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Congratulations to Our Pittsburgh Steelers!

Although the outcome wasn’t the one we wanted, I am still so proud of our Pittsburgh Steelers and congratulate them on an outstanding season. We are Pittsburgh Proud – and that includes each and every member of the AFC Championship team and staff of our Stillers! Until next year…

Task Force on Homeless Children’s Education Moving Forward

Senate Bill 157 (SB 157), legislation to create a Task Force on Homeless Children’s Education, has taken a step forward with its unanimous approval by the Senate Education Committee earlier this morning.

I am grateful to the committee for acting so quickly on this bill and I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue moving this bill forward. We must act now. The sooner such legislation is enacted, the sooner we can begin identifying ways to protect these children, ensure that they have access to education and services at their most vulnerable times and position the Commonwealth to become a leader in the advocacy for and the provision of services to these children.

The legislation would create a 17-member task force to conduct a study of the homeless child population. The Department of Education would develop the surveys necessary for obtaining the information and to identify not only the numbers, but also the length of homelessness, number of episodes of homelessness, their living situation, ages and grade levels, school attendance rates and gaps in enrollment, access to services and after school programs, and the causes and signs of homelessness. With that information, the task force could assess what barriers exist and stand in the way of serving the needs of children; identify successful strategies for serving homeless students; target strategies for informing parents, students and school districts of the educational services available to homeless children, and find best practices used in other states to educate homeless students. The report issued by the task force will provide a road map for the Commonwealth to improve educational opportunities for homeless children in Pennsylvania.

As you know, Pittsburgh is home to many organizations that provide food, shelter and life-saving programs to those in need. These services can be a true lifeline to individuals who have suddenly found themselves homeless. Having access to bare necessities such as food and shelter can make all of the difference in the world – and can give parents the strength and ability to overcome adversity. Functional, caring parents can support children who have the chance to succeed in school and grow up as healthy, productive citizens. As a result, Pittsburgh communities can grow and prosper. Won’t you support them today?

Pittsburgh Civic Leadership Academy

Residents of the City of Pittsburgh have until 5 p.m. today to submit their application to participate in the 2011 Civic Leadership Academy. The Civic Leadership Academy is a free, 10-week course about local government in the City of Pittsburgh created to foster more informed, effective, and inspired community and civic leadership. It includes tours, interactive demonstrations, and hands-on activities that give an up-close and personal view of how the City is operated and governed. In each class, participants learn about the services that a different City department provides, and ways in which communities can engage with that department to create a safer, more livable City.

You bring your time, an open mind and a commitment to use the knowledge that you gain to make a positive difference in Pittsburgh and, in return, you get access to all of the City’s Directors and a unique chance to learn about the inner workings of your local government. For more information, call 412-255-4765 or e-mail civicleaders@city.pittsburgh.pa.us.

Celebrating Black History Month

A February is Black History Month. I was proud to serve as a co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 14 recognizing this annual celebration of achievements by black Americans in Pennsylvania. There are a number of events taking place in the region this month to recognize the central role of African Americans in our country’s history. Since 1976, every U.S. president has designated the month of February as Black History Month – won’t you join all of us in the celebration?

“The Strength of Steel: A Tribute to African American Steelworkers in Pittsburgh” is a free exhibit displayed in the City-County Building (414 Grant Street). The exhibit features photographs and memorabilia honoring those who helped transform Pittsburgh into the Steel City. You can view the exhibit from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through February 25th.

Check out “Black Angels Over Tuskegee” at Byham Theater on February 27th and 28th. The play is based on the real-life experiences of the Tuskegee Airmen, a celebrated African-American air squadron during WWII. It tells the story of men who exhibited the courage to excel, in spite of the odds against them. Proceeds will support efforts to build a monument for the Tuskegee Airmen in the Sewickley War Memorial Park. For tickets call 412-456-6666.

You can also celebrate Black History Month with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Check out the Library’s website for books and resources for adults and kids. You can also view photos online of Historic Black Pittsburgh from the Library’s Pennsylvania Department.

One-Stop Shop for Student Aid

PHEAA The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has made it easier to apply for student aid through its website. You can now access the Pennsylvania state grant form directly from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form if this is your first time applying for aid. The FAFSA is essential in determining eligibility for a variety of student aid options, while the Pennsylvania State Grant provides free money to those who meet eligibility requirements. This ease of access feature is convenient for students and makes applicants more aware of the state grant.

The FAFSA connection to the state grant form is only available the first time a student completes the FAFSA. Those who have already submitted their FAFSA will need to visit account access through the secure sign-in at PHEAA.org to complete the state grant form.

