National Composer Collaborates With Propel EAST!

The arts are a very important part of Propel Schools’ educational foundation. In fact, our students engage with the arts (including music, dance and martial arts) for at least one hour per school day! Collaboration with community partners, experts in their artistic fields, allow our students experiential education that will enhance their overall learning.

While we enjoy much LOCAL collaboration, Propel EAST will be making a NATIONAL connection with music arts! Professional composer Rich Freese (University of Wisconsin) has joined forces with Mr. Vince Wallace, Propel EAST music teacher, to secure a commission of a new piece of music, written specifically for the Middle School Band! This piece of music will then be rehearsed by the MS Band and performed. The piece of music will then be published and dedicated to the “Propel EAST Middle School Band.”

Our guest blogger, Mr. Vince Wallace, tells us a little more about this process

and what it means to our students.


Creating new music is very much a team effort. Composers rely on musicians to practice, interpret, and perform their music, and musicians rely on composers to create music for them to play. One exciting way that musicians and composers formalize this relationship is through the act of “commissioning” a piece. A composer composes a piece of music specifically for a group of musicians, with their interests, skills, and needs in mind. The musicians then rehearse and perform the piece. The composer now has a great new piece to share with others,

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McKeesport Mathletes Prepare for Competition

When it comes to math, Propel McKeesport student Mathletes take their competition seriously! It seems that their secret formula to success is: dedication + perseverance x much practice = success!

Once a week, this group of students gets to school an hour early to practice more difficult, algebra-based word problems, some even without a calculator. Pretty standard practice schedule, right?

Well, this practice schedule was requested by the student Mathletes –

for a competition that is still 5 whole months away!

Math instructor and Mathlete coach Danielle Condon is excited — both for the competition itself and for the dedication that the students are showing by sharpening their skills well in advance of the competition. Says Ms. Condon, “These students believe that ‘the early bird gets the worm,’ and I’m so proud of them and their work ethic.”

One Mathlete took some time from working with numbers to be a guest blogger. Mathlete Jasmine has this to say about being a student Mathlete:

The Life of Being a Mathlete.jasmine jones - mathlete

You have to have dedication to math. You have to keep trying when things get hard, you can’t just give up. I enjoy my challenges because they help me to grow. Just like an athlete, if you don’t try then you’re not going to get anywhere in life.

Another thing that you have to do as a Mathlete is to practice practice practice!!! Just like athletes, you have to practice to be good at what you’re doing. I practice so much …

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On The FAST Track To The Future — Propel FAST Scholarship Winners

Divinity Glenn, an 8th grade student at Propel Homestead, is well -prepared for her future. Likewise, Kevin Tinsley, an 8th grade student at Propel East, already has career goals in mind.


Divinity and Kevin are both excellent students with positive outlooks on education, life and their place in the world. As winners of the Propel Schools’ FAST (Future Achievement Scholarship Trust) Award, these outstanding students will also have a brighter financial outlook as they move forward in their educational endeavors.

Since 2008, the Propel FAST Award has paved the way for Propel elementary school students to move into high school while providing a financial incentive for excellence in academics.

Students wishing to be considered for this award completed an application as well as a 500 word essay. Semi-finalists were then invited for a round of interviews with Propel teachers, staff and administrators including Propel Superintendent, Dr. Tina Chekan. “Together with their building principals, literacy coaches, teachers and family, all of the applicants showed great effort.  We are very proud of our students.”

After the interview round, two candidates were given the honor of being the 2014 FAST Scholars. For Divinity and Kevin, that was great news!

With a calm demeanor and shy smile, Divinity tells a visitor that she truly enjoys math and hopes to incorporate it into her eventual career. “Lots of people are scared of math, but I like to know that there is more than one way to find an answer to a problem,” she wisely …

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“Student Growth” — A community garden in action!

Brittany Dunmire (a mathematics teacher at Propel Andrew Street High School ) challenged her “Personal Finance” class to brainstorm about elements that can uplift an urban community.

After careful consideration, the students concluded that involvement and service were key factors in developing and maintaining today’s modern urban communities. Incorporating both finance and volunteerism, these students decided to put their theory to the test and, along with their teachers, these busy students developed and are maintaining a ‘green space’ project! Located in a formerly vacant lot on 8th Avenue in Homestead, this community garden is growing!

To make this idea a reality, students had to do the following:
• Calculate material costs
• Evaluate soil conditions
• Clean up the trash and overgrowth

Once these steps were complete, it was time to roll up their sleeves and get to work! In two raised garden beds, students have planted hostas to start their garden. This is a wonderful service project that will continue to bring a bit of green to the city.

Working with both Propel School personnel, as well as Homestead Mayor Betty Esper, students have made the leap from idea to completion! This cross-curricular project allowed students to take theory and apply it to a very practical and workable program. Congratulation to these wonderful students for their vision, dedication and willingness to make a difference in their community!…

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Banking On Their Future — Propel NORTHSIDE’s Fund My Future Bank Day

IMG_1067When Ms. Ashley Brooks (FUND MY FUTURE Education Coordinator) enters the room, the student bankers at Propel NORTHSIDE snap into action.  They know that their important job is about to begin.

As Ms. Brooks directs the students to gather the necessary materials and prepare their banking business, an easy camaraderie is seen among these student bankers.  They know their job is to help students…and they love that!




Myeir, a 6th grade banker loves the job.  A big fan of math (and he loves to count money!), he also enjoys “seeing friends and helping the little kids” during bank day.  Is Myeir also a ‘saver’ as well as a banker?  “I am saving for college,” he replies, “I like math a lot so maybe I’ll become an engineer.”


Soon, students from Kindergarten make their way to the ‘bank.’  These little savers have big dreams about their futures.  Says Olivia “I’m saving for college.  I want to be a movie star!” Her classmate, Nico, is saving for the same reason.  Nico likes to work with his hands and hopes to have a mechanic business someday.  He knows that college is important, he says with a very solemn nod of the head.


As some of the older students enter the ‘bank,’ Nico’s sister arrives, smiles and hugs Nico.  Kamryn is interested in eventually getting a Master’s Degree and becoming an award-winning chef.  Her “Fund My Future” savings will assist her in working toward all of her goals!


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