Features & Special Reports

African American Males Achievement
8:48 am
Fri January 24, 2014

The Failure to Educate Many African American Males

The graduation rate for African American males in Pennsylvania is 57 percent compared to 85 percent for white males--a 28 percentage point gap, according to the latest data from the Schott Foundation for Public Education.  Reasons for the discrepancy are complex.

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Life of Learning
4:26 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Pittsburgh Joins Statewide Effort to Make Quality Pre-K Available to All Families

The Jewish Community Center offer pre-K programs. While these kids had reading time, an effort was launched a few doors down to ensure all PA kids have access to quality pre-K programs.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Quality pre-K programs can help kids later in school, both academically and socially. But many families can’t afford to send their children to pre-school, and government funding for early childhood programs has decreased in recent years.

A statewide effort was launched Thursday to ensure all three- and four-year-olds have access to quality pre-K programs. Michelle Figlar is executive director of the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, or PAEYC. She said research has shown children who have access to strong pre-K programs do better overall in school.

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City in Transition
3:30 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Once a Promising Political Novice, Mayor Ravenstahl Leaves Office ... And Politics?

Outgoing Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced on March 1, 2013 that he would not seek reelection, after a tenure marked with a mix of triumphs and stumbles.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

When Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was quietly sworn into office following the 2006 death of Mayor Bob O’Connor, the 26-year-old City Council president became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city. 

Headlines around the time included the following: “Hope surrounds new Pittsburgh mayor, 26” and he made several national television appearances, including a spot on "The Late Show with David Letterman." But as he heads out of office, the last months of his tenure included headlines such as “Luke Ravenstahl Maintains Low Profile Amid Federal Probe.”

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GED
7:03 am
Wed December 18, 2013

New GED Exam Puts Students and Educators to the Test

Pennsylvania and other states are implementing universal high-school graduation requirements under the Common Core standards. As a result, the GED test is being updated as of Jan. 1. But for students who have already begun the battery of tests but have not yet passed all five sections, that's created a difficult situation.
Credit Flickr user albertogp123

The stereotypes about adults seeking GED certification can be ugly and simplistic. But the reality is that many lack a high school diploma for reasons largely outside their control: health problems, family issues and immigration status, just to name a few.

Some, like Rebekah Petrakovits, were home-schooled without proper oversight from school officials who were supposed to monitor their progress.

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Early Childhood Education
8:47 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

From Homewood to Harrisburg, Childcare Providers Seek Resources

Two-year-old Khalil Kyte romps around a play area at the Homewood Early Learning Hub on a recent Tuesday. In addition to activities for kids, the Hub offers resources and training opportunities for childcare providers.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

Three-year-old Aubreaune stands behind an easel showing off her painting of a T-Rex.

“It’s green and purple," she says. "It eats people. Roar!”

She’s among a group of preschool-aged kids and childcare providers who gathered at the Homewood Early Learning Hub for play time on a recent Tuesday. Besides activities for the kids, providers and families use the center to find resources, and share best practices.

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Community
3:30 am
Wed December 11, 2013

With Santa Costumes and Drag Queens, This Isn't Your Grandma's Bingo

OUTrageous Bingo co-founder Rick Allison calls a recent game at Rodef Shalom in Oakland.
Deanna Garcia 90.5 WESA

Bingo has been a popular past time in the U.S. for decades. It may conjure images of playing with Grandma in a church hall or rows of intense players, daubers in hand, good luck trinkets in front of them, eagerly awaiting the next call.

In Pittsburgh, players can experience a slightly different bingo game – one that has been held monthly since the late 1990s – OUTrageous Bingo.

It takes place at an unlikely venue, Rodef Shalom in Oakland, and each month the place gets packed.

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How We Grieve
3:30 am
Tue December 10, 2013

For Victims of Violence, Memorials Built to Last

After his 26-year-old brother Anthony was killed in a robbery in 2008, Jason Rivers (pictured) and his family decided to dedicate an East Liberty basketball court in his memory.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

How We Grieve: This the first in an occasional series exploring the ways people express their feelings in the aftermath of a death.

