Sarah Schneider

Reporter

Sarah Schneider covers all things education in the Pittsburgh region and hosts Weekend Edition on Sunday. An Illinois native, she's spent two years adjusting to the hills of the city. Sarah was with WESA as a PULSE (Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience Fellow) fellow for two years working on community initiatives and the Life of Learning Series before becoming a staff reporter. 

Previously Sarah interned at newspapers in Pittsburgh, Idaho and Illinois. When not reporting and hosting you can find Sarah walking dogs at an animal shelter, crocheting and taking any unique class she can. 

In the twelfth day of public debate over whether or not a man or a group of men purposely released air from footballs, a CMU mechanical engineering graduate student traveled to Phoenix to join the discussion.

Thomas Healy said the deflated footballs the New England Patriots used during the first half of its defeat of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game January 18 could be a result of atmospheric pressure and not foul play.

He is presenting his detailed experimental data to several organizations this weekend before Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is taking a strong stance against a bill making its way through Harrisburg that he says would “would hurt city taxpayers & hamstring efforts to cooperate with nonprofits.”

The state’s finance committee passed and sent to the Senate floor last week Senate Bill 4 , which would clarify the Purely Public Charity Act of 1997 to make the legislature the sole body to determine what qualifies an organization as a charity.

The four Pennsylvania school districts with the highest percentage of students living in poverty are in the Pittsburgh region.

The race for the three open seats on the seven-member Pennsylvania Supreme Court is expected to be intense this year, and there is no doubt it is starting earlier than normal.

All six Democratic Supreme Court candidates will be in Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. Sunday for a forum at Chatham University. In total there are 18 announced candidates.

But little is known and will be known about them. 

Cars assembled by middle schoolers zipped down the 65-foot elevated track lining the wall in less than a second.

The cars moved so quickly, the engineers often had to ask if their car won the race.

The dragster car competition was just one of several events at the Technology Student Association (TSA) regional competition at Pittsburgh Technical Institute. The organization focuses on bringing technology into classrooms and extending that learning after-school. Nearly 400 high school students attended the first day and 200 middle school students on the second day.

Courtesy of Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania

Traditionally, learning in the U.S. has been home to school and back to home.

Educators widely agree different approaches are needed for each generation of learners. They also agree that means learning must occur in all aspect of a student’s life.

A group of University of Pittsburgh scientists is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development to create an international network of wheelchair professionals.

The newly formed International Society of Wheelchair Professionals was recently launched with a two-year $2.3 million award from USAID to teach and professionalize device repair, build affiliations and improve the lives of the nearly 70 million people worldwide who require a wheelchair for mobility.

Susan Steel ignored a mole in 2005.

The Chicago resident and mother of two said she put it off but eventually went to her dermatologist only when the mole began to bleed. The first visit confirmed she had melanoma and the growth needed to be surgically removed.

“You go into surgery very quickly and then the surgeon comes out and looks desperate and tells you that you have less than a year to live,” she said.

At that time there were no effective treatments, some options had a “high” 6 percent chance of survival, Steel says.

It might come as no surprise that area food banks say they see an influx in people donating their time, money or groceries during the holiday season, but what many do not realize is that the giving spirit seems to hit a lull after the New Year.

“Member congregations are doing food drives … so we do see an influx (in donations) but the need also is increased this time of the year. It’s actually ever present throughout the year,” said East End Cooperative Ministry Executive Director Michael Mingrone.

The Saturday after Christmas, flocks of area volunteers will scour the region tallying birds as part of the 115th Christmas Bird Count Report.

The annual event organized by the Audubon Society boasts the longest-standing citizen science project. Last year 183 residents Pittsburgh area residents traveled 181 miles by foot and 250 by car to count 66 species and 46,577 birds.

Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania operations director Brian Shema said the 115-year-long data set provides a clear picture of the region’s birds.

For the 14th consecutive year, Jewish volunteers will spend time helping at various charities in the region on Christmas Day. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh coordinates the events not only to help those who benefit from the work, but also to give a day off to the charities’ employees.  

“Mitzvah days are done around the country in different Jewish federations. Jewish people are always looking for something to do on Christmas Day other than eat Chinese food and go to the movies,” said the federation’s Volunteer Center Coordinator Jenny Jones.

Chances are the average Pittsburgher won’t buy six geese-a-laying for a loved one this year. But if you choose to, the price has increased drastically since last year.

PNC Wealth Management has for the the last 31 years calculated the price of the 12 gifts of Christmas from the popular song. The department puts a price tag on the unusual modern-day gifts with help from the National Aviary, pet chains, farms and a national jewelry chain. The sources remain consistent yearly, but like the Consumer Price Index, prices fluctuate due to market or business climate changes.

The Northside Leadership Conference will use $900,000 in pledged funding from Highmark, Northwest Savings Bank and the Pittsburgh Steelers to support the North Side neighborhood including small business and strategic real estate development.

Gloria Rayman, past NSLC board of directors president, said Friday because the coalition of grassroots neighborhood organizations has non-profit status, it can partner with corporate sponsors.

Members of Transport Workers Union of America’s Local 555 picketed Southwest Airlines at the Pittsburgh International Airport Tuesday, distributing flyers and holding signs as part of a larger protest involving 15 airports.

The union of grounds crew workers including ramp, operations and freight agents is in mediation with Southwest Airlines since the contract became amendable in June 2011. Under the Railway Labor Act, airline labor agreements do not expire, rather, they become amendable. Until the amendments are agreed upon, the previous contract is upheld.