As a member of PHEAA's Board of Directors, I will continue to update you with information that may be beneficial to students or future students in the district. Visit PHEAA.org for more information on student aid.

Soldiers & Sailors Hall of Valor

As Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum continues the celebration of its 100th anniversary, it is looking for information on men and women who may qualify for the Hall of Valor. As you know, Soldiers & Sailors honors Pennsylvanians who served the United States in its military endeavors during our country’s history. The Joseph A. Dugan Hall of Valor is a big part of the Memorial. This distinct tradition is dedicated to combat veterans who went above and beyond the call of duty while in action against the enemy.

The Hall of Valor is open to veterans who were born, enlisted, or lived most of their lives after service in Pennsylvania, and received one of the following medals: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Distinguished Navy Cross, Silver Star, Air Force Cross or Soldiers Medal. If you qualify, or know someone who might (living or deceased), please call Casey Patterson, Senior Administrative Assistant, at 412-681-4253, extension 206. You may also email her at casey@soldiersandsailorshall.org for details.

Be sure to keep an eye out for events and activities as part of Soldiers & Sailors year-long centennial celebration by visiting its website. You can also click here to see a Resolution (SR 407) I presented on the Senate floor last fall to honor Soldiers & Sailors, which opened its doors the weekend of October 9, 1910.

Mobile App Contest

Are you mobile savvy enough to create your own app? If so, use your creativity to develop an app that promotes the use of Pennsylvania trails and enhances the fun that trail users can have in the state. The contest is being sponsored by Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Tourism Office. The winning app will have the distinction of being Pennsylvania’s first official smart phone trails app.

The contest runs through April 15th. The grand prize winner will receive an Apple iPad. Developers are able to take advantage of statewide trail information that is accessible to the public. Visit the Explore PA Trails website to download trail information and for contest rules.

Around the District

Last Tuesday was the second SBDC Outreach Day of 2011 in my Kennedy Office. This resource continues to be used by businesses and future entrepreneurs in the district as they look to grow, or create, their business. If you haven’t yet visited the office on Outreach Day or taken advantage of the expert advice that the SBDC can provide, now’s the chance. The next scheduled Outreach Day is Tuesday, March 8th. Although appointments are not necessary, you can contact Client Services Liaison John Dobransky at 412-624-2290 to reserve your space now.

I am proud to be working with Dormont Borough on their efforts to save the Hollywood Theater. This past week, I participated in a meeting with the Friends of the Hollywood Theater & The Bradley Center to discuss opportunities for the theater and plans for future actions to preserve this great community resource.

I also had the opportunity to tour a Quest Diagnostics lab located in my district, along with my colleague Senator Brewster this week. Quest Diagnostics has been around since 1967 and is the world leader in diagnostic testing, information and services. The company performs testing for more than half a million patients each day. This region’s economy is built upon the health care industry and I am sure will continue to grow in the future. I am proud to have Quest Diagnostics in the 42nd district and even more pleased that the company continues to grow. Watch my News & Views for news of an upcoming job fair for Quest.

Senator Brewster and Senator Fontana visited the Quest Diagnostics lab in Green Tree last week for a tour and a Q & A session with the employees.

My thanks to Goldberg, Kamin & Garvin for their invitation to participate in a legislative breakfast this past Saturday. It was a great opportunity to speak with municipal officials about the issues that are of interest and importance to them and to provide them with information on the issues that the state is addressing that impact them. This is an annual breakfast and I am proud to have participated in it since I was first elected to the Senate.

While I was on my way to Harrisburg, my district director, Kate Kilkeary Reiche, ably represented me at the Let Our Voices Be Heard Ambassador Training. She talked with the members of the group about the services provided by our office, but also let them know that we are just regular people who are easy to reach out to on issues of concern to them.

I am in Harrisburg now as the Senate is in session through tomorrow. There are a number of meetings on the calendar this week. The PA Alliance of Approved Private Schools, including Pressley Ridge, was in to talk about their budget concerns and issues. I have also had the opportunity to meet with a number of Secretary nominees and hear from them about their plans for their respective Departments and agencies. Finally, the Senate held a special memorial for former Senator Mike O’Pake earlier today. His loss will be felt for some time to come in our chamber.

Fontana Fact

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recently did a series about regional economies, and Pittsburgh was appropriately featured in one of its reports. Click here to listen to it (the Pittsburgh piece is about 35 minutes in). It focuses on Pittsburgh’s transition from a city known for its steel making, to a city leading the way in education, technology and medicine. At one point, the BBC reporter calls Pittsburgh’s environmental and economic renaissance “astonishing.”
 

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana