Nelson Cooper, IV is a highly motivated and involved leader in the Pittsburgh region. He is actively involved in PNC’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives and currently manages the Women Connect Employee Business Resource Group (EBRG) Male Ambassador Program. In addition, he is a PNC-Certified Women’s Business Advocate. Previous D&I roles include a 2-year term as the Vice-President of the African American EBRG among numerous other leadership positions within the group. Outside of the workplace is where his commitment to kids’ afterschool programs really shines.
Nelson is actively involved in the community serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of Fund for Advancement of Minorities through Education (FAME,) a member of the Board of Directors of PUMP, a member of the Board of Directors of Ozanam, Inc., and a member of the Big Brothers Big Sister of Greater Pittsburgh Young Professionals Outreach Board. Additionally, he is the Community Liaison of the Pittsburgh Pirates Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program and serves as the Head Baseball Coach of the 18U team. Serving as the Head Baseball coach, Nelson is determined to teach his team the importance of teamwork, leadership, and education. Mr. Cooper shows exemplary commitment to engaging students in numerous ways outside the classroom.
Nominated by Christopher Brown, PNC Financial Service Group
Lori Schaller has long been associated with 21st Century Community Centers through her work as Executive Director at Youth Places for the C5, C6 and C6A 21st CCLC grants and currently part of United Way of Mercer County’s C9 program, Afterschool STEAM Academy. Lori has always been associated with her advocacy and partnership efforts in securing other funding sources outside of the 21st CCLC programs and building strong community support through partnerships. When funding became a concern with one of the programs, Lori’s efforts resulted in the community coming together to support services for the students.
Lori has helped the Afterschool STEAM Academy garner local attention and legislative involvement through its first Lights On Afterschool event in 2018. Displays made by the participating students showed what the afterschool programs offered, while state Rep. Mark Longietti was present to offer the different programs certificates of achievement. The 2018 event at the Shenango Valley Mall marked the first time that Lights On Afterschool Mercer County held a celebration to recognize the students and their respective programs, but Schaller is working to make the celebration an annual event.
Schaller is focused on helping students build STEM skills and believes that technology is “infusing” everyday life and the job market. Her priority is making sure that the STEAM Career Camp is helping middle school students learn
21st century skills to help them find their futures in the tech world.
In addition to the largescale media highlights with LOA, Schaller also was able to advocate for the program through the Cooking with STEAM event that brought together STEAM Afterschool Academies of eight school districts. Each afterschool program offered samples of their original and family recipes for attendees to taste. Themes included “Around the World with Taste,” offering international delights, and “Reaching for the Stars” recipes where students shared their favorite cuisine. Interactive “Kitchen Science” demonstrations offered family engagement activities.
The participating schools included Commodore Perry, Mercer, Greenville, Hermitage, Keystone Charter, Reynolds, Sharpsville, and West Middlesex.
Nominated by Carmen Medina, Pennsylvania Department of Education
Arrah works every day to provide a fun, engaging, safe space for middle school students to learn something new, make friends and challenge themselves during The Cooperage Project’s Pop-Up Club program. This program has grown from just once a week to a three-day a week program that is an integral part of the middle school students’ lives. They look forward to seeing Arrah at Pop-Up Club and are eager to learn each day when they come to the club after school. Arrah is dedicated to providing high quality experiences that embody the mission of The Cooperage Project to embrace diversity and celebrate shared experiences. She brings her varied background and perspective to the program and is the epitome of a champion for afterschool programming! We are so incredibly grateful to have Arrah as a team member at The Cooperage Project and the community is so lucky to have her sharing her talents and passion with the middle school students of our town.
Nominated by Ryanne Jennings, Amanda Masters and Katharine Brown, The Cooperage Project/Fox Hill Farm Experience, Inc.
