Starting in the 2016-2017 academic year, through a partnership with the Pittsburgh Public School District, Wilkinsburg students in grades 7-12 began attending Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy for middle school and high school. Sayvon Martin, 9th grade, and Chaquala Mullen, 7th grade, are two of those initial 200 Wilkinsburg students.
Before coming to Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy, Sayvon Martin, an incoming ninth grader from Wilkinsburg Middle School, worried about how his future classmates would get along with his current ones. He doesn’t anymore. About half of the friends that he has now didn’t come from Wilkinsburg, and all the usual worries a typical middle schooler has when going into high school – like getting to class on time in a bigger school with more hallway traffic – are gone.
When asked, he said his parents weren’t concerned about him and his younger brother coming to Pittsburgh Westinghouse at all.
Sayvon is impressed by the well-rounded academic support he receives from his teachers, especially when they work life lessons into the curriculum. “They want you to succeed in every avenue of your life,” he said. “I like that they care about you as a whole person.”
His favorite classes are Math and Biology – he loves numbers, exploring multiple ways to solve a problem and hopes to go to the University of Michigan for Mechanical Engineering.
In addition to his course work, Sayvon plays multiple positions for the school’s junior varsity and varsity football teams, including running back, wide receiver, strong safety and cornerback. He was surprised by how much the team improved this year and attributes the success to great coaching focused on helping each team member – not just the dominant players – and overall team chemistry.
Sayvon also plays for Pittsburgh Westinghouse’s basketball team and is one of the school’s Student Envoys, a group of student leaders who work to spread a culture of high academic achievement and collaboration among their peers. As with sports, the Envoys meet regularly and receive weekly coaching and support from dedicated staff members. Sayvon enjoys leadership roles like these and plans on joining the Student Council.
He has an infectious positive energy and many of his peers come to him for advice. “I give what I’d like to get,” he said, explaining that while he does his best to support his classmates, he doesn’t expect them to return it. Sayvon believes in giving his help unconditionally.
When he’s not doing homework, Sayvon is brushing up on the material he learned in class or is at the gym conditioning for football and basketball. It leaves little room for free time. Out of all his accomplishments so far, Sayvon is proudest of his increased focus and improved work ethic, crediting his teachers and coaches for inspiring him to do better. He excitedly stated that he’s in a friendly competition with another Student Envoy, a student with a 4.0 GPA, for the honored class distinction of Valedictorian.
“He is a very trustworthy student who is determined to make his future great by starting the path built on hard work,” said Mr. Young, the school’s Algebra I instructor and Assistant Basketball Coach. “He is also a stellar athlete who I think has the capability to become a student-athlete at the college level. Overall, Sayvon is the model Westinghouse Bulldog and is leading by example among his peers.”
Chaquala Mullen, a seventh grader at Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy, wasn’t afraid to leave Wilkinsburg’s Kelly Elementary School and start middle school in another district. When asked about her mindset during the transition, Chaquala said she was “hyped.” At first, her friends had reservations about coming to Pittsburgh Westinghouse, but her excitement was contagious. “I helped them feel excited, too,” she announced proudly.
Chaquala has an older brother in the 8th grade at Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy and said that all her younger siblings will go here, too. Much like her friends, her brother worried about coming to the school, but she said, “He’s not scared anymore. Now, he knows it’s okay. Everybody knows him and he’s popular.”
The only surprise Chaquala had during the first week of school was the number of students in the hallways. She hadn’t expected so many. But her teachers were “chill,” and she found the new experience to be a lot of fun.
She’s most proud of how much she has improved in reading. Her favorite stories are ones that include comedy and action, and she has even written a few herself. When she’s not at class, doing homework, drawing or playing for the school’s middle school basketball and soccer teams, Chaquala enjoys walking with her friends, watching scary movies and checking out all the latest fashions at the mall. And her style – “Popping. Fun. Jazzy. Edgy. Vintage.” Outfits that include dresses and leggings are Chaquala’s favorite. So naturally, she’s never been a fan of uniforms but makes do by adding jewelry and other accessories that speak more to her personal style.
Chaquala is a leader among her peers and stands out to the Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy staff as someone they can count on. Ms. Finn, the sixth and seventh grade Communications teacher, says, “She is consistently determined to succeed…participating and answering questions daily, which contributes to the classroom community. She has a desire to learn. She is kind to other students and a loyal friend.”
When Chaquala grows up, she wants to be surgeon. She laughed when asked why and explained that in her large family hospital visits are common. “I want to be able to help people and take care of them.”
We are so proud of Sayvon and Chaquala for embracing the principles and true spirit of partnership at Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy every single day.