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Supporters Corner | Sheran Zellous White

March 14, 2023
By Jonathan Winkler

Sheran White


"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  James 1:27

Sheran Zellous White, Founder and Executive Director of the Five James Foundation, has found that being a guiding light to widows, orphans, and struggling women in Pittsburgh is her own special way of healing herself from personal tragedy. Sheran started the Five James Foundation after the tragic losses of five loved ones: husband, William James White Jr.; son, William James White III; two grandsons, William James White IV and Jordan James White (both sons of her deceased son); and nephew, James Dwaine Zellous.  Thus the name: Five James Foundation.

Broken, but deeply rooted in her faith, Sheran needed a way to find solace from her grieving after these few years of heartbreaking losses.

“I spoke with my pastor at Allegheny Center Alliance Church. He would take short term mission trips to Africa, and told me that the Lord was speaking to him and wanted me to go to Kenya with him,” Sheran said. “I went kicking and screaming.”

There in Kenya, Sheran met five widows, with whom she built a relationship. The camaraderie between the women was strong and comforting. Through the Five James Foundation, these women launched businesses and became self-sufficient. From this point, Sheran realized that giving comfort to fellow widows and those grieving was her calling.

“I know what it’s like to hurt. I know what deep grief does to a person. I trusted in the Lord’s timing and realized my spiritual gift,” said Sheran. “I am driven to help people; it’s the way I’m wired… Today, the Five James Foundation supports 110 widows, and I give comfort by personally reaching out to each and every one of them.”

She was introduced to The Neighborhood Academy by former Board Member, Brenda Frazier, and has been an active supporter of TNA’s mission and vision ever since. The Five James Foundation has a scholarship for students living with single parents, and a few TNA students have been recipients of this generous scholarship.

“Not having an education can be a route to destruction and lack of productivity in society. The Neighborhood Academy reinforces the importance of a well-rounded education in these young people. Saving youth who otherwise would be overlooked is an amazing task,” Sheran said.

Today, Sheran works as the Community Care Director at Allegheny Center Alliance Church and spends Wednesday nights facilitating the church’s grief recovery support meetings.


Senior Spotlight | Antonio Allen

March 14, 2023
By Jonathan Winkler

TNA Class of 2023

Antonio Allen


The Neighborhood Academy Senior Antonio Allen lives with his head in the clouds. After a rigorous school day, you can find Antonio in one of two places: either performing on stage for Alumni Theater Company or in Aviation and Flight Training at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). Graduating in May 2023, this 18-year-old is ready to spread his wings.

“I take a Private Pilot Theory course and an Air Traffic Control course at CCAC for roughly seven hours a week,” he said. ” I already have two flight lessons down!” 

Antonio has a few options of what he plans on doing after graduation – both involving serving his country. Having traveled with TNA’s students and faculty to Europe, he sees himself catching the Travel Bug.

“My plan is to be in active duty in the Air Force for 10-15 years and maybe become a commercial pilot. It is a pretty lucrative career, plus I would get to travel a lot. I feel like that would be a good lifestyle for me,” Antonio said.

Antonio lives by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quote, “If you can't fly, then run; if you can't run, then walk; if you can't walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

It goes without saying, Antonio definitely stays in constant motion.

While he attends his classes at CCAC two days a week, Antonio is also an active member in the Alumni Theater Company where he performs, writes, sings, raps, and dances. He enjoys performing show tunes from Moulin Rouge and The Addams Family musical, but his favorite role to date is everyone’s favorite cartoon beagle (who’s also a pilot).

“The stage has been my creative outlet since second grade. My favorite role was playing Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I was the lead in this show, had two solos, and it took me out of my comfort zone. Plus, the small crew I performed with is like my family. Once I know we have a production together, I know it will be fire,” said Antonio.

Antonio credits The Neighborhood Academy for setting the stage for his future.

“The Neighborhood Academy had me thinking about what I want my future to look like. The school is a gateway,” he said. Soon I’ll be walking out one door and walking through another one.”

Alumni Spotlight | Shataya Taylor

March 14, 2023
By Jonathan Winkler

TNA Class of 2018

Shataya Taylor


Shataya Taylor, TNA class of 2018, is good to the people in her life – big or small. Having earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh in May 2022, Shataya is aiming to achieve her Masters in fall 2023.  Social Work blends the disciplines of counseling, psychology, and sociology, but Shataya is a believer in a few other passions that allow her to be the best in the field: family, networking, and hard work.

“I am currently doing my second internship at Children, Youth, and Families Services as part of the Masters program. On top of that, I am a Research Assistant at Pitt studying how black parents raise children with autism. When this study is completed, I will be studying black fatherhood and early childhood programs and the challenges they face,” said Shataya. “I really enjoy working with children and youth, and want to pursue that area the most.”

Shataya is also a part-time building cleaner  and is a student mentor at TNA. Although she is extremely busy with her career, Shataya always finds time for family – especially being an inspiration to her “little people:” a brother, age 3, and two sisters, ages 5 and 8.

“The three don’t care how old I am, and they encourage me in the littlest of ways. They came to my graduation, and were so proud of me. Sometimes they come and visit the university with my dad! It’s in our family nature to cheer on family,” said Shataya.

Shataya’s parents are her inspiration in life, and she credits them for her desire to help others. She has unintentionally followed in her father’s footsteps with her passion for Social Work.

“My dad works is a Social Worker at Pitt, and believe it or not, he didn’t want me to get into the field,” she laughed. “It’s not that he didn’t believe in me. You have to have a big heart and a strong mind to be in the field… I’m being an ‘open ear’ for children, and it can be difficult hearing what they are going through. I am prepared for anything, and I’m here to help them. I can’t see myself being comfortable in any other field other than Social Work.”

