Stephanie Laurenzaâ€™s Blog Post: Economic Development Session
Hosted at Alcoa Technical Center on April 14th, 2016
The Alcoa Technical Center (ATC) located in New Kensington was Class XXIVâ€™s home for the day on Thursday, April 14th. As an ATC employee, I was honored and excited to have double duty as a host/presenter and class member. In addition to ATC-specific presentations, we were treated to interactions with and presentations from local businesses.
The local organizations and businesses represented throughout this session exposed us, as a class, to the current economic environment of the AKValley. This session, perhaps more than others, helped shed light on what local organizations provide to the community.
One of the aspects I enjoy most about the LAKV experience is learning more about the goings on and conditions in the valley. Even though I live in the city of Pittsburgh, much of my time is spent in this area due to work as well as other community/civic commitments. I think it is important to be aware of the climate of this setting, both for the business sense as well as for interpersonal relations. Whether the organizationâ€™s sole focus is the (re)development of the community or to provide a service, commodity or item to the community, each established represented in the day provided us with a greater understanding of the AKValley.
The knowledge from this session will help us define ourselves as leaders in terms of how we can represent both our companies and ourselves as individuals as forces within the community.
Penn State New Kensington (PSNK) was the first of our two LAKV host locations for our March 10th session on education. Here we had a morning filled with diverse information, and how education is being impacted in our region.
Dr. Kevin Snider, Chancellor of PSNK, started our morning with an enthusiastic discussion about â€˜cultivating a learning cultureâ€™ that seeks to not only recruit but retain students in an educational landscape, and also actively engages the community in the hopes of creating a statement of investiture of culture and atmosphere, as well as producing opportunities for an entrepreneurial spirit â€“ bridging the surrounding communities with Penn State.
Pat Hollinger, our host for the morningâ€™s session at Penn State then provided us insight to how the Continuing Education office on campus is working to continue Dr. Sniderâ€™s mission of community engagement by offering diverse opportunities ranging from youth programs to customized workforce development training.
We also had the opportunity to learn about the G.R.E.A.T. program that Penn State New Kensington started for its incoming students. An experiential learning program, GREAT was designed to â€œlink education to the jobs of the futureâ€. You can find out more about this wonderful program here: http://www.nk.psu.edu/admissions/44200.htm . Jim Shields and Colleen Smith went on to also highlight some of the other learning opportunities for elementary and high school students such as the soon-to-be-launched homework hotline and the STEM program.
Our morning concluded with an informative discussion by Matt Edgell, Region Advocacy Coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), providing the class with an overview on the role that PSEA plays, some of the challenges is faces, and the many things the organization does that are little known such as its Partners for Public Education program which allows and invites an associate membership in PSEA.
We were provided a delicious lunch by the food service staff before we made the move to the Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center.
Our afternoon began with a tour of the career and technology center. We learned about the terrific opportunities afforded to students in our area.Â Â In addition, we learned that the Culinary Arts department provides lunch to the public every Friday and the Cosmetology department offers its services to the public on Mondays. Could an LAKV Class XXIV gathering be in the not so distant future?
The last speaker of the day, Detective Tom Klawinski, spoke to us about student safety. Tom is a detective with the Westmoreland County Detectives Unit and is the former New Kensington Chief of Police. He explained the role and importance of School Resource Officers in our community. We had an open discussion ranging from arming teachers to the use of Narcan by officers to cyber bullying.
Our LAKV Law and Justice Session on Thursday February 11th was held at the historical Armstrong County Courthouse built in 1858-1860. Armstrong County was formed out of parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland and Lycoming Counties in March 1800.
The Honorable James Panchik kicked off the session with the history of 10 judges that were elected over 142 year time span. The current judges include himself, The Honorable Kenneth G. Valasek, President Judge and the Honorable Joseph A. Nickleach, Sr. Judge.
Next, Lieutenant Thomas E. Dubovi, Crime Section Commander of the Pennsylvania State Police, discussed the role of the State Police in our community. He also talked about the ever revolving challenges and those tools to meet them.
Chief Probation Officer Regina Himes talked about the differences between probation and parole. Also, how their role in the justice system swings from law enforcement to social work with the goal of reducing recidivism. 50-60% of the Countyâ€™s budget goes to prison costs.
After lunch, Marcy Uncapher from the Armstrong County Commissionerâ€™s Office gave us a tour of the old Armstrong County Jail which was constructed between 1870-1873. Today, the jail is used as the records center and houses the Countyâ€™s records and Information Technology Offices.
Finally, our day ended with a tour of the current Armstrong County Prison built in 2003. The seasoned guard that gave us the tour of the facility provided great detail on what he deals with on a daily basis including many of the dangers he must face.
Overall, the day was a great overview of the different cogs and extraordinary efforts needed to keep our communities safe places to live.
Our session on government, held in the Harmar Township Municipal Building, began with KDKAâ€™s John Delano informing Class XXIV that 75% of PA voters do not vote. He explained to us how stories make it onto the news and encouraged us to send our story ideas to him. John even shared his prediction for how PA will vote in the 2016 election!
Jim Roddey, Allegheny County Republican Party Chairman and Jim Burn, former Chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party spoke with us about the art of politics versus the business of government. They also shared their thoughts on the upcoming presidential primary elections and what is currently happening in Harrisburg.
Next we were treated to a panel discussion which included Representative Jeff Pyle plus senior staffers from the offices of Senator Don White, Representatives Frank Dermody and Representative Eli Evankovich. They shed light on what is happening with the state budget and entertained questions from our class on health care, education and budget issues.
In the afternoon, Allegheny Township Supervisor,Â Kathy Starr shared with us what working in local government is like. She outlined some of the challenges faced by municipalities and how her township has approached its difficulties and some of the creative ideas used by the township to positively impact the community.
Chad McCutcheon of McCutcheon Enterprises, Inc. Â closed out our session by walking us through ways to become a more engaged citizen, including encouraging us to consider running for local office.
Could an LAKV Class XXIV member be on the ballot soon? Keep checking the LAKV website to find out.
Michelle Farrell, Mary Queen of Apostles School
Our January Government session was a great one. With all of the different speakers, it was definitely an eye opener. Especially if you are like me and know next to nothing about politics. One thing, among many, that I took away from this meeting is that it is not about being a Republican or a Democrat, but how to find a middle ground and work together to get what needs to be done, done. It was very interesting to see how the representatives of the two parties interacted. Quite funny at times, very friendly and respectful of the other. The passion that was brought out was captivating.
Another take-away from this session was that my vote really does count. The fact that the age group of 18 to 60 year olds that vote does not out number the age group of 60 to death that vote is really troubling. We need to show that we too care about the issues that are facing our country today, and become more active. We need to better educate and inform ourselves so as to not be ignorant to what is going on in the world of politics and government.
The January session was very informative and we loved every minute of it! We are excited to see what is in store for us next month for our February Law and Justice session. And a special thank you to all of our guest speakers that came.
LAKV Class XXIV – Human Services Session – October 2015
Another informative meeting with LAKV was held on October 8, 2015. The session was hosted by LIFE Armstrong in Kittanning (next to ACMH Hospital). Speakers presented information on their Human Service organizations throughout the day. They included LIFE Armstrong, Armstrong County Area Agency on Aging, Armstrong County Memorial Hospital Foundation, ARC Manor, HAVIN, and Habitat for Humanity. The day ended with a wonderful tour of the Habitat for Humanity house project in process in Kittanning. Networking with other professionals is not only educational and informative; itâ€™s also a rewarding experience. The Human Services session made all of us see how important Human Services are in our community and opened our eyes to some of the issues facing our communities today.