Category Archives: education

March 2017 – “Helping Hearts”

march2017-coverThe March 2017 Edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – “Helping Hearts” – is now available online & in print.

February 2017 Edition: Moments & Milestones

february2017 cover.qxdThe February 2017 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges is now available online & in print.

January 2017: New Beginnings

january2017 cover.qxdThe January 2017 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesNew Beginnings – is now available online & in print.

Westmoreland College dedicates new lab

ribbon-cutting-not-cutWestmoreland College held a ribbon cutting ceremony to dedicate its new Instructional Design Lab which provides college faculty with the tools to create content engaging course content.

The lab is equipped with six smart podium computers that provide the tools for faculty to imbed video, PowerPoint presentations and other digital content into their online courses delivered in a web conferencing format. These online classes are delivered synchronously allowing instructors and students to interact in real time. Students can access the courses via any mobile device, including smartphones, tablets or computers.

“It’s the closest you can get to being in class without being in an actual classroom, “said Associate Professor John Shelapinsky who teaches Paralegal classes online.

This fall, 47% of Westmoreland students are taking at least one online class and their grade point averages are slightly higher than those enrolled solely in on-ground courses.

“One of our goals is to grow online programs and services to engage students where they are and that’s online, said Westmoreland President Tuesday Stanley. “The Instructional Design Lab will help us to do that.”

Funding for the creation of the Instructional Design Lab was provided by a gift from an anonymous donor.

“We are very grateful to the donor for the gift that enabled us to equip the lab and hire an instructional designer who assists faculty in transitioning their on-ground courses to an online format and developing engaging digital content,” said Stanley.

Funds from a $2.25 million Title III Strengthening Institutions Grant received from the U.S. Department of Education will allow the college to expand the Instructional Design Lab with additional equipment and professional development.

“The lab is the college’s first step in achieving its long-term goal of creating a Learning Commons as part of the Founders Hall renovation project, currently in the planning stage,” said Stanley.

Once completed, the instructional design lab will move to the Learning Commons which will also contain spaces for tutoring and academic support, mentoring and counseling services, career services and an IT help desk.

Westmoreland offers 11 associate degree, diploma and certificate programs that are available 100 percent online. Among those offerings is the Associate of Arts degree, which is transferrable to bachelor’s degree programs at four-year universities. Other programs available completely online are some of Westmoreland’s most popular majors such as business, accounting, criminal justice and psychology.

This fall, Westmoreland was ranked first in Pennsylvania for 2016 online colleges by OnlineColleges.com.

Photo: Delivering remarks at the dedication ceremony were Stanley; Tara Zirkel, dean, Distance Education and Education Centers; Dick Dickert, chairman, Westmoreland board of trustees; Philip McCalister, president, Educational Foundation board; Annette Boyer, director, Distance Education and Learning Resources; John Shelapinsky, associate professor of Paralegal, Business and Real Estate; Ted Kopas, Westmoreland County commissioner; and Chad Amond, president, Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce.

180 Degrees Empowerment Center offers opportunities for area youth

13502588_659102580913805_4113438828867297511_oDepressed areas create despair for residents and youth alike, and a sense that opportunity exists elsewhere. But Terry Vassar of Brownsville, Pennsylvania, decided that he could make it where he lives, and raise others up in the process, through his 180° Empowerment Center, a 501.3c organization headquartered in Brownsville.

Vassar, proud father of five children and a Windows R Us franchise owner, explains the inspiration for the Center’s name: “180 is about making a complete turn-around. Anytime anyone came to Jesus, they would have their life turned around 180 degrees.”

From high school graduation until about age 28, Vassar said that while he had a good family, “…some of us find love in different places, and I found mine in drugs and street life. But at 28, I realized I had no life, and went back to school,” adding that once he rededicated his life to Christ, he didn’t need to go to rehab to quit his habits.

After completing a degree in Ministerial Studies from Shiloh Bible Institute, Vassar worked as a telemarketer where he “ . . . learned how to be a communicator and have people skills,” which benefitted him though managerial and mortgage broker jobs, and would later help bring the Center to the Brownsville community.

