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what is an iPod, noun [ ī päd ] ©

“internet” “pod” (portable open database).

At The Pittsburgh Promise, we’re offering up our own “i”Pod— the idea pod—a place where ideas can grow by providing students access to information and exposure to all of the . opportunities available through


Saleem Ghubril

The Pittsburgh Promise began to make scholarships in June 2008. As we approach our third anniversary, I am encouraged by some great early results, and I am energized by the important work that still lies in front of us. You might be interested in this “update by numbers” for our first three years of promoting public school reform and providing college scholarships. 2,479

Students who received a Promise scholarship from the classes of 2008, 2009, and 2010

1,453 Female students who received a scholarship 1,026 Male students who received a scholarship 1,326 Caucasian students who received a scholarship 1,028 African-American students who received a scholarship 125 Asian/Pacific, Hispanic, and multi-racial students who received a scholarship 79 43% 30% 22% 5%

Colleges, universities, and trade schools that our students attended Students who chose 4-year public universities Students who chose 4-year private colleges or universities Students who chose 2-year community colleges Students who chose trade and technical schools, or workforce certification

$145 million $64 million $15.5 million $3.5 million

Multi-year pledges made toward the $250 million goal for 2018 Contributions received Scholarships paid Operating costs incurred

The retention rate of our Pittsburgh Promise students points to a very encouraging trend. After many years of low persistence and completion rates in higher education for Pittsburgh Public Schools students, The Promise cohort is exceeding national averages at 2-year schools, and meeting those averages at 4-year schools. We’re keenly aware that there is still much hard work to be done. Our eyes are fixed on the goal of transforming our schools into excellent educational communities that foster a college-going culture, and our hands are firm on the steering wheel to ensure that we arrive at that destination quickly and safely.


1 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 19 24 25

A Message from Jeffrey A. Romoff Hello from Linda Lane Be Smart: Borrowing for College 8 Simple Steps for Acing the PSSA Ask the President “Well Done” from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl What You Should Know about Financial Aid Advanced Placement My Vision for Pittsburgh Don’t Fall Victim to High Cost Financial Services Inside PPS: Pittsburgh Obama High School Inside PPS: Pittsburgh Science and Technology High School 26 Inside PPS: Pittsburgh Milliones High School 27 Inside PPS: Pittsburgh Peabody High School


Luke Ravenstahl

NFL Hall of Fame Owner, Super Bakery, Inc.

Mayor, City of Pittsburgh

Candi Castleberry-Singleton

David and Cindy Shapira

Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, UPMC

Chairman, CEO and President Giant Eagle, Inc.

Mark Laskow

Edith Shapira, MD

Managing Director and CEO, Greycourt & Co.

Psychiatrist, Private Practice

Linda Lane, EdD Superintendent, Pittsburgh Public Schools

Kiya Tomlin

Anne Lewis

Olga Welch, EdD

Chair, Oxford Development Company

Dean, School of Education Duquesne University

Pamela Little-Poole

Demetri Zervoudis

Parent Volunteer, Pittsburgh Public Schools

Senior Vice President, Bayer Material Science

David and Nancy Malone

Grant Oliphant, Ex-Officio

President and CEO Gateway Financial Group

President and CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation

Martin McGuinn

Saleem Ghubril

Chairman and CEO (Retired) Mellon Financial Services

Executive Director The Pittsburgh Promise

Parent Volunteer, Pittsburgh Public Schools

The Pittsburgh Promise is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and is an affiliate of The Pittsburgh Foundation. The Pittsburgh Promise is a partnership between Pittsburgh Public Schools, the City of Pittsburgh, UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), and other key funders. DESIGN:

Wolfe Design, Ltd. PHOTOGRAPHY:

Josh Franzos

We’re counting on you to stay with us for the duration of the ride.

Saleem Ghubril Executive Director The Pittsburgh Promise

idea pod? idea pod 1


Jeffrey A. Romoff

Why Do We Care about the Education of our Children?

Jeffrey A. Romoff President and CEO UPMC

UPMC is a global health enterprise headquartered in Pittsburgh with 20 hospitals, 400 clinics, and a variety of different kinds of health care institutions that serve people from before they enter the hospital to providing senior living for when they need that kind of care. Furthermore, UPMC employs 50,000 people here in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, and indeed is the largest employer in Western Pennsylvania in a very challenging healthcare environment. So the question becomes why do we care about the education of our children when we have so many other things to do in taking care of patients and seeing to the economic vitality of this region? And the answer is simple; we must, and we should, and we will. The children of Western Pennsylvania, the high school students of Western Pennsylvania, are the future of Western Pennsylvania. UPMC lives here. UPMC thrives here. And it is a mistake in belief by any corporation, particularly one that is large and independent, to assert that they can live in a community without serving the community, and without ensuring the vitality of the citizens of this community. There is nothing more important than the education of our children. From UPMC’s perspective, not only because we are going to likely employ them, but also because all of us must provide a safe environment, a sound environment, an economically viable environment, where people will want to come to Western Pennsylvania; not just as patients, but as faculty members, as staff, and as professionals in this environment. Thus it was not a challenge for UPMC to consider investing $100,000,000 in The Pittsburgh Promise. It was not something that we considered to be foreign to our mission. Indeed it was something we considered to be essential to our mission, and we are very proud and pleased to have made this investment. At the same time, we have challenged the community to match the investment, indeed to match it a dollar and a half for every dollar we put into it. This, from our perspective, mobilizes the community around the things that are most important. So we are proud to be a major partner in The Pittsburgh Promise, and we are extraordinarily optimistic that the results will serve this community and UPMC for years to come.

