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Student group secures grant for Plum school library upgrades

Michael DiVittorio
| Sunday, July 2, 2017, 11:55 p.m.

Plum High School's library may get new furniture and upgrades with grant money that a student group secured.

Todd Griffin, an incoming senior and member of SPIRIT (Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together), said athletes, musicians and students with other interests joined the group with the desire to improve the school and community.

The school district will receive $30,000 from Education Uncontained, funded by the Heinz Endowments. The SPIRIT group requested $50,000.

“It was a big, exciting thing for us all to do,” Griffin said. “When we started, we thought, ‘What can we do to make this school more positive and better?' We should be able to do something with the money in which everybody can gain from it.”

SPIRIT is a federal Department of Justice initiative designed to empower student leaders.

The grant the Plum group obtained currently is set to go toward library improvements such as modern, movable furniture, new lighting and paint to make it more inviting.

“The library does need upgraded,” SPIRIT sponsor and high school art teacher Samor Pieper said. “The idea is to have a spot where (students) feel very comfortable.”

Still, those plans could change in August when SPIRIT members and Education Uncontained representatives meet in August to finalize use of the grant.

Pieper said she doesn't anticipate receiving the money until December.

“We wanted the library to be a place where everyone would be excited to come to school,” Griffin said.

Temple Lovelace, a Duquesne University associate professor of special education, founded Education Uncontained, which promotes design thinking and youth advocacy.

“Our goal is to create and make available the resources and platform for youth to be producers of change in their schools,” Lovelace said.

Plum's grant submission video featured news clippings of the district's struggles in the past few years, including a scandal in which three teachers went to jail for having sexual relations with students, multiple bomb threats and a controversy over some students wearing Confederate Flag apparel.

The video goes on to show students in the classroom, at sporting events and in other situations, having a good time.

“The people who are outside of our school don't see the positive things that are happening,” Griffin said. He said the SPIRIT council would like to have a culture day and other activities to build student relationships.

High school librarian Kristen Rowe said she's proud of the SPIRIT students and their efforts to help the library.

“We want them to take ownership in it,” Rowe said. “I'm glad that the students have taken interest in the library. I've always thought of it as the heart of the school.”

Brashear High School in Pittsburgh, Propel Andrew Street High School in Munhall and Montour High School in Robinson also received Education Uncontained grants for the 2017-18 school year.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367, or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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