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Steel Center celebrates 50 years

| Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, 3:16 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Trib Total Media
U.S. Rep. Tim Murhpy, R-Upper St. Clair, praises Steel Center students for dilligent efforts to learn marketable skills for the nation's workforce.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Trib Total Media
Allegheny County director of community affairs Mary Esther Van Shura presents Steel Center board president Dan McBride of South Park School District with a proclamation from county executive Rich Fitzgerald, as Steel Center director Kevin Rice looks on.

Steel Center for Career and Technical Education celebrated 50 years of imparting vocational skills to Mon Valley and South Hills students during a Tuesday ceremony at its Jefferson Hills campus.

“Each and every one of you represents a very important part of the Steel Center family,” the school's director, Kevin Rice, told students, staff and representatives of local school districts. “Your role is vital to the success of Steel Center.”

Rice shared Steel Center's history from its roots as the Steel Valley Area Technical School along Buttermilk Hollow Road in West Mifflin. That school's formation was a joint decision by public school districts in southern Allegheny County after the National Defense Act of 1956, Manpower Training Act of 1962 and the Vocational Education Act of 1963 led to changes in the Pennsylvania School Code.

In its current location along Lewis Run Road in Jefferson Hills, Steel Center continues to strive for vocational education that prepares future practitioners for their respective fields.

Steel Center offers students enrolled in Baldwin-Whitehall, Bethel Park, Brentwood, Clairton, Duquesne, Elizabeth Forward, South Allegheny, South Park, Steel Valley, West Jefferson Hills and West Mifflin Area school districts a choice of programs including advertising and design, automotive mechanics, baking, building trades, collision repair, computer information systems, carpentry, cosmetology, culinary arts, electrical construction, health assistants, heating and air-conditioning and protective services.

“The best way to celebrate 50 years here is to look at the lives of some of the students who have come through this place,” Rice said, leading into a slide show with testimonials by mechanics, chefs, nursing professionals and college students whose career paths began at Steel Center. “The students sitting in this room are going to tell the next chapter of these stories.”

Elizabeth Forward Superintendent Bart Rocco said students gain a wealth of experience through Steel Center programming.

“It's another dimension of our curriculum that gives children an opportunity to learn and grow in different disciplines,” Rocco said. “The district's partnership with this school has a long, rich tradition, and we're proud to support the programs that exist here.”

West Jefferson Hills school director Shauna D'Alessandro, who serves as the Allegheny Intermediate Unit board president and a member of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, said Steel Center has built a tradition in providing the job-training foundation of which many educational leaders are just beginning to see the full value.

“For too long vocational education has been put on the back burner,” D'Alessandro said. “In developing the workforce of the future, it's paramount that it gets the recognition and focus it deserves.”

Tuesday's event was highlighted with proclamations from Congress, presented by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's office, presented by director of community affairs Mary Esther Van Shura.

“What you're doing is valuable, and you can make a career out of those elements,” Murphy told students, encouraging them to pursue their dreams in any desired field. He noted that all jobs are important when it comes to serving citizens of the nation and their communities.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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