Agora Cyber Charter School

Agora Cyber Charter School, an online public school established in 2005, has delivered an uninterrupted education to Pennsylvania students grades kindergarten through 12th for the last 16 years. The continuous educational choices begin with kindergarten and extend to graduation from the 12th grade.
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From Broadcasting to Biofuel:

Shady Side Students Explore Questions Big and Small

Shady Side Academy junior Delaney Mulderig has always had a passion for sports. During the spring 2020 quarantine, as she was binging sports documentaries such as The Last Dance and 30 for 30, it hit her: she could be a sports broadcast journalist. “It dawned on me that I could be the next Erin Andrews or Hannah Storm. And when I told my advisor, she said, ‘This sounds like a good idea for an independent study.’”

SSA’s independent study program allows students in grades 10-12 to design their own for-credit courses for a term or full year. They must submit a proposal to be approved by a faculty committee, then meet regularly with a faculty mentor while completing their project during dedicated time in their class schedule.

For her independent study, Mulderig is producing a documentary on Shady Side’s 2021 football team. She’s spent the fall learning not just how to shoot interviews and game footage, but also how to ask good questions and see where the story takes you, under faculty mentor James Knox, a former photojournalist.

The experience has opened her eyes to the work that goes into a good story. “When you see that perfect interview with the quarterback before a game, so many people, so many hours were involved – the preparation, figuring out the storyline, editing – it’s a lot more than just looking good on camera.”

She’s also been inspired by how the school has embraced her project. “That’s the thing about Shady Side. When I brought this idea to adults, everyone said, ‘I can help you.’ And they really want to do it – they want me to be successful.”

Mulderig is just one example of how Shady Side encourages students to pursue their passions and enables them to customize their educational journey. Programs such as the Independent Study, Senior Project, Science Research Seminar and Social Innovators Program allow students to delve deeply into an area of interest in ways not typically available in a classroom.

Senior Karen Linares Mendoza of Fox Chapel knows what it’s like to learn a second language. A native of Mexico, she learned to speak English when her family emigrated to the U.S. in 2012, and now she’s learning French at SSA.

As a junior, she took the Science Research Seminar, which advances students’ research skills and places them in laboratories for summer internships. She spent last summer in the University of Pittsburgh’s Sound Brain Lab, doing cognitive and neurobiological research on the role of speech cues in auditory processing. Afterward, the lab invited her to stay on, and she decided to lead her own research during the school year as an independent study under faculty mentor Dr. Jill Schumacher. Now she’s recruiting fellow SSA students, including some Chinese boarding students, to serve as subjects as she compares the neural tracking of speech sounds in native and non-native English speakers.

“Even before this research, I was interested in majoring in cognitive sciences, and this has solidified my interest,” she said. “I’m grateful because Shady Side has prepared me more than I could ever imagine.”

Senior Crystal Ma of Hampton has been drawing for as long as she can remember. A few years ago, she found an old sewing machine and taught herself to sew, sparking an interest in fashion. “Fashion is another canvas where I can create art that’s wearable,” she said.

Last spring, she explored that interest further through an independent study in fashion entrepreneurship, interviewing and working with three female fashion entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh. That led to a summer internship with designer Kiya Tomlin, where she learned more about the day-to-day aspects of running your own fashion brand.

This year, Ma is combining her interests in art and fashion in another independent study, a multimedia art installation, under faculty mentor Cari Batchelar. “It’s a take on how multimedia art can be used to critique problems I see, specifically within the fashion industry,” she said.

First, she’s creating a three-dimensional eye with a mirrored pupil. Next, she’ll create statues representing specific issues she sees, which will be positioned to be reflected in the eye.

Ma says the independent studies and internship helped clarify her desire to launch her own fashion brand. “It’s given me a concrete vision of what I see myself doing in the future,” she said. “And that’s made my path really linear in terms of what I want to pursue in college.”

When senior Steven Liu of McCandless was young, his family used to go on long fishing trips, fostering a love of nature and the environment. It was there he first encountered algae. “It was a nuisance,” he said. “It covered the water. I couldn’t see where I was casting my line.”

