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FEB. 24-MARCH 3, 2021 VOLUME 30 + ISSUE 8 Editor-In-Chief LISA CUNNINGHAM Director of Advertising JASMINE HUGHES Director of Operations KEVIN SHEPHERD News Editor RYAN DETO Senior Writer AMANDA WALTZ Staff Writers DANI JANAE, HANNAH LYNN, KIMBERLY ROONEY 냖㵸蔻 Photographer/Videographer JARED WICKERHAM Art Director ABBIE ADAMS Graphic Designers JOSIE NORTON, JEFF SCHRECKENGOST Sales Representatives ZACK DURKIN, OWEN GABBEY, NICKI MULVIHILL Circulation Manager JEFF ENGBARTH Featured Contributors REGE BEHE, MIKE CANTON, LYNN CULLEN, TERENEH IDIA, CHARLES ROSENBLUM Interns COLLEEN HAMMOND, KAYCEE ORWIG National Advertising Representative VMG ADVERTISING 1.888.278.9866 OR 1.212.475.2529 Publisher EAGLE MEDIA CORP.
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COVER ARTWORK: ABBIE ADAMS SEE THE STORY ON PAGE 4
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PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
CP COLLAGE: ABBIE ADAMS
THE BIG STORY
PERCEPTION PROBLEM Parents are worried public strife at Pittsburgh Public Schools is undermining goals to grow the city BY RYAN DETO // RYANDETO@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
AWRENCEVILLE IS ARGUABLY the hottest neighborhood in Pittsburgh, with hip restaurants, buzzing nightlife, and new apartment complexes and condos. But the neighborhood isn’t without problems — gentriﬁcation, high housing costs, few grocers — and those aren’t the only issues affecting the area. For some Lawrenceville residents, particularly young families, there is “The Lawrenceville Problem.” Andrea Weinstein and her husband live in Central Lawrenceville with their 3-yearold daughter. Weinstein is from Chicago and her husband is from Albuquerque. The couple moved to Pittsburgh from the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009 to study at the University of Pittsburgh and have since decided to set down roots in the Steel City, purchasing a house in the popular East End neighborhood. Weinstein recognizes the role of families like hers in
CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
Andrea Weinstein, Tim Verstynen, and their daughter Skylar Weinstein pose for a portrait outside of Woolslair Elementary School in Lawrenceville
gentrifying neighborhoods, but also wants to stay and become an integral part of Lawrenceville, instead of just leaving the city to put her daughter in a suburban public school. “People come here, they have a kid and then within a year, they move,” she says. “Some of us call it ‘The Lawrenceville Problem.’” This phenomenon isn’t unique to Lawrenceville; it’s something that has been affecting American cities and urban school districts for decades. “White ﬂight” of the 1960s saw mostly white families decamp cities to establish well-to-do suburbs, helped along by discriminatory housing practices in their favor. This led to a cascading effect of disinvestment and population loss in urban America. That trend has begun to turnaround in many urban areas, with some cities, including Pittsburgh, now attracting
new residents and investment. But that hasn’t yet translated to the growth of city school districts, including Pittsburgh Public Schools. Cities like Pittsburgh are also failing to retain many of their young families and people of color, who are either intentionally leaving or being displaced to the suburbs. On Feb. 1, Pittsburgh Public Schools unveiled a proposal to close and consolidate several school buildings in an effort to close a $39.4 million budget deﬁcit. After instantaneous blowback, the school board shelved that plan, but to many PPS parents who spoke to Pittsburgh City Paper, the proposal itself made them uneasy and pessimistic about the school district’s future. Parents are now calling for better communication from PPS, and are asking for a better plan to address current budget problems and to lay out a potentially brighter future for the urban school
district. Besieged by headlines portraying dysfunction within the school district and arguments with city ofﬁcials, PPS says failure to pass a property tax increase put the administration in a tough spot ﬁnancially, and the pandemic has made everything more difﬁcult. Weinstein and other parents are all proponents and cheerleaders for urban public schools like PPS, but also recognize that, for the city and the entire region to succeed, the district must thrive and move beyond the perception that it is always failing and has a bleak future. They say keeping young families and people of color within the city is integral to ensuring that Pittsburgh succeeds. “I do think PPS has more of a negative view than is warranted, but they need to recognize that, and that this [school closing proposal] is going to conﬁrm some of that bias,” says Weinstein. “They need a strategic plan to showcase
growth potential.” Weinstein’s daughter is too young to currently be enrolled in PPS, but their plan was always to send her to public school in the city. Arsenal PreK-5 in Lawrenceville is her assigned school, but Wesintein says they are also looking at the Woolslair STEAM magnet program. Arsenal PreK-5 was not on the list of proposed school closures, but Arsenal Middle School was, as was Woolslair. Having amenities, including public schools, that are walkable from their house in Lawrenceville, was a big reason the Weinsteins moved to the neighborhood. Both Weinstein and her husband are products of public school, and believe in them. But Weinstein says the idea of losing their school buildings has them questioning if PPS is right for them. “That is a big core shattering thing. I know the way to help public schools is to enroll in them and attend them. But CONTINUES ON PG. 6
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
PERCEPTION PROBLEM, CONTINUED FROM PG. 5
CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
Amber Thompson, member of Black Women For A Better Education, poses for a portrait in front of Arsenal Elementary School in Lawrenceville
the potential closings really makes me nervous,” says Weinstein. “We have no reason to leave, we know the best way to help public schools is to join and advocate from the inside. But it is harder to think about that now with this confusion and uncertainty.” Potentially losing young families would only exacerbate Lawrenceville’s problems. The neighborhood has been quickly losing school-age children over the years. According to census estimates, Lawrenceville has lost 588 people under 18 years old between 2009 and 2018, a decrease of 38%. That’s faster than the city of Pittsburgh as a whole, which has decreased its schoolage population by 8.4% over the same time period. However, the neighborhood is rapidly growing the population of residents that could start young families. Between 2009 and 2018, Lawrenceville has added 874 residents between 25-44
years old, which is more than double the city’s overall growth rate of 25-44 year olds. Amber Thompson lives in Lawrenceville and has a daughter attending the Linden K-5 magnet school. She is part of a collective of Black women, parents, educators, former educators, and other stakeholders called Black Women for Better Education. She is supportive of the Community Schools program, which was launched in 2017 as a partnership between PPS schools and community resources to “offer programs which focus on academics, enrichment, health and social supports, youth and community development, and family engagement,” according to the PPS website. It was expanded to eight schools in 2019, but Thompson says the progress of the Community Schools program is “non-existent” and that the program is something PPS should be doing better, as
it would help positively distinguish itself from other school districts in the region. “The district does not do partnerships well,” says Thompson. “Once you look into it, those partnerships are just on paper.” PPS spokesperson Ebony Pugh says the PPS board is expected to authorize a grant proposal to the federal government that, if approved, would support PPS’s Community Schools programs at Langley K-8 and Milliones 6-12. Pugh says the successful implementation of the Community Schools program is dependent on grant money or acquiring other funding. The PPS board is currently in a battle with the city over other potential revenue and has a nearly $40 million budget deﬁcit. The board recently called for the city of Pittsburgh “to cease the collection of $20 million per year of Earned Income tax revenue levied by the School District but taken by the City when it was ﬁnancially distressed.” Meanwhile,
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has continued to say that the city is entitled to that tax diversion, and has called for PPS to enter into state ﬁnancial oversight. The back-and-forth doesn’t appear to be going away, as advocacy groups have also joined the call for the city to cease the tax diversion away from PPS. Thompson supports the city giving the tax diversion back to PPS, but also wants the school district to address internal budgetary concerns, saying the tax diversion can’t be the sole excuse for PPS’s ﬁnancial problems. She adds that there is a myriad of issues the school district and city could be tackling together — like organizational issues within the district, running the community schools program collaboratively, etc. — and that “there is enough blame to go around.” “My problem with the school closures is there is no strategy, there is no communication, then the school district CONTINUES ON PG. 8
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PERCEPTION PROBLEM, CONTINUED FROM PG. 6
puts the blame on the buildings,” says Thompson, referencing the district’s statement that some older buildings, like Woolslair and Montessori in Friendship are too costly for PPS to upkeep. Pugh says PPS understands the confusion many families are now feeling. PPS Superintendent Anthony Hamlet was supportive of a property tax millage increase that would help to close PPS’s budget deﬁcit, and Pugh says that when the board voted against that increase, the district moved out of ﬁnancial compliance, “thus expediting the need to reduce our expenditures by leveraging one-time cost savings and through reductions in our workforce and [the PPS] footprint.” To comply, PPS presented several recommendations to reduce the PPS workforce, according to Pugh. She adds that the district will increase awareness of its ﬁscal challenges by stating a series of public conversations in March, beginning with the next Parent Advisory Committee meeting. “There was zero intent to blindside the community,” says Pugh. “It is important to understand that the District and its leadership would not close schools without community input and direction.” She also adds that the school district’s main focus has been trying to ﬁgure out how best to reopen in-person learning, since PPS has been remote teaching virtually for the entirety of the pandemic. Pugh says this has taken up considerable bandwidth for administrators. A request for comment to the PPS board spokesperson was not returned. All four parents CP spoke to said they were not opposed to a millage increase, as long as it was transparent and communicated with them. Cristina Ruggiero of Squirrel Hill is also frustrated with the level of communication. Her daughter attends Colfax K-8. She, like Weinstein, chose to live in
CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
Damages to the sign at Woolslair Elementary School
her neighborhood so she could walk to school and be a part of the community. She is also supportive of the community schools program and is worried the school district is sending the wrong message when proposing school closures and showcasing ﬁnancial distress. She says the walkability of public schools is something many suburban school districts can’t offer. Even so, Ruggiero says it’s already a struggle to convince families to stay in the city, and the school district’s issues aren’t making it easier.