14054553_683504928473570_3336914508211999575_oVassar’s experiences on the street, along with personal development through hard work, seeded the idea for 180° Empowerment Center in 2007. However, it took time to build connections with the school district, and create a location, at 165 Market Street in Brownsville. Once in place, he moved ahead with his vision, working with Brownsville Area School District Superintendent Dr. Philip Savini, Jr., Ph. D, to bring the Center’s outreach programs to the district, starting in December of this year.

The Center provides English, math, and Spanish tutoring for 7-12 grades, along with PSSA, SAT, and ACT preparation. In addition, grief counseling, career awareness, student aid workshops, and suicide awareness and prevention programs are available to the area students, or anyone in need.

On request, life development courses and credit counseling are also available.

California University interns from the Department of TRIO and the Hispanic Student Association have stepped in to volunteer their tutoring skills. Lisa Driscoll from the Department of TRIO and Academic Services facilitates the relationship between California University and the Center.

“She’s awesome and it’s been a great partnership. She was instrumental in getting everything in line to start in December,” Vassar said of Driscoll.

Furthering technical literacy skills for Brownsville school district students is Fab Lab, which as Vassar calls “A new, 21st century way of doing design.”

Fab Lab, instructed by Brandon Prentice from Intermediate Unit 1, features classes in Laser Cutting, 3D Printing for Beginners, and a Vinyl Sticker Tutorial. While working through these classes, students learn about design software and 3D modeling to produce projects for the individual class instructions. New Fab Lab classes will form in early 2017.

Vassar’s message for the area is a positive one: “I believe that people in the Mon Valley area, because of the depression, believe they can’t do it here. But by the grace of God, I am. I want kids to be able to duplicate what I’ve done. I want kids to find out what they love to do, and work on developing their strengths.”

Those wishing to donate and/or participate: 180degreesempowerment.com/about, and click on “Lend a Helping Hand.”

Photos: (top) Students show off self portraits made during Fab Lab (bottom) Students participated in a basketball clinic offered by the Center at Brownsville Area High School this past August. Future clinics are planned.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Westmoreland College named top culinary school

2094_chefs_hat_character_running_with_tray_of_wine_and_plate_with_chickenWestmoreland County Community College is ranked the top culinary school in Pennsylvania by Best Choice Schools.

Criteria for the rankings included availability of hands-on experience, internship/externship opportunities, student operated restaurants, modern facilities, industry reputation and national accreditation by the American Culinary Federation.

Nationally, Westmoreland is ranked 40th among the top U.S. culinary schools. Westmoreland offerings acknowledged in the rankings include the associate in applied science degree programs in Baking and Pastry, Culinary Arts and Restaurant/Culinary Management.

“We’re thrilled to be recognized as the best culinary arts school in the state and among the top institutions in the country,” said Dr. Cindy Komarinski, dean of the School of Health Professions and the School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality.

“Our program graduates are employed throughout the United States at places such as Canyon Ranch in Las Vegas, The  Sheraton Grand, Phoenix and Universal Studios in Florida,” Komarinski said.

Within the region, Westmoreland culinary arts and hospitality graduates hold positions as executive chefs, operations managers and product development directors at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa, The Duquesne Club, Eat n’

Park Hospitality Group and Seven Springs Mountain Resort among other businesses.

Westmoreland is accepting applications for admission into the culinary arts and hospitality programs.

FMI: wccc.edu/culinary.

Waynesburg U named to Community Service Honor Roll

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) recently announced that Waynesburg University was named to the 2015 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This is the University’s eighth consecutive year receiving the honor. Waynesburg University was one of 115 schools on the General Community Service Honor Roll with distinction and only one of 12 in the state of Pennsylvania identified with distinction.

“We are honored to receive this award, which is a tribute to the hard work and commitment of our students, faculty and staff,” said Waynesburg University President Douglas G. Lee. “Their dedication to service continues to have a profound impact.”

