Penn Hills High School Bible Club members 'lunch and learn' with Big Ben's stepmother
Brenda Roethlisberger, stepmother to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, had an inspirational message for more than 40 young women at Penn Hills High School.
“God placed you here for a purpose,” she said. “You are special and loved.”
Roethlisberger was the guest speaker at a “lunch and learn” session of the Penn Hills High School Bible Club on April 25.
The co-ed club meets regularly at 7:30 a.m. on Friday mornings, according to club sponsor and Penn Hills High School Librarian Therone Wade.
“I'm the faculty sponsor, but the group is student-led, as all the clubs should be,” he said.
Bible clubs are not unusual in public high schools. The federal Equal Access Act, passed in 1984, ensures that students in secondary public schools can form religious clubs as long as their school also allows others “non-curriculum-related groups.”
Teachers acting as monitors might be present at religious meetings, but only in a non-participatory capacity.
Wade said he handles arrangements for bringing in guest speakers such as Roethlisberger, and said that while the group is normally co-ed, Roethlisberger had requested to speak to the female members of the club.
Roethlisberger and Wade attend the same church, Christ Church at Grove Farm in Sewickley, and have done mission work together.
“This is her second visit to the high school,” Wade said.
The club has more than 160 members, and between 70 and 80 meet on a regular basis on Friday mornings.
“This is among the largest Bible clubs in the area,” Wade said. “And we started this year off with three members. We had a meeting in the library where I told them, ‘This is not going to work.' ”
The group grew steadily, eventually meeting in a classroom and now meeting in the high school's large-group instruction room, which Wade said they are rapidly outgrowing.
The club is also all-inclusive.
“Most of the students who attend are not Christians,” Wade said. “We're a diverse group.”
In addition to its regular meetings, the club also works to promote positivity in the community.
“We do contests for students throughout the year,” Wade said. “For (National) Library (Appreciation) Month, we gave out free tickets to ‘The Wiz' (the high school musical) to the person who designed the best bookmark. … On Veteran's Day, the club gave every veteran in the district a certificate of appreciation.”
Wade said the club's focus is reaching out to all Penn Hills students.
“We just try to tell the kids they're loved, and go from there,” he said.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.