Propel Homestead’s American Biography Project

Propel Homestead’s 3rd grade English/Language Arts class immersed themselves (almost literally!) in a biography/history project!

These third grade students spent the first 7 weeks of school learning about how the United States is both similar to and different from other countries. Further, they went on to research how people and events influenced the growth our country.

During the last 3 weeks of the project, students researched famous Americans throughout history. Their assignment? To write a biography about the famous American and to give a speech about him/her.

Students then had the pleasure of presenting those speeches to Mr. Hammond’s 7th and 8th grade classes as the culminating activity for the module! Instructor Jasmine Anderson is proud of the perseverance that the students showed. “Third grade did a wonderful job of putting all of the elements together for a wonderful project!”

The students also had an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding by presenting their speeches as part of a “Wax Museum” during a parent/school meeting as well!

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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 …

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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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