'Crossing Fences' Radio Project Unites Young Men With Mentors

December 03, 2015 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, Podcast

Many people in the Pittsburgh area have probably heard "The Saturday Light Brigade," the long-running public radio program that airs on six FM radio stations and three Internet stations, including Tube City Online's WMCK.FM in McKeesport.

But they may not be aware that SLB's parent organization also engages in mentoring and training programs in local schools, including the Propel charter schools in the Mon Valley as well as public schools through the McKeesport-based Consortium for Public Education.

This week, SLB debuted the latest three CDs in its "Crossing Fences" series. In "Crossing Fences," groups of African-American teen-agers interview local men from the community, and then edit the interviews into four to six minute radio documentaries.

The latest series includes interviews collected in Braddock and Homestead; a previous series included oral histories collected in McKeesport and Hazelwood. Twelve communities have been covered so far; all of the documentaries are available as free downloads at NeighborhoodVoices.org.

On the next episode of our weekly radio show, "Two Rivers, 30 Minutes," we talk with Sarah Siplak and Chanessa Schuler of SLB Radio Productions about "Crossing Fences," and we also listen to one of the oral histories.

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Daily News Will Close if No Buyer is Found by Dec. 31

November 10, 2015 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Happier times: Former Daily News publisher and philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife, shown here with now-state Sen. James Brewster, served as grand marshal of McKeesport's "Salute to Santa" parade in 2008. With Scaife's 2014 death, his newspaper empire is being sold off. Tube City Almanac photo by John Barna.

. . .

The McKeesport Daily News and Monessen Valley Independent will be closed if they're not sold by Dec. 31, says their owner, the parent company of the Tribune-Review, which is also planning widespread layoffs.

In a press release this morning, Trib Total Media said that 91 employees in McKeesport and Monessen will lose their jobs if the newspapers are closed.

"The end of any of our nameplates, all of them longtime fixtures in their communities, is regrettable and painful for everyone," Trib Total Media President Jennifer Bertetto said in a statement.

"But we are not immune to the financial pressures that have forced even more drastic cutbacks by all of our competitors and by nearly every newspaper in the country," she said.

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Police Seek Suspect in Bystander's Death

November 07, 2015 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Police are looking for an 18-year-old suspect in the shooting death of a man who was apparently struck by a stray bullet while driving in the city's East End.

Rashawn Walker (shown) is wanted for questioning in the death of James A. Ponzo, 73, of Glassport.

Ponzo was driving on East Fifth Avenue near the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge just before 3 p.m. Wednesday when two other cars entered the street, police said. The occupants of the two cars were shooting at each other.

Police believe Ponzo was struck by a stray bullet. His car then went out of control and struck another vehicle, injuring two people.

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Local Prof's Work Featured in Wired Magazine

October 21, 2015 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Above: Lori Hepner's photographs are produced by programming spinning LEDs to flash based on the binary code of each character in a tweet. This photo used a tweet from pop star Miley Cyrus. (Courtesy Lori Hepner)

A professor at Penn State Greater Allegheny in McKeesport has had her work profiled recently in Wired magazine ... and it may soon be sent to the moon.

The article describes how Lori Hepner, associate professor of integrative arts, photographs images produced by programming "eight spinning LEDs [to] flash based on the binary code of each character in a tweet."

These ‘Twitter portraits’ are part of a series Hepner calls "Status Symbols."

According to the article, one of Hepner's photographs will be included in an art collection to be sent to the moon as part of Carnegie Mellon University's entry in the Google Lunar X competition.

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District Proposes Safety Improvements in Wake of Student's Death

September 09, 2015 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Local, school and state officials will make several changes to the intersection of O'Neil Boulevard and Eden Park Boulevard after a student died there last week while trying to cross the street.

The changes will include posting crossing guards, putting railings along the sidewalks to discourage students from jaywalking, staggering school bus departures to improve visibility, and additional safety education for students, said Kristen Davis, spokeswoman for McKeesport Area School District.

Deonte Cobbs, 15, was struck by a school bus on the afternoon of Sept. 3 as he crossed Eden Park Boulevard near the high school and middle school campus. He died at UPMC McKeesport hospital of his injuries.

District resident Kelly Sickels has created an online fundraiser to collect money to defray the cost of a funeral. The GoFundMe page had collected almost $2,000 as of Wednesday night.

Cobbs was hit not far from where one of his classmates, 14-year-old Alyson Higdon, was struck and killed in March 2014 when she stepped into the path of a truck.