Some memorials to homicide victims are made of flowers, candles and photographs. Others are built to last.

Memorials to victims in the Pittsburgh region often hide in plain sight, but their message is far from veiled. Those behind the memorials say they're an attempt to turn despair into something positive.

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Community
3:00 am
Mon December 2, 2013

After Three Decades of the Dirty Dozen, Competition Is Tougher Than Ever

Riders struggle up Canton Avenue in Beechview during Saturday's Dirty Dozen cycling competition.
Liz Reid 90.5 WESA

    

When Danny Chew does something, he does it all the way. The cyclist's goal is to ride a million miles over the course of his lifetime.

The 51-year-old Pittsburgh native has won the Race Across America twice, riding 3,000 miles in eight days on three hours of sleep each night. So it’s only natural he’s the guy responsible for what many consider to be the most grueling bike race in Pittsburgh: the Dirty Dozen.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:22 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

The Challenges Of Suburban Homelessness and Education

Homeless student Kevin Lee, Penn Hills graduate and winner of a national scholarship
Michael Lynch 90.5 WESA

Listen to an Essential Pittsburgh conversation hosted by Kevin Gavin, 90.5 WESA Executive Producer for Special News Projects.

Guests include: Elizabeth Kneebone, Fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of Confronting Suburban Poverty, Chuck Keenan, administrator in Allegheny County's Bureau of Homeless Services, Kyoko Henson, a home and school visitor for the Penn Hills School District, Joe Lagana, founder and CEO of the Homeless Children's Education Fund, and homeless student Kevin Lee, winner of a national scholarship, with his mother Tamara Williams

There are nearly 20,000 homeless school age children in Pennsylvania and that’s a small portion of the 1.2 million across the country.

Local and national experts gathered in Pittsburgh on Friday for the fourth annual Homeless Education Network Summit to discuss an issue of rising concern: suburban poverty, homelessness and the challenge of education.

Since 2000, the number of poor people living in the suburbs grew by 64 percent. And today, about 16.4 million poor people are living in suburbs, compared to 13.4 million in the cities.

Allegheny County is no different.

In the Pittsburgh region alone, the suburban poverty rate increased 15.7 percent between 2000 and 2011; while the city saw a 6.3 percent increase.

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Eduation and Technology
4:09 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Tech Conference Aims to Improve Traditional Education, But Connectivity Still an Issue

It’s no question that technology has changed the world over the last few decades, from how we shop to how we share our lives. In the U.S., many public school districts are in the process of making major changes thanks to technology. Leaders in education and technology are hoping schools get it right because a lot is at stake.

In the not-so-distant past it was pretty commonplace to be taught solely out of a text book and worksheets in the classroom – maybe you’d get a video on a sub day. Today, there are many more options thanks to computers, tablets and other smart devices.

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Health
8:03 am
Fri November 15, 2013

'Stars' Film Makes Stars, And Friends, Out of Young Cancer Patients

"The Fault in Our Stars," a movie adaptation of a critically and commercially popular young adult novel, has just finished filming in Pittsburgh and in the Netherlands.

The book and movie center around two teenagers who meet and fall in love at a cancer support group. Many of the extras in the movie are young people with cancer.

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the movie adaptation of the beloved novel. Book author John Green says the story goes against the typical trope popular media brings us about the ailing.

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Achievement Gap
3:37 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Parents, Teachers, Administrators Address Achievement Gap in Pittsburgh

Audience member asks question of the panel at the community forum on the achievement gap
Tammy Terwelp 90.5 WESA

“Where’s the moral outrage over the lack of equity in education,” asked Duquesne University Dean of Education Olga Welch who attended a recent community forum on the achievement gap held by 90.5 WESA.

“Where is it,” replied forum panel member Jeremy Resnick, a founder of Propel Charter Schools, “it’s missing.”

