Week One Learners Explore Mental Health and Career Pathways

The first week of the Readiness Institute Summer Program is off to a great start and laying the foundation for another incredible summer with learners across the Commonwealth. Learners and instructors took the high energy from the kickoff on Monday and carried it through the rest of the week. In Pittsburgh, learners are focusing on social-emotional learning, while Central Pennsylvania participants are exploring digital transformation.

Each week, cohorts of learners will rotate on-site activities, off-site visits to places around their cities, and virtual reflection days. The 45 learners in Pittsburgh are broken down into three cohorts, and in Central Pennsylvania, 19 learners are separated into two cohorts — one in Johnstown and one in Altoona.  

On-Site Activities

Summer Program learners participating in classroom activities.Learners spent the morning of the on-site days doing introductions, playing ice-breaker games, and really getting to know each other — including some particularly rowdy games of Two Truths and a Lie. They also took a RIASEC quiz to uncover their personality types based on aspirations, activities, skills, and interests. Based on the results — which include Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional — learners broke into groups with similar personalities and reported out on potential careers and fields of study that may align.

Delvina Morrow, vice president of community affairs and DEI at the Pittsburgh Penguins, was the keynote speaker this week. She shared her personal and professional pathway, including her unique ambitions, challenges, and advice. She also emphasized building a network of both like-minded individuals and diverse people that will challenge your thinking. Learners were clearly engaged, taking notes and asking questions about her journey and tips to be successful. One of her biggest pieces of advice: “Be in this moment now. Do not waste this opportunity. Show up and be an active participant.”

Summer Program learners complete a TEAMology classroom activity using balloonsIn the afternoon, Pittsburgh cohorts participated in a social-emotional learning workshop with TEAMology. Founder and CEO Linsey Covert led the session, which focused heavily on mental health. Learners first worked together to build a TEAM pyramid using solo cups, strings, rubber bands — and one hand — which resulted in a great conversation about emotional regulation and how that can affect working in a team, going to school, having relationships, and many other aspects of life. They also had a very honest conversation about mental health and mental illness, and came up with some potential ideas to help solve problems around youth mental health.  

Some notable quotes overhead during the workshop:

  • “If you don’t handle it, it’ll handle you.” — Sharae
  • “I didn’t know I could communicate like that.” — Brandi

In Central PA, learners had a digital-transformation workshop with WPSU. The group presented on media/news literacy and how the media goes about sharing news and information. Learners were also engaged in a few activities to learn how to recognize fake news vs. legitimate information.

Off-Site Visits

The first off-site tour of the Summer Program in Pittsburgh was to UpStreet, a teen mental health service that offers free counseling. Learners had the opportunity to tour the new facility and learn about the organization’s offerings, including drop-in support, live chats, and peer mentoring. They also participated in an activity to identify characteristics that make a good mentor and mentee.

Some reflections from learners:

  • “We learned that asking for help is not bad and we should always search for people to guide us.” — Hasina
  • “I’ve never really thought of having a mentor, but I actually think I might want one now. I would like to explore the process more on how to build that bond and find a good mentor.” — Aneiah

The Pittsburgh cohorts also visited Pittsburgh Technical College, a career focused technical school. They got to tour the facilities, including areas for surgical tech, mechanical engineering, and robotics studies, as well as student dorms.

“We got to see all the career choices they offer, and through that I learned that going there means guaranteed lifetime support to help you find jobs in your career field,” said Sarmila, one of the learners.

Summer Program learners stand in front of a green-screen weather map at WTAJIn Central PA, learners in the Blair/Bedford cohort visited the WTAJ news station in the morning to learn about the many positions it takes in order to efficiently deliver accurate news to viewers. They met with content and digital creators, reporters, producers, meteorologists, and tv personalities, and even sat in on a live broadcast of Studio 814. The best part of the tour: learners were able to pretend they were giving weather forecasts on the green screen and sit behind the WTAJ desk. In the afternoon, they headed to Seven Mountains Media in Hollidaysburg to tour the studio and hear about careers in radio. They even got to go live on Waly with Bill Kurtis.

Check out this video from WTAJ about the visit.

The Cambria/Somerset cohort took a tour of the Tribune Democrat newsroom with Publisher Chip Minemyer and learned about various aspects of the newspaper and digital reporting. They also got to visit Seven Mountains Media in the afternoon — this time in Johnstown. The group met with Rocky 99 radio personality Bubba Conner and were able to see how a live broadcast is recorded, editing, and aired. 

Virtual Days

Each week, learners get to spend a day reflecting on the week and meeting virtually with the rest of their cohort. One of the things they’ll do each week during this time is to explore their readiness pathway, answering questions about who they are, how they will continue to learn, and how they will give back to their community. These responses will then help contribute to a personal statement that can be used for essays, college applications, and similar self-evaluation. During the virtual rotation, learners also watch videos about different career journeys — including agriculture, architecture, communications, education, business, manufacturing, and many others — and reflect on the potential pathway.

Next Week

Now that learners have a better idea of what’s in store for them this summer, they’re ready for another packed week. Pittsburgh will be taking their turn with digital fluency, while Central PA dives into social-emotional learning.

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Pittsburgh Photo Gallery

Summer Program 2023 - Week One in Pittsburgh

Central PA Photo Gallery

Summer Program 2023 - Week One in Central PA