A report released by the Economic Policy Institute found 122,600 jobs don’t exist in Pennsylvania because of unbalanced trade with China.

Nationally, the trade deficit cost 3.2 million jobs between the same period of 2001 and 2013.

Most U.S. trade comes from manufactured goods rather than agricultural and war materials such as oil or services such as health care, therefore most job creation or loss dependent on trade is manufacturing.

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Ryan Ahl enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 2002 and was eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Ahl said his fondest memories from two deployments to Iraq were the days spent occupying observational posts and knowing he had the support of his fellow soldiers.

“You’re in a war zone and you’re with three of your closest buddies and anything could happen," he said. "And it normally did.”

Ahl said he feels part of something bigger than himself. He has gained a respect for freedom and understanding of other cultures through his service.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The adoption of zero tolerance policies in schools has risen sharply since the 1999 Columbine shootings.  But are those policies making schools safer? Many education stakeholders in Pittsburgh say the widespread use of zero tolerance policies has increased the likelihood of students entering the criminal justice system based on school incidents. 

“If we can move from a zero tolerance policy, which excludes children who are having trouble, to progressive discipline, which includes those with a rehabilitative effort to get them back on their feet and back into school, we can do a better job with community safety,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, David Hickton, said at WESA’s community forum entitled "Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline" on Monday.  

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Ron Worstell served as an infantryman for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1970.

“I tell everybody that my time in Vietnam of one year at the age of 20 something was really five percent of my life at that time, but that experience is 75 percent of who I am today,” he said.

Democratic incumbent Adam Ravenstahl has defeated Republican challenger Tom Fodi in the 20th House District race with 61 percent of the vote. This is the 29-year-old Summer Hill representative’s third consecutive two-year term.

Fodi, 31, said he ran for the seat with increasing disappointment in the party politics of the commonwealth.

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Tom Jones served aboard amphibious assault ships for the U.S. Navy during the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.

As 18 and 19 year olds, Jones said he thinks he was too young and inexperienced to be scared.

“I think being young at that time, it was just an experience," he said. "You don’t realize exactly what is going on until you get a lot older and reflect back on those situations you were in.”

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Amanda Haines served in Iraq as an intelligence analyst for the Marine Corps from 2003-2008. She rose to the rank of sergeant.

By the time she was deployed to Fallujah, the larger conflicts were over, and she says she was there to work with the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

Haines joined the military the summer after she graduated high school. From learning to manage finances to dealing with being away from home, Haines said she grew up in the Marine Corps.

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Shawn Jones was a paratrooper and instructor with the U.S. Army from 2001 until he received a medical discharge in 2012. As he rose to the rank of staff sergeant, Jones says his leadership gave him the soldiers who were at risk of being discharged.
 
“They gave him to me because they were going to kick him out,” he said.

His favorite memories of his service were when those soldiers changed their attitudes and climbed the ranks.

As for regrets, Jones says he learned the value of time. He didn’t accomplish some of his goals.

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Amy Mattila was an occupational therapist at Walter Reed Hospital while in the U.S. Army from 2005-2011. Mattila, who rose to the rank of captain, says having the opportunity to treat injured soldiers coming back from Iraq at the height of the conflict changed who she is today.

Mattila now teaches occupational therapy at Chatham University. Her experience at Walter Reed has come full circle, she says, as she now connects her students to past patients for community service work.

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Ben Keen served in the U.S. Army from 1999-2008 and rose to the rank of Sergeant E-5.

While serving in Iraq he learned the leadership skills that helped him launch Steel City Vets, a support group for post-9/11 veterans.

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John Stakeley served with the Army National Guard for 13 and a half years,  and for the last three years as a Captain with the U.S. Army Reserves.

While he didn’t have one defining moment, Stakeley said the Army established a trust and a bond he hasn’t experienced anywhere else. He said that was especially true when he was deployed to Iraq in 2005.

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Theo Collins served six years with the Marine Corps, including a tour in Afghanistan.

Toward the end of his career he worked with Wounded Warriors, assisting injured veterans to events. After his time of service, Collins joined a fellow marine he met in Afghanistan on "Project 22," a documentary looking at veteran suicide.

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Chris Mohnke, a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, left the Coast Guard earlier this year as a Lieutenant junior grade after five years of service.

He learned to be a leader, met his best friends in the Coast Guard.

“It’s hard to gauge how much the service has changed me as a person because up until very recently my entire adult life has been in the Coast Guard,” he said.

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Listen to the stories of some Pittsburgh area veterans on how military service impacted their lives.

More than 230,000 former military personnel call the Pittsburgh region ranging from World War II veterans to those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Between dancing and hula hooping, Guaranga Gardner played an 18-hole game of mini golf with his dad and cousin Friday afternoon in Lawrenceville parking spaces.

The toddler occasionally pointed to the semi-trucks passing-by the pop-up park his grandmother sat in.

The course was spread out in transformed parking spaces, each with its own layout or theme, such as Rebecca Mizkar and Laura Santore’s homage to their shared Carpatho-Rusyn heritage with Andy Warhol by displaying a Warhol portrait of his mother.

This week, 90.5 WESA’s Josh and Yelp’s Rachel talk free things and beer this week, or as they put it: “We seem to have developed a theme here.” This week the Club features Oktoberfest in September, free stuff, the farm-to-table festival and racing wiener dogs. Listen for why, “I’ll be showing people around my private lounge where I sit around, you know, in my high-backed leather chair and smoke a pipe.”

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