Alan Citron has been supporting The Neighborhood Academy since it opened its doors, and he is always staying up-to-date on the school’s news and happenings.
Alan grew up in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh before spending three years in New Jersey and San Francisco. By the 80’s, he ended up back in the Steel City and began working at Tamco Tools in Monongahela, PA, where he eventually became President and CEO in 2001. That same year, he was introduced to TNA by Joe Massaro, CEO of Massaro Construction Group, and TNA Board Chair at the time.
“I remember speaking with Joe and hearing all about The Neighborhood Academy… The school was just getting off the ground, and it sounded good and impactful, so I was happy to support it,” said Alan.
Alan is always happy to hear of TNA’s continued excellence through old fashioned 1:1 conversations with other Pittsburgh professionals.
“I hear about the school and how well it is doing through a mix of people. Most recently, Charlie Ferrara, Past TNA Board Chair, gave me an update. Then the next thing you know, Jonathan Kamin, a member of the Board of Trustees at Shady Side Academy was giving me an update! The school does many good things, and the track record just gets better and better… Education is vital, and I am incredible impressed by these young students.”
Today, Alan continues his support for The Neighborhood Academy through the PA Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) Program, where he can redirect his PA State tax liability to approved schools such as TNA and receive a 90% credit.
“It’s important to me to give to a viable cause, and through the EITC Program, I know that when the check gets cut, it’s going directly to The Neighborhood Academy as a 100% charitable contribution.”
TNA Class of 2010
Keenu Harmon, ’10, is in the business of helping people, and is proud to be taking her talents to Milton Hershey School – a cost-free, private, co-residential school and home for lower-income children located in Hershey, PA – as their new Transitional Living Assistant.
Keenu is the first of her family to graduate with post-secondary education and the first of her family to move away multiple times. Having graduated from Edinboro University in 2014 with a major in Criminal Justice and minor in Sociology, Keenu first had her sights set on law enforcement.
“I wanted to be a police officer for the longest time and even interviewed for a few positions,” Keenu said. “After working at Summit Academy as a drug and alcohol counselor with court-adjudicated youths, and The Neighborhood Academy as an Executive Assistant, I realized my passion for being a role model for students… I love advising students and preparing them for whatever life throws their way.”
Keenu started her new position in August at Milton Hershey School and looks forward to living on campus and being a life design champion for the 12th Graders.
“My goal is to make sure students always have a voice… either they speak for themselves, or I can help do it for them,” she said.
Keenu considers herself a life-long-learner and listens to many self-improvement podcasts to always better herself. Her favorites are “7 Good Minutes Daily Self-Improvement,” “The Jordan Harbinger Show Podcast,” “Think Fast, Talk Smart,” and “All Else Equal: Making Better Decisions.”
“I drive a lot and tend to listen to the same music. I started listening to these podcasts and take away so many helpful things that help me and my work,” she said.
Keenu credits her mother for her drive and for making her who she has become personally and professionally.
“I believe that the foundation of oneself starts at home. My mother is a hard worker, the sole provider, and the ‘mom and the dad’ in my family,” she said. “I credit so much of who I have become all the way to my core to her.”
TNA Class of 2023
TNA scholar and Penn Hills native, Nathan Hargrove, is living his senior year to the fullest through sports, creativity, and social life. With plans to attend college at either the University of Pittsburgh or Temple University, Nathan’s number one focus is to get his degree in teaching (although he could also see himself pursuing financial advising or even real estate!)
As one of the inaugural 7th Graders, Nathan credits his passion to become a teacher to Brent Jernigan, Head of School for Middle School at TNA.
“Mr. Jernigan set the standard for our Middle School. I remember him saying to my class that we will never be bored or feel unenthused at this school. He was right, and I enjoy every moment here,” said Nathan. “Mr. Jernigan has impacted me in a way no other teacher has, and I want to do that for students at some point in my life.”
Nathan is involved in many extracurricular activities such as basketball, track and field, flag football, and cycling, but he has a certain creative outlet that really captures his eye: photography and film.
“Taking photos of sports, nature, people – anything – has really come naturally to me. Anywhere there are good vibes, I love to capture the moment,” said Nathan. “A few years ago, a few friends of mine started a YouTube channel, and I realized how much I like being behind the lens. I also enjoy filming TNA’s football games on weekends.”
Nathan believes in taking advantage of every opportunity and carries with him a certain mantra from his current basketball coach.
“At the beginning of every season, Coach Jordan, ends his speech with ‘I never want you to leave here saying ‘I wish I would have,’ or ‘I wish I could have.’’” This is how I want to live my life... I am very excited for the journey ahead. The Neighborhood Academy is what I know now, and I look forward to the rest of my life.”