But when the budding scientist learned that algae could be used to make biofuel, it sparked an interest – and also nearly sparked a fire when he attempted to make biofuel on the kitchen stove.

A passionate environmentalist, Liu is now completing his second yearlong independent study under Dr. Devon Renock, researching the most efficient and effective method to produce algal biofuel. Last year, he spent long hours conducting his research in SSA’s McIlroy Center for Science and Innovation, and this year he’s writing it up for submission to a journal for publication. Liu’s research helped him earn admission to the 2021 Research Science Institute, a prestigious six-week summer program for high school students.

“This independent study has changed my life in a lot of aspects,” Liu said. “One big thing is the incredible equipment we have in the McIlroy Center that a lot of colleges don’t even have. It’s been a central part of my research. But also, it’s the teachers – I’m really grateful for Dr. Renock. He stayed after school basically every day with me last year, especially during crunch time. I’m just incredibly grateful for this program. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life.”

Learn more about Shady Side Academy at a Zoom information session or campus tour. Register at www.shadysideacademy.org/visit.

Best of Both Worlds: Local Care, Top-Notch Delivery

Complications can happen during a pregnancy, and that’s why it’s important to find the right care for you and your baby. If you’re a mother-to-be in Pittsburgh’s northern communities, you’ll find best-practice obstetrics care closer to home at UPMC Magee-Womens Specialty Services. Your delivery will be supported by the full resources of UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital — a nationally renowned women’s specialty hospital. 

When Wexford resident Alisha Kuntz found out she was pregnant with twins, she knew exactly where to go for prenatal care — the same doctor who delivered her son five years earlier: David Badway, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at UPMC Magee-Womens Specialty Services in Cranberry, Moon Township, and West Mifflin. 

“Having a Magee doctor was very important to us. My husband and I knew this pregnancy was high risk and that they had the best knowledge and ability to take care of us and our children,” says Alisha, now 35, who works as a registered nurse at UPMC. 

World-Class Care — From the Routine to the Complex 

Alisha’s first pregnancy was routine — until it wasn’t. Diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) at 24 weeks, she needed constant monitoring of her blood sugar and took insulin for the remainder of her pregnancy. Because of GDM, she was induced at 39 weeks and delivered a healthy boy, Luca, now 5, via cesarean section (C-section). 

With her history of GDM and a previous C-section, Alisha’s second pregnancy was considered high risk from the start. Carrying twins was an added risk factor. As it turns out, those were just the beginning of multiple complications she and her team of UPMC doctors would deal with over the next nine months. 

Stephanie Nicholas, MD, UPMC Magee-Womens Specialty Services

“She started out with one high-risk condition, then developed three more during her pregnancy,” says Dr. Badway.  

 “No one becomes pregnant thinking these things are going to happen to them. That’s why you want to go where you can receive world-class care. The highest level of care is available at Magee,” he adds. 

 “I Knew I Was in Good Hands” 

 Throughout her pregnancy, Alisha had prenatal visits with Dr. Badway at UPMC Magee-Womens Specialty Services, which opened in 2020 at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. “It’s a beautiful facility and it’s just 10 minutes from my home,” says Alisha. “As a pregnant mom, I appreciated that parking was never an issue.” 

 Although Dr. Badway was her primary doctor, she also had appointments with two other obstetricians in the practice: Emily Curtin, MD, and Stephanie Nicholas, MD. “I had every intention of having Dr. Badway deliver my twins. But you can’t choose that moment,” says Alisha. “I thought it was a good idea to see other doctors in case things didn’t go as planned.” 

She also was referred to the maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialists at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital for extra monitoring and care. One of Alisha’s consults was done via telemedicine, but she saw MFM specialists in person at UPMC Magee in Oakland — just a 25-minute drive away — for her other visits.  

