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Eight Honored by Mayor, Council for 'Living the Message'

By Submitted Report
The Tube City Almanac
July 07, 2016
Posted in: Announcements

Eight people --- including four fourth-graders at Twin Rivers Primary-Intermediate School --- were honored this week for their efforts to live "McKeesport's Message" of "respect, dignity, hope and love."

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko presented proclamations to each awardee before Wednesday's city council meeting. The honorees were selected by the McKeesport Message Committee, which is currently accepting nominations for the next round of awards, to be presented this fall, said Jennifer Vertullo, assistant to the mayor.

"Every three months, the message committee has been giving out these awards to different individuals," Cherepko said. "Really, society as a whole needs to look at increasing dignity, respect, hope and love, and we need help spread that message out into the community."

Nominations for "Living the Message" awards are due by July 31 to Cherepko's office, McKeesport City Hall, 500 Fifth Ave., McKeesport 15132, or via email to To nominate an individual or group, describe in 250 words or fewer how that person or persons embodies one of the four words.

July's award winners follow below.


Honored for living the word "Respect" were fourth-graders Brooke Cain, Madeline Cherepko, Jenna Cottom and Brooke Evans. The students created an anti-bullying program called “If we stick together, we can stop bullying.”

Madeline Cherepko is the mayor's daughter. The mayor said he was somewhat embarrassed not to realize that his daughter had worked on the anti-bullying program, and then hesitant to present the honor. "But they were nominated, they were selected by the committee, and they deserve it," he said.

The four were students in teacher Ed Camic's homeroom.

According to the committee:

Brooke C., Madeline, Jenna and Brooke E. all say they’ve been bullied in the past, and they don’t like the way it feels. They also don’t like seeing their classmates fall victim to bullying.
“If someone’s being mean to you, you don’t have to be mean back. That just keeps it going like a cycle,” Jenna said. “If just one person stops, it can make a difference. Age doesn’t matter. Even a kindergartner can help stop this (behavior).”
After a recent assembly by the anti-bullying act Josh and Gab, the girls shared their poster with fellow students. They encouraged students to be nice to one another, to find alternate solutions to their problems and to seek adult intervention if situations get out of hand.
Brooke C., Madeline, Jenna and Brooke E. said students should treat others the way they wish to be treated as a sign of respect for their peers. They want to break the cycle of bullying by being kind and choosing respectful language, even when they don’t agree with someone.
“If you’re nice to a bully, your attitude might rub off on them,” Brooke C. said, “Bullying doesn’t make anyone happy --- not the victim, and not the bully. We want people to be happy. We want them to know what it feels like to be nice.”


Honored for living the word "Dignity" were retired teachers Ted and Mary Jane Kirby.

According to the committee:

(The Kirbys) are fixtures in the McKeesport community. As a loving couple with a background in education and a long history of community involvement, the Kirbys are committed to the city’s future and the upbringing of its youth.
Mr. Kirby enjoyed a 33-year career as an English teacher at McKeesport Area High School, and continued working in the district as a substitute for seven years after his retirement. He has had an active coaching career – guiding McKeesport Area students through football, basketball, cross country running, and track and field.
Mrs. Kirby’s career of four decades in adult and youth education spanned years with Allegheny OIC, Clairton City School District, McKeesport Area School District, Pittsburgh Catholic, the Urban League of Pittsburgh, and Auberle.
The Kirbys, who have been married for 42 years, have two children and two grandchildren. They are active with their family and their community. Their volunteerism includes service with the NAACP McKeesport Unit, Zion Baptist Church, Partnership for Minority HIV/AIDS Prevention, Community Coalition, McKeesport Area School District Diversity Committee, McKeesport Neighborhood Initiative and the McKeesport Joint Task Force.
They spend much of their free time counseling first-generation college-bound students through the application process, including admissions, scholarships and financial aid. Drawing from a Malcom X quote that “education is the passport to the future,” Mrs. Kirby said mature generations must invest in modern youth.
To the Kirbys, living with dignity means making positive choices without succumbing to peer pressure. Today, they use their life experiences to mentor city youth and teach children of all ages to learn from their mistakes.


Honored for living the word "Hope" was John Bertoty.

According to the committee:

John Bertoty, a retired educator and administrator in the McKeesport Area School District, has been at the helm of Blueroof Technologies since 2002, when this organization introduced smart home technology in mobile cottages based in the McKeesport community.
Blueroof Technologies is a nonprofit corporation that uses “innovation, invention and entrepreneurship” to help senior citizens and disabled individuals remain in their homes while giving students an opportunity to learn new technological skills and become productive citizens.
With Blueroof homes giving hope to seniors, disabled veterans and other individuals interested in technology-aided residential support, Bertoty has been spreading the word about smart homes and linking potential residents with homes of the future.
Most recently, Blueroof Technologies partnered with the McKeesport Area School District and Penn State Greater Allegheny to create an accessible home built by building construction students. This single-level, three-bedroom home known as the Tiger Vet House was moved to a lot in White Oak and awarded to an area veteran through the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Partnering organizations included the Pittsburgh Steelers, FedEx, The Home Depot, Peoples Gas, Rusmer Carpet One Floors, Puskar Heating & Air Conditioning, and White Oak American Legion Post 701.
Without Bertoty’s long-term vision for Blueroof Technologies and his commitment to the McKeesport Area communities, SSgt. Michelle Satterfield and her son Hunter would not be making a new home for themselves in White Oak.
This outreach gives hope to anyone who could benefit from Blueroof’s services, and Bertoty plans to continue Blueroof’s partnership with the McKeesport Area School District and Penn State Greater Allegheny through the TigerVet program.


Honored for living the word "Love" was Joanne Welch.

According to the committee:

Acting out of love for her community and the Earth, Joanne Welch has been a longtime neighborhood volunteer, community organizer and environmental activist in the city of McKeesport.
When the Welch family moved to McKeesport’s Haler Heights neighborhood in 1985, Joanne became involved in the Haler Heights Task Force and McKeesport Joint Task Force. She’s played a role in neighborhood beautification by co-chairing planting programs in common green spaces. She also has promoted unity among neighbors by hosting National Night Out picnics and organizing community walks.
“Some of the neighborhood children who were in strollers when we started this are now graduating high school,” Joanne said. “We now have a younger generation getting involved in the neighborhood with their families.”
Joanne believes that being an active member of the community means sharing your strengths and skills for the benefit of others.
As a self-taught, casual gardener Joanne learned her hobby through her involvement in garden clubs and other programs. As a member of the Joyful Bloomers club and inspired by her granddaughter’s growing interest in the outdoors, Joanne started a junior gardening program roughly 10 years ago with the idea connecting children to the environment. That program has taken a new direction and is now known as the Angora Gardens Junior Gardeners, which invites area children to take part in planting classes and crafting sessions while learning from specialized guest speakers.
For two years, Joanne has co-chaired McKeesport’s participation in the University of Pittsburgh Make a Difference Day and the “Respect Our City, Respect Our Earth” electronics recycling and community awareness event. With these efforts, Joanne is increasing awareness and opportunities for environmental involvement in McKeesport.

Launched in January 2013, the McKeesport Message Committee is a subgroup of McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko’s Select Committee on Crime and Violence.

Originally published July 07, 2016.

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