Michele Russell has been a champion for school age programs for many years. When Michele started working in school age as a teacher in the 1990’s, she immediately embraced the value of high quality programming. As the school age coordinator, Michele oversees Star 3 and 4 school age programs in five counties. Michele’s programs serve over 250 children in seven school districts in before and after school care and summer camps. Michele and her team have worked together to create a strong curriculum that recognizes how important it is to help young children grow into responsible young adults. Included in the curriculum are units that give children opportunities to develop leadership skills, problem-solving skills, become valuable community members and increase their academic skills. Due to the strong curriculum, the high level of quality and the strength of the program, SUMMIT Early Learnings School Age programs continue to grow.
Michele leads a staff of approximately 50 employees who are long term because they feel valued and appreciated by Michele. She provides many opportunities for her staff to grow as professionals through trainings, conferences, and team building. Michele not only seeks out PD opportunities for her staff, but she also plans and implements many trainings on the local level. Michele also includes her staff in decision making in a way that inspires her staff to reach the highest standards of quality in school age programming. Michele leads by example and is always out in programs, supporting the children and staff.
Michele has developed strong partnerships with local universities and school districts, and serves on the PENN SACCA Board. Michele recently collaborated with Bucknell University to develop a Maker Space program in one of her sites to build enrollment and interest in STEM activities. This program is not only open to children enrolled in the after school program, it is open to the community as well. Through this type of community outreach and involvement, Michele and her team are spreading the word about the importance of after school programming. In addition, Michele works with other area providers to collaborate on events and training opportunities.
Nominated by Donna Walter, Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit
Zubeen Saeed has always had a passion for educating and enriching the minds of young children. Throughout her years in the early childhood field operating successful childcare centers with children from infants through school age, she created a strong program that provided these types of experiences to children. The program grew in size and volume and she added multiple locations through the 18 years the company has been in business. As her experience grew, she analyzed the experiences of a particular part of the program that often goes unnoticed in the world of childcare – the school age program.
Zubeen offered and accommodated school age care within the childcare centers and set up the best resources that she could for this age group. This usually meant sharing classrooms that were used for PreK during the day and storing the school age supplies on shelves in hallways. Although the school age children received great care with loving teachers, had help with their homework, time to play on the playground, and planned activities, this was not the ideal vision for the school agers at Zubeen’s centers. So she put in the hard work, created a plan, and hit the ground running to showcase her idea to the local school districts in our area. Zubeen met with the superintendent of the Wilkes Barre Area School District and pitched a plan to provide before and after school services on-site in the elementary school buildings in the district. It was well received by the district and the first Building Blocks After School Enrichment Program was born! The first year, the program was so successful with children participating in STEAM activities, social skill building projects, computer classes, gym programs, and community outreach that Zubeen opened the same program in the Dallas School District.
To this date, Zubeen operates five school age programs in five elementary schools across these two districts, which in total serves 250 children, with more on the horizon. These children are happy and cannot say enough good things about their experiences in the program. They love staying at their own school and being able to use the school resources. There is a strong connection with the classroom teachers that allows the program to support what the students are studying in class during the day.
Not only does Zubeen focus on enriching the minds of children from birth to 12 years old – she also recently launched an initiative to support high school students in their transition to college and the workforce.
Zubeen has partnered with local businesses, high schools, and colleges and created a Workforce Development Network that connects the school age students to future career opportunities! With that said, I feel very strongly that Zubeen deserves this Afterschool Champion Award for her dedication to the children in our area.
Nominated by Donna Walter, Central Susquehanna Allison Ritsick, Building Blocks Learning Center
After having worked years in afterschool programing, Melanie Claxton is shaping the way partners are able to connect and work collaboratively with Pittsburgh Public Schools. As the Coordinator of Out-of-School Time, Melanie is advancing the system of support that Pittsburgh Public School students receive afterschool by nurturing strategic partnerships between programs and the school district. Melanie is also responsible for providing afterschool and a robust summer academy through the implementation of Afterschool Academy (a 21st Century Community Learning Centers program) and Summer Dreamers Academy. Melanie’s commitment to this work is reflected in her inclusion on the APOST executive committee, the Board of PENN SACCA and the Hill Youth Partnership for Enrichment Governance Group.
