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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.”

Supporters Corner | Jim and Gretchen Gockley

June 13, 2022
By Jonathan Winkler

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.

Supporters Corner | Dynamic Duo: Hans and Leslie Fleischner

June 13, 2022
By Jonathan Winkler

Hans and Leslie Fleischner

 
Leslie and her late husband, Hans Fleischner, have been stalwart advocates for Pittsburgh’s arts and education institutions, one particular school being The Neighborhood Academy.

“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.”

Alumni Spotlight | Micah Arnold

June 13, 2022
By Marcus Platt

Micah Arnold

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.

Legacy Leader: Judie Compher

April 18, 2022
By Jonathan Winkler

Judie Compher 

 
‘What should I do with this life I’ve been given?’ is what Judie asked herself after suffering an aortic aneurysm at the age of 35. She realized at this young age how precious life truly is. What legacy could she leave with the time she was given?

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.”
 
On April 18, 2022, The Neighborhood Academy had the pleasure of honoring Judie Compher with the 2021 Volunteer of the Year.

READY TO JOIN THE LEGACY SOCIETY? Visit theneighborhoodacademy.planned.gifts
 

Alumni Spotlight | Charles Coleman

February 16, 2022
By Jonathan Winkler

TNA Class of 2018

Charles Coleman
 

A senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), Charles Coleman, 22, is poised to major in Public Health with concentrations in the fields of mental and behavioral health – not to mention a minor in Economics. Charles has been involved in an on-campus Health and Wellness Promotion work study for the past three years, and currently dedicates his time to helping others as an active member of IUP’s Public Health Club.

“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.”

Supporters Corner | Jean and Henry (Hal) Haller

August 30, 2021
By Marcus Platt

Jean and Henry (Hal) Haller

 
In 2006, Jean and Henry (Hal) Haller were introduced to TNA co-founder Jodie Moore by their mutual friend, Dave Hunter, who was passionate about providing opportunities for children who attended low performing schools.  Jean and Hal toured the school, met students, and quickly joined the TNA community.

Jean began her involvement by attending girls basketball games and assisting with carpooling.  The Haller’s dedication grew, and they joined the “Over the Bridge Society” which supports a student’s tuition for three years. Student Shannon Prentiss was the beneficiary of the Haller’s generosity, and she is now TNA’s Director of Admissions and College and Career Counseling!

“Having Shannon as one of our “Over the Bridge” students really solidified for us the potential of The Neighborhood Academy,” said Hal.

Shannon enjoyed her time with the Hallers and credits her success in part to their support. 

“During my senior year, the Hallers and I began going to Panera’s regularly so we could catch up!” Shannon reflected. “They have always been extremely welcoming and supportive of my dreams, personally and professionally.”    
 
Beyond high school, the Hallers supported Shannon’s journey through higher education – from purchasing her first laptop to tuition assistance – helping her to earn two master’s degrees from Carlow University.

“They displayed a level of compassion that I always appreciated. I was able to confide in them my aspirations, fears, and anxieties,” said Shannon. “They helped me build confidence in myself.”

On November 13, 2011, Journeys of Life in Shadyside was destroyed by an electrical fire.  Her store specialized in self-help books, inspirational gifts, and spiritual guidance. The store also served as a resource for people battling addiction and for the professionals who work with them, providing an inspiring gathering place for the Pittsburgh community.

“When Jodie heard about the fire,” Jean mentioned, “she rounded up volunteers to assist us with the cleanup and relocation of her store to a temporary location. Students also created artwork to display in the new location,” said Jean warmly.  
 
The store was a member of the American Booksellers Association and the Hallers furthered the relationship with TNA students by having them distribute books throughout the Pittsburgh community. 

“TNA students broke into small groups and traveled to different neighborhoods, dropping off books as donations.  We even had Mayor Peduto speak to the students regarding their impact.”  

The Haller family continues to be purposefully involved with the school in many ways.  Jean helped to obtain a 20th Anniversary Proclamation from the City of Pittsburgh which Mayor Peduto presented to the school at Convocation on September 8.  Jean’s and Hal’s son, Ed Haller has been involved with TNA for many years and is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors. 

For more information on how to become a member of the “Over the Bridge Society”, contact Sheila Rawlings, Director of Development at The Neighborhood Academy at 412.626.6851 or sheila.rawlings@theneighborhoodacademy.org.

Senior Spotlight | Jocelyn Hargrove

August 17, 2021
By Marcus Platt

TNA Class of 2022

JOCELYN HARGROVE

 

Jocelyn Hargrove a TNA senior and newly-elected President of Student Government, looks forward to the long-awaited day in May 2022: when she can finally call herself a TNA graduate.
 
Determined to leave her mark as President, Jocelyn looks to make a few changes including plans for more school dances, ‘fun-raising activities,’ and other social functions. Jocelyn even plans to survey the student body to come up with menus for their school meals, and aims to have a designated day where the student body chooses lunch!
 
“I bring a lot of ambition toward anything that I go after… I have a good amount of determination and a lot of grit,” said Joceyln. 
 
Aside from Student Government, Jocelyn is active on TNA’s volleyball, basketball, and track teams.
 
TNA definitely runs in her DNA. Jocelyn’s brother, Desmond graduated from the school in 2018, and her younger brother, Nate, is slated to graduate in 2023, and has also been elected as the Vice President of Student Government. She finds herself in the middle of her siblings, soaking up knowledge and lessons from her older brother, while being the example for her younger brother. 
 
Upon graduating from TNA, Jocelyn aspires to become a surgeon. She recently completed a 2-week “Healthcare Career Academy” program with The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC.) Through this program, Jocelyn traveled between the West Mifflin and CCAC Boyce (Monroeville) campuses as well as Jefferson Hospital, where she had the opportunity to shadow professionals in the healthcare industry. 
 
“It was fun! And I learned a lot about the different jobs that exist within the medical industry surrounding surgeons,” she said.
 
Jocelyn currently has some colleges in mind that she is considering like Temple University, Howard University, and North Carolina A&T University.  
 
Jocelyn credits TNA’s community as one of the reasons why continues to aim so high.
 
“What I like most about The Neighborhood Academy is the support system from the staff and faculty as well as the student body,” said Jocelyn. “It really feels like a home away from home… TNA is a great opportunity for a young person who is serious about their goals. Whatever you want to pursue in life, The Neighborhood Academy helps give you the skills to attack whatever is you are pursuing fearlessly.”

Alumni Spotlight | Kennedy Randall

August 04, 2021
By Jennifer Kane

TNA CLASS OF 2014
KENNEDY RANDALL

 

Kennedy Randall is a person who has many interests, but her current career mirrors what interested her when she was young. When Kennedy was little, she wanted to be a pediatrician. When she was in high school, she was interested in pursuing the performing arts. 

She is now Production Assistant for two children’s television shows for Fred Rogers Productions. 

“I have to read a lot and I feel confident about tackling that because of the amount of reading I had at TNA. I would also say critical thinking because a lot of the time I need to think about things from multiple perspectives,” said Kennedy. “Learning how other people think or other ways of thinking was stressed in many of the classes I enjoyed at TNA.” 

The classes Kennedy enjoyed most at TNA were Modern Thought with Ms. Jen, Reverend Tom’s Ethics class, and Psychology class with Dr. Means. 

“I liked that I could take classes in subjects besides just Math, English, History, and Science. There is a lot of random information I hold on to and use and I know it is stuff I learned at TNA,” said Kennedy. 

Her message for current students would be: “Do what makes you happy no matter what it looks like to anyone else. And you do not have to have it all figured out in high school or right after high school.”

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