Project +Us Logo

SCHOOL-BASED INITIATIVES

Pittsburgh Perry High School

In 2015, led by the Buhl Foundation, thousands of Northside residents participated in a comprehensive resident-driven planning initiative across all 18 neighborhoods of the Northside focusing on improving the quality of safety, health, employment, place, and education for all Northside residents. The process included a resident-led Community Census, in which residents identified high-performing schools in the Northside as one of their top priorities.

In 2018 the Buhl Foundation contacted A+ Schools to lead the planning initiative for school improvement at Perry to create the kind of high-performing high school that students and families deserve. Over the course of the past two years, we have been working closely with key stakeholders on developing a shared framework and structure for sustainable change.

When developing the initiative, the planning team identified that long-term, sustainable success would require a new approach and working differently in three core ways:

  • A highly collaborative process that brings all partners to the table as active participants and meets them where they are;
  • Identifying and implementing short-term wins that build momentum and begin to shift the culture at the school, AND working in parallel towards a longer-term plan for more systemic changes; and
  • Shifting from a deficit mindset to a focus on what is working at Perry—leveraging assets and celebrating the good.

As we head further into 2021, the work at Perry continues to grow!

You can read more about the project in the 'Rising Up' article from the 2020 Report to the Community on Public School Progress.

PERRY STUDENTS WORK TO BUILD
PRIDE AND SHIFT CULTURE

Perry students are active participants in deciding how to improve the school and identifying what’s missing. The “Perry Fellows” were created last year to be a cadre of student leaders. They met throughout the summer for training in civic engagement, leadership, and school-based advocacy. Through a Buhl Foundation grant, ten students earned stipends to produce a publication that tells the story of their experiences at the school.

Photo of Perry High School Fellows

Perry Fellows from left to right: Madina Mada, Malique Beatty, Imani Caroline, Stacia Randolph, JaMese Williams, Alyssa Vogel. Perry Fellows not pictured: Siobhan Barnett, Aleyjah Hill, and Aniya Givner

Senior Alyssa Vogel, one of the Fellows, says she and her classmates are aware that Perry doesn’t receive the same technology and resources as other high schools due to low enrollment, and it makes them feel disrespected and devalued. “This city needs to believe that everyone at Perry is just as deserving as any other school is,” she says. “If people are told they are less deserving of respect, even if it’s said inadvertently, people will begin to believe it, and begin to act as though they do not have respect, nor want it.”

If students did feel respected, she says, they would develop more pride in Perry and themselves. “The question is not, ‘How do we make students behave?’” she says. It’s “‘How do we make our students feel more pride in our school?’ We can improve any situations if we ask the right questions.”

Click here to see their zine!