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Supporters Corner | Lisa Ross

May 28, 2024
By Jonathan Winkler

Lisa Ross from McKees Rocks is a mother of two TNA graduates. Having been deeply involved in the TNA community for years, she realized she was learning alongside her children the entire time. In 2015, Lisa didn’t have a degree, a driver’s license, or even a car. She had clear aspirations for her family but lacked direction on how to achieve them. Despite working full-time, she dedicated countless hours to TNA and remained actively engaged in the lives of her children and their school peers.

“At the time, I was part of a TNA parent committee where I would volunteer for different school activities and attend sporting events,” said Lisa. “The information from the programs was fueling me…I was learning with the students how to achieve my own goals.”

Since then, Lisa has obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education. She currently teaches at Propel Schools in Pittsburgh and works as an educator in TNA’s Summer Academy.

“While my kids have graduated, I still want to be a part of TNA’s continued blessings,” said Lisa. “The faculty and staff truly care. At the end of the day, they’re always discussing how they can make things better for the next day, the next week, the next year."

Having watched her own daughter grow and graduate from TNA (now a Robert Morris University student studying finance), Lisa was ecstatic when TNA opened its Middle School for Girls in fall 2023.

Lisa said that when one experiences TNA, it has a positive effect on the entire family. She said she was so excited when TNA opened its Middle School for Boys in 2017. “I watched the students grow into intelligent, artistic, athletic, capable, young men attending the colleges of their choice,” she said. “I cannot wait to see the young ladies graduate in six years.”

Senior Spotlight | Naya Winters

May 28, 2024
By Jonathan Winkler

Naya Winters, a recent TNA graduate and Stanton Heights resident, will be heading down to the Bayou State this summer to attend Xavier University of Louisiana. At 18 years old, Naya is excited to expand her horizons outside of Pittsburgh to pursue a degree in Pre-Med Biology.  

“I received a generous yearly scholarship from Xavier and qualified to take part in their honors courses. I’m excited to start!” said Naya. “I’ve lived in Pittsburgh my whole life. I want to see new things, meet new people, and see the real world.”

After college, Naya has plans to return to the Steel City to attend medical school at the University of Pittsburgh. Her ultimate goal is to one day become an OB/GYN.

“At first, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I thought about going into acting,  becoming an esthetician, or even starting my own business,” said Naya. In 11th grade, she wrote a paper about the discrimination of the Black community in the medical field and the low representation of Black professionals in the field.

“I learned that Black women have a much higher mortality rate than White women during pregnancy,” she said. “Many people don’t understand the pain that Black women endure and these are the reasons why I want to become a doctor for women.”

Naya is a talented student in and out of the classroom. Although she loves math and anything STEM related, and she is a skilled actress and hair stylist. She also works part-time at Prantl's Bakery in Shadyside, and with 10 older siblings, she is always busy babysitting her nieces and

Her favorite memory at TNA involved the college tour at Ohio State University last year. “The van ride was so much fun,” she said. “We played on the basketball courts, went out for some good food, and it was so much fun just being with my friends.”

Naya has a quote tattooed on herself – a reminder to always think positively and the power of manifestation. 

It reads: “It all begins and ends with the mind. What you give power has power over you, if you allow it.”

Congratulations, Naya!


Senior Spotlight | Cierra Price-Knight

March 04, 2024
By Jonathan Winkler

Cierra Price-Knight


It’s never a dull moment in TNA Senior Cierra Price-Knight’s world. A Penn Hills native, Cierra’s life revolves around community, competitive sports, and as of late, college acceptances!

“I’ve been accepted to 14 colleges, and my goal is to earn a BS in Nursing,” Cierra said. “While Pennsylvania has a major footprint in healthcare, I want to explore new places. Why not get out and look for more?”

Her top five schools are Morgan State University (MD), University of Akron (OH), Robert Morris University (PA), Delaware State University (DE), and Claflin University (SC). Cierra also plans to possibly major or minor in Criminology and capitalize on her passion for investigating and problem solving. Her schedule outside the realm of academics is jam-packed with volunteerism, sports, and self-expression.

“I’m involved at Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Lawrenceville as a youth choir director and coordinate our holiday show and our Fourth Sunday youth scripture readings. I also like to dance, sing, and act,” she said. “At TNA I play basketball and compete in track and field. I also play flag football on the side. I always like a good audience.”

Cierra has the record for most blocked shots in a basketball game (13). She played volleyball, currently runs the girls 200-meter sprint, and throws shot put, discus, and javelin in Field. She hopes to continue doing Track and Field in college.

Cierra’s favorite memory at TNA is of her sophomore year pep rally when fellow classmate, Brent Jernigan, Jr. performed and the students stormed the basketball court in celebration. Given her competitive spirit, she always enjoys a good Blue and Orange competition – TNA’s annual school-wide games.