2 spring 2011

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Linda Lane

Hello from a member of the class of 1967 to the members of the classes of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014! I know you are likely in shock that a member of the class of 1967 is still around, let alone writing you a letter. Trust me on this one, it goes a lot faster than you can ever imagine! Please give me a few minutes of your time; I know this is pretty low tech and that I should have just sent you a text, but bear with me. I want you all to know that I’m paying attention to you. I have my eye on you as you head to busses, I enjoy seeing what you wear and listen to what you say. I watch your eyes when I visit your classes to see if you are into it or just zoned out. I’m paying attention to you as you pass through the halls at school. Are you about business at school or more interested in the activities in halls? When I see you on the street, I’ll speak to you and don’t be surprised if I ask you what your GPA is and when you will graduate. Why am I paying such close attention to you? Why am I bothering you with questions? Because I care about you and want to help you succeed in whatever you are planning to do after high school. And yes, I mean planning. When Coach Mike Tomlin spoke to some of you at 9th Grade Nation, he told you that you must dream in great detail. Use those details to describe the path you’ll need to take to get to your dream, your goal. I want to know what you are planning to do because I want YOU to start thinking about what you are planning to do. When you become a senior, you will be asked to answer this question as a part of your senior survey. On your Commencement Day, when I ask you this question at Soldiers and Sailors or the Peterson Events Center, I would like an answer. If you say CCAC, I am going to ask if you have applied and been admitted. If you say the Marines, I am going to ask you if you have enlisted. If you say Penn State, I am going to ask you if you have your dorm assignment. If you say you are going to be a cosmetologist, I am going to ask if you have passed your licensure examination. So it is not too soon to start working on your plan. Everything you spend time on now either gets you closer to your goal or further away. Attending class gets you closer. Completing and turning in your homework gets you even closer. We’re here to make the path toward your goal as smooth as it can be so that when I ask you, “Hey! What are YOU doing after you graduate?,” you’ll be confident and ready to answer. So I’m signing off from the Class of 1967: set your goal; create your plan to reach it, and work hard at your plan every day! We support you and will be there for you! And I can’t wait to hear what your future holds!

Linda Lane Superintendent Pittsburgh Public Schools

BE SMART 4 spring 2011

Pittsburgh Promise scholarships pay up to $5,000 a year at two-year or four-year institutions ($10,000 starting in 2012). But that may not cover all the costs of attending college—think, for example, of living on campus, or expenses for commuting or books. As the cost of higher education continues to rise, most students willingly take out loans as part of their financial aid package. In 2008, 67 percent of students graduating from four-year colleges had student loan debt to repay. The average amount was $23,200—about the price of a brand-new car. And like a car, a college degree is a major purchase. That’s why it’s important to compare prices, as well as courses of study. These vary widely. For example: the average amount of student debt for graduates of two-year public colleges (like community colleges) was $10,444. For four-year public universities, the average was $20,200. At private non-profit universities, the average was $27,650. At private for-profit universities, the average was $33,050. (Note: graph available at

How can I borrow wisely? Start with the basics. Complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by April 30 of your senior year. Your application will not be approved until you have responded to all requests for additional information, like family tax returns and signatures. Keep all the paperwork together. Understanding and completing the FAFSA takes time, but help is available. Every Pittsburgh public high school has a career and college advisor from NEED on site to help students. “Our advisors work one-on-one with families on FAFSA, and we hold a line-by-line FAFSA workshop at each school each year,” says Arlene Tyler Holland, NEED’s student services manager. NEED also helps applicants at its downtown resource center. Next, make sure you know the deadlines for applying for financial aid at each of the schools where you apply. After you have supplied all the information required, schools will send you a notice of their financial aid package, called the award letter, before the term begins. These letters show the total annual cost of attending the school and subtract each type of aid you will receive: scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and loans. Collect them to review and compare with your parents and counselors before you sign any contracts. Many Pittsburgh public high school students qualify for federal Pell grants and state PHEAA grants. Those grants, like scholarships, do not have to be repaid. The cost to the student is zero. Loan costs, however, can vary widely. You will want to look at three factors for each loan: the amount, the rate of interest charged, and the time schedule for repayment. Those terms can vary widely and will affect how much money you will repay. Interest rates charged for federal government loans, like Perkins and Stafford, are generally lowest. Colleges and private lenders may charge higher rates. And while the standard term to repay your loans is ten years, you may be expected to repay on a different schedule.

