In collaboration with the Beaver County System of Care, Pressley Ridge is honored to be a part of the
Beaver County Youth Ambassador Program, which aims to spread awareness and reduce stigma related to mental health issues among high school students. The program began in 2016 with representatives from five school districts, and by next school year, the list will have grown to 15 with as many as 10 students participating from each school.
During two events held in early 2017, the students attended workshops and heard personal stories of mental illness, advocacy and recovery. The ambassadors also discussed ways to alert their peers
how and where to find help. Student-designed posters featuring reassuring messages and helpline
information will soon be hung throughout the halls of the partner schools. In addition, ambassadors
volunteered to speak about their own mental health experiences for a compilation video that was shared on Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 4.
This spring, 28 students graduated from the six Pressley Ridge Schools, along with dozens
more youth from our foster care, community-based and residential programs. These
students have experienced varying degrees of adversity in their young lives, yet through hard
work and determination, they have succeeded.
Kira, who recently transitioned to independent living from Pressley Ridge foster care, is just
one of this year’s commendable stories. Throughout high school, Kira maintained straight A’s
while working part time and taking free online college courses. She graduated with honors
from Hamilton High School and will attend Miami University Hamilton in the fall, where she
was awarded nearly $100,000 in scholarships and plans to study forensic investigation.
Steve came to Pressley Ridge Day School Johnstown at the age of 12 with a diagnosis of
Selective Mutism. He struggled with academics, refused to participate in group activities,
ignored instruction and became physically aggressive. In his eight years at the school, he
made great strides and eventually began responding verbally in class, making friends and even
participating in a school-to-work program at REI, where he now hopes to secure full-time
employment. Steve's mother proudly boasts, "Pressley Ridge has been a life saver. I now get
to see my son, whom I never expected to graduate, not only graduate, but with the highest
grades…and the opportunity to go on and further his education.
There are many more shining examples of success in the Pressley Ridge Class of 2017, and we are
proud of how far they have come. No matter where they are headed, we wish them the best of luck.
An afternoon coffee break is a daily routine for many. For the staff working at Pressley Ridge’s Pittsburgh Campus – which includes the Day School Pittsburgh and the School for Autism – their coffee break is much more meaningful.
Three days each week, students from the Pressley Ridge School for Autism (PRSA) operate a coffee shop on campus. On the surface, the PRSA Coffee Shop offers a welcome service to the staff in the form of beverages and snacks, but it’s the students who run the shop who benefit much more than the customers.
The coffee shop is a therapeutic environment where the students learn valuable social and vocational skills, including appropriate work place etiquette. The are four jobs: greeter, snack stand, barista and cashier. Each job has specific expectations that vary based upon the individual student’s needs and abilities, which increases the students’ chance for success.
The use of meaningful Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) in the coffee shop is encouraged. AAC includes various methods of supplementing or replacing speech to convey wants and needs. When a student uses any form of AAC, a unique vocabulary is developed for communication in the work environment, which promotes communication in settings outside of the classroom. Group conversations are led by PRSA’s Speech-Language Pathologist, and social language and the art of “small talk” become a byproduct of the work environment.
Though staff are closely monitoring, students working in the coffee shop are given the least intrusive level of prompting to promote independence. The staff are also able to identify each student’s strengths and weaknesses, which can be used to develop a work-biography to be passed on to future placements.
For our students, the PRSA Coffee Shop is an important stepping stone between a highly structured therapeutic environment and the real world, and it is just one of the many ways we prepare our students for life after Pressley Ride.
On Friday, May 19th Johnstown student danced the afternoon away at the Junior/Senior Prom. Students enjoyed music by our own DJ, Mr. Deater, posed for pictures with their classmates, and enjoyed light refreshments. It was a day filled with happy memories!
Dave Donate, owner of The Orchard, in Geistown recently visited the students and staff to make a $2,800.00 donation to the Day School Johnstown. The students were also entertained by a few magic tricks and all received a new water bottle and a pen. Every April for the past six years Mr. Donate has donated a percentage of patron’s dinners along with portions of his Saturday night tips in the effort to raise autism awareness. To date, he has donated over $11,500.00.
As a part of our community outreach program, The Shanksville-Stonycreek School District brought their Senior boys basketball team for a little competition. The Shanksville- Stonycreek Vikings are the District V Champions, Single A Division, West PAC South Champions, and reached the Sweet 16 Playoffs in the State Playoffs with an overall 25-2 record. Two of the senior boys, Aaron Smith and Jessie Bittner played a half-court game against two of our students and our one and only Mr. Martin. The other senior boys acted as referees and the cheering section. The final score was 19 – 16, Pressley. After the game the senior boys spent time shooting hoops with all students who wanted to participate and then allotted time for autographs. It was a great morning spending time with a neighboring school.
Several students at the Career Development Center had the opportunity to collaborate with a team of game developers from SimCoach Games. The students were asked to play a game that is in its earliest stage of development. The game was designed to give information about careers associated with building roads and bridges and geared towards young people from ages 14-25. The team from SimCoach Games observed the students interact with the app and then followed up with a brief Q & A session. The students were very engaged and gave specific feedback about ways the game could be improved. They all enjoyed their glimpse into research and development and were motivated to see what other games are available through the company.
Ms. Fabian and her art students again supported the Empty Bowls Dinner benefiting the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Just Harvest. The students created handmade bowls to be used as part of the meager meal, served at the event, which highlights the state of hunger in our area. Day School students have been participating in this event for over a decade. Here are some of their creations that went home with lucky attendees at the event on March 20th.
The students at the Career Development Center spent some time during the month of February learning empathy first hand. The Skill Streaming class, along with the Culinary class, made soup to distribute to some of Pittsburgh’s homeless citizens.
The purpose of the activity was to encourage students to interact with diverse people and realize that life takes many unexpected turns. The students first gathered lidded bowls and utensils from local businesses, then decided which recipe they would like to prepare. They made individual portions and delivered them in person.
The students had the opportunity to listen to the stories some of the recipients had to share. They also found that some of the folks recognized the vehicle and were looking for them. Possibly the greatest lesson the students learned was when they saw some young men taking pictures and making fun of some sleeping homeless people. Our students got out of the vehicle and delivered the warming soup to those people who just moments before had been treated unkindly. They had the opportunity to lead by example and to treat fellow human beings with the dignity we all deserve.
The Johnstown families could not be more thankful to The Penguins Foundation for providing VIP seats, snacks, and a visit from Iceburgh. This once in a lifetime trip was made even better with a 5-2 Win for the Pens!
Find the latest news, events, and information to help you and your loved ones.