Category: 'Y' Written by Ashley N. Johnson
HEALTHY SCHOOL—Founders Hall Middle School, is just one of the McKeesport Area School District schools, taking part in the Healthy Schools Collaboration. (Photo by J.L.Martello)
A healthy school environment is a more productive one. Factors such as air pollution, chemical exposure and biological agents are just as important as making sure students are being given the five food groups. While many may be concentrating on healthier school lunches, a local collaborative is taking local school districts by storm to ensure a healthier school environment.
The Healthy Schools Collaboration, led by collaborators Ellsworth and Jenna Cramer, recently partnered with two school districts, McKeesport Area School District and Allegheny Valley School District.
“We’re working to raise awareness of the issue of environmental health in schools in Pennsylvania, by collaborating with school districts to implement simple and cost effective programs that will lead to improve academic performance and health outcomes,” said Andrew Ellsworth, a HSC collaborator. “Everyone can provide a healthier, safer environment.”
The Collaboration, which is funded by the Heinz Endowments, is an initiative aimed at improving environmental health conditions in western Pennsylvania K-12 schools by providing hands-on assistance and expertise to districts, while offering limited financial support for equipment, supplies and staff time for program implementation.
"Schools should be able to provide a safe and healthy environment for student achievement. Poor indoor and outdoor air quality in the classroom, for example, can threaten our children’s health, development and learning,” said Philip Johnson, senior program officer, Environment Program, The Heinz Endowments.
An environmentally unhealthy school can cause both developmental and physical health issues. According to the American Lung Association reported that children in the United States miss 14 million school days each year because of asthma, which can be aggravated by environmental pollutants found in schools, homes and outdoors.
In schools, some of the unhealthiest environmental practices are the use of toxic cleaning products and pesticides, cluttered classrooms and air pollution. According to Ellsworth and the collaboration’s website, some of the greatest improvements to ensure an environmentally healthy school can be made by reducing the use of pesticides in and outside of school buildings; changing cleaning products to non-toxic alternatives; eliminating or significantly reducing idling of school busses or vehicles while on school properties; and de-cluttering classrooms to improve the quality of air flow.
And like many health issues, African-Americans can be more affected than any other race. According to a report in the May 2011 edition of Health Affairs entitled “Air Pollution Around Schools is Linked to Poorer Student Health and Academic Performance,” “a large and growing body of evidence shows that pollution burdens fall disproportionately on low-income and racial or ethnic minority communities.” Ellsworth agrees, but said there are not well-recognized national statistics on the topic.
Timothy Gabauer, superintendent of McKeesport Area High School, which serves approximately 3500 students, said, “One of our main goals is to try to provide a safe and productive work environment for the students and for the teachers. I think it’s critical that we can either validate things that we are doing well or find areas that need assistance and make the pertinent corrections.”
He said that the Collaboration “helps us to identify what is working, and what may not be and what we can do to make those changes.”
Gabauer said that although the initiative is in the beginning stages at his district, he has begun meeting with a core team and looking at individual buildings to identify what will be their focus, which they decided will be indoor air quality, de-cluttering and looking at the cleaning products they use and their practices. He said the district’s maintenance department has looked at their products and what their practices are and now it will be taken to the classroom, to see what can be done.
Like Gabauer’s school district, Cheryl Griffith, superintendent of Allegheny Valley School District, which serves approximately 1,000 K-12 students, said her district is also in the planning stages also. She said her team is taking a look at the district’s purchasing history of products and learning about other products that may be wiser. They are also doing an inventory of how products are stored and used and the end stage is how chemicals are discarded, making sure that is safe and within guidelines.
“Our goal is to be a more educated school community (which includes students, teachers, staff and parents) and to have a sustained effort that they carry with them to continue to get better at a healthier school,” Griffith said.
Although the Collaboration is in the pilot phase of its initiative, Ellsworth said there are plans to eventually reach out to other school districts within the area. “We want to work with as many school districts as possible. Our goal is to add three to five more within the next year.”
Becoming an environmentally healthy school can happen on any level, it just starts with one. Ellsworth said the Collaboration is always willing to help schools interested in joining the cause.
“Just call us, talk to us. We’ll make every effort in what we have to work with them or get them ready and moving,” he said. “Because this is about the schools, not us. We want to encourage them to take the first step and see it’s a benefit, not a burden.”