What rules must schools follow on financial aid? As a consumer, you have a right to information on how well an institution prepares its students. The Student Right To Know Act requires schools to report how many of their students graduate. Post-secondary schools that participate in federal financial aid programs must also provide truthful information to applicants, including the details of all loans they offer, and spell out their policies for students who withdraw. By law, schools must also report what percentage of their graduates default, or don’t repay their student loans. A high percentage indicates that schools aren’t successfully preparing their graduates. The law protects students (and taxpayers) from programs that accept millions of dollars of federal aid but leave students with lots of debt. You have a right to ask the current loan default rate at any school offering you financial aid.

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How do schools apply my Promise scholarship to my financial aid package? The Pittsburgh Promise asks schools to make the Promise scholarship “last dollar,” meaning that all other grants and scholarships are deducted from college costs first. This is not a requirement. If schools deduct their own grants last, Promise scholars may receive a smaller amount of overall aid.

What’s the connection between grades and financial aid? Promise scholars must earn at least 20 post-secondary credits a year and have a college grade point average of 2.0 to continue to qualify for their scholarships. Promise students “must continue to do well. Financial aid can be dropped,” warns Dr. Roslynne Wilson, director of specialized programs at Community College of Allegheny County. Dropping a class before the end of the term may reduce the number of academic credits you earn. Before dropping a class, talk with an advisor to understand how it affects your transcript and your financial aid. You must always give official notice before dropping out of a class or degree program. As Benjamin Franklin said, “The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.” College is a big investment. As you plan your future, be sure to educate yourself on the best strategies to afford it.

How much should I borrow? Your decision on the amount of money you borrow for education depends first on what you plan to study. After you research your field, you will have a better idea of how much you can expect to earn with your degree, and how much debt you will be able to repay. Schools may be able to give you a salary range for your field of interest, but remember: no one can guarantee what your future income will be, especially in the first few years after graduation. Different institutions may offer similar programs. Do comparison-shopping. For example, if you are interested in nursing, you might consider programs at a four-year college, a two-year college, a commercial college or a trade school. Compare their costs and financial aid award letters with your family or counselor. The amount and type of financial aid you receive may change from year to year. Ask schools if the aid you are promised in your first year will change later on. And keep track of the total amount that you owe. Use the student loan calculator on the College Board web site. Some advisors recommend keeping your total loan payments to ten or 15 percent of your monthly income after graduation. Remember, too, that you are responsible for repaying all student loans, even if you don’t complete a degree program. To make sure you understand your financial obligation, schools require that you complete an online tutorial before processing your loan application.

Christine O’Toole

6 spring 2011


Let’s face it. Taking tests can be exhausting, intimidating and a lot of hard work. Instead of panicking, try to follow these simple steps and make the PSSA a little bit easier. REST WELL. Nothing enhances your focus like a good night’s sleep. The night before a test, relax. Don’t cram or pull an all-nighter! You will need to be alert and attentive in order to succeed.


EAT BRAIN FOOD. Some people like to chew gum. Others swear by blueberries. Whatever your culinary strategy is, make sure that you eat a well-balanced breakfast the morning of the test. The right foods can give you the energy to make it through a longer test like the PSSA.


COME PREPARED. The last thing you need to worry about is whether you have the right type of writing utensil. Make sure you have all the necessary supplies, and keep extra ones in your backpack. Simple preparations can keep your mind from being preoccupied.


TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. The PSSA is important for your school and important for you. Arrive as early as you can. If you are late, you may feel flustered and panicked before the exam even begins. Instead of using that extra time to talk with friends, prepare your mind and your workspace for the upcoming exam.


READ THE DICTIONARY. Or just read anything you can get your hands on—kind of like you are doing right now. Great job! A good vocabulary is a good indicator of reading comprehension and translates often into success on standardized tests.


TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE. During the test, try to minimize distractions. To an extent, you have the power to influence and control your environment. However, if somebody next to you is tapping his or her pencil like a drummer at a rock concert, raise your hand and politely ask the teacher to do something about it.


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U n i v e r s i t y

o f

P i t t s b u r g h

JUST BREATHE. Try not to psyche yourself out. Take deep breaths and pace yourself. Did you know that your brain needs blood to think? Doing things like deep breathing and sitting up straight will help to oxygenate the blood more quickly.


DO YOUR BEST! Every time you take a test, see if you can improve in some way. Nobody becomes a star student overnight. Set goals for yourself, and don’t dwell on the expectations of other people.


Of course, simply following these rules won’t guarantee that you will do well on the PSSA. You also need to know your material. Take advantage of study groups, practice exams, and other resources made available to you by teachers and school administrators. There are many people who want to help you succeed. It is very important to prepare for the test in advance. You may not realize it, but most of the work you do takes place in the weeks and months leading up to the exam, and not just the night before! Having good attendance, listening to your teachers carefully, and taking good notes throughout the school year can have major results when it comes time to take the test.


in education

pioneer in research


in regional development

Joshua Hoey Student Services Consultant

Campuses in Pittsburgh, Bradford, Greensburg, Johnstown, and Titusville

For information on admissions:

412-624-7488 | |

8 spring 2011

team player?

problem solver? quality of work?

ability to “see the big picture?”

communication skills?

work ethic? professionalism?

ask the president technical ability? dependability?