Cierra enjoys her family and has an older brother and younger sister, who is a TNA freshman. She has a love of different cultures and cultural foods, stemming from her Jamaican parents who ran a Caribbean-inspired restaurant in East Liberty. Cierra looks forward to TNA’s upcoming international trip to Italy and Greece in spring 2024 to see the sights and test her taste buds.

“Trying the foods is big for me. I’m looking forward to comparing real Italian and Greek foods with ours here in America,” she said. “We’ll be traveling for almost two weeks, and that will be plenty of time for me to explore the cultures.”

Supporters Corner | The Reverend Karie Charlton

March 04, 2024
By Jonathan Winkler

The Reverend Karie Charlton


The Reverend Karie Charlton of Green Tree was the Associate Pastor at Third Presbyterian Church from 2014 to 2023, and her personal vocation has always benefited the students and mission of The Neighborhood Academy.

Third Presbyterian Church was an ‘Over The Bridge’ donor which supports the cost of educating a student for three years. Rev. Charlton always had a special connection with their sponsored student, Anthony Duckett ‘20.

“The church has a community bulletin board, and anytime I saw Anthony featured on social media or had any news about him, I would post it on the board,” said Rev. Charlton. “Anthony was a very bright student, won science awards, and was on the basketball team. I would meet with him at TNA’s graduations at Third Presbyterian Church, and even went to a Pirates game with him.”

“Rev. Tom Johnson’s father was the previous sexton at Third Presbyterian Church. I always heard stories of Tom wearing his football pads and running the stairs of the church for condition training when he was in high school,” said Rev. Charlton. “It was always fun when he visited the building as an adult. He always had a story to tell – the man is a legend.”

Like many, Rev. Charlton’s favorite memory of TNA is walking through the doors of the academic building and being greeted by the students, faculty, and staff.

“Someone at the door is always happy to see you at TNA. When I first walked into the school, I was greeted by name, offered a beverage, and took a tour,” said Rev. Charlton. “The students glow! And it is clear that the building is very special to them.”

After meeting with TNA’s former Director of Counseling Services, Debbie Krochka, and former English Instructor, Jennifer Kane, Rev. Charlton got involved in TNA’s chapel services, teacher orientation, and teaching menstrual health to the female students.

Rev. Charlton has been donating to The Neighborhood Academy through automatic monthly donations since 2017.

“My TNA donation leaves my bank account on the same day my paycheck arrives. For me, giving isn’t a sacrifice, and with automatic donations, I don’t even notice!” said Rev. Charlton. “I live in abundance of what remains after giving.”

Please contact Landis Erwin, Director of Development, at 412-626-6851 x104 or if you are interested in setting up automatic monthly donations.

Supporters Corner | Pat Kennedy

March 04, 2024
By Jonathan Winkler

Pat Kennedy


Pat is an active member at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Highland Park and finds her purpose by giving back to her community and to The Neighborhood Academy. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pat and her late husband lived all over the country and returned to Pittsburgh in 2002. No matter where they lived, they were always active in their faith community.

“My husband worked for Gulf Oil, and we lived north, south, east, west and eventually came back to Pittsburgh,” she said. “I first heard about The Neighborhood Academy when Rev. Tom Johnson spoke at Fox Chapel Episcopal Church. My husband joined a group of gentlemen who helped prepare meals when the school was in Garfield. When we transferred to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, that’s when we really began getting involved,” said Pat.

For years, St. Michael’s of the Valley in Ligonier has stuffed and donated backpacks for TNA students as a back-to-school gesture. As the school began to grow larger and larger, the task of stuffing and delivering the backpacks became quite the task, and St. Michael’s reached out to St. Andrew’s for assistance.

“At the time, I was the head of outreach at St. Andrew’s, and we were happy to help,” said Pat. The backpacks are such a wonderful project, and we’ve been involved ever since!”

While at St. Andrew’s, Pat was on the vestry twice and was also the Sr. Warden, and her service to TNA did not stop at the annual backpack donation. Three or four times a year, she and the Outreach Committee re-stock TNA’s family essentials, items not covered by food stamps. She has also invited TNA leadership and alumni to update St. Andrew’s congregation during their ‘Minute for Ministry.’

“It’s important that our congregation gets a ‘Hello, Neighbor’ from some of the groups we support. I want TNA to be more than just a name of a school that they hear,” said Pat. “We make sure St. Andrew’s Outreach Committee take tours of TNA annually to see the beautiful academic building and meet the students,” said Pat.

To give back for all the support, TNA students rake leaves and do some minor landscaping on St. Andrew’s grounds. To keep her mind sharp, Pat takes classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute hosted by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

“After one of my classes, I asked the instructor if he was familiar with The Neighborhood Academy, since he taught at Pittsburgh Public Schools. He said to me, ‘There should be 30 Neighborhood Academies in Pittsburgh’… The work the school does, the students, the whole approach is so different from public schools. It’s beautiful.”