(For more information on the Healthy Schools Collaboration, visit www.healtyschoolscollaboration.
Last Updated on Friday, 10 May 2013 13:07
Category: 'Y' Written by Courier Newsroom
(Wagner College News Service) In the next few months, many American families will undergo a challenging rite of passage: sending a student off to college for the first time.
The biggest part of this challenge, three Wagner College administrators say, is letting go.
Last Updated on Friday, 10 May 2013 10:49
Category: 'Y' Written by Courier Newsroom
This figure has remained constant at Urban Pathways Charter Schools. For the past three years, one hundred percent of Urban Pathways’ seniors have graduated and been accepted into mostly four-year colleges and universities. This consistency is not a stroke of luck, but the result of a carefully calculated educational experience, where the pathway to college begins from the moment Urban Pathways’ five-year-old kindergarten students walk through the door.
Urban Pathways Charter Schools, located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s downtown cultural district, include both a K-5 and a 6-12 school. Both Urban Pathways schools provide a free education for more than 580 students from various Allegheny County school districts. Teachers and staff members at Urban Pathways are committed to creating a learning environment where each student is provided with the necessary support to achieve his or her full potential.
From the very beginning, each Urban Pathways student is equipped with a personal education plan. Starting in kindergarten, students use portfolios to track their learning. The portfolios contain completed projects and test scores. These materials are later reviewed during parent/teacher conferences, also called learning partnerships. Additionally, each kindergarten student is introduced to both short- and long-term goal setting early on.
“College preparation begins by students learning to set goals,” said Urban Pathways K-5 College Charter School principal David Gallup.
He notes that Stephen R. Covey’s seven habits from his best-selling book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” play a large role in the curriculum. Specifically, habit number two: begin with the end in mind. “Students make goals and focus on their ‘end.’ The students then make a plan on how to reach their goals,” Gallup said.
The emphasis on these habits caught the attention of parent Tinisha Hunt. “I was excited when I learned that Covey’s seven habits were a part of the daily curriculum. This shows that the school is about more than just academics and that helped solidify my decision to enroll my son,” she said.
Natalie Ranalli, a kindergarten teacher at Urban Pathways, believes that goal setting helps encourage discussion about high school and college. “Students begin to understand that high school graduation and college are always tied into whichever profession they choose,” she said. “If the concept of college is presented to children in a positive light at an early age, they will view graduating high school and going to college as a reward.”
Students continue this planning process throughout middle and high school. At these grade levels, students begin to track their attendance, any behavior infractions and individual grades in each class, all while continuing to set specific goals for themselves and their learning with the help of mentors.
“The portfolios give students the opportunity to really take control of their own learning,” said Elizabeth Gingrich, department chair of entrepreneurship.
Individual attention at Urban Pathways does not stop there. Mentoring programs such as BAAM (Benefitting African American Males) and WISE (Women in Sync Everywhere) pair male and female high school students with adult community members. College preparation is the focus of these mentor-student relationships, just like in the classroom. The mentors are available to provide wisdom and guidance to students, not only during their high school years, but throughout the first year of college as well.
Beyond that, staff members in the College Readiness Office are on hand to help students plan for their future college careers. The College Readiness Office offers support for students in completing both college and scholarship applications, navigating financial aid details and exploring summer employment and internship opportunities.
Currently, the three staff members from the College Readiness Office work solely with the 6-12 students, beginning with career and personality interest inventories in grade six. Starting this fall, the Office will expand their reach to the elementary level. With help from K-5 level teachers, the College Readiness staff will work to incorporate additional college- and career-focused lessons and activities into the elementary classrooms.
Ranalli recognizes the importance of an early introduction to the future at Urban Pathways. “Within an urban population, college is often viewed as unachievable, especially when a child is the first person within a family to graduate high school or college,” she said.
“If children are choosing college as a long-term goal while in kindergarten, and college is continually reinforced for the next 12 years, students are more likely to feel that college is attainable.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 11:37
Category: 'Y' Written by Rebecca Nuttall - Courier Staff Writer
CONSTANCE F. HORTON executive director of FAME
On April 25, the Fund for Advancement of Minorities Through Education held its 15th Annual Luncheon “Educating the Leaders of Tomorrow.” The organization provides scholarships for African-Americans students to attend private high schools.