We asked four Presidents of Promise-eligible schools this question,


internal spark?

globally competent citizen? second language?

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MR. GREGORY DEFEO PITTSBURGH TECHNICAL INSTITUTE When PTI graduates interview with an employer, they must demonstrate they possess the skills to do the job. Equipping students with these skills is the cornerstone of the PTI college experience. Soft skills, such as problem solving and teamwork, span the spectrum of careers. However, a student entering the design field requires a different set of technical skills than a student entering the medical field or pursuing employment in IT, accounting or HVAC. PTI’s network of hiring managers, faculty, career service personnel, advisory boards, even our graduates provide insight beyond what we learn from industry reports and forecasts. These personal connections provide the guidance we need to update coursework and develop industry-directed curriculum. Technical skills vary from career to career and comprise a long list that evolves as technology changes how we do our jobs. However, professionalism, evident in these personal traits, permeates the entire labor market. 1) Personal improvement. As technology changes, so do employer needs. 2) Comfort with technology. Embracing technology is crucial to virtually every profession. 3) Communication skills. Internal and external communications fuel business. 4) Work ethic. This is often cited by employers as the most important trait in hiring decisions.

DR. ROBERT M. SMITH SLIPPERY ROCK UNIVERSITY The world continues to undergo profound change. By 2025 it will be a very different place demographically, socially, politically and economically. Global interdependence will drive everything we do. To be successful, you’ll need to become a globally competent citizen. What does that mean in terms of “skills”? Interpersonal communication skills will be critical. You will have to interact with more cultures and people. To be successful you’ll need to be open to new ideas, be an active listener, and be able to communicate well both in writing and orally and in more than one language. You should have an exposure to a language other than your native tongue. There are now more English speaking students in China than there are in the United States. These are the people against whom you will be competing for jobs in the global marketplace. You’ll need to be an agile learner. “Knowledge is power,” but knowledge also quickly goes out of date. To be successful you’ll need to constantly learn new information and adapt to rapidly changing technology.

DR. KENNETH A. SMITH GENEVA COLLEGE What skills do you see as crucial for students to master to be competitive in our current and future economy? Employers highly value employees who can articulate their thoughts clearly, work cooperatively with colleagues, and understand their role. To be equipped for success, students must develop: • • • •

The ability to communicate. The ability to work in a team. The ability to “see the big picture.” The ability to do excellent work. It is vital for students to have an educational experience that addresses all of these skills equally. A person who does great work but doesn’t work well with others is placed at a disadvantage. Similarly, someone with an engaging personality that can’t identify how to contribute to an organization is likely to fall short of their goals. However, well-rounded students who fully develop their skill set and continually strive for excellence are set apart and positioned to be competitive upon entering the workforce. Geneva College prepares students for success with challenging academics taught from a Christian perspective. Our distinctive and innovative programs provide a respected degree with excellent professional preparation. Our liberal arts core offers a breadth of knowledge while developing essential communication and problem-solving skills. And our integration of faith and learning equips students to serve where they are called.

MR. DENNIS WILKE ROSEDALE TECHNICAL INSTITUTE No matter what occupation you’re in, success requires technical ability, productivity, dependability and an internal spark. Each of these characteristics is equally important, and to be competitive in the workplace you’ve got to show a combination of all four traits. Can you do the work? That’s technical ability. You won’t go anywhere without the ability to do the job. This is where your education helps you succeed. Choosing the right post-secondary school that trains you for a career you’ll enjoy is the path to technical ability. Can you do it well? That’s productivity. Different than ability, productivity means you can do the job accurately and quickly. To be productive, you must apply enthusiasm and pride to your technical ability. That’s not something you can learn from a book. But, the key is to choose a career that sparks your interest. Can you do it consistently? That’s dependability. All the ability and productivity in the world won’t mean a thing, if people can’t rely on you to consistently perform. There’s a reason people say that 90% of life is just showing up. And finally, the spark. The desire to succeed. People who succeed in life are the people who take action. Self-motivation is a powerful force. So, if you want to be competitive in our future economy, find your spark. Find something that you enjoy and work hard to be an expert in that field. If you’ve got the desire to succeed and enjoy what you do, you will reap the rewards.

10 spring 2011


Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

I would like to say thank you and congratulations to all of the students who participated in the “My Promise to Pittsburgh” contest! The contest, created by the City, asked students to tell us how they will return the ‘promise’ back to Pittsburgh. I would like to especially acknowledge the students from Carrick, Oliver, and Westinghouse high schools who made it into the top five most creative submissions. All of the entries received so many kind comments from residents on the City of Pittsburgh’s Facebook page. Contest winners had a great time at the Pittsburgh Penguins game and enjoyed the new Consol Energy Center. I was so impressed with the caliber of entries, that I’ve decided to challenge students to another “My Promise to Pittsburgh” contest. This was the first year for the contest, and I must say that the bar has been set very high. But I’m confident that next year we can expect more high school students to get involved and compete for Penguins tickets! So again I say ‘well done’ to all the students who took the time to partake in the contest, and I look forward to seeing more promising entries next year!

