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‘United’ Effort Promises Benefits for Pupils, Families

McKeesport Area, Dick’s Sporting Goods break ground on support center

By Adam Reinherz
The Tube City Almanac
May 19, 2022
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Guests at the launch event of United at Twin Rivers included Aimee Watters, executive director of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation; Tim Joyce, chief of staff for state Sen. Jim Brewster; Jackie Castma, associate executive director of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation; Brandy Daye, assistant principal, Twin Rivers; district superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr.; Tia Wanzo, assistant superintendent; state Rep. Austin Davis; McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko; amd state Rep. Nick Pisciottano. (Submitted photo)

McKeesport Area School District and the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation have symbolically broken ground on a new effort to support local students and their families.

The partnership was announced Thursday at Twin Rivers Elementary School, which will be renamed “United at Twin Rivers” beginning with the next academic year.

Investment from Dick’s will provide increased staffing, improved facilities and a restructured school day allowing greater individualized student support, said Sarah Cassella of Dick’s Sporting Goods. The model is designed to help students and families focus on building healthy minds, bodies and relationships, she said.

Last summer, MASD and the Dick’s foundation held a series of listening sessions asking parents and community members how better to serve students and families.

The new United at Twin Rivers model grew from those conversations, Cassella said.

“The process to re-design Twin Rivers has been a remarkably collaborative one,” said Tia Wanzo, MASD assistant superintendent.

Founded in Binghamton, N.Y., Dick’s relocated its corporate headquarters to the Pittsburgh area in 1994.

Aimee Watters, executive director of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation, said the company has for many years had a commitment to investing in youth. “We believe it is our responsibility to invest in our communities to ensure future generations have the resources they need to thrive,” she said.

At Thursday’s groundbreaking, school officials and Dick’s revealed plans for a future Community Resource Center. Scheduled to open this summer, the space will offer free services, including laundry, a food pantry, free wi-fi and showers for students and families.

MASD Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. praised the district’s collaboration with Dick’s and the company’s charitable foundation, recalling how last year they conducted a free summer camp for MASD students in grades K-8, provided financial assistance toward professional development, and offered extra food and clothing to students and families.

“From day one, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation has worked shoulder to shoulder with us to support students,” Holtzman said, adding the partnership’s future is promising.

MASD and the foundation will also hold another free summer camp this June, then start the upcoming school year together as United at Twin Rivers.

State Reps. Austin Davis and Nick Pisciottano joined the groundbreaking and tweeted their support of the project.

Pisciottano said the space will provide students, teachers and the community with “modern resources to allow kids and families greater access to ladders of opportunity.”

Davis agreed, saying the new center will offer “modern, energy-efficient spaces where students, educators and learning will thrive.”

Adam Reinherz is a Pittsburgh-based journalist. He can be reached at adam.reinherz@gmail.com.

Originally published May 19, 2022.

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