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“I have had so many conversations urging people to stay,” says Ruggiero. “In order to grow the city, and county, you need a good functioning public school district. Other entities need to understand how important this is and provide support.” Pugh says PPS has made modest investments to increase the district’s marketing, including the redesign of its website, as well as advertisements on television, radio, online, and print to promote key enrollment dates and the Imagine PPS process, the district’s new
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strategic plan. “We continue to look for new and innovative ways to tell the district’s story,” says Pugh. Thompson is also frustrated with any lack of growth strategy. She adds that any strategy must start with attracting and retaining Black families and families of color in the district. PPS is currently made up of 53% Black students, despite being in a city that is 67% white overall. Thompson says failures to invest in Black families will contribute to them leaving the school district entirely, and that can hurt Pittsburgh and the region’s future. “None of these neighborhoods are sustainable without families,” says Thompson. “Pittsburgh will not be moving into the future if it remains homogeneous.” Sara Novelly lives in the Observatory Hill area of the North Side, and says one thing that makes PPS more attractive than other school districts is its diversity. She is white and a graduate of the former Schenley High in Oakland and says her experience with a diverse student body was a “wonderful experience and it shaped me.” “I wanted to have that for my son,” says Novelly, whose son attends Allegheny K-5 in the North Side. “It was really important to me.” Novelly says PPS teachers have been working really hard and it’s clear the staff really cares a lot about the students. She says PPS gets a bad rap in the region, but adds that all the district’s publicized strife is only going to perpetuate its negative reputation. “We are supposedly this growing thriving city, but then if you look closer at our school district, that does not make it look any better,” says Novelly. “You want it to be on an upward trajectory. Young professionals are moving in, and then they move out because they are scared of the school district. I have seen it anecdotally.”
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PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
LEARNING THE HARD WAY BY AMANDA WALTZ // AWALTZ@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
CP PHOTOS: JARED WICKERHAM
Cassius Morrissey, 10, plays on his laptop in the gym at the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania in Lawrenceville. Chance Pendley, Senior Youth Coordinator, helps Dante Lane, 8, inside the robotics room.
Jordin Lewandowski, 9, gets ready to play in the gymnasium with his classmates.
NTERNET ACCESS FOR low-income
families in Pittsburgh has proven insufﬁcient for many public school students learning remotely during the pandemic. Families have struggled with slow connections, leading to low participation rates among low-income students, which only compounds the many other issues making their education more difﬁcult. And Kaitlyn Brennan, an education policy consultant, points out that internet access is just one of several issues students and families in Pittsburgh face as schools remain closed by the pandemic. “I would say, yes, connectivity is an issue,” says Brennan, adding that even with a more expensive, higher-speed internet package, access can be slow in homes where multiple kids and parents are using the WiFi, not to mention issues of having imperfect devices. “Her charger is broken, so she has to sit and hold her laptop charger in with one hand and try to navigate school with the other hand.” Brennan serves as a facilitator for the Pittsburgh Learning Collaborative, a coalition of around 80 local organizations who banded together in response to the mass school closings that started last spring in response to safety measures related to the rapid spread of coronavirus. Organized by the education nonproﬁt A+ Schools, the PLC not only wants to ensure students across the region are able to learn, but that they receive the numerous other resources usually provided by schools, including meals, social interaction, and adult supervision, as well as a
crucial safe space. PLC partners like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh are working to provide hubs for learning, access to faster internet and devices, and caregiving to busy parents who aren’t able to work remotely. But PLC worries it might not be enough. Brennan says problems with internet access has been one of the consistent complaints they receive on the PLC Family Hotline, a number parents and caregivers can call for support and advice. To address this, Brennan says the PLC quickly mobilized ways for students to access online instruction. One PLC partner, the Carnegie Library, procured T-Mobile wireless hotspots with a round of federal funding and began assigning them to families back in October. Dan Hensley, the Carnegie Library’s adult programming coordinator, says the library now has 450 households using the hotspots. To make them more accessible, Hensley says the hotspots were made available to any household in Allegheny County with a student, and could be borrowed with or without a library card. Families can also use them throughout the school year without worrying about paying late ﬁnes. “We just want people to return them when they can,” says Hensley. In addition to hotspots, he says the library system also offers digital skills services to families who need help setting up devices assigned by schools, and CONTINUES ON PG. 12
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CP PHOTOS: JARED WICKERHAM
June Radder, 6, dances with her virtual class via her iPad at the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania in Lawrenceville.
extended the WiFi reach at branches so that people could catch a free signal outside of their buildings if necessary. Even with internet access, however, expecting students, especially very young ones, to navigate an online curriculum can be daunting, especially for parents expected to supervise learning in addition to other responsibilities. To help with this, PLC partners like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania created hubs that act as de facto classroom spaces outside the home, offering essential support to students and alleviating some stress for parents and caregivers who still have to work. Boys & Girls Clubs president and CEO, Lisa Abel-Palmieri, says the organization now operates four learning hubs — three in Millvale, Carnegie, and Lawrenceville for K-8, and one in Somerset County for teens. Overall, she says Boys & Girls Clubs served 11,950 kids in 2020 through all its services, including summer camps, afterschool programs, and clubs. She adds that Boys & Girls Clubs worked with the Duquesne City School District and Allegheny Intermediate
Unit to provide literacy classes and enrichment to help kids with learning loss, and collaborated on programming with Homewood Children’s Village and the Larimer Consensus Group. “We know that there are more people who need our services than ever,” she says, adding that Boys & Girls Clubs is actively looking for partners to potentially open pop-up learning programs in the summer. Their offerings go beyond learning, however. When the pandemic hit last March, Abel-Palmieri says Boys & Girls Clubs partnered with retail company Lowe’s and others to create and deliver buckets of cleaning supplies and care products to around 750 families in need. They also organize meal drives for kids facing food insecurity without school breakfast and lunch programs. Brennan says that losing the inperson school environment especially impacts the “high population of students who are experiencing homelessness or unstable housing.” Carlos T. Carter and Brian Knight represent another PLC partner, the Homeless Children’s Education
Fund, and agree that barriers to education are particularly pronounced for those who bounce from one form of shelter to another, especially during the pandemic, when families face job loss and the threat of eviction. “We do know a lot of our young people struggle with access,” says Carter, adding that keeping track of students becomes more difﬁcult when families are constantly moving and cannot afford cell phones and other devices needed to communicate. Knight says they have “deﬁnitely seen some concerning attendance trends,” with data showing a number of their students missing 20-40 days of class in one semester. Even with efforts to provide kids with resources, Carter believes the “dropout rate will increase” as a result of schools remaining closed. More worrisome, Carter says, is that, without the beneﬁt of a classroom, kids in abusive home situations have no means of escape or anyone watching out for them, as teachers and school administrators often identify when students are in trouble.