Luke Ravenstahl Mayor, City of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Promise Board Member

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What the world needs now is...


The world can sometimes appear to be pretty empty. Perhaps it’s because the world desperately needs what only you have to offer. Perhaps the world simply needs an irreplaceable, indispensable you. The you who looks at the world and asks: why is it like this? What’s in me that can make it better – rather than just “what’s in it for me?� We’re Grove City College. We have a reputation as one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country – and yet we’re one of the most affordable. Our graduates succeed not just in their careers, but at life. God gave you a mind for higher things. We’ll help you learn to use it well. And that is the first step to changing the world.

Promises made.


Promises kept.

For over 160 years, Saint Francis University has been keeping promises to students just like you. The promise of a better education and the promise of a better tomorrow. Today, 97% of all Saint Francis graduates are employed or in graduate school just six months after they graduate. That’s a promise kept. | Reach Higher. Go Far.

12 spring 2011


As high school seniors begin to contemplate the next phase of their education, some important steps need to be taken while the decision about school is considered. The selection of a school will be, for many students, one of the largest financial decisions they ever make. As such, it is smart to evaluate more than one offer—or financial aid package—and understand it clearly. To that end, here are some recommended steps to take and questions to ask.

Complete a FAFSA

Provide All the Requested Information

An important first step in applying for financial aid at most colleges and universities is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which must be completed in order to receive financial aid and a scholarship from The Pittsburgh Promise. The Department of Education must receive the FAFSA by April 30 in order to be considered for state funds. Income tax returns or estimates are needed in order to complete the application. The “need analysis” completed by the US Department of Education for FAFSA filers determines whether or not students qualify for federal aid programs, many scholarships, most state awards and low interest student loan programs based on financial need. Pell and PHEAA grants represent significant sources of funding for qualified students, depending on the student’s financial need and the cost of attendance at various schools. The results of the FAFSA determine a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount the student or their family is expected to contribute toward the cost of paying for school. It is determined by a number of factors in addition to income. Those include the size of the household and how many members of the family are attending school. Financial Aid offices use the Cost of Attendance and Expected Family Contribution to calculate a student’s financial need. With this as a beginning point, Financial Aid Offices put together a financial aid package of loans, grants, scholarships and employment to help students have the resources they need to attend the school of their choice. The Pittsburgh Promise Scholarship becomes a part of this financial aid package.

It is essential that all requests for additional information from the school be submitted to the Financial Aid office. Financial aid eligibility cannot be determined without the proper documentation that is needed to complete students’ financial aid file. In addition, payment of The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship cannot be made until the file is complete.

Study Your Financial Aid Package Four types of student aid are usually part of the financial aid package: Scholarships: Money awarded that does not have to be paid back. It is awarded based on a variety of things such as academic promise, athletics, music, areas of study such as science and technology, or affiliations such as church or community based organizations. Grants: Awards that are need-based and that do not have to be paid back. Work Study: Wages earned by students working on or off campus to pay for school. Loans: Money borrowed that must be paid back with interest.

Ask Good Questions In what order does the school stack the scholarships, grants, and loans into their aid package? The Pittsburgh Promise is a “last dollar” scholarship. That means that we ask schools to deduct all other grants and scholarships from the cost of attendance before they deduct The Promise funds. However, schools are not obligated to do

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Visit These Websites, to submit the FAFSA, FREE Application for Federal Student Aid, the state agency, an awardwinning college-planning website, for Spanish-speaking visitors, a site for students to help them manage financial decisions

this and may choose to deduct their own funds last which may result in the school contributing a smaller amount and reducing the total amount of free money (grants) received. What are the requirements to continue receiving grants each year? Some grants require that a student “demonstrate academic progress”, or be in “good” standing. It is important to know how the school defines these terms. Other grants have specific G.P.A. minimum requirements. The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship requires students to complete a minimum of 20 credits per academic year and maintain at least a cumulative G.P.A. of 2.0. Students should make sure they understand the academic requirements for each grant they receive. Does the school package financial aid for freshmen differently than it does for sophomores? Find out if there will be automatic changes to the financial aid package in year two, especially if the school is providing funding. It is important to know if the financial aid package being offered is for one year or all four years of the student’s education. What role does the student’s choice of housing play in the cost of attendance? Room and board costs vary from school to school but average more than $6,000 per year. Opting for private rooms and apartments can increase this annual expense substantially and add thousands to the final cost of attendance. On-campus housing is known to increase academic success and can be especially helpful during the high school to college transition.

Does the financial aid office provide any resources to help pay for books? Many students anticipate receiving refunds from their financial aid that they plan to use to pay for books. However, it is usually late in the semester before these refunds are received. Schools sometimes offer short term loans, vouchers or other resources for books. Used books are deeply discounted so students may want to get a list of the required text books early and try to purchase them second hand. Does dropping a course impact my financial aid? Dropping classes or withdrawing mid-semester, or after the add/drop period, can jeopardize financial aid if students are then below the credit requirements of scholarship or grant programs. Further, the financial obligation remains. Students should get advice from financial aid and guidance counselors before making these decisions. What other resources does the school offer to support, mentor and guide their students? Ask about the school’s retention rate, graduation rate, and ask for specific information about what the school offers in the way of academic support. It is critical for students to know about these resources and be able to access them quickly if needed.

