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Volunteer Appreciation: Strong Vincent Middle School programs

Wednesday Apr 12th, 2023

When it comes to engaging volunteers, Katrina Byrd, community school director and Kaitlyn Falk, community school coordinator at Strong Vincent Middle School, get the gold star! They share how important volunteers are to Strong Vincent’s after school enrichment programs in this week's issue.

Strong Vincent, a United Way Community School, has proudly delivered more than 30 after school programs this year which would not have been possible without amazing volunteers who generously donated their time to students. Our heartfelt thanks goes out to the following dedicated individuals:

  • Cassie Acey & Jillian Sullivan, Gannon University (GU) Wellness
  • Brian Arrington, Trinity Karate Organization
  • Eileen Blakeslee, Erie School District retiree
  • Missy Haft, Erie School District teacher
  • Mike and Tiffany Harrell, Harrell Automotives
  • Matt Hodinko, Building Systems, Inc.
  • Shawntae’ Howard, Erie School District teacher
  • DeJae’ Hughes & Lauryn Thompson, GU Department of Physical Therapy
  • Dejonair Johnson, GU Social Work
  • Mary Machuga, White Pines Center for Healing
  • Amy Miehl, Erie School District teacher
  • Mikel-Bryan Ott, Caleb Ellison, Aidan Hicks, & Joel Lopez, GU School of Business
  • Taylor Peyton, Erie School District teacher
  • Sallie Piazza, Allegheny Health Network
  • Katie Roberts, Nora McCann, & Camila Camacho Urrego, GU Recreation and Wellness Center
  • Garrett Skindell, Erie School District teacher 
  • Gina Tingley, Erie School District teacher
  • Ja’Leesa Williams, Sew Royalty

While we are extremely grateful for the generosity of all volunteers, we especially want to highlight the small businesses who donated their time, talent and resources to teach our students new skills! We especially want to highlight Harrell Automotive and Sew Royalty.

At Strong Vincent Middle School, we wish to prepare our students for success in high school and beyond! One way we aim to do this is with GO Trade, a program that introduces our students to career and technical opportunities available to them through the CTE (Career & Technical Exploration) arm of Erie High School. Our “Automechanics” club, led by Mike and Tiffany Harrell, is one avenue our students have to explore a possible career opportunity. With Harrell Automotive, our students (and one teacher who joined the club!) learned to splice electrical lines, solder circuit boards, build a “jitterbug” robot and flare brake lines. Students were excited to learn all about mechanics with this hands-on approach!

Another club we offered was “Sew Royalty 101,” led by Ja’Leesa Williams of Sew Royalty, another small business right here in Erie. Ja’Leesa taught embroidery lessons to students, leading them through using an embroidery machine, planning a design and stitching their own projects. We were all very impressed with the projects that the students created!

Local entrepreneurs volunteering at Strong Vincent is a huge benefit to United Way's community school initiative! When business owners give back to the community by sharing their skills and resources, our whole community benefits. Students not only received positive mentoring from these local leaders but also explored viable trades that could be a future career opportunity. Thank you volunteers!