With all of these issues in play, Brennan says PLC wants more transparency in how and when schools open. She has trouble understanding why PPS, which is the second-largest school system in the state, has not reopened for any in-person classes when others in the area have moved to a fully in-person or hybrid model. “Why is Pittsburgh Public Schools different?” says Brennan. She claims that the city’s privately run Catholic schools, which serve 14,000 students, have only seen 132 positive cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic back in March. “They’ve never closed down for a substantial amount of time and only one of those cases can be traced back to a classroom.” Recently, the PPS school board voted to delay in-person learning into April, and future discussions could keep them closed even longer due to what they cite as buildings and systems that are ill-equipped to avoid an outbreak. PPS Superintendent Anthony Hamlet has insisted the district is ready for in-person school whenever the board decides to bring back students. According
to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the PPS school board, an independently elected body, cited “lack of clarity about preparedness to return amid the pandemic, transportation woes, and a strong push back from the teachers union that led to fears of staff shortages” as reasons they voted to delay reopening the schools for in-person classes. Additionally, polling indicates that parents are largely happy with the pace of school reopening. According to a February national poll from Quinnipiac, 47% of Americans say the reopening of schools in their community is happening at about the right pace, while 27% want schools open sooner, and 18% say schools are opening too quickly. Currently, teachers and other staff are not part of the ﬁrst phase of vaccinations, though education groups in Pennsylvania have called on Gov. Tom Wolf to prioritize them if schools are to reopen. Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers president Nina Esposito-Visgitis told the Post-Gazette that vaccination concerns weren’t the sole reason the teachers’ union is hesitant about returning to in-person instruction, citing the lack of communication with the school board about a detailed plan as
Students make their way to the gymnasium from the classroom.
another factor. In the end, when schools do eventually reopen, Abel-Palmieri believes school leaders, educational organizations, and community groups should use the
time given to them by the pandemic to create a better, more equitable system for students. “Instead of reopening in the same old way we’ve always done it, which we know
is broken, what might we do to move the needle to address these disparities we’ve seen in the past?” says Abel-Palmieri. She also foresees that, once students are back in school, they will lose the valuable programs they had access to during the pandemic, which could be instrumental in helping them catch up. While Boys & Girls Clubs now has emergency funding to offer their learning hubs for free, Abel-Palmieri says that will go away when school buildings are reopened. As a result, she says any reopening plan should include a smooth transition where current support structures for students are still in place, as it may take awhile for families to bounce back from hardships caused by the pandemic. Regardless of how and when schools reopen, PLC promises to continue its mission of demanding that PPS and other districts remain open about how they move forward. Until then, Carter says families should also feel free to reach out to the coalition for support. “A lot of families don’t even want help or act like they don’t need it,” he says. “These parents are struggling. Many are single and already in poverty. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.”
Follow senior writer Amanda Waltz on Twitter @AWaltzCP
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
PHOTO: MEG ST-ESPRIT
Meg St-Esprit sharing the table at home with her four children
STAYING MOTIVATED Six ways to stay afloat with virtual learning BY KIMBERLY ROONEY냖㵸蔻 // KIMROONEY@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
IRTUAL LEARNING HAS PRESENTED many students with problems from the start. Inequities in internet connectivity,
technology access, and language ﬂuency have continued to be a problem, especially for families in low-income or nonEnglish speaking communities. And as the pandemic drags on, a new level of burnout has been added for students of all ages who have spent months being educated through a screen without their usual in-person peer support. But within these challenging systems, students and parents of students can still take actions to make their workloads more manageable, stay motivated, and care for their mental well-being. Here are six ways to start.
1. Set a routine that works for you It may help to stick to the same routines you had while you were doing in-person school, but the reality is that the pandemic has lasted a year, and different routines work for different people. The most important part is ﬁnding what works for you rather than trying to ﬁt into a preconceived notion of what school is “supposed” to look like right now. Find a time and place where you can work, and if you live with others, communicate with them to ﬁgure out who needs Wi-Fi bandwidth and relative quiet
at what times. It might be hard without the physical structure of a classroom to put you in a learning mindset, but carving out a physical and mental space for classes can help you stay focused, so long as you stick with it. “Self discipline, I think that’s one of the biggest things, is you have to be determined, you have to put in the work that says, well, just because there’s no ‘ofﬁcial deadline’ anymore … it doesn’t mean you should slack off with doing your work, doing your research, whatever it is that your responsibilities are as a student,” Pitt graduate student Alexander Liu says.
2. Participate in class It might be difﬁcult to participate in asynchronous, pre-recorded classes, but ﬁnding ways to engage can help ground you in the classes you’re taking and, hopefully, help you retain more of the information. For those participating in live classes, one of the easiest ways to participate is to turn your camera on. Liu says it can be a nod of respect to your instructor, saying, “Hey, I’m here, I’m present. And I’m going to listen to what you’re saying.” Keeping your camera on also helps create accountability for yourself to stay CONTINUES ON PG. 16
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PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
STAYING MOTIVATED, CONTINUED FROM PG. 14
PHOTO: CHELSEA CIMBALA
Chelsea Cimbala balances her focus between virtual classes and her 30-hour-per-week job.
3. Keep an agenda off your phone or other distracting websites. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing the inside of your home with your teacher and classmates, virtual backgrounds offer an alternative while still helping solidify the classroom environment. But, according to researchers, it’s also important for teachers not to pressure students to keep their cameras on if they don’t feel comfortable. If you can’t keep your camera on while completing schoolwork, whether it’s because you have to take care of siblings or your own children, you don’t have access to a computer with a camera, or your internet connection lacks the bandwidth required for video streaming, there are other ways to participate in class. Experiment with taking notes while watching the lesson, write down thoughts after the class, or reach out to your teacher about the class and ﬁnd what works best for you.
Living with the stress of a pandemic, even when you haven’t gotten sick, deeply affects one’s ability to remember things. Keeping an agenda in whatever medium helps the most is vital to staying on top of assignments. Using a physical planner, making a color-coded Trello board, setting reminders on your phone, leaving yourself sticky notes around your desk or on your fridge — whatever works. Make sure to take into account what’s most important, and what will take the most time and energy, and double or triple up for important assignments or events if it helps. “I usually do them by the week. It actually kind of works out that most of my classes have stuff due just on Sundays,” Duquesne senior Chelsea Cimbala says. “So I can tell myself, ‘OK, I have to get this done this week, because it’s all due on Sunday’ … As long as you’re willing to work through it throughout the week, it works out.” CONTINUES ON PG. 18
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
STAYING MOTIVATED, CONTINUED FROM PG. 16
you-can rates. “It’s kind of like hunting for the things that will work and that you can afford,” says Meg St-Esprit, a freelance journalist with three children in homeschooling and a toddler. “We’ve done a lot of art ones on YouTube, and found a lot of really good science things like experiments to do. We’ve done a lot of slime. So deﬁnitely, we’re being creative with how we ﬁt stuff in.”
4. Stay in touch with friends While it’s good to check in with your parents and teachers to let them know how you’re doing, your friends are the ones who are actually in the same situation as you. Whether it’s to seek advice, distract yourself from virtual learning, or simply commiserate, talking to friends can be a huge help. Friends can also remind you of assignments or deadlines for classes if you missed a notiﬁcation from your teacher, or to conﬁrm what you heard the teacher assign. “I think just having friends that are in the same class makes it a lot easier because I think often … professors forget if they said something in class or not,” Cimbala says. “So sometimes it’s nice to have friends in the class to be able to text and be like, ‘Hey, did you do that quiz?’ And you’re like, ‘What quiz?’”
5. Use online resources There have been online resources such as Crash Course (thecrashcourse.com) and Khan Academy (khanacademy. org) long before the pandemic, but many more resources are adapting to be available online. There are courses
6. Ask for help
PHOTO: MEG ST-ESPRIT
Meg St-Esprit’s children having fun with a science experiment using dry ice during homeschool
and supplementary material available through platforms like Outschool (outschool.com) and IXL (ixl.com) for grades K-12, and free materials on
YouTube. Local organizations like churches and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (pittsburghkids.org) are also offering courses for free or pay-what-
Follow staff writer Kimberly Rooney 냖㵸蔻on Twitter @kimlypso
Some classes simply don’t translate well to virtual learning. Watching a teacher perform an experiment or use equipment doesn’t allow you to build the same practical knowledge as doing it yourself. Other times, extenuating circumstances in your life make it more difﬁcult to keep up with classes. In either case, reach out to the teacher, department, or school. “Communicate what’s not working for you. We deﬁnitely were given a lot of ﬂexibility by our principal and our superintendent and the teachers,” St-Esprit says. “They’re probably willing to be more ﬂexible than most people might realize.”
