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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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. Donorschoose.org 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 http://www.loveisrespect.org. 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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