Dozens of parents, teachers and administrators crowded the Community Broadcast Center recently for a public forum as part of WESA’s Life of Learning initiative.

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Students travel
3:30 am
Fri October 25, 2013

Pittsburgh Students Travel the World, Share Experiences with Family and Classmates

Katelyn Ripple is a senior at Sewickley Academy who studied biodiversity, ecology and sustainability in Costa Rica.
Courtesty photo

You’ll pardon Jordan Tyler, Chelsea Geruschadt, Raina Bradley and Katelyn Ripple if their thoughts occasionally drift from social studies, algebra 2 and physics back to what they absorbed this summer in Italy, Argentina, Spain and Costa Rica respectively.

Jordan: "My experience could be described as amazing, fun, life-changing, unforgettable."

Chelsea: "My experience was once in a lifetime."

Raina: "My trip to Spain was extremely memorable."

Katelyn: "I experienced more in a month than I thought I would experience in a lifetime."

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Learning and Play
7:50 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Connecting the Dots Between Play and Learning in the Classroom

At the Children’s School, Carnegie Mellon University student Jean Kwon observes a group of children playing with blocks as part of a child development course.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

It's a typical day at the Children’s School at Carnegie Mellon University, and as director Sharon Carver walks from room to room, children ages 3 to 5 are bursting with activity.

In one space a little boy digs in a sandbox, in another corner children try to match recycling materials to the correct bins, and at another table children are navigating the serious task of sharing and shaping Play-Doh.

After taking stock of the activities Carver asks a reporter, “Which things were play and which things are not play?”

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:41 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

A Community Forum on the Education Achievement Gap

On October 29 as part of our Life of Learning Initiative, 90.5 WESA will host a community forum featuring a panel of experts to address the problem of Pittsburgh’s educational achievement gap.

Kevin Gavin is the Executive Producer for Special News Projects and says much of the forum will be devoted to exploring contributing factors to the gap.

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Learning and Play
7:50 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Can Board Games Give Your Child a Developmental Boost?

Robyn Barber and her 7-year-old son Zachary like to play Parcheesi at their Observatory Hill home.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Ken and Deb Zuroski, along with their three kids, Tristan, 18, Haley, 15, and Ian, 7, aren’t a very serious bunch overall. On a recent afternoon, there was a lot of good-natured teasing going on around the dining room table of their Squirrel Hill home.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:10 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Internet Essentials Hopes to Help Close 'Digital Divide'

Students rely on internet access inside and outside of school for homework, research, and communication
Credit Flickr

Lack of Internet access can puts some kids at an academic disadvantage, says Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane.

Comcast and Pittsburgh Public Schools are teaming together to offer another year of “Internet Essentials,” an initiative that provides low-cost Internet service to low-income families.

“Parents may have iPads, they may have smartphones that have connectivity, they may have desktop computers that are hooked to the Internet, or laptops,” Lane said. “But then we also have children who may have little of that or none at all, so that their access to the Internet is only at school.”

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Learning and Play
3:30 am
Mon October 21, 2013

How Tablets, Smart Phones Have Changed the Learning Landscape for Young Children

Theo, 2, gets a turn on the iPad while his 4-year-old brother Max watches.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Bill Cosby once said “the essence of childhood, of course, is play.”

But play for children today is sometimes very different than it was even five or 10 years ago, as the prevalence of smart phones and tablets is changing the way children play and learn.

Take 4-year-old Max. He’s in preschool and is learning to read and spell, sometimes with the help of apps on his mom and dad’s iPhone or iPad.

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Behavioral Health
7:34 am
Wed October 16, 2013

For Victims of Sexual Violence, the Judicial System Can Often Add to Trauma

For years, Britney Dukes was sexually abused by her stepfather. While she's recently found some resolution in her case, like many others, the trauma of her situation was compounded by the legal system.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

With sexual violence can come a host of mental health issues — depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder to name a few. But dealing with the judicial system can also bring a slew of problems for victims.