Shawn Butler Scholarship Manager The Pittsburgh Promise

14 spring 2011


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GETTING YOU ONE STEP CLOSER TO COLLEGE AND YOUR PROMISE SCHOLARSHIP Applications, SATs, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities are just a few of the terms that swirl through high school students’ heads as they begin the college application process. Beyond all of this, there is more that students can do in high school before they even begin their college applications to help make them more attractive candidates. They can take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Advanced Placement courses are a big deal. Grades received in AP classes outweigh teacher recommendations, essays, and even college entrance exams. In fact, according to a 2001 Admissions Trends Survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), grades in these courses can be the single most important factor in college admission decisions. The AP program is a nationally recognized set of courses that allow students to study in-depth advanced material at an accelerated pace. AP classes are offered for more than 20 subjects and are designed for students who want to experience challenging, college-level courses. At the end of the year-long course, students are encouraged to take the corresponding AP exam. Depending on the college or university, students who score a 3, 4, or 5 on this exam can receive college credit. Beyond helping students get accepted to college, AP classes can actually help students succeed in college. By taking AP courses, students are exposed to rigorous material and a higher level of work before even stepping foot in college. A 2007 study by the University of Texas shows that students who earn a 3, 4, or 5 on an AP exam are three times more likely to earn a college degree in four years than those who do not. Because of the numerous benefits of Advanced Placement, Pittsburgh Public Schools has set forth three major goals for the District.


Increasing overall participation in AP courses.


Increasing the overall number of students taking AP exams, and;


Increasing the number of students who score a 3 or higher on AP exams.

In order to reach these ambitious goals, the District has created a plan that focuses on training and supporting AP teachers, building awareness of the AP program, and better preparing and supporting AP students. Pittsburgh Public Schools has created additional free support programs so that students are prepared and successful when they take AP courses. These include: 4 Advanced Placement Review Sessions, which will take place on evenings and weekends in March and April, and are designed to boost students’ confidence prior to taking the AP exams in May 4 Advanced Placement Summer Academy, which is a three week intensive summer workshop taking place July 11-29 at the University of Pittsburgh Students are encouraged to talk with their teachers, counselors, and parents to determine if AP is a good fit. Contact your school now for more information or visit the Pittsburgh Public Schools AP Web site at

“It’s been incredibly rewarding to read e-mails from former AP Calculus students describing their smooth transition to engineering or physics programs in college. The challenge now is to grow the number and diversity of students flourishing at the top level. I’m convinced this is attainable, and am encouraged to see the District implementing new initiatives to make this occur.” JEFF LAURENSON AP Calculus teacher at Brashear High School

“I am excited about my role as an AP Champion. My goal is to make students and parents more aware of the benefits of Advanced Placement. Success in AP classes builds confidence and prepares students for rigorous college courses. I am interested in finding hardworking and motivated students who might not typically take AP classes and getting them enrolled.” CHRISTINA THOMAS Teacher and AP Champion at Perry High School

Trisha Poling Project Assistant K-12 Gifted and Talented Education PPS

16 spring 2011

“Upon graduation, I intend to find some sort of job in the field of computer science in Pittsburgh. Afterwards, I hope to start my own company, in which I would work hard to make these ambitions, along with others picked up on the way, come true.” JULIAN MCMILLAN Perry High School

“I would also be honored to join one of the groups who walk around and clean up the city by picking up trash, painting, and planting flowers—to make Pittsburgh a more loving, caring, and respectful city.” DAINOA MANIGUALT Westinghouse High School

“I will assemble a diverse team of dedicated people to create an organization whose mission is to introduce the importance of diversity in a child’s life and in work and school settings.” NAOMI RITTER CAPA High School “I want to be a pioneer in establishing a foundation for doctors to contribute their time to help patients without health care.” HEATHER JONES Brashear High School

“I would like to help children of the future to be eligible to receive more financial aid for college, so that perhaps they will be able to leave college, get a job, and start saving right away instead of paying back hefty debts.” MAX MURRELL Schenley High School

“I would like to live in a Pittsburgh where young men and women actually believe in their potential— a place where the youth know that there is so much more to life than gang violence and drugs.” JOVONNE ROSE-ROBINSON Career Connections Charter School

“Can you image a better Pittsburgh? A place where neighborhood children can feel safe? A place where college graduates can have a successful start in life? How about a place of hope and achievement? These imaginations are just the fundamental building blocks of reality.” JOURAY JENNINGS Oliver High School

“…the kind of Pittsburgh I want to live in is one that is drug free and that presents more rehabilitation services to drug addicts… I plan on becoming involved with the prison system in Allegheny County, and helping establish more extensive and effective rehabilitation in the prison for drug and alcohol addicts.” ALYSSA LANE Brashear High School