TNA Class of 2022
“My love of gardening was nurtured by my grandmother. We grew a lot of different things together, and I’ve always found growing food and living off the land so interesting,” said Amari. “At Chatham, I explored their greenhouse and even had the unique opportunity to do some beekeeping. My goal is to get my degree in agriculture.”
After she completes her undergraduate studies, Amari has entrepreneurial dreams to use her farming expertise to feed people.
“The program at Chatham really solidified my plans and career path. I want to be able to grow my own crops and possibly open a co-op or farmer’s market one day,” she said.
Fruits and vegetables are not the only things Amari wants to grow in her life. She has plans to grow strong within her community and give back wherever she is able.
“I also have a passion for giving back – whether it’s to a nonprofit, or getting involved in the community, or being in touch with people in some way, shape, or form,” Amari said. “This inspiration comes from my mother – through her perseverance and resourcefulness as a single mother raising my siblings and me. I used to watch her work so hard and always put her family first. I never want to forget where I came from.”
Amari was recently awarded the Baskin Charitable Trust Scholarship as well as the Kurtzrock-Fogleman Scholarship for her academic achievements. She credits The Neighborhood Academy for her discipline and motivation to reach her highest potential.
“Receiving these scholarships is allowing me to further my education, and for that, I am so thankful and honored,” said Amari. “TNA has helped me grow. I learned that there are no shortcuts if you want to achieve certain things in your life. I learned about hard work and the value of it, and I’m grateful to the school for showing that to me.”
TNA Class of 2006
“In all honesty, I never knew Chatham even existed! I had been accepted to other colleges, but I really loved Chatham. Our tour guide was a biology major, so we clicked instantly, and I got to ask her all my questions,” she said. “If I hadn’t gone to TNA, I wouldn’t have even known about Chatham.” She went on to earn her undergraduate degrees in Biology and Psychology.
From Chatham, Keka attended the Medical University of the Americas in Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean where she earned a Bachelor of Health Science.
“When I came back stateside, I didn’t pass my medical board exams, and I felt like this was the only goal in my life I didn’t achieve,” she said. “I am thankful it didn’t work out, because I couldn’t imagine being a physician during the COVID-19 pandemic!”
In search of a career, she reached out to a former internship supervisor for some guidance – the interaction helped Keka land a research job at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Keka worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Children’s Hospital and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in benign hematology (focus on Sickle Cell Disease), and then as a Senior Clinical Research Associate (CRA) at clinical research organizations such as IQVIA and ICON plc. With six years of experience under her belt, Keka went on to the global healthcare company Novartis, working as a Senior CRA for two years before being promoted recently to Regional Feasibility Lead. In her current role, she is responsible for overseeing strategic and operational planning and management from clinical trial execution perspective.
“Clinical research is important,” said Keka. “People have this idea that big pharma and their research is bad. It’s simply not true. Clinical research saves lives and improves the quality of lives.”
As a TNA alum, Keka realized the importance of giving back to the school so other students would have the same opportunity to succeed as she did. She chose to give through the PA Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC) program. She can redirect her PA State tax liability to approved schools such as TNA and receive a 90% credit. Because of the tax credit, Keka is able to give more to TNA than she would if the gift were 100% out-of-pocket.
“Where would I be if I didn’t get this kind of support? Education isn’t cheap, and I’m glad I’m able to assist in setting up a path for the rest of these student’s lives.”
A word of wisdom from Keka to the Juniors and Seniors of The Neighborhood Academy: “Take a long look at what you want for your life and plan accordingly.”
Jim and Gretchen Gockley
Jim and Gretchen Gockley, loyal supporters of The Neighborhood Academy since the mid-2000s, are true believers that obtaining a high-quality education is what opens doors to opportunities.
Jim and Gretchen met at Washington and Jefferson College in the mid-1970s. Gretchen went on to Carnegie Mellon University to earn her Master’s in chemical engineering, while Jim pursued a law degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Gretchen worked as an engineer at Westinghouse for 16 years, retiring as a Senior Engineer. For 33 years, Jim had various legal and executive positions at BNY Mellon Bank, retiring as an Executive Vice President for the holding company and as General Counsel for the Asset Management line of business.
Jim and Gretchen were introduced to TNA through Shadyside Presbyterian Church while the school was still planting its roots in Garfield.
“I received word that TNA was looking for tutors in math, so I volunteered for two years helping the older students. I discovered no matter how much you love something it doesn’t make you a good teacher!” laughed Gretchen. “I hope I helped a few of them along the way.”
Jim and Gretchen have always held the mission of TNA in their hearts, and believe that education is the change-maker for our students.
“We’ve been blessed with two amazing children, and we saw first-hand what a difference educational opportunities can make – not only in development, but in life trajectory,” said Jim. “Education is the key to so many things; it is a force multiplier of what happens later in one’s life. TNA absolutely changes the lives of its students and their futures.”
