90.5 WESA Features and Special Reports

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Learning and Play
7:36 am
Thu August 22, 2013

Turning the Waiting Game into an Educational Game at Pittsburgh Bus Shelters

Teacher Miguel Sague plays Word Play with a group of preschoolers on the South Side.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

It’s a reality for many parents and caregivers in Pittsburgh — you’re stuck waiting for a bus in the city and your kid starts getting bored and antsy.

A new effort is hoping to turn these times into teachable moments.

Instead of advertisements for law firms or universities, 23 bus shelters around Pittsburgh now have a poster adorned with colorful pictures of things such as ice cream, picnics and kiddie pools. The “Word Play” posters are part of an effort from the Fred Rogers Company to get adults talking to and interacting with kids.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:33 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Phase 4 Learning Centers Serve As Last Chance High Schools

Phase 4 Learning Centers have helped troubled students get a chance to excel in a different environment.
Credit Phase 4 Learning Center

Phase 4 Learning Centers are often referred to as last chance high schools by many, but to Phase 4’s founder, Terrie Suica Reed, it’s also their best chance for many troubled students to find success in their high school careers.

Though many students who come into her program come from broken homes or are even homeless, Reed stands firm in her belief that “with the right support, the right network, they can do anything they want to do.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:42 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Can Community Colleges Save the Economy?

How important are community colleges to an American education?
Credit CCAC North Library

Though they are sometimes mocked and often overlooked in the conversation about post-secondary education, community colleges are playing an important role in the reinvention of the American workforce.

With the costs of public and private universities skyrocketing and a changing economy that demands of a bevy of new skills, community colleges have become the primary option for many students seeking to gain crucial skills at a lower cost.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:53 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Making Promises the City Can Keep

Ninth grade students practice their geometry skills at the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy.
Credit Gates Foundation / flickr

The Pittsburgh Promise has been providing scholarships to Pittsburgh public school students since 2008. They've pledged to promote the development of neighborhoods, city school reform, and give city students access and opportunities to attend a higher education institution.

Five years since its inception, the first batch of Promise recipients are graduating from their respective colleges and universities, and many critics are argue that the program has not been effective. Saleem Ghubril, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Promise maintains that the scholarship program is helping hundreds of students succeed after high school, while Jake Haulk, President of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, asserts that little has been done to improve the quality of the public schools. He says students are not receiving a sufficient education upon high school graduation.

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Music and Learning
6:27 am
Fri July 26, 2013

To Help Teach Subjects, Teachers Learn to Look to Music

Teachers from across the United States have spent the last five weeks in Pittsburgh for the “Voices Across Time” program.

They've been learning how to incorporate music into their lessons, and the goal is to help students not only learn, but also connect with various subjects.

On the final Wednesday of the program, the group of teachers sat listening to a song called “The Blue Juniata.” Its lyrics are featured in the book "Little House on the Prairie." For the past month the teachers have been learning how to use such songs in their classes.

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Pittsburgh Promise
7:10 am
Wed July 24, 2013

Is the Pittsburgh Promise Delivering?

A recent policy brief from conservative think tank Allegheny Institute for Public Policy states that the Pittsburgh Promise is falling well short of its goals, and that its mission should be completely re-focused. But this isn’t the first time the Allegheny Institute has taken on the Pittsburgh Promise.

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Learning and Play
7:09 am
Fri July 19, 2013

At This Camp, Playing Is More Than Just A Game

Ten-year-old Tasaun Harvey shoots a ping pong ball from a cup while playing a game called Crossball.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

Last week, teachers from Allegheny County gathered in Homestead to learn how to integrate games and play into their classrooms. This week those same teachers tested out what they learned on real kids.

Max O’Malley was one of 35 middle school kids at a camp at Carnegie Mellon University. One of their tasks was to create a new game using ping pong balls and plastic cups. Max and his group created a game based on the concept of air hockey.

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Learning and Play
3:30 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Program Explores Ways Play Can Help Learning

Credit Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

A group of teachers are standing in a loosely formulated circle. Some are squatting, some are balancing on one leg, all look like they are about to burst out laughing.