“After I graduate from college, I would like to live in the type of Pittsburgh that not only has the remarkable people and locations, but also embraces its electronic culture by holding more events that will spread the knowledge of its “hidden gems.” LAUREN KROWITZ City High Charter School

“Pittsburgh is an amazing city, full of amazing people. However some of these amazing people are being ignored and not receiving the attention they need. I have a vision for a city that is more aware of the hundreds of people who are affected by Autism.” SAMANTHA PASHEL Schenley High School

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MY VISION In partnership with American Eagle Outfitters, The Pittsburgh Promise invited the graduating seniors of the class of 2010, who were also eligible Promise Scholars, to write brief essays describing their vision for Pittsburgh, and their commitment to help make that vision reality. Below are moving excerpts from 23 entries. We look forward to the day when each of these fine young people is a part of nurturing a future for our city that is indeed full of promise.

“A way I could help would be to clean up the grounds where buildings have been torn down and help plant trees and grass to show that Pittsburgh is a city of unity.” KATRINA CHIOCCA Carrick High School

“In my ideal Pittsburgh we would retain the distinctive qualities that make our neighborhoods so one-ofa-kind, yet we wouldn’t be afraid to step out of them from time to time to have new experiences. We would cross a river without hesitation! We would see that life is bigger that the block we live on. And that would lead us to realize that different is not something to fear but embrace.” JOHN MICHAEL DUBENSKY Perry High School “When I graduate from college I would want to live in a nice, clean city with less crime going on. I would love to participate in a crime watch or a clean-up group to help Pittsburgh be a better City.” SIERRA FARMER Peabody High School

“When I return to Pittsburgh in five years after receiving my master’s degree for teaching, I would like to come back to form a community of students who are more eager to take the steps to graduate and further their education beyond high school… I would like to start up a student-led organization to get other students throughout the district excited for learning and prepared for success.” RACHEL M. PEARCE CAPA High School “I would love to see more parks “I want my hometown to become a place where children with challenges are able to receive the attention that is needed, one that also offers an outlet for their families where they are able to share what they are experiencing with others, where they can get the emotional support so necessary in situations such as theirs. To make the city of Pittsburgh a better place, I am willing to help by opening a medical practice where children with autism and other disabilities can get the adequate care that is needed, where therapy sessions are designed to help parents and siblings as well.” JULIA KILLMEYER Langley High School

and recreation centers opened up for the public use. Children need to get more exercise on a daily basis and if these parks and recreation centers would open they would be able to get this much needed work-out.” JOSEPH SHAMLIN Carrick High School “I cannot imagine living anywhere else when I graduate from college and veterinary school. This is my town, one that encompasses the best of city living…” ANNE STERNBERGER Allderdice High School

“I have a vision for a better Pittsburgh. Four years from now, I have hopes that my hometown will be on the cutting edge of technology, and have an excess of jobs to offer its residents—all while still remaining environmentally friendly.” JASON SCHACHTER Langley High School

Standing Left to Right: Samantha Pashel, Schenley; Julia Killmeyer, Langley; Julian McMillan, Perry; John Dubensky, Perry; Jason Schachter, Langley; Saleem Ghubril; Phillip Ferguson, Oliver; Max Murrell, Schenley; James O'Donnell; Joseph Shamlin, Carrick; Christopher Price, Peabody; Franco Harris; Heather Jones, Brashear; Naomi Ritter, CAPA; Alyssa Lane, Brashear; Rachel Pearce, CAPA; Anne Sternberger, Allderdice; Katrina Chiocca, Carrick. Seated Left to Right: Daiona Manigault, Westinghouse; Kijev James, Westinghouse; Dane Rae King, North Side Urban Pathways; JoVonne Rose-Robinson, Carreer Connections; Zoe Levenson, Allderdice; Lauren Krowitz, City High. Not Pictured: Sierra Farmer, Peabody; Jouray Jennings, Oliver.

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MY VISION “I imagine a city not only known for bridges, the steel mills, the sports teams, the arts, but also for the growth of the Pittsburgh Public Schools.” ZOE LEVENSON Allderdice High School “I want to see schools find better, fun, and more enthusiastic ways to teach students… I want to see more community involvement where more than one person or organization helps out with their neighborhood.” KIJEV M. JAMES Westinghouse High School

“I am so happy to be able to attend college and my vision is to see that young people take pride in this city, in our schools, our neighborhoods and in this wonderful place that we call home.” DANA RAE KING Northside Urban Pathways Charter School

“In order to ensure that public schools in Pittsburgh are in a better academic state, I am willing to be one of the people to show other students that it will benefit them to challenge themselves.” CHRISTOPHER PRICE Peabody High School

“The first step that we must take to reach our bright future is to create more jobs and keep the homegrown talent that we have at home… If we can keep our talent here in Pittsburgh, then we will be well on our way to becoming the great city that I envision.” PHILIP FERGUSON Oliver High School

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DON’T FALL VICTIM TO HIGH COST FINANCIAL SERVICES Before the emergence of credit cards, the phrase “I’ll have to wait until payday” to purchase something was more frequently stated and followed than it is in today’s society. We live in a world of instant gratification and the need to have things now seems more prevalent. This mentality has fueled the expansion of the payday lending industry. Many individuals turn to payday lending and check cashing outlets in order to borrow funds from a future paycheck prior to its receipt. Payday outlets advertise these loans as quick and easy ways to get cash which is attractive to a growing number of consumers for reasons such as unanticipated expenses; lack of financial education which prevents the consumer from creating a realistic working budget and those who simply have a mistrust or lack of confidence in traditional financial institutions such as credit unions or banks. They may feel that a financial institution can’t help them because of poor or no credit history or they’ve bounced checks in the past which haven’t been repaid and thus prevents them from securing a checking account. The payday lending debt trap locks borrowers into a cycle of revolving credit with an average APR of 400% and fees as high as 1,000% APR. When the payday loan is due, generally within 14 days, consumers have the choice to pay it off in full with the postdated check they were required to supply at the onset of the loan or pay fees and refinance for another term if available.

Example: In an emergency, Jane needs to pay $300 for her rent. To cover the shortfall, she takes out a payday loan. She writes a postdated check for $345—the $300 owed to her landlord and a $45 payday lender fee. When her paycheck comes in, she discovers that there isn’t enough to pay back this loan and meet her expenses so, she extends the loan for another two weeks and now owes $390 due to an additional $45 fee. In the past few years regulators have made strides to tighten payday lending laws throughout the country. Don’t fall victim. In this case, what may appear convenient at the time will cost more in the end. 4

Do your research and open an account at a credit union or a bank that is right for you. Many of these institutions even offer free financial counseling and money management services to help educate consumers. 4

If there is a history of bounced checks—pay off your debt. A number of conventional institutions will give you a second chance.


Break the cycle. If you are using payday lenders and check cashing facilities, there are other options. Spread the word to your friends and families. Lisa Florian Director of Business Development and Marketing riverset credit union


MAY 17

DISTRICTS 2, 4, 6, and 8 2 8 4

6 The Pittsburgh Public School Board makes decisions that directly impact every aspect of a child’s education. School Board members are responsible for managing more than $526 million in Pittsburgh tax dollars. But, in the last two School Board elections, fewer than 20 percent of all registered voters made the effort to vote. Now, School Board seats are up for re-election in School Board Districts 2, 4, 6 and 8. This is the year to show your care by voting on May 17!

GET READY FOR ELECTION DAY. Visit to confirm that you’re registered and find your polling place. If you’re a new voter, you must register by April 18. Call the Allegheny County Department of Elections at 412-350-4150 for any election specific questions not answered here. Call 1-877-OUR-VOTE (1-877-687-8683) to find your polling place. Bring appropriate identification if you’re a first-time voter.

KIDS CAN’T VOTE…BUT YOU CAN. Your vote for School Board is a vote for: Progress Student Success Pittsburgh’s Future Your Investment in Schools School Board Accountability

22 spring 2011









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When I first started at PTI I thought it was just about getting my degree, but now as I’m graduating I realize it’s more about getting real-life experience and hands-on training to start a great life.

Trevin G.

Langley High School graduate PTI Hospitality student

One college. Seven schools.

1.800.784.9675 Apply online. No application fee.

School School School School School School School

of of of of of of of

Building Technology Business Criminal Justice Design Healthcare Nursing Technology

Visit for a list of majors.

24 spring 2011

INSIDE PPS In this issue of the IdeaPod we feature the students of four of the Pittsburgh Public Schools: Pittsburgh Obama High School; Pittsburgh Science and Technology High School; Pittsburgh Milliones High School; Pittsburgh Peabody High School. Photographs by Josh Franzos.


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26 spring 2011


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28 spring 2011

Promise fulfilled. Your future looks promising, and Penn State can open doors. Take advantage of all we offer to help you achieve your potential. > Twenty campuses and more than 160 majors for undergraduates > Tools for success: academic advising, career planning, internships, scholarships and other funding options > Leadership opportunities through a variety of student organizations > Resources for multicultural students: educational services, guidance, support Contact one of our campuses and take the first step toward fulfilling your promise.

PENN STATE IN WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA Penn State Beaver Monaca, PA 724-773-3800, 877-JOIN-PSU

Penn State Greater Allegheny McKeesport, PA 412-675-9010

Pittsburgh Community Recruitment Center Pittsburgh, PA 412-263-2900 E-mail:

Penn State Erie, The Behrend College Erie, PA 814-898-6100, 866-374-3378

Penn State New Kensington New Kensington, PA 724-334-LION (5466) 888-968-PAWS (7297)

Penn State Shenango Sharon, PA 724-983-2800



1901 Centre Avenue Suite 204 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15219








$20,000 FOR COLLEGE.

CIERA 2008 UPMC Scholar of The Pittsburgh Promise Robert Morris University

IdeaPod Spring 2011  

At The Pittsburgh Promise, we’re offering up our own “i”Pod—the idea pod—a place where ideas can grow by providing students access to inform...