“Education is a part of who we are… it’s done so much for us and our kids. To us, it can be a key determinant in shaping people’s lives,” said Gretchen.
Jim and Gretchen have been three-time sponsors of TNA’s bi-annual Nancy and Paul O’Neill Speaker Series, and they especially find it beneficial that the students meet and speak with the author/speaker prior to the evening event.
“We love the fact that the students read the author’s book and discuss it with the author face-to-face. That’s the tangible activity that makes this all the more real for the students who are being molded and influenced by their time at this school. These speakers are real influencers – not the TikTok folk,” laughed Jim.
“Bringing a speaker in who has no idea about TNA and to having them see and understand the mission and the quality work that’s done here is special,” said Gretchen.
With TNA celebrating its 21st anniversary, Jim and Gretchen believe that the school, like its students, has a bright future ahead.
“Innovative and forward-thinking people at the school are what will guide the Academy to more success. Building more partnerships to increase its overall reach and effectiveness is important. It’s both a quantity and quality thing,” said Jim.
Hans and Leslie Fleischner
“Education has always been a priority for our family,” said Leslie. “Hans always looked at supporting education as ‘payback.’ He would say, ‘Someone helped me through school when I needed it, so it's important for me to help others.’”
Hans was born in Vienna, Austria in 1927. His family left Vienna in 1938, and Hans attended Downside School in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, United Kingdom. Upon completion of school, he immigrated to the United States – joining his family – and enrolling at Harvard University, graduating in 1949.
Leslie attended Bryn Athyn Church School in Philadelphia from prekindergarten to her first year of college. She moved to Pittsburgh to continue her college education at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University,) and she and Hans met through the Pittsburgh Ski Club.
Hans and co-founder, Jodie Moore, met before The Neighborhood Academy opened its doors in 2001. Hans donated $100 and said, “Let’s see how this goes.” As the school began to outgrow the rented warehouse space, it presented an opportunity for the Fleischners to invest in its growth.
“Hans picked up very positive vibes from both Jodie and Reverend Tom Johnson. Hans, himself, had a very positive attitude and quickly saw the good in others. We became strong believers in The Neighborhood Academy’s mission and vision,” Leslie said. “I remember when The Neighborhood Academy introduced sports, we caught word that the students were embarrassed they had to play another school without proper jerseys. Hans and I were happy to purchase the uniforms.”
Years later in 2013, through the generosity of the Fleischners, The Neighborhood Academy’s indoor soccer field was constructed and named after them.
“We have been fortunate to have the opportunity that when we see something we want to support, we have the supportable funds to do it,” said Leslie. “When our grandson was six years old, he would listen to PBS radio. One day they were having a fundraiser, and knowing how Hans and I loved to donate to the arts and education, our grandson called Hans and asked, ‘What are you going to do, Bubble?’ We then had to make a donation!”
Hans passed away in November of 2021, but Leslie continues their legacy of giving.
“Hans and I loved to see the reaction from the students when we would make a gift impacting them directly. When I’m gone, I can’t see their reactions, so it's important for me to give with a warm hand. I encourage everyone to come, take a tour, and meet the students, faculty, and leadership.”
TNA Class of 2018
Micah Arnold ’18, a senior at Denison University in Granville, OH, understands the value of internships and getting ‘real world’ hands-on experience. Micah is currently triple majoring in Political Science, Philosophy, and Economics, and will graduate in May 2022. Hungry for as much professional experience as possible, Micah is currently enrolled in two post-graduation internships and is currently honing his skills at The Benefactor Group, a nonprofit consulting company. During summer 2021, Micah worked as a research intern for start-up incubator, The Pittsburgh Minority Business Accelerator.
Micah is involved in many extra-curricular activities at Denison. He is a member of the Black Student Union, a fraternity member of Alpha Phi Alpha, and he is involved as the Grant Manager for Denison Venture Philanthropy – which is responsible for donating $10,000 and serves over 200 community service hours to local counties.
Micah is not “all work and no play,” though. He enjoys nature and regularly hikes the Denison’s Biological Reserve – a 50-acre plot of land including a forest, orchards, ponds, and more. He even finds his inner peace taking care of bonsai trees!
“I used to run cross country for TNA, and it really ignited my love for nature and my appreciation for the outdoors. I also learned that I enjoy pushing my body to its limits whether it be hiking, running, or even playing volleyball,” said Micah.
TNA runs in Micah’s DNA through his love of exploration and diving into the unknown. Searching for the right college – let alone pursuing higher education in the first place – can be a daunting thing, but Micah took the leap and found that it has been life-changing for him.
