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Comcast Gift Helps Level Playing Field for Students

NBC’s “Today” show spotlights McKeesport students during live broadcast

By Richard Finch Jr.
The Tube City Almanac
September 21, 2020
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

A truckload of computers donated by Comcast is unveiled Friday morning during a live broadcast of NBC’s “Today” from McKeesport Area High School. (Richard Finch Jr. photo for Tube City Almanac)

Students, parents and staff were speculating about the news cameras — and a large truck parked in the middle of McKeesport Area High School’s football field on Friday morning when they entered the stadium for what they thought was a pep rally.

What they got instead were 2,500 laptop computers for students and staff at McKeesport Senior High School and Founders’ Hall Middle School — a donation from Comcast Corp., the region’s dominant cable TV and Internet provider.

The “Today” show, a production of NBC, a Comcast subsidiary, was on hand to show the surprised students.

McKeesport Area cheerleaders watch themselves on a monitor during Friday’s broadcast. (Richard Finch Jr. photo for Tube City Almanac)

Comcast is also provided one year of free basic Internet service to families who qualify due to low income.

During the COVID-19 lockdown in the spring that forced in-person classes to be suspended, many students in McKeesport Area School District struggled because of lack of Internet service at home.

“I’m so excited that every kid in McKeesport now has an equal playing field,” said Mark Holtzman Jr., McKeesport Area school superintendent.

“I got a little emotional and it’s really not who I am,” he said. “This situation means everything to me, and these kids are really important to me. Our students need to have the same opportunities as other districts and they have to have Internet access.”

“Today” show co-anchor Craig Melvin with the McKeesport Tiger. (Richard Finch Jr. photo for Tube City Almanac)

“Today” show co-anchor Craig Melvin also interviewed students, who knew the program was filming segments on campus, but weren’t told why.

Jennifer Long, a New York-based producer for “Today,” said she has covered events at schools around the country during her 23 years in television, but said she was “very impressed with the way the students and parents in the McKeesport community care for each other.

“They were so clearly proud of their school and their community, I was really impressed with how the kids conducted themselves,” she said.

Many students have been nervous about returning to school during the pandemic. The giveaway and national TV attention was “something to lift them up,” Long said. “Today” averages roughly 4 million viewers per hour.

(Richard Finch Jr. photo for Tube City Almanac)

Cheerleaders, members of the McKeesport Tiger Band and football players were also on hand for the event Friday.

Holtzman said the district was truly grateful for the Comcast gift, and that it will pay off for students.

“Internet access and computers are so important in today’s world, not only for education, but to register to vote, take the drivers’ license exam, search for jobs and access information — to do anything in life,” he said. “There is not a better scenario in the world. These kids finally got what they deserve.”

(Richard Finch Jr. photo for Tube City Almanac)

Richard Finch Jr. is a freelance writer and photographer who covers McKeesport Area School District, White Oak and a variety of other topics for Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at finchr43@gmail.com. Tube City Almanac editor Jason Togyer contributed to this story. He may be reached at jtogyer@gmail.com.

Originally published September 21, 2020.

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