Alumni Highlight | Kaylyn Glenn

March 04, 2024
By Jonathan Winkler

TNA Class of 2013
Kaylyn Glenn


Kaylyn is a registered nurse at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville overseeing patients in the Cardiac Thoracic Intensive Care (CTICU). Kaylyn graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2017 with a major in Public Health and received her nursing degree at West Penn Hospital in 2022. She currently resides in the East End of Pittsburgh, is engaged to be married, and is pursuing her Bachelor of Nursing at Capella University.

“We perform open heart surgery at the CTICU where I am stationed, and I assist the patients in their recovery,” said Kaylyn. “I see them through their entire stay at the hospital, and it is special to see them get stronger, healthier, and eventually be discharged under my care.”

Kaylyn’s passion for working in healthcare alongside doctors and fellow nurses came to her at an early age from her own experience as a long-term patient.

As a first-grader, Kaylyn was diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease, a rare disease in children that causes inflammation, high fever, nose bleeds, and swellings in the tongue and glands.

“I still don’t know how I got it, but I was in the hospital for over a month. I was around nurses and doctors a lot,” said Kaylyn. “Ever since then, I wanted to work in healthcare. I always knew in the back of my head I would.” Kaylyn said that she would one day like to switch from working in the CTICU to the Labor and Delivery unit.

Kaylyn works 12-hour shifts from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. three times a week, and often resets her mind and body at her gym: Burn Boot Camp in Murrysville.

“People always talked about nursing being a hard field – and it is,” she said. “My life is work, school, and wedding planning, so I go to the gym four to five times a week to relieve stress!”

Kaylyn also enjoys traveling with her fiancé, Oshay, and together recently visited the Dominican Republic and France. They also like to embark on short, local road trips when they have time.

“Seeing that TNA is taking international trips to places like London, Barcelona, and Paris makes me want to go back!” laughed Kaylyn.

Kaylyn is happy to hear that TNA has opened a Middle School for Girls. “I’m overjoyed to see that girls can enjoy the full middle school/high school experience and learn beside their friends from 6th grade to graduation,” she said.

Alumni Highlight | Jamar Robinson

March 04, 2024
By Jonathan Winkler

TNA Class of 2021
Jamar Robinson

Jamar has written his own personal code for a successful future. Currently a third-year student at Slippery Rock University, Jamar majors in Computing with a concentration in Information Technology (IT) and has a minor in both Information Systems and Business Administration. Aside from his academics, Jamar is involved in campus clubs and even dabbles in graphic design.

“I aim to one day land a job in web development or IT. IT is a wide field and would allow me to work with either computer hardware or computer software,” he said. “Whatever I do in the future, it has to involve my ‘big three’: computing, business, and creativity.”

To satisfy his creative side, Jamar does graphic design for club social media posts and his friend’s clothing brand. He also works on personal graphic design projects as well.
At the university, he is the President of the Black Action Society, and he is the Public Relations Chair for the school’s Kings Organization, which mentors and creates programming for Black men on campus.

“The Black Action Society is a student-run club that spearheads racial injustices and promotes the lifestyle of Black students in a predominantly white institution,” he said. “As president, I have a lot of responsibilities and must address and schedule important things that come up all the time. I’ve realized that leadership is something you have to dive in and do in order to learn and understand it.”

In his pursuit of excellence, Jamar reads many self-help books and takes wisdom from Curtis James Jackson III, also known professionally as rapper 50 Cent.

“50 Cent inspires me the most – he splits himself between his rapper persona and his business self. Back in 2007, he earned millions of dollars through his partnership with Vitamin Water,” said Jamar. “He is not just a rapper, he is a business mogul, and I’m inspired by the way he carries himself.”

A quote from 50 Cent’s book Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter sticks with Jamar, and he uses it to remind himself to never let an idea stay an idea; that it is important to take action.

“When ideas only live in your mind, it is easy for you to lose track of them. Even if they’re extremely powerful, they get lost in the stream of new information that’s constantly entering your head.”

Senior Spotlight | Samaira

October 10, 2023
By Jonathan Winkler

TNA Class of 2024


TNA Senior, Samaira, of Penn Hills has had quite a summer participating in programs feeding her passion for math and engineering. Samaira has completed Carnegie Mellon University's five-week Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) program, and a week-long program through Robert Morris University and NAIOP Pittsburgh to explore the world of commercial real estate.

“I absolutely love math and science, and someday I want to become a mechanical or civil engineer,” Samaira said. “These programs have been really cool. I lived on campus at CMU and met so many different people. It was nice seeing minorities like myself, too. The experience was very ‘college-like’ with the independence and freedom to meet the professors.”