Melanie is also a trainer in quality improvement methods for local afterschool providers. While her experience in this space is immense, what really sets Melanie apart is her commitment to youth and her vision for what we can do as a city to ensure that all families and youth in Pittsburgh Public have access to high quality programs. Melanie plays an important role for the afterschool community in Pittsburgh and is truly an afterschool champion and a champion for kids in our region.
Nominated by Kathryn Vargas, Allegheny Partners for Out of School Time
Tiffany Millner has served for the past several years as the Affiliate Director for the ACE Mentor Program of Greater Philadelphia. Founded in 2000, the ACE Mentor Program of Greater Philadelphia is a free, afterschool mentor program that gives students from local high schools an exciting opportunity to learn about careers in architecture, construction, and engineering. Students work closely with mentors each week to develop a project in order to learn about each discipline.
In Tiffany’s role as Affiliate Director, she serves as a leader for the affiliate and is the main point of contact for board members, advisory council members, mentors, schools and students. She also provides support to board committees for affiliate operations and leads the charge in developing the program each year. Tiffany is a licensed architect and talented graphic designer; her vast range of skills bring an additional level of value and professionalism to her program. Somehow, Tiffany also finds the time to assist the national organization – the ACE Mentor Program of America – as a communications consultant, using her expertise and passion to develop marketing publications that benefit more than
70 affiliates across the country.
During the 2017-2018 program year, under Tiffany’s leadership, the ACE Mentor Program of Greater Philadelphia served more than 250 students from over 55 schools throughout Philadelphia and surrounding counties. Approximately one-third of participating students and nearly half of the volunteer mentors were female, demonstrating how this affiliate is making great strides to introduce opportunities in the construction industry to females in a predominately male-dominated industry. At the annual Scholarship Breakfast in May of 2018, more than $75,000 was awarded to ACE students planning to pursue a career in the design and construction industry. This event was a huge success thanks to Tiffany’s dedication to the program and, most importantly, to her students.
Tiffany has been involved with the ACE Mentor Program for over a decade. Her passion and dedication for providing opportunities to students in Philadelphia and the surrounding communities can be felt instantly by anyone who has ever had the pleasure of working with her. Tiffany is also a published author striving to inspire and increase awareness for the current diversity initiatives within the architectural community. Through her multifaceted work, Tiffany is making great strides to assist the youth of Greater Philadelphia in finding successful and meaningful work where they, too, can find passion.
Nominated by Katie Bawarski, ACE Mentor Program of America
Betsy has been involved in afterschool programs for ore than 25 years as staff, director and assessor. Most recently in her position at the Pennsylvania Key, Betsy has made dramatic movement in supporting out-of-school time programs across the commonwealth.
For the past three years, Betsy has organized an After-School Quality (ASQ) initiative collaborating with facilitators across Pennsylvania to increase the quality in afterschool programs. She brought the Weikert Center for Youth Program Quality’s School-age Program Quality Assessment (SPQA) tool to Pennsylvania by arranging for the training of 35 educators to apply the tool to programs in Pennsylvania, giving us a tool that supports programing opportunities to promote child-led instruction for Grades K-6.
Betsy is the team leader for the “Leap into Science” National Leadership Team in Pennsylvania working with The Franklin Institute on this grant. She will be given resources and a curriculum to train at least 60 educators across Pennsylvania annually for three years. She is working with a fellow from the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Fellowship Program who will be comparing the SACERS U and the SPQA tools.
Betsy has scheduled free training for OST staff on trauma with the Pennsylvania Care Partnership. There will be three 6-hour sessions held across Pennsylvania, during a time conducive to OST staff schedules. She has made arrangements with quality after-school programs for her committee members to visit. Betsy is a member of the Family Engagement Coalition.
Finally, Betsy has been chosen as a Riley-White-Peterson Policy fellow this year. Her project is to have the SPQA tool approved as one of the official assessment tools to be used for SAC programs in Pennsylvania.