MOTION SICKNESS BY HANNAH LYNN HLYNN@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
OLLEGE STUDENTS CAN be espe-
cially vulnerable to mental health challenges for dozens of reasons, including living away from home, making new friends, ﬁguring out how to be an adult, and coming to terms with harsh realizations about the world. For many college students, the arrival of the pandemic in 2020 thrust them unexpectedly into an even more confusing realm. Now, a new study from Carnegie Mellon University, conducted in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh and the University of San Diego, found that the pandemic has had a signiﬁcant impact on the mental health of college students. The study — titled “Lifestyle and mental health disruptions during COVID-19” — was published in the March 2021 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It began in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, and was initially meant to ﬁnd the correlation between physical activity and wellness. Once the pandemic hit, the study shifted to focus on how rapidly college students’ mental health was declining, and their increased rates of depression, along with anxiety and other mental health issues. Silvia Saccardo is an assistant professor in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at CMU and a senior author on the research paper. She says rates of depression typically increase slightly toward the end of a semester, but not enough to be statistically important. Once COVID-19 hit, however, there were “big increases” in depression toward the end of the semester. She also noted that students who participated in the study in 2019 showed average levels of stress and physical activity, while in March and April of 2020, the health of these metrics “declined dramatically.” In order to conduct the study, the researchers gave selected groups of students FitBits to track their physical activity, as well as periodic surveys about their mood and lifestyle. Participants who started the study in 2020 began in February, just before the pandemic hit the U.S., and kept participating through
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the rest of the semester as classes became virtual and many students returned home. The timeline of the research allowed the team to compare both how one group’s health and wellness changed from just before the pandemic began until after, and compare that set of information to the 2019 participants during a “regular” school year. The study shows that the average steps measured by the FitBits declined from 10,000 to 4,600 steps per day over the course of a three-month semester. Overall physical activity declined from 4.4 hours to 2.9 hours per day. “We estimate that at the end of the spring 2020 semester in April, an estimated 61% of our participants were at risk for clinical depression,” states the study. “This represents about a 90% increase over rates of 32% in the same population just 2 [months] earlier prior to the pandemic.” These statistics should come as no surprise to many observers. The combined effects of fear, loneliness, grief, stress, and boredom brought on by 11 months of a pandemic have had an effect on nearly every American’s health, regardless of their age.
In a November 2020 poll from the American Psychological Association, 74% of psychologists polled said they have seen an increase in patients struggling with anxiety during the pandemic, and 60% said they saw an increase in patients struggling with depression. In August of last year, the CDC reported that one in four young adults say they’ve contemplated suicide in the past month (the survey was conducted in June). Experts are grappling with how to address such a staggering increase in mental health problems. When the researchers encouraged some of the participants to increase their activity levels over the summer, they found that it didn’t lead to an improvement in their mental health. While there is not a clear, immediate solution, Saccardo says talking about the issue openly and honestly could be crucial. “So many people have been affected by this pandemic in so many ways, but mental health, it’s really one of the important ways in which people have been affected,” says Saccardo, “and I think just talking about it, maybe normalizing seeking help or talking to somebody about it, that could be very important.”
Follow staff writer Hannah Lynn on Twitter @hanfranny
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PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
Visit ourschoolspittsburgh.org to access an expanded digital version of our annual Report to the Community!
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Victoria Gennuso on the beauty of the sports community at West Virginia University BY RYAN DETO // RYANDETO@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
CP PHOTO: KAYCEE ORWIG
HE RIVALRY BETWEEN the University of Pitts-
burgh and West Virginia University is historic, passionate, and powerful. Nicknamed the “Backyard Brawl,” the rivalry culminates when the two schools play each other in just about any sport: football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, you name it. And it usually means a lot of Pittsburghers have a distaste for everything WVU. Well, Pittsburgh-area native and WVU senior Victoria Gennuso is here to say that while she appreciates the rivalry, she thinks Pittsburghers should go easy on West Virginia. She says there are a lot of similarities between Morgantown, where WVU is located, and Pittsburgh, including a love of sports. “The backyard brawl rivalry, I am on the side of WVU,” says Gennuso, who grew up in Cecil Township. “But the rivalry fuels my passion for all sports.” As a broadcast journalism student, Gennuso says the school’s athletics have fueled her passion for learning. The community of other broadcasters
and sports journalists associated with the university and Morgantown have been welcoming, and she has enjoyed her time in front of the camera reading sports reports and covering minor league baseball games. Gennuso also used her degree to gain experience working at U92, WVU’s college radio station, not to mention camera operation for the Mountaineer Athletics Video Production team. She says that experience helped grow her appreciation of sports, and realize where she wanted to take her career. It also showed her that sports will always be a part of her life, even though sports journalism may not. “I may not want to be on camera anymore, but the sports here have really impacted my life,” she says. During her tenure, WVU has had some impressive athletics programs, including a successful men’s basketball team. A graduating senior, Gennusso has been accepted at Law Schools at WVU and at a school in Charleston, S.C. She is hoping to combine her passions of sports
and her love of law, possibly into a career where she can live in both worlds. “I am sort of chasing the two things that I love the most, sports and law,” says Gennusso. “I would absolutely love to be a sports agent. I think that would be awesome. But I know that ﬁeld is very competitive.” She says she is leaning towards staying at WVU for law school, and a big reason why is because of the sense of the community she has felt there. Her mother is from the Mountain State, and her father is a WVU alumni. Even though she grew up in the Pittsburgh-area, she says Morgantown feels like a “second home.” A big part of that is the sports community of WVU. Gennuso might not want to be on the broadcast side anymore, but says the sports community will always keep her close. “You walk into the blue lot, and you see the blue and gold,” says Gennuso, describing the WVU colors. “You can just go to any sporting events and just have great conversation.”
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
COACHING STYLE Propel Schools’ Don Wilkins “leads with love” on and off the court BY LISA CUNNINGHAM // LCUNNING@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
CP PHOTO: KAYCEE ORWIG
ON WILKINS’ SECRET to coaching students on
the basketball court is the same as what he uses to train teachers in the classroom: it’s all about “leading with love.” Wilkins is the Residency and Induction Coach at Propel, a charter school system comprised of 13 schools throughout Pittsburgh, and a head basketball coach at one of Propel’s three local high schools. Originally from Chicago, Wilkins received his Master of Arts in teaching degree from National Louis University and taught for years in the Chicago and Atlanta school systems before moving to Pittsburgh two years ago. He says it was Propel’s residency program that brought him to the Steel City. Wilkins is responsible for recruiting, training, and retaining Propel’s teachers in the Residency and Induction programs, working with the educators on goals like professional development and building leadership. “We get to give them the best practices from the gate and really, really hit home with love,” says Wilkins,
who currently coaches 13 residents and anywhere from 50-100 teachers in Propel’s induction program. Wilkins said his greatest accomplishment so far has been seeing the past year’s residents “thriving” in their classrooms but says he misses being able to walk the halls and see the students in person since COVID-19 has made classes virtual. “I could go on and on about the things that I learned from teachers, but mainly I learned about making sure that students’ experiences are one of value,” says Wilkins. “That is at the forefront of all of our decision-making.” But he does still get to work with some students in person. In addition to working with teachers, for the second year since arriving in Pittsburgh, Wilkins is also the head coach of Propel’s Andrew Street varsity boys’ basketball team. “I really saw a need for the boys that I coach that they hadn’t experienced love, and I just wanted to be a vessel for that, so being able to be around the kids
and talk to them about forgiveness and just trying to work at a common goal and not giving up on students, not giving up on their team and [encouraging students not to] give up on themselves,” says Wilkins. “I enjoy just being able to just fellowship with the young men and love on them and let them experience love.” Wilkins, a single father of four, also heads a ministry group and is a student himself, currently studying for his doctorate at Point Park University. “I wanted to have a broader inﬂuence and be able to do research around the work that I’m doing now in terms of residency, in terms of Black male educators.” So how does he juggle a full-time job, coaching, being a father, heading a ministry, and going to school? “Lots of prayer,” he says with a laugh. “It’s really not about me,” he says. “It’s really not. This is about serving and being a servant leader. And it’s really living and walking that out. And just not talking about it, but doing it.”