Soon after Samaira completed the SAMS program, she went on to explore another potential career path: commercial real estate.

“At the Robert Morris NAIOP Pittsburgh program, my team and I won first place for our design of a new eco-friendly warehouse. It had solar panels and everything needed to reduce its carbon footprint. I even won a personal award for being the ‘Most Transformative’ since I was nervous and shy for the first few days.”

Samaira hopes to be accepted to North Carolina A&T State University, Harvard, Columbia, or Georgia Tech. She credits her love of engineering and math to a SeaPerch program in which she participated when she was in 5th-7th grades. SeaPerch is an educational tool that allows students to construct remotely operated underwater vehicles using engineering skills.

In her free time, she enjoys reading adventure books (her favorite being Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson), doing math equations out of her own practice booklet, and cycling with Pittsburgh Youth Leadership (PYL).

“Cycling is relaxing and fun to me, and I completed my first trip with PYL to Cumberland, MD in the spring,” Samaira said. “Friends would tell me all about the trips they would go on, and I was never sure about it. Then one day, I said, ‘Okay, sign me up.’”

Samaira is appreciative of TNA Math Instructor Jason Scott for his consistent help and guidance.

“Mr. Jason is my advisor, and I have always enjoyed the way he teaches and how he is able to drop everything to help students understand something,” she said. “Even if you had trouble with other classes’ homework, he would help you. He always made time to read over my U.S. History papers!”

Supporters Corner | Bob and Susan Edwards

September 13, 2023
By Jonathan Winkler

Bob and Susan Edwards


Bob and Susan Edwards of Wexford are strong in their Christian faith and their advocacy of The Neighborhood Academy. Bob and Susan both worked for 30+ years at PNC Financial Services and GlaxoSmithKline, respectively, and are now enjoying their retirement through travel, volunteerism, and golf.

Susan was introduced to TNA in 2020 through Carolyn Sanford, Assistant Head of School for Development, and Susan’s former college roommate.

“We believe that education effectively sets up the trajectory of a person’s future. Thriving in school and making good life choices creates a solid tomorrow,” said Susan. “A value-based life can make a huge difference in society,” Bob agreed. “If I had a magic wand, I would do two things: give everyone a good education and open everyone’s eyes to faith. TNA does both from our perspective.”

Bob and Susan are also very supportive of Penn State where Bob serves as the vice chairman of the Schreyer Honors College’s External Advisory Board. The Edwards invited Honors College Dean Patrick Mather to join them to tour TNA. He was so impressed with the school and the students; he used the word ‘inspiring’ more than once to describe the school. Bob noted, “Each student we met at TNA looked us right in the eye, shook our hand, and welcomed us.”

Bob and Susan sponsor a student’s tuition every year and use the PA Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) Program to redirect their PA State tax liability to approved schools such as TNA and receive a 90% PA tax credit.

“The EITC program is so easy. It’s a little-known option, but it really lets our tax dollars work hard to help these students. We do it year after year,” said Susan.

Meet the Event Chairs of the 2023 Speaker Series | Steve Harms

August 09, 2023
By Jonathan Winkler

Meet the Event Chairs

Steve Harms


Steve Harms is an Assurance Trust partner within PwC’s Banking & Capital Markets practice with over 15 years of experience serving large national and multinational banks, multinational asset managers, fintech lending companies, government sponsored entities, private equity funds, and broker-dealers. He is an active member of The Neighborhood Academy’s Development Committee. Steve fulfills several internal firm roles at PwC such as serving as a member of the New Partner Advisory Committee, and a point partner for the firm’s Digital Innovation & Technology strategy.

Steve was introduced to TNA through fellow PwC partner, and current TNA Board Member, Kirsten Albert, and he has been instrumental in the success of the 2023 Speaker Series.

“Once I came to the school and started meeting the students, I knew it was the place for me. TNA’s mission aligns directly with two principal values of mine: faith and education.”

Steve is inspired by TNA students’ enthusiasm for learning and is motivated to even continue his own educational journey.

“The students help keep me feeling young, eager, and inspire me to be a better version of myself… Hearing all the individual success stories of the students/graduates – and knowing I may have had an ever-so-small part in helping them achieve their goals – is a feeling that can’t be replaced.”

Steve is inspired by Anthony Ray Hinton’s book The Sun Does Shine, and its message of perseverance, devotion, and unwavering faithfulness.

“Even after all the struggles the world has unjustly put upon him, his continued selflessness serves as a true inspiration for the greater community. What makes his message particularly noteworthy is his positive attitude and persistence to never give up hope for exoneration... His life serves as a reminder of the importance of equity and justice for all."

Steve is a father of three and enjoys being a volunteer coach on their baseball and soccer teams. He also loves going on long runs and taking his one-year-old daughter in her stroller along for the ride!

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