As her pregnancy progressed, Alisha’s doctors kept a close watch on her and the babies. At 16 weeks, a routine glucose test confirmed she had GDM and needed insulin. In addition to regular monitoring of Alisha’s blood sugar and insulin use, Magee’s MFM specialists began scheduling ultrasounds at 20 weeks to check on the twins’ growth.   

At 31 weeks, Alisha experienced another complication — pre-term labor — that led to twice-weekly non-stress tests at UPMC Magee to check on the babies’ health and monitor for contractions. At 34 weeks, she was diagnosed with gestational hypertension, or high blood pressure, yet another complication that required additional monitoring. A C-section initially was scheduled for 38 weeks, but that diagnosis — and the fact both babies were breech (facing legs forward) — prompted Dr. Badway to move the planned delivery ahead by a week.  

Alisha was understandably nervous about the multiple complications she faced during her pregnancy. But she felt confident in her doctors’ abilities. 

“I knew I was in good hands,” says Alisha. “I had full confidence in my doctors and Magee. I knew no matter what I would be going through, they’ve seen it all and they’ve taken care of it. That was very reassuring. I knew the babies were going to be okay — and I was going to be okay, too.” 

Alisha also appreciated the support she received from the staff at both her obstetrician’s office and at UPMC Magee. “They saw me so frequently we became like friends. They celebrated along with me each milestone we reached with the babies,” she says. 

Planning and Teamwork  

Throughout Alisha’s pregnancy, Dr. Badway kept abreast of her testing and care with maternal fetal medicine specialists via UPMC’s electronic medical records (EMR).  

“EMR allows us to communicate and coordinate care. I can read notes from the MFM specialists and see what they recommend and any tests they order,” he says. 

In addition, Dr. Badway and his colleagues at Magee-Womens Specialty Services meet regularly to discuss care of high-risk patients like Alisha.  

“We review each case so everyone is familiar with the patient, no matter who is on call when she delivers,” he says. 

Patients also benefit from having an ob-gyn from the practice on call — and onsite — at UPMC Magee at all times to handle deliveries. Anesthesiologists, neonatal intensive care (NICU) specialists, and other practitioners are also onsite 24/7. 

“When we’re on call, we’re there and we’re ready for anything,” says Dr. Curtin.  

A Speedy Delivery 

One week before her planned C-section, Alisha’s water broke. By the time she arrived at UPMC Magee, she was fully dilated, and the first baby was breech. 

“There was no time to wait. We had to act immediately,” says Dr. Curtin, who was on call at the hospital and waiting for Alisha. 

“Emergency deliveries like this were always a challenge when I worked at a community hospital,” she says. “But here at Magee, we’re always ready and we have every resource we need right here.” 

Alisha was quickly wheeled into the operating room where two separate NICU teams and an obstetric team were waiting to jump into action.  

“It was scary, but I knew there was nowhere else I’d rather be. I knew they would take the very best care of me and my girls,” says Alisha. 

Just 69 minutes after her water broke, Dr. Curtin delivered Alexa, followed one minute later by Lydia. The babies were placed in incubators for temperature control, had their blood sugar tested regularly, and were monitored for jaundice. Three days later, they went home. 

For her post-partum visit, Alisha made an appointment with Dr. Curtin. “I wanted to see her because she was the one who delivered my babies, and I wanted to thank her for getting my girls into the world safely,” she says. 

“We are blessed with two healthy, happy babies,” adds Alisha. “We are so thankful for everyone at Magee-Womens Specialty Services and UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital who made this possible.” 

And, with UPMC’s strong network of pediatric care north of the city and beyond, Alisha’s family continues to receive top-notch medical care, right in their neighborhood. Today, the children regularly see Lawrence Butler, MD, a pediatrician at UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics – Pittsburgh Pediatrics, Wexford office. 

The information in this article was provided by UPMC. 

It Takes a Team of Nurses to Come Back from Orthopaedic Surgery.

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Passavant Hospital Foundation celebrating 40 years

Passavant Hospital Foundation has been supporting UPMC Passavant and providing free outreach, health and wellness programs throughout the community since 1981.

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