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS A conversation with Nathan Budziszewski, teacher at City Charter High School BY COLLEEN HAMMOND // INFO@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
CP PHOTO: KAYCEE ORWIG
N HIS 11 YEARS of teaching at City Charter High School, Nathan Budziszewski has never faced a school year quite like this one. Like most of his peers across the country, the beloved business and technology teacher from Bethel Park has had to shift his teaching style to accommodate the ever-changing health crisis. Because City Charter’s unique educational structure places a large emphasis on relationshipbuilding between students and teachers, this transition has been particularly challenging for Budziszewski. Teachers and students are sorted into cohorts at the beginning of their freshman year and continue their educational experience with that same group for all four years. “We have the rally cry ‘relationships matter,’” says Budziszewski. Now, in a time of hyper-isolation, Budziszewski and his colleagues at City Charter have reworked their entire educational approach, while still keeping strong student-teacher relationships at the forefront. “Our school has been really thoughtful in our
approach,” says Budziszewski, noting the holistic approach City Charter’s administration has taken in addressing the needs of all stakeholders in their school system. Budziszewski applauds the difﬁcult, yet rewarding work his peers have been doing for the past year. He says the greatest accomplishments and stories of teachers during the pandemic will likely go untold as private moments where educators have gone above and beyond for their students. Budziszewski says the deﬁning attitude of this time has been “overwhelming acts of selﬂessness.” Whether it be checking in with a student about their personal life, staying up all hours of the night to answer homework questions, or even delivering laptops to students in need, Budziszewski says he and his coworkers have done it all to ensure every student is receiving the attention they need to succeed. “Sometimes it’s not about you,” says Budziszewski. “You’re not always the most important person in that room.” While the pandemic and civil strife across the
country has been, and will continue to be, a challenge to digest and process, Budziszewski says the best thing he can do for his students and coworkers is “being present” both physically (or virtually) and emotionally. Budziszewski says he strives to create “a place where everyone can feel heard and seen.” Despite the challenges of remote teaching, Budziszewski remains motivated to maintain this attitude of sacriﬁce and positivity through the remarkable examples of his students and peers. “My students are tremendous,” he says. Throughout this process and his career, Budziszewski says he tries to “ﬁnd joy in a lot of things,” learning valuable life lessons on humility, sacriﬁce, and kindness from his students and colleagues on a daily basis. “I think you can learn a great lesson from someone every day,” Budziszewski says. As Budziszewski and his students continue to learn from each other in this new learning format, he says he aims to teach with understanding and compassion. “Everyone is doing the best they can,” says Budziszewski. “Never assume otherwise.”
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
CYBER SCHOOLED For third-grade PA Cyber teacher Maria Hosein, adapting to online teaching was nothing new BY HANNAH LYNN // HLYNN@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
PHOTO: COURTESY OF MARIA HOSEIN
Maria Hosein, a third-grade teacher at PA Cyber
OR MANY TEACHERS, the pandemic has meant learning to navigate a whole new world of virtual classrooms. But for Maria Hosein, a third grade teacher at PA Cyber, teaching her students over the past year hasn’t been all that different from how she was working previously. Hosein began teaching at PA Cyber in 2007, more than a decade before the online school boom of the past year. The charter school functions almost completely online, with students logging on from all across the state. Hosein is based in Philadelphia, where she taught in the School District of Philadelphia at a traditional brick-and-mortar school before making the switch. She says the school she worked at before coming to PA Cyber was in “deep need,” but that cyber schooling offers the chance to cater more to students’ individual needs. “It’s hard when one person is responsible for moving and shaking and getting all those kids where they should be, and differentiating instruction for all of those kids,” says Hosein, “where I feel like, in a cyber
environment, parents are more on board, and you’re able to help with designing things that make this process more personalized for kids.” Hosein also says that building relationships with the families of her students has been crucial to the students’ success. When she taught in-person school, Hosein says there were some kids whose parents she never met or spoke with, but that at PA Cyber, she communicates with them frequently. She also feels it’s important that people know sending a child to online schooling does not mean they won’t have a social life. “It’s very strange that people assume we don’t have relationships with our students online that teachers that are in physical classrooms have. It’s not true. We have really good relationships with our students,” says Hosein, noting that during non-pandemic times, the school has ﬁeld trips and ﬁeld ofﬁces for students to attend. “When you choose to cyber educate your kids, you’re not giving up the social aspect.” But no school year in 2020 was without its challenges. While Hosein didn’t have to adapt to using
new technology in the classroom, there was still an increased number of students, causing her to take on another class and work with parents who might not be ﬂuent in the technology the school uses, especially since the school enrolls many families living in rural areas without high-speed internet. “You can’t control how much knowledge someone has when they come to you,” says Hosein. “All you can do is work with them when they get here.” But Hosein has been able to offer some tips and advice to her teacher friends who work in traditional schools and have been struggling to adapt to the new format. The past year has also made her wish that outsiders had a better understanding of cyber school, and how, when done right, it can be an effective tool for students. “I think people look down on cyber education. They don’t consider it real school,” she says. “I think with all the bad things the pandemic has brought, one of the things that I think it’s correcting is allowing people to recognize what we do, how we do it, and how good we are at it.”
BUSINESS AS USUAL Business students and faculty at Pittsburgh Technical College make a smooth transition to online BY AMANDA WALTZ // AWALTZ@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
CP PHOTOS: KAYCEE ORWIG
Left: Michele Zollner, academic chair at PTC’s School of Business Right: Marita Adams, business major at Pittsburgh Technical College
HE PANDEMIC MAY have disrupted collegiate
life for a lot of students, but for Marita Adams, a 21-year-old business major at Pittsburgh Technical College, not much has changed. Much of her schoolwork, as well as interaction with classmates and instructors, had already been conducted through Blackboard, a popular online learning platform that has proven invaluable to many higher education institutions as buildings have had to shut down. “I really didn’t live on campus,” says Adams, a totally virtual student who previously earned an associate’s degree in web design from PTC. She now lives and studies from her mother’s home in Brookline, located about 30 minutes from the campus. Michele Zollner, academic chair at PTC’s School of Business, believes the business program was perfectly equipped to handle something like the pandemic, as they have long pushed for students to learn online. This made it easier to accommodate working adult students who also have to juggle jobs and family responsibilities, and need a more ﬂexible option to being in the classroom. “There really wasn’t a terribly dramatic transition for
business students or the business faculty,” says Zollner. She explains that they moved students to all-online instruction around mid-March, when the pandemic ﬁrst took hold. “We in essence said, if your classes meet for two hours on Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 2 p.m., your classes are going to continue to meet like that,” she says. “There was some of that continuity that I think, from a student perspective, made it easier for them to go virtual.” When problems did arise, she says her colleagues were willing and able to help. “Our IT department has been exceptional in helping students with resources that they need and might not have had at home to be successful,” says Zollner. She adds that faculty members who were more savvy with instructional technology also stepped up to show others how it worked. Zollner, who oversees every aspect of the School of Business, says that they require all students to take at least one online class as part of PTC’s emphasis on career readiness, making sure graduates are prepared to tackle working in online environments.
She admits business students and faculty are fortunate compared to other, more technical departments at the school, which also offers training in electronics and the culinary arts, as well as various trades. “How do you possibly teach welding online?” asks Zollner, adding the school has allowed some students in other departments to return to campus. Challenges remain, however, as some students still face learning in living spaces where there may be noisy kids, roommates, or family members making it difﬁcult to ﬁnd a quiet, orderly place to attend class. Zollner understands that many may also fear that they are missing out on a real college experience as they’re stuck learning from their childhood bedrooms instead of being on campus. Before pursuing a bachelor degree in applied management, Adams remembers being on campus for her web design program and fondly recalls a show where she and her classmates got to present their ﬁnal projects. “Before the pandemic, it seemed like there were a lot of students there,” says Adams. “But I hope this pandemic ends soon, and they’ll increase in students again.”
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
PHOTO: SARA BADER
MUSIC LESSONS BY DANI JANAE // DANIJANAE@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
OR BLACK MUSICIANS in Pittsburgh,
there are often hoops to jump through to get the recognition, funding, and support that comes more easily to their white counterparts. On top of the already fraught world of underfunded arts programs, Black artists say they have to deal with bias and being pigeonholed as one kind of performer. “Because you’re Black, people think you only do jazz or you only do gospel, which is not the case. There are a plethora of amazing classical Black musicians out there,” says Dr. Brittany Trotter, a renowned ﬂutist who lives in Pittsburgh.
