Category Archives: lifestyle

July 2017 Edition – “Fun in the Sun”

july2017-coverThe July 2017 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesFun in the Sun – is now available online & in print.

Pennsylvania Bridges June 2017 – “Rise Up Singing”


june2017-coverThe June 2017 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges“Rise Up Singing” – is now available online & in print.


May 2017 Edition – “May Flowers”

The May 2017 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges“May Flowers” – is now available online & in print.coverproof

April 2017 – Spring Cleaning

april2017-coverThe April 2017 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesSpring Cleaning – is now available online & in print.

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.

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:, 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

Season Affective Disorder: What is it?

sad2It’s that time of year. Darkness settles in around 5:30 pm. That means less sunlight and our circadian rhythm gets all messed up. Circadian rhythm is physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. They are found in most living things, including animals, plants and many tiny microbes. Basically, sleep is off, we eat more and feel generally depressed. This is the time of year psychologists have termed a type of seasonal depression as Season Affective Disorder.

The term was first coined by Doctor Norman Rosenthal in 1984 at the National Institute of Mental Health. The condition affects approximately 10% of people in non-tropical climates with about 20% of people reporting a milder form of the condition. Typically, SAD is so subtle, it takes two to three years before it even diagnosed. Traditionally, twice as many women are diagnosed with SAD than men.

What is the cause of this? We all need sun to optimize Vitamin D production, and a lack of Vitamin D has been proven to negatively affect individuals, as it relates to depression and a healthy immune system. Another theory is a lack of serotonin production.  Biochemically derived from tryptophan, serotonin is primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract, blood platelets and the central nervous system of animals, including humans. It is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.

sadchartWhether natural or biological, Seasonal Affective Disorder can be dangerous, particularly to those who are bipolar. The typical symptoms of SAD include: Lack of Energy, Weakened Immune System, Reduced Libido, Lack of Concentration, Overeating and Weight Gain, Alcohol or drug abuse, Feeling Guilt or Worry, Sleep Issues, Irritability, and/or Social and Relationship Problems

So what can be done about this illness? The obvious is to make an appointment with your primary care physician and/or mental health professional. Any of the ten symptoms above can lead to very serious consequences, particularly in combination. Before your appointment, jot down some of the specific things you are experiencing. Questions for the Doctor like, “Why am I experiencing a sudden loss of sleep and why am I hungry all the time?”

PrintOnce you have your appointment scheduled, as the doctor about specific treatments such as medication, psychotherapy and light therapy. I know several people in my group therapy who struggle with this every single year and they have purchased particular lighting units that house a 10,000-lux light therapy and negative ion therapy. This type of therapy helps to balance the circadian cycle, restoring sleep and waking times by getting their bodies back on a normal clock schedule.

Remember, this can affect anyone. Please schedule an appointment with your doctor should you be experiencing any of these symptoms.

Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges

Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival seeks entries

artists_crafts_188873-1The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is officially accepting applications for participants in the 58th annual Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, June 2-11, 2017. The nation’s premier free arts festival seeks a diverse group of visual and performing artists of all disciplines and career stages. This year’s call for visual and performing artists welcomes artists and performers who have never before participated in TRAF, emphasizing brand new art and original work. Applications will be accepted from October 3, 2016 through January 17, 2017. Application status notifications will be sent to all applicants in late March of 2017.

In 2017, artists will have the opportunity to explore the following opportunities:

Artist Market presented by Peoples – a renowned market, featuring over 300 artists selling one-of-a-kind pieces

Juried Visual Art Exhibition – showcasing new regional art in a variety of media, juried by an esteemed panel

Emerging Artist Scholarship Program – providing individuals with little to no experience the opportunity to produce their first show

Music & Performing Arts – showcasing the original work of dancers, actors, literary and performance artists

Special Project / Collaboration – creative original concepts, multidisciplinary work and collaborations that emphasize engaging the audience directly and working beyond traditional stages

Applications will be accepted through January 17, 2017. To learn more about the submission categories and to apply, visit or call (412) 456-6666.