Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett has been stopping at various schools across the state as a part of her “Opening Doors” initiative that aims to increase high school graduation rates by targeting middle school students.
Mrs. Corbett stopped in Pittsburgh’s North Side to visit Manchester Craftsmen Guild (MCG), a youth afterschool program with an art-focus for students who are struggling in the public school system.
Bill Strickland, President and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation, says MCG’s high graduation rate caught Mrs. Corbett’s attention. Last year, MCG reported 98% of its seniors graduating high school.
“She’s very interested in 1: how the program is set up, 2: how we’re getting these kinds of results, and 3: how we can take these ideas and move them around to other parts of Pennsylvania,” Strickland said.
Strickland explains what MCG’s wanted to convey to the state's first lady.
“The message is: we've been here for 30 years doing this work, it's getting outcomes, pretty spectacular outcomes actually and this is something that we want to make everybody aware of,” Strickland said. “It will certainly help our cause and help the cause of the kids to have the First Lady know about this work.”
Strickland says the students report to MCG after school and use clay, photography, digital imaging, and drawing to re-engage with the learning process and grow self-confidence. Strickland says the MCG program’s model is based on his own experiences in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“An art teacher saved my life,” Strickland said. “He got me excited about clay and helped me get into college.”
Strickland said he used that experience to do the same for other children while he attended the University of Pittsburgh. MCG currently serves 300 Pittsburgh Public School students and 200 additional students from the region. MCG has 5 centers across the country that use the same educational platform.