“People only pay attention to the fact that I do hip hop, or people will only put me in roles that are for Black singers or made for Black characters,” agrees Pittsburgh musician Lyn Starr. “You’re either looked at through one lens or not looked at at all.” Both Trotter and Starr are looking to change that narrative as the recipients of the inaugural UniSound Black Teaching Artist-in-Residency Program, an opportunity that seeks to bring music education to Pittsburgh students while supporting teaching artists. The UniSound BTAR program is a
instagram.com/stoasta and highfivemusic.co
seven-month-long residency that will culminate with a project of the residents’ choosing, be it a workshop, recital, or a lecture. Each musician will receive $1,000 per month and will also be given the opportunity to network and develop their artistic endeavors beyond the residency. UniSound, a Pittsburgh-based coalition of more than 35 organizations specializing in youth programming, created the residency to boost representation of Black people in the teaching arts. Starr started singing at a young age and those around him quickly realized he had a talent. “I just kept telling my mom I had a good voice and it was like, ‘Alright, well, we’ll see about that,’” says Starr, who started his music education at the Afro American Music Institute in Homewood. He later attended Rogers CAPA and went on to study music in
college at Seton Hill University. He founded the record label High Five Productions when he was just 17 years old as a way to create a platform for himself and his friends who were also musicians. “You tell someone you’re a rapper, and, you know, they’re not just going to put you in their show,” he says about the struggle to be taken seriously as a young artist. Since then, however, he has had a proliﬁc career in music. From teaching voice to story-writing, and from hip hop to opera, he has pursued a passion that expands beyond genre. This residency presents an opportunity to give back for both artists, who cite early experiences with teachers and artists in their ﬁeld as inspiration. While classes like mathematics and English are seen as the foundation of an educational experience, they say music CONTINUES ON PG. 28
Quantum Theatre eatre Di D Digital Season S PE CIAL
E VE NT
Stream-On-Demand February 19 - March 7 www.quantumtheatre.com/faraway
By Caryl Churchill
A play that could have been written yesterday and just for America, Far Away is Caryl Churchill’s surreal portrait of a descent into a hyper-partisan future with disturbing echoes of the present day.
execution. style. PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
MUSIC LESSONS, CONTINUED FROM PG.26
and the arts often get overlooked and excluded from the curriculum. For Trotter, music is a way to connect. “[Music] really brought a purpose to my youth life. I was very introverted. I didn’t have a lot of friends, so music impacted me because it was one of the ﬁrst things that I was really, really good at and I felt accepted at,” she says. “I think music is deﬁnitely important, especially in our culture, to just express ourselves. Even with all of the traumatic events that have been happening in the pandemic, it’s nice to have that release and that outlet to be creative, to show our talent, and our gifts.” Trotter started playing the violin in the fourth grade, as it was passed down to her from her sister. By the sixth grade, she had moved on to the ﬂute and fell in love. One of the deﬁning moments of her music education was seeing the chamber group Imani Winds, a collective of mostly Latino and Black musicians. “I was in an all-state band in Mississippi at the time. To be in an all-state band, you get to travel a lot. That was one of the big eye-opening things because it allowed me to travel outside
PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR. BRITTANY TROTTER
Dr. Brittany Trotter
the state of Mississippi,” she says. “I got to go to these amazing places like Chicago and realized that I wanted to make this my career.” Trotter has traveled throughout
the U.S. as a musician and soloist and currently serves as faculty at Dickinson College, West Virginia Wesleyan College, and Duquesne University. Her style of ﬂute playing spans from classical to eclec-
tic, and she often uploads videos of her performances to her YouTube channel. She and a collective of other musicians have started the Umoja Flute Institute for ﬂutists of African descent, a project that is now accepting donations. Starr recently released a new music project, Tierra, which is available for purchase and on streaming platforms. It is his ﬁrst foray back into making R&B music. Both Trotter and Starr are looking forward to the time and resources this residency will bring to them, as well as the ability to work with youth and have a positive effect on their lives. “Music is not just for a speciﬁc kind of student, music is for every student. As teaching artists, we have to recognize that some students do not have the same opportunities,” Trotter says. “I’m very thankful that my teachers found opportunities for me and I was able to gain from them, but there’s so many others that don’t have that. So it’s very important for me as part of being at the table that we recognize there is a huge inequality to music education and how we can rectify that problem.”
Follow staff writer Dani Janae on Twitter @figwidow
August Wilson African American Cultural Center writing camp immerses middle school youth in art, poetry, theater, and short-story writing.
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PITTSBURGH – Chris Kohan, Co-Founder of The Healing Center, hosts a special new series of The Healing Hearts Podcast featuring growers in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program from across the state. In seven episodes he chats with Pennsylvania industry leaders to learn about their passion for healing with cannabis. The new shows include guests from Terrapin, Grassroots, Prime Wellness, AgriKind, Calypso, Insa and Penn Health Group. All seven episodes of The Healing Hearts Podcast, created to provide education, innovation and information about Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, are now o available on Apple Poder casts and other platforms. st is a The podcast product of Thee Healing Center, Western Pennsylvania’ss premier medical cannabis dispensaryy group, d d iin and was produced partnership with the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. “Healing Hearts is an important project for us because it connects patients to the voices of pioneers in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program,” said Lisa Craig, Director of Marketing for The Healing Center and a part-time instructor in the School of Communication at Point Park. “Together with the CMI, we have produced seven amazing programs for our
first season,” said Chris Kohan, Cofounder of The Healing Center. “We believe it gives the lay person a peek behind the curtain of the cannabis industry in Pennsylvania.” Topics for the first season include heartfelt chats with The Healing Center cofounders, Chris Kohan and Jay Richards, who championed for cannabis in the commonwealth for a decade to get a bill passed, in-depth discussions with medical professionals in patient care and callin interviews with growers/processors from across the state. “The Center for Media Innovation is pproud to be associated with The Healing HHearts Podcast because of the uniq unique information and reso resources it provides to pe people seeking relief throu through medical marijuana,” said Andrew Conte, Director of th “Ma people still do the CMI CMI. “Many not know a lot about this emerging industry in the state, and the podcast addresses a wide range of questions about managing pain, chronic illnesses and other approved conditions.” The CMI has been producing and supporting podcasts since opening its doors in 2014, including both seasons of the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette’s award-winning True Crime Podcast, Storybeat with Steve Cuden and the Are You Intuit? Podcast by Lillie Leonardi. PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
EGG-CELLENT Nine amazing egg sandwiches to try in Pittsburgh BY RYAN DETO // RYANDETO@PGHCITYPAPER.COM
ITTSBURGERS LOVE THEIR dippy eggs. The joy of plunking a piece of buttered toast into an over-easy yolk is hard to match. But it’s not the only way to enjoy the simple, but delicious, combo of eggs and bread. Yes, I am talking about egg sandwiches. They are an uncomplicated joy. A warm protein served up with an oozing yolk or light and ﬂuffy scramble, wedged between buns, rolls, slices, you name it. Sometimes accompanied by cheese, toppings, or meat that is spiced just right. There’s a reason these hot little numbers are served at so many locales, from gas stations to brunch joints to food trucks. Pittsburgh is blessed to have some truly excellent options too. These nine establishments offer egg sandwiches so good, one could even say they are egg-cellent.
350° Bakery 2427 S. 18th St., South Side. 350bakerypgh.com In the slopey part of the South Side is a hidden gem. 350° Bakery rotates their menu, but all of their egg sandwiches are worth the trek up the hill. I tried the fried egg sandwich with bacon and onion jam served on a ﬂuffy everything biscuit. Filling and savory, with just enough sweetness from the jam. You can order ahead online or at the window in the small parking lot. CONTINUES ON PG. 32
CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
A breakfast sandwich made with a tofu scramble, vegan cheese, Veganaise, arugula, and tomato on wheat bread from Kaibur Coffee & Cafe
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EGG-CELLENT, CONTINUED FROM PG. 30
CP PHOTO: RYAN DETO
Egg sandwich with sausage and greens at Pear and the Pickle
sandwich falls apart on the ﬁrst bite.
4715 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. azoreancafe.com
Egg sandwiches, island style. Inspired by the Azores in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, this Bloomﬁeld joint offers egg sandwiches with some Portuguese ﬂair. The chorizo is spiced well and accompanies egg and cheese nicely. Try it all on a Portuguese sweet roll for a unique experience.
Caffé Mona 4200 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. caffemona.com This Bloomﬁeld brunch spot is well known for its popular back patio that is a hit on Instagram. But they also lowkey have one of the best bagel-and-egg sandwiches in the city. Served on your choice of plain, wheat, or everything bagels, Caffé Mona has four egg sandwiches to choose from. The key is they toast the bagel after putting together the sandwich, which means a crispy bagel, but not too much where the
2549 Penn Ave., Strip District. dianoiaseatery.com New Yorkers are known for being proud, maybe even a bit stuck up, about their classic and simple egg sandwiches. But honestly, the bodega sandwiches of egg on a kaiser roll are really good. DiAnoia’s understands this, and they do an amazing job of recreating that New York taste. A perfectly doughy kaiser roll with a crispy crust, a gooey egg, and some melty cheese all coming together in harmony. It’s easy to pick one up on the go and avoid the crowds of this popular restaurant.
tofu scramble that is light and ﬂuffy and hits the spot. Add some vegan cheese with Veganaise and arugula and tomato on wheat bread, and you won’t miss the eggs at all. For non-vegans, sandwiches can come with eggs, too.
