgh Glass Center is about to join in on the Biennial with a wide array of glass ideas.

The Pittsburgh Biennial is held roughly every other year, 2011 was the last one, and gives local Pittsburgh artists a chance to be featured by the galleries around the city.

Allegheny County is making it easier to avoid road construction and get vaccinations now that its notification program has expanded to the Public Works and Health departments.

Allegheny Alerts is a program that will call, text, or email people who sign up about the four departments involved. The program began in April with the Parks Department and the Kane Regional Centers.

After a town meeting had to be moved to accommodate the 300 strong crowd, after five hours of debate and testimony, after a 90 day delay proposal, McCandless Town Council has approved an application by Walmart to build a superstore.

But many of the residents in McCandless are still fighting the approval of the 150,000-square-foot Walmart which will be built on Blazier Drive, just off of McKnight Road.

Electric cars have come a long way from having short ranges, and a wimpy top speed of 40 miles per hour. Now many electric cars can go upwards of 130mph, have a range of 250 miles, and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is trying to get more motorists to purchase one.

Along with pop bottles and cigarette butts, another big name is joining the roadside trash Pantheon, televisions.

In January 2013 the Covered Device Recycling Act became effective across Pennsylvania. The law made it illegal for municipal trash collectors to pick up devices such as TVs, computers, and even keyboards. The purpose of the law was to rid landfills of harmful materials usually found in these devices including cadmium, beryllium, and lead.

Community-minded volunteers will spread throughout the North Shore Thursday with paintbrushes and trash bags as part of the Community Action Project (CAP) that also will include food, music and family activities.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) partnered with the Urban Impact Foundation and Light of Life Rescue Mission for the event.

One of the last things people might think about on a beautiful summer day is giving blood, and the American Red Cross is starting to notice that the drop in donations could be serious.

Blood donations have decreased by 8 percent over the last 11 weeks meaning that the Red Cross is down by approximately 80,000.

“This shortfall is significant enough that without increased donor turnout we could experience an emergency situation in coming weeks,” said Marianne Spampinato, Red Cross’s External Communications Manager.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Another country concert is coming to Pittsburgh, and this time the city is preparing with new rules and increased law enforcement to gear up for Jason Aldean’s 38,000 fans at PNC Park this Saturday.

City officials announced Tuesday that parking lots will open at 2 p.m., instead of 11 a.m. and parking lot operators will be handing out trash and recycling bags to concert goers. The number of port-o-johns has been increased from 160 to 200. Tailgating once the concert begins is not permitted; anyone without a ticket at 7:30 p.m. will be asked to leave.

After an 18-month audit, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been called “outdated, understaffed and underfunded” when it comes to monitoring the impact of Marcellus Shale drilling on water quality. 

“For an analogy internally we believe it’s like firefighters trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20-foot garden hose,” said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

The audit resulted in eight findings with 29 recommendations. DePasquale said 18 of the recommendations would not cost tax payers any more money.

Pittsburgh was awarded $200,000 to insure children in the city through Healthy Together.

The money was granted from the National League of Cities and was given to eight cities that showed a quality and feasible business plan to increase access to healthcare. Cities could receive up to $260,000 for their efforts.