Shataya also enjoys hanging out with her friends, hitting the gym, doing yoga, and going for walks (during the warmer months). She also enjoys networking and meeting people in her field. 

Alumni Spotlight | Desmond Hargrove

March 14, 2023
By Jonathan Winkler

TNA Class of  2018

Desmond Hargrove


Desmond Hargrove, TNA Class of ’18, is the Outreach and Impact Coordinator at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA where he oversees the YMCA’s youth afterschool programs. He got involved with the YMCA through the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE,) an organization that cultivates a community of talented university graduates to partner with Pittsburgh nonprofits for service and leadership. Desmond graduated from Allegheny College in spring 2022 with a degree in Communications and a minor in Community Justice.

“I coordinate events and manage the YMCA’s marketing efforts, creating their newsletter, posting content for their social media channels, and shooting photography… I enjoy working with the community – it has become a crucial part of who I am,” said Desmond.

At TNA, Desmond’s favorite memories are volunteering at the Rainbow Kitchen in Homestead, Brightside Academy in East Liberty, and senior citizen homes in the area. In college, he was part of the Allegheny Bonner Service Leader Program – a civic engagement program where students who dedicate 8-10 hours per week working with local community organizations can earn scholarships. At 23 years old, Desmond wants to continue serving his community full-time.

“My goal is to help people get out of situations where they feel like they’re just surviving. I want to lead people to a place where they can thrive. There is a common theme of people just ‘getting by,’ and I want to have a hand in offering motivation, giving people a chance to express themselves and enjoy life,” said Desmond.

Cycling with the Pittsburgh Youth Leadership (PYL) and TNA students is a hobby that Desmond continues to participate in today. In December 2022, he completed a trip from North Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia, with the group – one of many previous excursions.

“I have been cycling with PYL since my junior year at TNA. Our first trip was cycling through Alaska! It was not as cold as I expected, the mountains, forest and wildlife were amazing… Today, I ride as a staff member/mentor on these trips, teaching the students how to ride and be more self-sufficient.”
Desmond’s siblings Jocelyn, TNA Class of ’22, and Nathan, TNA Class of ’23, are following in his footsteps, and he looks forward to seeing them flourish.

“It’s great to see how they have grown and how this school has impacted them. I look forward to seeing them continue to develop themselves in the next chapters of their lives.”

Alumni Spotlight | Kierra Arnold

January 23, 2023
By Marcus Platt

TNA Class of 2012

Kierra Arnold


Kierra Arnold ‘12, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social work from Youngstown State University. Currently working as a family based therapist for Wesley Family Services, Kierra plays a vital role in providing behavioral health treatment services to children and adolescents, from as young as 4 years old up to the age of 18. The children she serves are typically at risk for a variety of issues ranging from mental health to probational needs. Kierra works in the home setting with her consumers as well as any family members in the household that would like to be involved in the treatment services.

When asked what drove her into the social work profession Kierra says she has always been a very personable person that loved to get a deeper understanding of individuals. She has always inquired about people, what has impacted them, and what has shaped them to be the person they are today.

She states “Having an inquiring mind paired with the desire to help families is what led me into social work.”

When asked about her hobbies she mentioned that she enjoyed reading and also listening to different podcasts related to her profession. However, Kierra attributes her main hobby to raising her 2 year old daughter, Kara, who enjoys dancing, being on Tik Tok, and loves involving Kierra in festivities.

“My experiences throughout my profession are transferable to motherhood and vice versa. Some of the methods and techniques that I use at work make raising my daughter as a single mother that much easier.”

As far as her future is concerned, Kierra has aspirations of running her own practice one day, and she is looking to attend graduate school in the fall to pursue her masters degree in social work.

TNA is a part of her DNA, Kierra has younger siblings that have attended and graduated from TNA throughout various years including her younger sister Briana and younger brother, Micah Arnold who graduated in 2018 and is now a member of the TNA board of directors. Also a major reason why The Neighborhood Academy was on her radar was because her aunt, Marley Barnette - Class of 2011, was also a student at TNA.

“She (Marley) is the reason my mother knew about TNA in the first place.” Kierra recalls.

A student athlete while in attendance at TNA, she attributes some of her fondest memories to the various winning basketball seasons she had and bringing championship banners back to the school.

“There’s too many memories to count. From the high moments to even the low moments during our basketball seasons. But through it all – It was all fun.”

Supporters Corner | Alan Citron

September 15, 2022
By Jonathan Winkler

Alan Citron


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.”

Alumni Spotlight | Keenu Harmon

September 15, 2022
By Jonathan Winkler

TNA Class of 2010

Keenu Harmon


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.”

Senior Spotlight | Nathan Hargrove

September 15, 2022
By Jonathan Winkler

TNA Class of 2023

Nathan Hargrove


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.”

Graduate | Amari Spivey

June 13, 2022
By Marcus Platt

TNA Class of 2022

Amari Spivey


Having graduated in May with the Neighborhood Academy class of 2022, Amari Spivey is eager to plant her roots at Chatham University in the fall. Gardening is Amari’s passion, and after participating in a summer agriculture program at the university in 2021, she knew that Chatham was where she wanted to be for her undergraduate studies.

“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.”

Alumni Spotlight | Keka Shipman

June 13, 2022
By Jonathan Winkler

TNA Class of 2006

Keka Shipman

Having attended The Neighborhood Academy for only her senior year, Chaquica "Keka" Shipman was introduced to Chatham University on a TNA college visit. 

“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.”

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