Madeleine Bakery & Bistro 609 S. Trenton Ave., Wilkinsburg. madeleinepgh.com Known for amazing ﬂaky and buttery pastries. Madeleine Bakery also makes a mighty ﬁne breakfast sandwich. Available most weekends, this creation includes a baked egg served with herbs, cheese, and other rotating toppings, all inside one of Madeleine’s perfectly risen, slightly sweet, brioche buns.
Kaibur Coffee & Cafe
Pear and the Pickle
3138 Dobson St., Polish Hill. kaiburcoffee.com
1800 Rialto St., Troy Hill. pearandpickle.com
Vegans deserve egg sandwiches too, or the closest imitation one can make without animal products. Obviously, eggs can’t be vegan, but Kaibur offers a
These made-to-order beauties (imagine a more decadent version of what you might expect at a fast food joint) take eggs from local farms and serve them on
squishy kaiser rolls. Add some cheese — there are six different choices — then a protein choice of house bacon or sausage, or some avocado. The shop at the top of Troy Hill also serves amazingly fresh produce (I added greens to my sandwich, which were deliciously succulent and the right amount of bitter). Sandwiches can also be made with an everything bagel or a gluten-free roll. Orders are picked up at the back window during the pandemic.
Primanti Bros. Multiple locations. primantibros.com There are lots of favorites at Pittsburgh’s most famous sandwich chain — pastrami, capicola, etc. — but the Deluxe Double Egg & Cheese is a bit of a diamond in the rough. I prefer a ﬂuffy scrambled egg inside the sandwich stuffed with french fries, coleslaw, and tomato, as the eggs add a soft texture and a good amount of moisture to the behemoth. I would go as far as to say it is the most underrated french fry-coleslaw creation in town.
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PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
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1. Like some cabaret acts 5. Cartoony robot noise 10. Honors for Eric Church, briefly 14. Has second thoughts about 15. Swordplay maneuver 16. “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering” speaker 17. “Dat so?” 18. Say 19. Ship’s can 20. Situation in which a desired solution is impossible to attain 23. Made man’s job 24. ___ cloud (comet’s home) 25. In disarray 31. NBA big man: Abbr. 32. Dalek fighter 33. Sends packing 35. Eye bank? 37. Parking spots? 39. Character 40. All fired up 42. NMSQTs by another name 44. Furthest point out 45. BOGO deal 48. Pacific salmon 49. Tibetan Freedom
27. Won all the games in the series 28. Make ___ of (do poorly) 29. Vape pen claim 30. Broadway composer Matthew who scored The Prom and The Wedding Singer 31. Jost’s Weekend Update co-host 34. Charles Bukowski described it as “kicking death in the ass while singing” 36. Condemn publicly 1. Shoe with holes 38. Collection 2. Glow from a big star of flutes 3. Messy sandwich 41. Coal-mining 4. Total nutjob region of North 5. Acts the bully Rhine-Westphalia 6. Madrigal instrument 7. Being broadcast 8. Curve in architecture 9. Absinthe-like drink 10. It can spread viruses fast 11. “Oh, we’re not done yet” 12. Server’s edge 13. Lose intensity 21. Female deer 22. Tater bites 25. First-stringers 26. Sad, but kinda funny at the same time
Concert co-founder 50. It generates interest for only a short amount of time 57. “Well shee-it!” 58. Mouth piece? 59. Fancy bean 60. Prince in The Little Mermaid 61. Less significant 62. Don Juan’s mom 63. Singer Peniston 64. Remix’s home, maybe 65. Walking stick
43. Like dry Spanish wine 46. #smdh 47. Amateur stories set in Hogwarts, e.g., for short 50. Going cost? 51. The red properties in Monopoly, e.g.: Abbr. 52. Nuclear physicist Oganessian with an element named after him 53. Blizzard toy 54. Crime author Stabenow 55. “Do you ___ lift, bro?” 56. Level the room 57. Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day mo. LAST WEEK’S ANSWERS
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
SEVEN DAYS IN PITTSBURGH
PHOTO: TERRY BOYD
^ Scrambled Skinemax 2 by Terry Boyd at ZYNKA Gallery
THU., FEB. 25 TALK • VIRTUAL In the spirit of Black History Month, learn about the importance and challenges of Black artists, crafters, makers, and designers with Carnegie Museum of Art’s panel discussion “In Conversation: Where are the Black Makers, Artists, and Designers?” The virtual event will feature Alicia Volcy of NOMApgh (National Organization of Minority Architects), Nisha Blackwell of Knotzland, and Kia Weatherspoon of Determined by Design. 6 p.m. Pay what you want. cmoa.org
FRI., FEB. 26 LIT • VIRTUAL Lit Fridays, a virtual literary salon hosted by the August Wilson African American
Cultural Center, is featuring a conversation with Ming Smith. Smith is a photographer that specializes in highlighting the “cosmopolitan world filled with famous landmarks and extraordinary landscapes.” The conversation will be moderated by the center’s literary curator, Jessica Lanay, and will take place via Facebook Live and Zoom Webinar. 6 p.m. Free. aacc-awc.org
SAT., FEB. 27 BIKING • IRL Explore Pittsburgh’s Black history and honor one of the world’s greatest cyclists, Major Taylor, with a bike ride through some of the city’s historic Black neighborhoods. Venture Outdoors is hosting a Black History Bike Ride with local cycling group Pittsburgh Major
Taylor Cycling Club. The ride starts at Everyday Cafe in Homewood and traverses 8-10 miles throughout the city. Bring your bike, water, and wear your mask; food can be purchased during stops at Black-owned businesses. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 532 N. Homewood Ave., Homewood. $5-8. ventureoutdoors.org
WORKSHOP • VIRTUAL Bend the textual nature of written poetry with graphic designer, writer, and visual storyteller Remy Davison during City of Asylum’s video workshop series Between Poetry and Performance. In Animating Poetry, Davison will guide participants through explorations of what is gained, lost, and changed when altering poetry’s medium from written to audio/visual. Participants should bring a poem by another writer, paper for sketching, writing utensils, colored pencils or markers, and a computer
with the ability to download and open new font files. Space is limited for the workshop. 3-5 p.m. Free. alphabetcity.org
ART • IRL Check out some stimulating new works when ZYNKA Gallery presents the opening reception for its latest exhibition Viewer Discretion is Advised. A statement describes featured artists Terry Boyd and Stephen Tuomala as re-contextualizing “image stills from popular media sources such as late-night cable television and the internet.” The two artists challenge views of sex and sexuality by using their work to find the beauty in online porn and the softcore offerings of HBO and “Skinemax.” The reception continues into Sun., Feb. 28. Guests must register for a time slot before arriving at the gallery. Continues through Sat., April 10. 904 Main St., Sharpsburg. Free. zynkagallery.com
SUN., FEB. 28
your experience with others. Continues weekdays through Mon., March 29. Free. ywcachallenge.org
THEATER • VIRTUAL
TUE., MARCH 2
The Pittsburgh New Works Festival continues its tradition of showcasing new theatrical works with a livestream reading of Ethereal Killer, which recently won the Playwrights Center of San Francisco Best Plays of 2020. Written by Zan Hall, the 10-minute long comedic play follows main character Midge as she attends her first session with a new psychotherapist, according to a synopsis. Little does she know, Stuart Fischer is impersonating the doctor, and he’s acting oddly. 6:30 p.m. Free. Performance will take place over Zoom. pittsburghnewworks.org
TALK • VIRTUAL Join herbalist and blogger Dina Ranade of The Herbalist Bake Shoppe for a lesson on how to use basic herbs for medicinal purposes. Kitchen Apothecary Series: Managing Stress and Mood is a virtual workshop hosted by Phipps Conservatory, and the series will continue on Tue., March 9 with a workshop on digestion, and on Tue., March 16 with a focus on energy and vitality. 6 p.m. $25. phipps.conservatory.org
WED., MARCH 3
MON., MARCH 1
MUSIC • VIRTUAL
CHALLENGE • VIRTUAL The YWCA Greater Pittsburgh is joining the nationwide 21-Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge by inviting folks to work on more effective socialjustice habits, “particularly those dealing with issues of race, power, privilege, and leadership.” Participants will be asked to engage in activities like listening to a podcast, reading a news article, or reflecting on an experience from their past. Use the hashtag #YWCAEquityChallenge to share
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ELITSA STOYNEVA KRASTEV
^ Bulgarian folk singer Elitsa Stoyneva Krastev will join the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh for a performance.