“It’s so exciting to see so many old faces in the room, friends of the organization who were here at the inception of this organization and have supported its growth,” said Constance Horton, FAME executive director. “When we began there was just one student at each school, but through collaboration with those schools, we’re now able to provide scholarships to 68 students.”
Last Updated on Friday, 10 May 2013 10:47
Category: 'Y' Written by CNN
by Michael Lomax
(CNN)—More than 35,000 students will graduate from college this year because of something that happened 159 years ago.
On April 29, 1854 that Ashmun Institute, the first college established solely for African-American students, was officially chartered.
Twelve years later, Ashmun was renamed as Pennsylvania's Lincoln University and became the nation's first degree-granting institution for African-Americans, or what we now know as a historically Black college and university.
Where Lincoln led, others followed, and there are now 105 historically Black colleges and universities, enrolling more than 370,000 students and awarding 20 percent of all undergraduate degrees earned by African-Americans.
"A mind is a terrible thing to waste," the almost universally recognized motto of UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, has come to represent the aspirations of all historically Black colleges and universities to ensure that all Americans can earn the college degrees they need and the 21st century economy demands.
UNCF makes those aspirations real for nearly 60,000 students each year by providing financial support for 38 private historically Black colleges and universities and awarding 13,000 scholarships to students at 900 colleges and universities.
Like Lincoln University, these historically Black colleges and universities began when African-Americans had few other higher education options. Much has changed since then. Today, a college education is not a "good-to-have" but a "must-have," the basic requirement for almost every fast-growing and good-paying job and career path.
Today, African-Americans can attend almost all colleges and universities, but more than four times as many students choose historically Black colleges and universities than 40 years ago.
What's the secret of their enduring success?
Historically Black colleges and universities have endured and thrived because, just as in their early years, they are giving students the education they need and that we, as a community and as a nation, need them to have.
In fact, research by UNCF's Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute shows that historically Black colleges and universities excel at graduating students the economy needs most: students from low-income families.
"We know that students who enroll at HBCUs tend to have fewer financial resources and less rigorous academic preparation than students who enroll at non-HBCUs," reported a study, "Understanding HBCU Retention and Completion."
But "(w)hen these student characteristics were controlled for, HBCUs' retention rates were actually superior to those of non-HBCUs. HBCUs also outperformed non-HBCUs in graduating their students when these student characteristics were controlled for, and this superior performance persisted even when we narrowed the analyses to focus specifically on Black students, Black males and Black females."
These are impressive findings. But they tell only part of the story. Another study by UNCF's Patterson Research Institute, "Students Speak!: Understanding the Value of HBCUs from Student Perspectives," highlighted the human element in understanding why, with so many higher education choices, so many students still choose historically Black colleges and universities. Many students, it said:
Focused on the need to feel connected—-a sense of belonging—as an important driver influencing the decision to attend their institution of choice. Students spoke of their need to feel welcomed at their institutions and identified institutional characteristics that facilitated their abilities to adapt.…The students (also) described how meaningful relationships with faculty and the ethnic and academic diversity on their campuses enhanced their academic engagement and sense of self.
One student cited his desire to "embrace my own history, heritage and everything that has gone into making us who we are."
"I liked the involvement that the students had," said another student. "It was personal, it was easy to have access to your teachers, it was a lot of one-on-one care, and I liked that."
A third student valued the structure that many historically Black colleges and universities provide: "The professors take the time out to hold their students accountable to another level," he told researchers. "(I)f a student comes in five minutes late, the teacher will address the student, hold the student accountable, and then move forward with class ... and it really helps us in the end because it teaches us responsibility with time management and other principles that are really going to be effective for the workforce."
When Lincoln University opened its doors, few other colleges would admit Black students. Lincoln and all the historically Black colleges and universities that followed changed that.
Today, African-Americans with college degrees are our nation's teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, corporate executives, mayors, governors and members of Congress.
In years to come, they will continue in these roles and also assume vital science, technology, engineering and math jobs to move our nation forward.
For 159 years, historically Black colleges and universities have shaped our history. Today, they are shaping our future.
(Editor's note: Michael Lomax, PhD, is president and CEO of UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, the largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to minority and low-income students. Previously, Lomax was president of Dillard University in New Orleans and a literature professor at Morehouse and Spelman colleges.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 11:35
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