They’re playing a game called Ninja at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit in Homestead. The goal is to attack the other Ninjas in a counter-clockwise way. But they aren’t just playing — they are learning the game and how its applicable to what they do in their classrooms.

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After School
7:12 am
Wed June 26, 2013

Meet the Teen Boys Who Will Help Knit the Andy Warhol Bridge

Diondre Harris, 16, Martay Howard, 14, and Chris Shannon, 14, (left to right) practice knitting on Tuesday afternoon.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

Sixteen-year-old Diondre Harris was clowning around with his friends last Saturday at an end-of-year cookout at the Marshall-Shadeland office of Allegheny Youth Development.

The boys were eating hot dogs, talking about the NBA playoffs and sharing their report cards. AYD held the event to celebrate all that the few dozen teenage boys who take part in the program did over the course of the last school year.

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Pre-school learning
7:37 am
Thu June 20, 2013

Report Says Libraries, Museums Support Early Learning Efforts

In case you had doubts that buildings full of borrow-able books and artwork are a good thing, the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences and The Campaign for Grade-Level Reporting has released a report that says they are. 

Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners was released on Thursday and discusses ways libraries and museums are supporting children.

Study author Mimi Howard said the goal of this paper was to focus on the development of early literacy skills by using these public resources.

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Linking Students
7:25 am
Thu June 20, 2013

Video Conference Unites Students on Three Continents

High school students from the Pittsburgh area participating in the World Affairs Council Summer Summit watch a video link as students in South Africa describe a typical school day.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Discrimination, school funding and teen pregnancy grabbed the attention of high school students from around the world who gathered for a World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh-sponsored video conference Wednesday.

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Summer Slide
3:30 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Discussion: How Do Teachers Avert 'Summer Slide' by Students?

Marcie Crow, fifth grade teacher at Mosside Middle School in the Gateway School District, participates in a discussion at 90.5 WESA as part of the Life of Learning initiative.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

The school year has ended or will soon end for students in the Pittsburgh area. That means the start of summer vacation. 

Research shows that during the summer, students lose some of what they learned just weeks and months earlier. Experts say motivating kids to continue learning through fun and engaging activities, programs and camps can help bridge the end of one school year to the beginning of the next and ease or eliminate the summer setback.

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Summer Learning
3:30 am
Thu June 13, 2013

In the Pittsburgh Region, Summer Learning Opportunities Abound

Grow Pittsburgh spearheads the Urban Farmers in Training program, where students from the Mon Valley help operate a 1.5 acre farm.
Courtesy Grow Pittsburgh

For many, summer as a kid conjures images of long rides in the back of the family sedan, co-ed sports at the local YMCA camp or hours spent on the couch watching TV. These kind of summer experiences still exist, but an array of programs around Pittsburgh are opening the eyes and minds of youth of all ages.

Some of those students will be attending Summer Dreamers Academy. The camp, put on by Pittsburgh Public Schools, packs its itinerary with academics and activities. Summer Dreamers has replaced summer school.

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Summer Learning
3:30 am
Wed June 12, 2013

Barriers May Keep Kids from Summer Enrichment Programs

Ellis School student Chelsea Canedy (left) is starting a free robotics camp for low-income girls. Teacher Lisa Abel-Palmieri is an adviser for the camp.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

For so many kids, the beginning of summer holds promise of weeks and weeks of doing absolutely nothing, or of sitting around and watching TV or playing video games all day.

Many kids will have such plans thwarted by parents who will send them to one or several summer programs. That’s probably not a bad thing — there is a growing body of research that suggests letting kids do nothing but watch TV and play video games all summer could set back their academic growth.

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Summer Slide
3:30 am
Tue June 11, 2013

Separating Myth From Fact in 'Summer Brain Drain'

Research shows many middle- and higher-income students actually improve their reading skills during the summer.
Josh Raulerson 90.5 WESA

If you consume any amount of media at all, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the idea that kids tend to lose ground academically during the summer months.

But what is the so-called “summer brain drain?” Is it real, or a media invention? And just how concerned should you be?

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Summer Learning
3:30 am
Mon June 10, 2013

Why Do Schools Take a Summer Vacation?

