Brownsville students spring into “action”

Terry Working 2Some Brownsville High School students are being the change they want to see in their world.

The Brownsville High School Students in Action (SIA) organization is assisting in the revitalization efforts of their hometown. They designed a project for the Snowdon Square Park that includes an outdoor stage, audience seating area, benches, and a walking path.

Teacher Kelli Dellarose, who organized the team in 2012, explained how student membership works. “We have 6 students who are members of our Students in Action (SIA) team. Two are seniors (Kelsey Wolfe and Morgan Sheranek); two are juniors (Alexandria Seto and Lanieta Waqanivalu); and two are sophomores (Jaden Harvey and Jakob Sabatula). When the two seniors graduate, they are replaced with two new sophomores.  This way, the sophomores work their way up to more of a leadership role after learning all of the various aspects of the project, Operation Falcon Revitalization. Sustainability is also vital.”

“It is truly amazing how far we have come over the past five years,” said Dellarose. “The students have gained a plethora of knowledge about planning for a project on this large of a scale. They have played an important role in the engineering of the design of the park and the stage. Terry McMillen, Sr. of McMillen Engineering, Inc. has walked the students through every stage of the planning process, allowing them to make decisions about the design. The students have also learned how to effectively solicit for donations and fund raise. There have been many highs and lows throughout this entire process, but the students have served as the drive to keep moving forward.”

Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. During the 2011-2012 school year they entered their project in the Jefferson Awards competition and won the Gold Regional Award in Pittsburgh. In 2012-2013 school year they again won the Pittsburgh Gold Regional Award along with the National Silver Award. In the 2013-2014 they became Ambassadors for the Jefferson Award program/competition. For the 2014-15 school year, they were named the Top Ambassador School and were honored by being the presenters to winning schools nationwide at the ceremony in Washington D.C.

Their hands on approach to community involvement has taught the students how much they can impact their hometown, far beyond their initial plans. “They have served as a catalyst for this project and other initiatives in our town,” commented Dellarose. “Other buildings along Market Street are set for demolition to make way for a housing complex. TREK Development Group of Pittsburgh has secured $1.4 million in state funding to develop a 24-unit senior housing project and parking lot. All of the community organizations have come together to accomplish the goal of transforming our town into what it once was.”

Concert TicketsA contractor has been selected and groundbreaking is slated to begin very soon. The students actively raised funds toward the estimated cost of the project.

“The community has been extremely supportive,” commented Dellarose. “Andrew French, Executive Director of the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County, Lester Ward, Mayor of Brownsville, and the Brownsville Borough Council, have supported the students every step of the way.  This project will soon come to fruition because of the collaborative efforts of everyone in the community.”

The bid came in at $80,000 over budget. Fundraising is an ongoing process and a concert has been donated by local businessman Phil Gianetti. It will be held on April 14 at the high school and will feature Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers.

Dellarose hopes that construction will be completed by the end of August. Brownsville’s community festival is September 10 and she sees this as the perfect kickoff to that event.

Tickets for the Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers concert on April 14 at Brownsville High School are $10 in advance and $13 at the door. Doors open at 7 PM and the concert begins at 8 PM. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Phil Giannetti Motors, Brownsville Bus Lines, NAPA Auto Parts – Brownsville, Quarzo’s Family Hair Care, Flatiron Building Heritage Center, and Brownsville Area High School.
Story by Rosemary Capanna for Pennsylvania Bridges