“During my junior year, our history teacher, Kathryn Hardy, took us to Denison for a tour, and it really showed me an area of higher education that I never thought of… I really enjoy exploring the unknown, and TNA opened my eyes to exploring things I wasn’t used to,” said Micah. “I’ve taken all of the skills that I learned at TNA and applied them in college, and it’s been really impactful for me,” he continued.
During Micah's time with The Pittsburgh Minority Business Accelerator, he had meetings with Joe Massaro – CEO of Massaro Construction Group, Chief Strategy Officer of BEAM Collaborative, and former Board Chair of The Neighborhood Academy. BEAM Collaborative is a strategic planning consulting firm designed to improve the health of Black owned businesses. Through this connection, Micah took his talents to BEAM as a Associate Analyst.
Judie has used her years to the fullest, serving as Vice President and President of the Board for the Pittsburgh Aids Task Force, being actively involved with Calvary Episcopal Church, and working for H.J. Heinz Company for 34 years. After retiring at the age of 56, Judie went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in English from Westminster College at the age of 62 (graduating summa cum laude.)
Now-a-days, if it’s Thursday, you can bet Judie is at The Neighborhood Academy tutoring students.
Before becoming a regular TNA volunteer, Judie was involved at The Neighborhood Academy during Calvary Episcopal Church and Rodef Shalom Congregation’s Mitzvah Days. The Hebrew word "mitzvah" means "good deed,” and the day revolves around local volunteer work.
“I was familiar with The Neighborhood Academy. I clearly remember scrubbing lockers during the Mitzvah Day,” said Judie. “Not only that, but I am friends with Dr. Beverly Harris Schenz and contributed to her Mary Martin Tinsley (MMT) Scholarship Fund.” The MMT Scholarship fund is an endowed scholarship that helps outstanding TNA students in their pursuit of higher education.
Judie decided to further her volunteering efforts with TNA back in 2019 after attending The Nancy & Paul O’Neill Speaker Series featuring Mark Whitaker.
“I noticed in the event program that TNA was looking for tutors, and I knew I was ready to commit my time to helping students… plus I was able to put my English degree to good use!” said Judie. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic halted volunteering soon after the event, but Judie was able to begin her in-person tutoring in September 2021. “When I see the school—the model— and what it does for the students, I’m happy to be a part of it,” she continued.
Judie attended TNA’s latest Speaker Series event in September 2021 that featured Wes Moore: bestselling author, combat veteran, former CEO of Robin Hood, and current candidate for Governor of Maryland. After attending this event, Judie decided it was time to become a member of TNA’s Legacy Society to make a long and lasting impact on the school.
“For some time, I have been flirting with the idea of changing my will to add The Neighborhood Academy, and listening to Wes Moore speak and being part of the benefit really sealed the deal for me… My husband, Keen, was a professor at Westminster College, and education meant so much to him… He passed away over three years ago of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. This donation will keep Keen’s legacy alive by giving others the gift of education.”
READY TO JOIN THE LEGACY SOCIETY? Visit theneighborhoodacademy.planned.gifts
TNA Class of 2018
“I joined the Public Health field with the expectation to change the world and improve people’s well-being,” said Charles. “I enjoy tutoring and mentoring students during the summer. I relate a lot to their struggles when I speak with them and listen to their stories. During my involvement with IUP’s Health and Wellness Promotion work study, my job was to explain the importance of good mental and physical health to the students. I also helped with various projects, events, and presentations focused on everything from sexual health to stress overload, and nutrition basics to suicide awareness.”
Charles is currently interviewing for an internship for summer 2022 and plans to pursue a master’s degree in Health Service Administration.
“I have many dreams, but I have realized that it’s important to focus on the ‘now’… I used to worry so much about my future and the what-ifs. I am now finally trying to take things day by day,” said Charles.
To help cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Charles explored new genres of music – such as pop, country, rap, R&B, and Christian – focusing on the messages they provide within the lyrics.
“I listen to R&B for the love songs, but I also enjoy songs about loving yourself and the space around you. I enjoy Christian music because it not only speaks to the artist’s faith, but to the artist’s failures and pain in life that they have overcome. Christian music helps me realize life is not easy and many things will happen outside our control, but we must move forward and use things that happen to us as fuel to succeed,” said Charles.
Even today, Charles has TNA coded within his DNA and, much like his taste in music, has taken important messages with him to get him to where he is in life.
“The most important thing I learned from TNA is that if something is not right or if something does not fit well with you, it’s okay to disagree,” said Charles. “Leaving something for the better is not quitting. Leaving something for another opportunity that fits who you are and elevates you only betters yourself. Reverend Thomas Johnson always said ‘You must leave Location A to get to Location B.’”
Charles has goals far beyond a fulfilling career in healthcare or hospitals.
“My ultimate goal is to create an after-school program that opens doors and adds value to students’ lives by encouraging them to become more than what they may see on a daily basis.”