Students are photographed at Chartiers Elementary School, June 21, 1916. In 1895 Pennsylvania became one of the first states to mandate school attendance, and a summer break was institutionalized.
Courtesy Detre Library & Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center

When you ask most Americans why children get a break from school in the summer you usually get one of two answers. 

Warren Sullivan of Hermitage provided the most popular answer while visiting Pittsburgh last month: “I think it was agriculture wasn’t it? I mean, it’s probably the season … a few generations ago anyway.”

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STEM Education
3:30 am
Fri June 7, 2013

$500K in Grants to Pittsburgh Area Schools to Engage Students in STEAM

Twenty-five school districts in southwestern Pennsylvania are receiving grants of $20,000 apiece to create digital learning spaces for students of all ages. 

“My heart was filled with joy,” said Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, reacting to the 80 proposals for grants to create innovative spaces to engage students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).

The AIU’s Center for Creativity is distributing the grants, which are funded by the Benedum and Grable Foundations.

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advanced placement
6:30 am
Wed June 5, 2013

Grant Aims to Expand Access to Advanced Placement Classes in Two Pittsburgh High Schools

Pittsburgh Brashear Co-Principal Kimberly Safron, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane and NMSI's Dale Fleury accept a grant from the Heinz Endowments.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A new-to-Pennsylvania program is hoping to increase enrollment in advanced placement classes in two Pittsburgh high schools, with the ultimate goal to ensure more kids, especially kids of color, are prepared for higher education – whatever form that may take.

More than 100 students at Pittsburgh Brashear High School are currently enrolled in advanced placement, or AP, classes. Through a partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative, or NMSI, and a grant from the Heinz Endowments, work will get underway to increase that number.

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Head Start
6:36 am
Fri May 17, 2013

With Sequester Cuts, Head Start Programs Dealt Abrupt Budget Blow

Until recently, Melinda Lassiter's 5-year-old daughter Antoinetta had been enrolled in a Head Start program in Overbrook. But thanks to automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts, the program had to end its school year early. That's left Antoinetta and many of her young peers without a daytime activity.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

On a recent Thursday morning, Antoinetta Lassiter is playing with roller skates she has just gotten for her fifth birthday. She’s in her Beechview home with her mother and grandmother, asking an endless stream of questions.

Her mother Melinda Lassiter said it's nice to have her home, but if things had gone as planned, her daughter would still be enrolled in her Head Start program.

"I went to pick her up from school, and the teacher told us the school was closing on the 19th of April … and that was kind of shocking actually," she said. 

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Government & Politics
6:16 am
Wed May 15, 2013

The Makings of Pennsylvania's Pension Funding Crisis

In recent years, the Public School Employees Retirement System took a sled ride down a pretty steep hill. The PSERS went from 123 percent funded in 2000 to an 81 percent funding level six years later. Its little sister, the State Employees Retirement System, went along for the ride. The Corbett administration has introduced legislation to reform the pension systems, but unions argue the governor's plan violates the state constitution.
Credit 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Corbett and his allies in the state Legislature have introduced controversial legislation to reform the pension systems for state employees and public school teachers.

The sponsors say the bills make necessary cuts to reduce the state’s massive liability problem. Unions argue that the measures are illegal because they cut current workers’ future benefits.

To get a handle on how Pennsylvania’s two public pensions ended up in their current funding crisis, one has to look more than a decade into the past.

A Big Commitment

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Community
6:26 am
Tue May 14, 2013

Homewood Cemetery Trees Get a Second Chance at Life

Homewood Cemetery arborist Ashley Allen stands alongside some newly-chopped down trees.
Deanna Garcia 90.5 WESA

On a recent Saturday morning, artists from around the region gathered at Homewood Cemetery to turn chopped-down trees into mushrooms.

State College artist Ed Crow and his wife Janise sculpted a small morel mushroom and transformed a large three-pronged piece of wood into three morel mushrooms. This was one of several public events surrounding the so-called reGenerations project.

“ReGenerations is really the cemetery engaging with the arts community here in Pittsburgh to make arts and crafts from the trees we’re salvaging,” said project director Kenn Thomas. 