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Arts & Culture
3:25 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Giant Rubber Duck Poised to 'Change Pittsburgh for a Bit'

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has been handing out miniature rubber ducks in anticipation of the Rubber Duck Project. The giant duck will make its first American appearance on Pittsburgh's waterways Friday.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A giant, floating rubber duck will temporarily change the Pittsburgh skyline this weekend as the American debut of the Rubber Duck Project kicks off the Pittsburgh Festival of Firsts.

In the meantime, one is reminded of the question asked by Arthur Weasley in the movie "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:" "What exactly is the function of a rubber duck?”

Many would say its function is a child’s bath toy, but to others, it’s art.

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Agriculture
7:39 am
Tue September 24, 2013

How the Ancient Practice of Gleaning is Still Getting Food to the Needy

Jack Greenawalt holds up a soybean plant. Greenawalt Farms is one of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s 35 farm partners.
Credit Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

On a muggy Wednesday morning, before the sun has burned off the morning’s clouds, Lionel Greenawalt drives across his 100-acre Westmoreland County farm to a field of sweet corn.

While Greenawalt and his children pick an average of 400 dozen ears of corn each morning, at the moment, they have more corn than they can sell.

“It was kind of rainy this summer season, and we weren’t able to get into the field to plant every five to seven days,” he said. “So what happens is we have a lot of corn that comes in all together.”

That’s where gleaning comes in.

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Economy & Business
7:37 am
Mon September 23, 2013

When the Pirates Win, So Do Local Businesses

There are no statistics yet on merchandise sales, but ticket sales for the Pirates this year hit 2.2 million, which is a nearly a 40 percent increase over 2009.
Credit Flickr user jwalter522

Walk around town these days and you’re just about as likely to see someone sporting a Pittsburgh Pirates T-shirt as you are someone in Steelers garb.

Much of the Bucos team gear has been purchased this season as the Pirates won more games than they lost for the first time in 21 years and won back the hearts of fans that can’t remember the last time they had a reason to cheer on the home team in September. 

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Health
7:21 am
Fri September 20, 2013

As Obamacare Takes Effect, Getting Health Care to the Amish

On Oct. 1, the health insurance exchanges that are a key part of the Affordable Care Act open. The landmark federal legislation is making health insurance mandatory for Americans — most of them anyway. The Amish will be exempt from buying insurance on the health exchanges.
Credit Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

In Clarion County’s Licking Township there are vibrant green hills, windy narrow roads and traffic signs posted just as much for the trucks and tractors as for the horses and buggies.

It's a small, rural farming community north of Pittsburgh.

When you pull up to Emmanuel Schmidt’s home, you see acres of land, his woodworking shop and carriages. The 49-year-old Amish farmer knows Obamacare is coming, but he doesn’t quite know what that means.

"I’ve wondered, I’ve really wondered what’s going to happen with the health care, I don’t know," he said. 

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History
7:45 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Meet Julia Parsons, Pittsburgh Native and WWII Code Breaker

During World War II, Julia Parsons was a member of an all-women’s German code-breaking team. It would be years before the Pittsburgh native would share the details of her experience with her family.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

Imagine your mom, or your grandmother, maybe even your great-grandmother, with a secret past. Perhaps you know that she’s lived through some major historical events like World War II.

Now imagine finding out she not only lived through it – but was an integral part of secret military operations during the war.

That is part of Pittsburgh native Julia Parsons’ story. She was part of an all-women’s German code-breaking team.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:09 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Intergenerational Tutoring: The Benefits of Learning From Seniors

Oasis Tutor Coordinator John Spehar and Tutor Charlene Briggs
Credit Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

With emphasis on maintaining positive intergenerational relationships and boosting the self-esteem of struggling students, the OASIS Tutoring Program recruits and trains older adults to tutor kids in the Pittsburgh Public and Woodland Hills school districts.

Tutor Coordinator John Spehar and tutor Charlene Briggs say the program is beneficial for students’ academic and emotional health.

“If their self-esteem is higher, they’re more interested to learn and work on activities,” says Spehar.

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