Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
A student receives a certificate for completing the summit.
According to education researchers, the likelihood of a student graduating from high school can be predicted in middle school.
Earlier today 50 middle school students from Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Academy in Wilkinsburg participated in the Smart Pittsburgh Summit. There they learned about health and wellness inside and out and how their health relates to scholastic achievement and future success.
The event was hosted by Internationally Smart Is Cool (the organization uses Smart=Cool for short), an organization aimed at changing the negative culture around learning and education in underserved communities.
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
A student shares what they learned at the summit
"Today is just the beginning. Today you all learned a little bit about how you can figure out what makes you smart and how you can use that and your academics to move forward," said Jamillia Kamara, the head of Smart Is Cool told the students. "When you go home, I want you to think 'what am I good at?' What are the things you're really passionate about? What would you do for the rest of your life if money wasn't a thing. I want you to start cultivating that. Start finding opportunities in your community to help out. Start figuring out who are the adults in your life who can help you develop that skill."
The event was emceed by Devyn Swain, a local musician and educator.
"I really support the message of Smart Is Cool because I think a lot of times in black and brown communities we don't have that positively reinforced," says Swain. "Naturally these kids want to aspire to be athletes or entertainers because that's where black and brown people are overly represented, but we need to teach them smart is cool. They can be doctors, astronauts and veterinarians, too."
One of today's sessions was led by members of the organization Grindware Community Center, a soon-to-be opened recreational space in Wilkinsburg that will feature a conference room, studio, storefront, computer room and an educational classroom. Shemaria Scharmann taught the students how to create success in their personal lives, at school and in the future.
"Maybe we could stop a lot of the violence that's going on if you guys channeled your energy into something you're passionate about instead of getting angry because someone said something about what you're wearing," Scharmann said.
The students also learned about poetry from Jay Oriola, a local poet.
"If you don't speak for yourself, other people will speak for you," Oriola said. "I want you to know there's freedom in expressing yourself."
Sister Thea Bowman is made up of kids from across the Pittsburgh area including neighborhoods like Penn Hills, Garfield and Wilkinsburg. The school has partnered with Smart Is Cool for the past two years.
"There's not one way to be smart. I don't care what anybody tells you," Kamara said. "There are multiple ways to be smart. Whatever your interest or hobby is, you can use that to make a great life for yourself, and it starts here."