The two deaths in less than two years spurred parents to stage a vigil and a protest. Over the past few school days, parents and grandparents have volunteered to help students cross the street safely.

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Local Vets Reflect on 25 Years Since Desert Storm

August 26, 2015 |

By Mike Mauer | Posted in: History, McKeesport and Region News

Ken Curcio and Rami Nassar before a recent VFW Honor Guard event at Kennywood. Twenty-five years ago, both served during Operation Desert Storm. (Mike Mauer photo)

. . .

The coming months will note a unique anniversary for two life members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid West Mifflin. The former warriors are marking 25 years since their service during Operation Desert Storm.

Rami Nassar and Ken Curcio, both of West Mifflin, served in Saudi Arabia during the first Persian Gulf War two-and a-half decades ago. And although much of the world seemingly remembers the conflict as a sanitized news blip on television, the military experiences of both these men have impacted them for the rest of their lives.

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Mifflin Road Re-Opens Tuesday

August 21, 2015 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

A section of a busy commuter route between McKeesport and Pittsburgh that has been closed for more than a month will re-open to traffic on Tuesday (Aug. 25).

Mifflin Road, which also carries a portion of state Route 885, will reopen to bi-directional traffic at 6 a.m., said a district spokesman for state Department of Transportation.

The road was closed July 6 between Doerrville Avenue and Lebanon Road as crews replaced a culvert and rebuilt the roadway as part of a larger construction project to improve drainage and traffic conditions in the area.

PennDOT said short-term, intermittent stoppages will occur through Sept. 7 as crews continue construction activities, including curb and sidewalk construction and traffic signal improvements. 

The Mifflin Road improvements are included in an $11 million project to improve the interchanges around the Glenwood Bridge. Golden Triangle Construction is the prime contractor.


N. Braddock Police Seek Missing Girl

August 13, 2015 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

North Braddock police are asking for the public's help in locating a missing 12-year-old girl from Lobinger Avenue.

Namaya Hopkins is African-American, 5-feet-7 and weighs about 130 pounds, police said. She also has a burn mark on her wrist.

Police say when she was last seen on Wednesday (Aug. 12), she was wearing black pants, a multi-color T-shirt, silver sandals and her hair in a ponytail.

If you have information that can assist in helping safely locate her, please call 9-1-1 or the North Braddock police at (412) 351-4900.


'Village for Kids' Monday at Renzie

August 09, 2015 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, Podcast

The seventh-annual "Village for Kids" will be held from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Monday at the Lions Bandshell in Renziehausen Park.

The event, for kids ages 12 and under, is a prelude to McKeesport's 55th annual International Village, which will be held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3 to 10 p.m.

In addition to music, games, free giveaways and other activities, volunteers will be accepting nominations for the prince and princess of International Village, to be crowned Tuesday at International Village.

This week on "Two Rivers, 30 Minutes," we interviewed the lead organizer of the Village for Kids, Alison Piccolino.

We also talked to the Rev. Dr. Daniel Borsay, pastor of the Free Hungarian Reformed Church of McKeesport, which has participated in every village since 1960, and with McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko.

"Two Rivers" airs at 9:30 a.m. Fridays on WEDO (810), 8 a.m. Sundays on WZUM (1550), and as a free podcast on Stitcher and iTunes.


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ADVERTISEMENT: Support for "Two Rivers, 30 Minutes" comes in part from the McKeesport Hospital Foundation. Since 1976, the foundation has addressed key concerns that affect our good health, as well as our education, social needs, recreation, and safety and security. The foundation partners with UPMC McKeesport and other agencies to eliminate barriers to all services for all residents of the Mon Valley. Visit www.mckhospitalfoundation.com, or call (412) 664-2590.


Widow Receives Replacement for Vet's Lost Purple Heart

August 04, 2015 |

By Mike Mauer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Above: Betty Bugay of West Mifflin is presented a Purple Heart medal by Jake Bradich, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid. (Mike Mauer photo)

A West Mifflin woman has received a replacement for her late husband's lost Purple Heart medal, through the efforts of the borough's Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Members of VFW Post 914 "Intrepid" last week presented Betty Bugay with the medal and a certificate on behalf of her husband, John E. Bugay Sr., who died in 1998. The first medal was lost.

Bugay served in the U.S. Army from Nov. 1, 1950, until his discharge July 31, 1952. He was wounded with shrapnel in both legs May 20, 1951, while serving on active combat duty during the Korean War.

In other news, the West Mifflin VFW post also was awarded an Allegheny County Council Certificate of Achievement by the Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey, who represents District 9.

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