Nominated by Donna Wennerholt, Pennsylvania Key
Debra became a member of the Olivet Boys and Girls Club in 2009. As a nine-year-old, Debra did not understand the difference the Olivet would make in her life. Now, nine years later, Debra is an important part of our team as an AmeriCorps member, club member, and a positive piece to our Olivet family. Debra is fully involved in the club not only as an AmeriCorps member, but also as an Olivet member. She co-runs our community service group for young members called Torch Club, helps with homework, and co-runs the AmeriCorps Kidz Lit Program, which allows kids to better their reading enrichment. As an Olivet member, she participates in guitar, our studio music program, and STEAM programs while also performing duties for staff and playing with the younger members. Debra is a role model for the younger members in our club and a mentor; she is a bright light in the eyes of the inner-city youth she works with everyday who get to see her meet new challenges and always move forward.
The Pendora Unit sees Debra as a champion of youth – an award for which she is nominated – but not just this award, also for the Youth of the Year Award for the unit. Debra embodies the mission of the Olivet and the hope that the organization has for all youth, they will become engaging members of society and create their niche in the world. She is a part of her school play and will be going away to college next fall to study Culinary Arts, and has been a part of many community service projects. Debra has blossomed and changed into a driven, outspoken, and compassionate young woman who is finding her place in the world.
Nominated by Candice Ninfo, Olivet Boys and Girls Club, Pendora Unit
Tamia Lawrence has been a member of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s (FLP) afterschool program (LEAP) staff for the past four years. She works skillfully with FLP’s afterschool children, helping them with their homework and engaging them in literacy and creative activities. During LEAP, she shows exceptional skill at interacting with and mentoring her peers. She encourages them, helps them with school projects, and finds ways to motivate them when adults have failed. In addition to this work, Tamia has also been integral to the success of FLP’s afterschool programming for teenagers. She recruited several friends to take part in our Teen Reading Lounge (TRL) program and even spoke publically on the positive impact afterschool programs have had on her development as an individual and civically engaged teen.
Inspired in part by these afterschool opportunities, Tamia has grown into a bold community activist, setting an example for her peers and inspiring them to take a stand for social issues. Led by a deep sense of social consciousness and a commitment to social justice, Tamia was the only young person chosen to speak at the Full Funding Rally for Free Library of Philadelphia funding on December 12, 2018 where she gave a fiery and passionate speech about the benefits of the library and its afterschool programming. She also gave an inspiring talk at the 2018 TedX Philadelphia Women’s Event on December 3, 2018, about lessons learned as a teenage activist. She has also presented on a national level at the Summit for Healthy Behaviors in Louisiana this past September talking to youth from around the country about how to inspire change and speak out for justice. Tamia Lawrence is the epitome of an Afterschool Champion. She is smart, motivated, determined to make the most of every moment and fully understands the impact afterschool learning can have on the growth and development of a young person. She puts her whole soul into every endeavor – from helping a third grader with his math homework, to encouraging a shy eighth grader to join a cooking activity, to speaking her truth to a room full of adults.
Nominated by Jen Danifo, Pennsylvania Humanities Council and Erin Hoopes, Free Library of Philadelphia
Khadijah McGriff was accepted into Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) program at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University following a competitive application and interview process. WINS is a science enrichment program that Khadijah has been involved with since the summer of 2015. She has been instructed on various topics in the natural sciences. During her employment as an Explainer in the Academy museum, Khadijah has traveled with her supervisor to nearby states and all the way to Japan.
As an active participant of the WINS program, Khadijah has taken full advantage of all the aspects of the program, which include classes, field trips, community service and employment within the Academy. Since the summer of 2015, she worked diligently and commendably as an Explainer in our “Butterfly House” where she interacts with the public helping explain the various exhibits, as well as providing care and maintenance of the various live animals that are part of the exhibit. She has proven to be an exceptional worker and interacts well with her peers and the visitors of all ages.
