Guest Blogger – Stefanie Vorrasi, Art Instructor – Propel NORTHSIDE

My name is Stefanie Vorrasi and I have been an art teacher at Propel for seven years. Over these years, I have actively sought out extra funding for all of my big ideas. I enjoy the challenges and opportunities that grant writing provides. Achieving my funding goals has lead to enriched learning experiences for my students and has helped foster connections in the community.

Propel has a wonderful opportunity for educators called the Innovation Grant. For the past four years I have successfully applied for and have been selected as a recipient for this grant. I have been able to hire local artists such as sculptor and mosaic artist Laura Jean McLuaghlin. Currently, local animator Jayla Patton is working with my 2nd ,4th and 6th grade students to teach the fundamentals of stop motion animation. I have also used these grants to take students to cultural organizations in Pittsburgh — from the National Aviary to the Union Project.

I love, love, love “Donorschoose!” Sometimes there are projects that I want to do that I hadn’t planned on when ordering my supplies at the beginning of the year. is where I go when I need supplies that I didn’t order at the beginning of the year and to enrich the resources students can utilize in their work. I have also been lucky enough to acquire patrons from the Pittsburgh area that have come across my projects on Donorschoose. The result of this was having a 3D printer for my classroom …

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BHHS Group Takes on “Teen Dating Violence”

February is TEEN DATING VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH. Each year, 1 in 10 teens suffer physical, sexual or emotional abuse from their partners. Dating violence can put teens at risk for many things including, substance abuse, depression and poor academic performance.

The Expect Respect Leadership group at Propel BRADDOCK HILLS HIGH SCHOOL is sponsored by Center for Victims. This group is educating their peers about this fast-growing and dangerous issue. Some of the group’s activities for the month of February include:

 Hanging posters with dating violence statistics and warning signs throughout the school
 Weekly ‘Alert Now’ messages will be recorded by our students and distributed via telephone to the students’ families. These messages will include information on statistics, warning signs and where to get help
 There will be weekly postings on ‘Schoology’ describing ‘healthy versus unhealthy’ relationships
 On Friday, February 14, “Expect Respect” valentine cards will be given to students at lunch.

Says Elena Runco, School Social Worker at Propel BRADDOCK HILLS HIGH SCHOOL, “As adolescents approach the dating years, they may need a reminder that healthy relationships are safe, respectful and non-violent. As a school family, we care for one another and want to see positive and safe dating behaviors modeled by our teens.”

For teens or families who want to learn more about Teen Dating Violence, Ms. Runco recommends visiting This site gives pertinent information for families including blogs, relationship quizzes and ways that families and students can get help recognizing and dealing with …

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A Rain Garden at Propel Braddock Hills

This school year, students at Propel Braddock Hills are learning while  making their community and city a better, more environmentally-friendly place. Through a grant from Starbucks and collaboration with GTECH, Propel Braddock Hills third grade and sixth grade students built a rain garden to help prevent Pittsburgh rivers from overflowing. This initiative is part of Propel Braddock Hills’ unique science curriculum:  each grade level has been partnered with a community collaborator for a practical application component to the subject matter students study.

So, what does a rain garden at a school in Braddock Hills have to do with Pittsburgh rivers from overflowing? And what is a rain garden? And how does it improve the city of Pittsburgh?

There is an issue in Pittsburgh regarding storm water runoff and water pollution. Pittsburgh’s many rainy days, which average one-quarter of an inch, can cause raw sewage to overflow into the famous three rivers (as well as streams).  According to GTECH’s Megan Zeigler, it only takes one-tenth of an inch of rain overflow to overwhelm a sewage system. When sewage systems are not treated and properly maintained, the raw sewage overflows into Pittsburgh’s waterways,that can show up anywhere from manholes in the streets to flooding in homeowners’ basements.  GTECH states that, with the way Pittsburgh’s  pipelines are designed, all storm runoff from every drain filters into one pipe. When overwhelmed, it can get ugly – not to mention smelly.

A rain garden is an eco- friendly solution to help prevent sewage overflow …

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Propel receives Dominion Resource and Dominion Foundation Grant

Dominion Grant

Thanks to Dominion Resources and the Dominion Foundation, six Pennsylvania schools will receive grants ranging from $3,000 to $35,000 for a grand total of $85,000 in Grants to Pennsylvania Schools. “We encourage projects that invoke critical thinking and relevant learning,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Dominion. “Pennsylvania students must be prepared to meet the challenges ahead, particularly in the fields of science and energy.”

Propel Schools was one of the six school Dominion Resources recently chose for a Dominion K-12 Educational Partnership grant.  Propel’s $7000 award will be used to purchase  classroom and home energy kits for Propel Braddock Hills schools, to help high school students teach energy efficiency concepts and strategies to younger students and their families.

This generous grant is another example of the extraordinary science programming within Propel schools. Previously, Propel has been acknowledged for its “green” initiatives via two Governor’s awards: one in 2012 for a Sunflower Garden at Propel Braddock Hills, and one in 2013 for a beekeeping program at Propel Andrew Street.

The Pennsylvania grants are part of nearly $1.4 million given to schools in states where Dominion does business, including Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Propel is honored to be a recipient of this award, and to continue to provide  students with extraordinary, hand-on learning opportunities as part of their curriculum.…

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