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Health
9:49 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Southwest PA Kennel a 'Blessing' for Those in Crisis

Jamie Cochran, Vocational Supervisor at Caritas House, pictured with one of the cats at the facility.
Credit Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

In rural Lawrence County, part way between Slippery Rock and New Castle, there's a repurposed farm building sitting on 42 acres of land.

Eleven people call it home, and on site there are mental health workers, a director and other staff.

There's also close to a dozen dogs and cats.

That's because the facility, known as the Caritas House, is not just an enhanced personal care home for those with serious mental illness. It's also a crisis center for pets.

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Economy & Business
3:30 am
Fri April 12, 2013

Pittsburgh Riverhounds Find Permanent Home with New Stadium

Pittsburgh Riverhounds team member Andrew Mashall practices Thursday morning at Highmark Stadium. The team will play its home opener on Saturday against the Harrisburg City Islanders.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

When the Pittsburgh Riverhounds play their home opener on Saturday against the Harrisburg City Islanders, the team will have something they’ve never been able to claim — their own stadium.

Since their first game in 1999, the soccer team has called four different fields their home but has not been the primary tenant until now.

This year the Riverhounds are playing at Highmark Stadium next to Station Square. The field, built for the team, has 3,500 seats and a standing-room-only capacity of about 4,200 people.

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Veterans Affairs
6:45 am
Thu April 4, 2013

At a House Inside the VA, Injured Vets Prepare to Return Home

Ron Dambrosia, 68, of East McKeesport, was in the Army for 11 years. Dambrosia developed a subdural hematoma, or a brain lesion, a few months ago and underwent surgery twice. While at MyHome, he worked with therapists to practice daily living tasks like making coffee.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

There is a house inside a building at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affair’s Aspinwall campus.

The house has everything one would expect – a doorbell, cable, flatware, a bedroom. There’s even a garage (but with half of a car).

The 1,100 square foot house, called MyHome, is a part of the VA’s Community Living Center, and it's designed to help patients recovering from physical or mental injuries transition safely back to their homes.

But that transition takes practice, according to VA Pittsburgh Rehab Site Supervisor Jason Fay.

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Health
6:24 am
Thu March 28, 2013

In Pittsburgh, an Effort to Bring Down the Black Community's Infant Mortality Rate

Dorretta Lemon, a registered nurse, visits at-risk, pregnant first-time mothers every month at their homes. She maintains her relationship with the mother and her infant until the child is 2 years old.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

When Sarah Murphy found out she was pregnant, she was initially shocked.

"I didn’t think I would have kids, and then I ended up having him when I was 39," she said. 

Her advanced age led to a medically complicated pregnancy. Her income wasn’t as high as she thought it should be to cover the associated costs.

And as the child of a black woman living in Allegheny County, Murphy’s baby was three times more likely than a white woman’s child to die before reaching his first birthday.

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Community
3:54 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

Downtown Pittsburgh Shifting to Full-Fledged Neighborhood

Downtown Pittsburgh is becoming more of a neighborhood, as more people move there to live, not just work.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA News

It’s often said Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods. There are the bustling neighborhoods of Oakland and Squirrel Hill, the struggling neighborhood of Homewood, and the transitioning neighborhoods in between. Then there’s a shadow neighborhood. Some people call it the Golden Triangle, some call it the business district, and others call it home.

“It’s not just a thoroughfare for the buses, or somewhere where you go to your office from 9 to five, but I actually live here and love it a lot,” said Gina Mucciolo.

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Water Main Breaks
10:47 am
Thu February 21, 2013

Anatomy of a Water Main Break

A water main break rages under the South Millvale Bridge in Bloomfield in January.
Credit Photo courtesy of PWSA

You know it's winter in Pittsburgh when your car is getting beat up by pot-holes, the streets are chalky with salt, and water main breaks proliferate. But what exactly is going on below the pavement?

Clogged pipes, flooded basements and sheets of ice on roadways are some of the visible signs of water main breaks. But many leaks and breaks go undetected - including sewer line breaks which filter through the soil and along side the pipes for months or years.

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