Because of the above traits and the fact that she is always willing to try new things, Khadijah was given the opportunity to travel to Tokyo, Japan (her first time on a plane) to represent the WINS program in the Science Center World Summit in 2017. Along with her fellow WINS, they did an outstanding job. She participated fully, kept her cool in trying times, and explored the culture
Khadijah was chosen to be the “WINS I Assistant” for the 2018-19 school year. This position is given to a senior WINS who is considered responsible enough to handle the job of being a mentor to the incoming class of 25 9th graders. This person also needs to participate in all the WINS I lessons and trips as well as WINS II activities, and assist in a variety of other responsibilities; Khadijah has excelled in this position.
She has blossomed into an exceptional young woman. She is focused on her future, and always looking on how to help others.
Nominated by Betsy Payne, Women in Natural Sciences
Since taking office in January 2016, Mayor Kenney has had the following goals to strengthen every neighborhood by focusing on improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all of Philadelphia’s children, economic opportunities for all Philadelphians, and public safety for all Philadelphians while treating residents with respect and dignity, as well as operating government efficiently and effectively and developing a diverse workforce that looks like Philadelphia.
Mayor Kenney has specifically supported OST by launching the The Out-of-School Time (OST) Initiative, which seeks to create a shared and coordinated approach to OST programming among the City, schools, providers, philanthropy and the community. This effort is focused on ensuring that before school, afterschool, weekend programming and summer programs are quality and that they effectively address our at-risk children’s most pressing needs, namely early literacy, asthma, obesity, and food insecurity. The initiative took over much of the previous work of PhillyBoost, supporting those staff involved in research efforts, and brought in Cityspan as a data collection system for individual programs.
By investing in OST program quality and measuring the impact of these programs on students, the Mayor’s office is able to better understand and articulate the value of these initiatives and the role that they can play in helping our students to succeed.
The Mayor’s office believes in the research that confirms that quality youth programs can make a positive difference in young people’s academic achievement, social skills and risk reduction. Children who participate in quality OST programs are far more likely to be engaged in learning and to have better school attendance, are less likely to be involved in or become victims of violence, and have increased levels of physical activity.
By aligning and coordinating citywide OST programming, Mayor Kenney hopes to ensure the greatest impact for young people and align spending with existing initiatives, such as PHLpreK, Rebuild, community schools, and the Read by 4th campaign.
Philadelphia’s Out-of-School Time Initiative began with leadership from Kenney to harness the power of Philadelphia’s great assets to build a system of OST that realizes its full potential on behalf of its youngest citizens.
Nominated by Sal Sandone, Zhang Sah Martial Arts
A life-long resident of Howard Township, Centre County, Pa., Congressman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson represents Pennsylvania’s Fifteenth District in the U.S. House of Representatives and now serves as one of the most senior members in the Pennsylvania delegation. Prior to being elected to Pennsylvania’s geographically largest congressional district, GT was a 30+ year veteran of the Juniata Valley Boy Scout Council, served as Scoutmaster, Council executive board member and Council president. He has enriched the lives of youth throughout Central Pennsylvania. Among just 2,000 presented since 1969, Rep. Thompson received the National Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 2012.
GT is also a former member of the Bald Eagle Area School Board, past vice-chair of the Private Industry Council of the Central Corridor and a former Workforce Investment Board member. Because of these experiences, he was appointed to the House Committee on Education & Workforce in 2008. Rep. Thompson is also serving in his fourth term as Co-Chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus. In the 114th Congress, Thompson introduced the Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act that passed by a vote of 405-5 in the House of Representatives.
Thompson is currently working on an update to the legislation, which would bring more partnership opportunities for afterschool and summer learning programs to connect with Career and Technical Education Centers. Congressman Thompson is also very active in working with afterschool and summer learning programs in his district, including 4-H.