The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to community, service-learning and civic engagement. CNCS is a federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering.

The Honor Roll recognizes institutions of higher education that support exemplary community service programs and raise the visibility of effective practices in campus community partnerships. Honorees for the award were chosen based on a series of selection factors including scope and innovativeness of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service and the extent to which academic service-learning courses are offered.

Waynesburg University students, faculty and staff contribute more than 50,000 service hours annually. Through its more than 50 local and regional agencies and a continuously expanding network of international agencies, Waynesburg University encourages students to become servant-leaders through a number of partnerships. The University offers approximately 16 service mission trips each academic year. The trips are held during the fall, winter, spring and summer breaks. The University also participates in a number of weekend-long service projects in the local community and surrounding region. In addition to volunteer hours, the University offers a service leadership minor constructed around service-learning courses. During the semester-long courses, students perform a set amount of hours of community service with a non-profit organization.

The University is one of only 21 Bonner Scholar Schools in the country. With support from the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation, Waynesburg is committed to the program which was created to offer scholarship assistance to students performing significant amounts of community service throughout their time at Waynesburg. Approximately 60 Waynesburg University students are involved with the program each year.

Waynesburg U students participate in collegiate choir

singersSix Waynesburg University students successfully auditioned and participated in the recent 2016 Pennsylvania Collegiate Choir held at Susquehanna University.

Dr. A. Jan Taylor, director of choirs and music education at Prairie View A&M University, led the choir of 95 singers.

A total of nine Pennsylvania colleges and universities were represented at the festival.

This was the first year that Waynesburg University music students were represented at the festival, according to Melanie Catana, director of choral music and instructor of vocal music at the University.

Students who participated include:

Susan Dunsworth, freshman entrepreneurship major from Erie (Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy)

Briana Ryan, sophomore music ministry major from Monongahela (Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School)

Rachel Philipp, junior arts administration (music concentration) major from McMurray (Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School)

Kayla Goncalves, junior music ministry major from Boca Raton, Florida (Olympic Heights Community High School)

Thomas Faye, freshman music ministry major from Pittsburgh (Penn Hills High School)

Philip Hurd, recent music ministry alumnus from Elizabeth

Historic Bible presented to Waynesburg U president

11-16-turkish-bible-presentedThe Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church of Clarksville, Pennsylvania, presented a historic Turkish Bible to Waynesburg University President Douglas G. Lee Wednesday, Nov. 16. The Bible, written in Arabic, was printed in Lebanon with the first edition dating back to the year 1000.

Richard Teegarden, elder and clerk of sessions at the church, presented the Bible to President Lee in the president’s office in Miller Hall.

In a letter that accompanied the Bible, the church stated: “We would be grateful if this valued treasure of our church would be received by the University so that it may be properly, respectfully and securely preserved. Our hope and intention would be that by this decision we will not only protect and preserve this unique translation but also make it available for others to use and gain knowledge from, now and for many years to come.”

Teegarden shared that the church is closing at the end of the year and they felt that the Bible should be given to someone who would have the knowledge to appreciate it and the ability to keep it.

“Being of the Turkish language, there is a possibility that students from a wide variety of countries could appreciate having the Bible,” said Teegarden. “Being able to see and use it could give them some insight to the people of this area from long ago who originally came from other countries.”

The Bible was originally left to the church by John Hassen, a member of the church, upon his death in 1966. Hassen was born in Europe but lived most of his life in Clarksville and worked as a coal miner.

President Lee expressed his thanks on behalf of the University to Teegarden and presented him with a special Alpaca woven Waynesburg University scarf.

“We are honored to receive this gift,” said Lee. “We will treasure this wonderful resource and wish to express our gratitude for the generosity of the Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church.”

Also in attendance was Rea Redd, professor and director of the Eberly Library, Courtney Dennis, associate director of the Paul R. Stewart Museum, and Rev. Dr. Donald Wilson, member of the University’s Board of Trustees. The Bible will be on display in the Eberly Library on the University’s campus.