Join the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh for an evening of traditional Bulgarian folk singing from Elitsa Stoyneva Krasteva. The event is part of Global Choral Traditions, a series in collaboration with the Oratorio Society of Minnesota and Village, that “gives music lovers a way to engage with that which makes us more human, and therefore, more connected to each other.” 7:30 p.m. Free with registration. themendelssohn.org •
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
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n a year made so tough for so many reasons, people in Western Pennsylvania needed to trust their medical care more than ever before. Central Outreach Wellness Center is proud to say that they were not only able to continue providing culturally competent and inclusive care, but were able to grow, expand, and adapt to the needs of the year. Central Outreach’s main mission is still being a resource for care for underserved populations, particularly the LGBTQIA and HIV+ communities, and that continued in 2020. They saw and provided care for 1,459 trans and non-binary patients, and 816 HIV+ patients, offering them all the competent care they deserve. And this extends past simply the people that Central Outreach sees in it’s different clinics. In 2020, they also launched their Street Outreach Program, offering care to those that don’t feel comfortable receiving it in a hospital or formal medical setting. This drive to serve these communities delivers tangible results as well. Central Outreach provided 6,700 STI screens in 2020, all made available for free. They also extended past HIV treatment to HIV prevention, having 2,100 patients on PrEP during the year. To further this goal, Central Outreach hired a PrEP navigator to engage high risk individuals and connect them with their care. These measures to prevent STI’s continued with curing 1,070 people of Hep-C throughout 2020, the product of testing 3,224 people across 104 different facilities.
Of course, with 2020 came extreme change, and Central Outreach responded by expanding and facing these new challenges. This started with their Aliquippa Satellite office, which opened in December of 2019. Now this office sees 15% of all new patients. Additionally, Central Outreach has opened another new location to expand their reach, this time in Erie, PA. The biggest challenge of the year, however, was COVID-19. As the pandemic hit Western Pennsylvania, Central Outreach was at the forefront of COVID testing in the area. They quickly established the first drive-thru testing site, at the Pittsburgh Zoo, and added two more testing sites at Central Outreach locations. In total, they provided 4,600 COVID-19 tests, with 40% being administered in March and April, providing a crucial stop-gap for the area’s large health organizations to set up their own procedures and sites. So what does 2021 bring for Central Outreach? Well, more of the same mission and focus, with the desire to further expand and grow that mission to serve as many residents of PA and northeast Ohio as possible. As Dr. Lane has said, “It’s our job to do our best to decrease those health disparities to our own community.” Central Outreach will continue to fight for their patients in 2021, to ensure the care they deserve, and will continue to expand these services so that no one in any community faces barriers to healthcare.
127 Anderson St. Suite 101, North Shore • 95 Leonard Ave Suite 203, Washington 2360 Hospital Drive Upper Suite 1, Aliquippa • 3104 State Street, Erie, PA 16508.
STRONG WOMAN WANTED
Professional gentleman looking to meet extremely strong woman for discrete wrestling match. Open to powerlifters, bodybuilders, boxers, grapplers, MMA competitors, martial artists of any discipline, athletes, Amazons, BBW’s, military veterans or anyone who thinks that she is capable of physically overpowering and “woman-handling” a small guy. Open to all ages, races, ethnicities, sizes, etc…Generous fee offered (412) 554-8175
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PERSONALS Female Companion wanted 30-40 y.o. Waist length hair and/or cornrows a PLUS PLUS! Permanent Position 724-223-0939 Wash. Co NAMASTE! Find a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit with one of our massage therapists, yoga, or spa businesses
Metro Community Health Center offers a complete set of health care services to everyone, regardless of identity, insurance status, income or the ability to pay. Services include full medical care, mental health care, dentistry, and other supportive services. Make an appointment by calling 412-247-2310 and visit our website, www.metrocommunityhealthcenter.org, to learn more.
FOR INFORMATION ON HOW TO PLACE A CLASSIFIEDS ADVERTISEMENT, CALL 412-685-9009 ext. 106 HELP WANTED
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Need Help with Family Law? Can’t Afford a $5000 Retainer? Low Cost Legal Services- Pay As You Go- As low as $750-$1500Get Legal Help Now! Call 1-844-821-8249 Mon-Fri 7am to 4pm PCT (AAN CAN) https://www.familycourtdirect. com/?network=1
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IN The Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania: No. GD-20-11124. In re petition of Roberto Carlos Alban for change of name to Robert Carlos Miller. To all persons interested: Notice is hereby given that an order of said Court authorized the ﬁling of said petition and ﬁxed the 4th day of March , 2021, at 9:30 a.m., as the time and the Motions Room, City-County Building, Pittsburgh, PA, as the place for a hearing, when and where all persons may show cause, if any they have, why said name should not be changed as prayed for.
IN The Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania: No. GD-20-000466. In re petition of Nektarios Athanasios Kasamias for change of name to Nektarios Athanasios Kazamias. To all persons interested: Notice is hereby given that an order of said Court authorized the ﬁling of said petition and ﬁxed the 25th day of March, 2021, at 9:30 a.m., as the time and the Motions Room, City-County Building, Pittsburgh, PA, as the place for a hearing, when and where all persons may show cause, if any they have, why said name should not be changed as prayed for.
FAMILY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN
NOTICE is hereby given that Articles of Incorporation were ﬁled with the Department of State of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on the 19th day of February 2021 with respect to a proposed nonproﬁt Corporation, Jasmine Summer Camp which has been incorporated under the Nonproﬁt Corporation Law 1988. A brief Summary of the purpose or purposes for which said organization is organized is: Operate an annual community summer camp that teaches good morals and sportsmanlike conduct to children.
North Penn Comprehensive Health Services, Inc. seeks a Family Medicine Physician to work at Lawrenceville Laurel Health Center in Lawrenceville, PA, and provide comprehensive medical services for members of family, regardless of age or sex within scope of training. Send CV, cover letter, and salary requirements to: Angela M. VanZile, North Penn Comprehensive Health Services, 40 West Wellsboro St., Mansﬁeld, PA 16933
OFFICIAL ADVERTISEMENT OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PITTSBURGH
ADVERTISEMENT FOR BIDS
1789 S. Braddock Ave, #410 Pittsburgh, PA 15218 To make an appointment: (412) 247-2310
Emergency HIV MEDICATION AND PREP available to ALL
Dr. Stacy Lane, D.O.
Sealed proposals shall be deposited at the Administration Building, Belleﬁeld Entrance Lobby, 341 South Belleﬁeld Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15213, on March 16, 2021, until 2:00 P.M., local prevailing time for:
Service & Maintenance Contracts at Various Schools, Facilities, Facilities & Properties: • Gas and Oil Burners, Boilers and Furnaces Inspection, Service, and Repairs (REBID) • Pgh. Crescent ECC Various Asphalt and Concrete Repairs General Prime Project Manual and Drawings will be available for purchase on Monday, February 22, 2021 at Modern Reproductions (412-488-7700), 127 McKean Street, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15219 between 9:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. The cost of the Project Manual Documents is non-refundable. Project details and dates are described in each project manual. We are an equal rights and opportunity school district.
• ALL INSURANCES ACCEPTED • WALK INS WELCOME • tRANSPORATION PROGRAM • NO INSURANCE? WE CAN HELP North Shore - 127 Anderson Street - Suite 101 Timber Court Building, PIttsburgh, PA 15212 Phone: (412) 322-4151 washington, pa - 95 Leonard Avenue Suite 203, Washington PA 15301 Phone: (724) 249-2517 beaver county - 2360 hospital drive Suite 1, aliquippa, pa 15001 Phone: (724)707-1155 Erie - 3104 State Street, Erie, PA 16508 PHONE: (814) 619-4009
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 3, 2021
Now accepting applicants for the 2021-2022 residency cohort
A P P LY T O D AY !
DEADLINE: March 31, 2021
Pittsburgh's leading arts and entertainment newsweekly featuring our Education Issue with stories on the importance of public schools, the s...
Published on Feb 23, 2021
Pittsburgh's leading arts and entertainment newsweekly featuring our Education Issue with stories on the importance of public schools, the s...