A community leader and a volunteer firefighter with over three decades of service, GT is acutely aware of the challenges facing Pennsylvania communities. As a member of the Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Education and Workforce Committees, Thompson is in a unique position to bring his expertise and knowledge to bear on the issues facing rural businesses, communities, and families, in order to improve the lives of the citizens of the Fifth District. GT served three terms as Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry. In the 115th Congress, he serves as Vice Chairman of the Agriculture Committee and as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Nutrition.
Congressman GT’s service includes being the No. 1 speaker on the House Floor for the past three years. He views this as a responsibility to be a strong voice for the citizens of the Fifteenth District and an opportunity to influence the Washington legislative agenda.
Nominated by Michelle Russell, Summit Early Learning
After the Bell is celebrating its 20th year at Kennett Middle School this year serving students in grades 6-8 and is an organization that is so deserving of recognition. After the Bell is one of the unique reasons that our school is such a great place for kids and this school would not be what it is today without them. Offered three times throughout the year in 6-week sessions, no student or family pays for the services offered. Participating students receive a healthy snack and drink upon arrival.
Approximately 50 activities are offered each cycle and the Kennett After School Association (KASA) pays all costs for fees and supplies. Up to 30 percent of activities take place off-site at the locations of some community partners. KASA covers the cost for transportation to off-site activities and provides all students with a bus ride home at the end of each program day. This could not all happen without the hard work of the volunteers who are community members, many of whom are former educators, the program director, executive director, and board members.
Some of the activities that are very popular with our students include Brain Base (where they receive homework and study help), Sweet Shop (where they bake treats and set up a business to sell them), and the various sports related activities like Outdoor Fun and Games, Fishing, and Karate.
The extraordinary benefit that After the Bell provides to our middle school students is immeasurable in terms of keeping them safe and out of trouble after school, introducing them to new opportunities that could lead to career possibilities, and helping them to improve their academic standing.
Nominated by Brenna L. Austin, Kennett Middle School
The Pottstown School District (PSD) is an urban school district with a majority at-risk student population. Statistics show that 46 percent of Pottstown residents earn less than $40,000. There are 3,211 students enrolled in the PSD grades preK-12 and 70 percent of these students live in low-income families with 30 percent living below the poverty level. Virtually 100 percent of PSD students receive free lunch. As a result of funding cuts, the PSD 21st CCLC summer program runs for a half-day, four days a week, 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. for six weeks. Due to these cuts, PSD is unable to provide afternoon enrichment for these students, leaving a crucial service gap. In the summer, after 12:30 p.m., these students would have nowhere to go besides home, if not for TCN. With children going home after a half day, there would be a gap in their summer learning as well as potential risks as children go home to unsafe environments while parents are working.
In 2016, TCN assembled a group of local youth service providers to address a request from the PSD for a free half-day enrichment experience for underserved Pottstown Middle School Students. Now in year three, Community Camp (C2) has grown to include additional partners and important opportunities for a larger group of marginalized students. Camp programs provide amazing experiences for youth from all backgrounds. Far too many kids in our area miss the opportunity for enrichments that open their world to new possibilities.
Funded by the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, this program combines the talents of various community partners such as Althouse Arboretum/Green Allies, ArtFusion 19464, Greater Pottstown Tennis and Learning, Mosaic Community Gardens, North End Swim Club, Pottstown School District, Trellis4Tomorrow, Triskeles, YWCA and the YWCA TriCounty Area. Additionally, a host of other offsite excursions is designed to provide opportunities not readily available to these children with the intention of exposing and engaging students in hands-on, active, wellness-centered activities as an extension of the summer school day.
In 2018, the C2 camp served 40 students, ages 11-14. The C2 program was also selected by the PSD as a strategy to acclimate incoming 5th graders to the Middle School. This transition point has recently emerged as a priority for the School District. The most positive aspect of C2 is that there is room for everyone at the table. Because of the C2 structure, new partners and service providers can be added and additional collaborations can be formed with existing camps/organizations to strengthen all programs.
Backbone organizations like TCN shape the work of collective impact and change the lives of our community’s children for the better.
Nominated by Heather Moyer-Dailey, Pottstown School District