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Justice Scholars provides a college-oriented, social justice focused educational experience for students at Westinghouse Academy.

Justice Scholars

Pittsburgh, United States
Our theory of change includes teaching students about the opportunity gap in educational achievement in low-income communities of color and giving them the tools to challenge it through cultivating an environment of educational achievement.

A social justice-focused college and career support program for students at Pittsburgh Westinghouse

“...We talk about what’s going on in our community and we can communicate and get to know each other and now we are family.” - 11th grader "[Justice Scholars] means a lot to me because it’s like a second home where you can be yourself and PACS is there and helps us with college readiness and teaches us ways of life.” - 11th grader”

Westinghouse is a gem of the Homewood community and the school has a rich legacy of African American academic excellence. Renowned writers, athletes, politicians, artists, educators, and community leaders have walked the halls of this school in eras past. Historically, Westinghouse has graduated scores of young people who went on achieve greatness, some even claiming historic firsts for African Americans in this country. Though Westinghouse pride is alive and well, in the previous few decades, as the Homewood community has experienced economic and social decline, the school has declined in its educational productivity. Westinghouse is regularly the lowest performing high school in Pittsburgh. In 2017, only 18% of its students were proficient in literature, 14% proficient in math. A 2017 report, Opportunities Lost: The Urgent Need to Improve Pittsburgh’s Schools, found that “not a single senior met the minimum College Ready Benchmark set by the state on either the SAT or ACT” (p 22.)

These indicators reveal a low likelihood that students from Westinghouse will attend and complete college. College often seems unattainable for students in communities like Homewood, as exposure to college spaces and college learning experiences are a far reach. Our aim is to expose students to college. We recruit students who express an interest in social justice and will consider enrollment in a University of Pittsburgh campus for college. The Justice Scholars Institute works with its partners at Pitt and in Homewood to connect Westinghouse students to college-educated role models, expose them to college campuses, engage them in college credit bearing courses, and coach them in the steps and strategies necessary to get to and through college. This work is based on previous research by Pitt-Assisted Communities & Schools staff members and others that shows that youth who form a stable motivational identity during adolescence are more likely to engage in civic and community engagement and volunteerism.

All young people, even the most disadvantaged communities and schools, deserve a quality education, and at least the opportunity to seriously consider post-secondary education. This program supports the educational potential of students in Westinghouse through the creation of targeted and enhanced academic opportunities for students that will provide avenues for students to quality post-secondary education.

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Innovation Overview
14 - 18
Age Group
Tips for implementation
Dedicated school partners including college in high school teachers. Space for an after school program. College student mentors. University partners who engage students in the college-admissions process.
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See this innovation in action

Elementary schoolers learn what's inside a computer at Pitt's School of Computing & Information
Field trips to local universities create a pipeline for elementary schoolers to become lifelong STEM learners
Elementary schoolers explore Virtual Reality during a field trip to Pitt's School of Computing & Information
Experiences like Brain Day expose elementary schoolers to career paths early
During career exploration experiences, students expand their identities to think of themselves as future scientists and engineers
Research at the symposium encompasses a range of social justice themes chosen by the Justice Scholars
Justice Scholars present their research at a symposium at the University of Pittsburgh


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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Enroll Students to Earn College Credit
Students earn college credit, providing both an internal and a tangible asset to support successful college transition.
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Foster a Trusted After-School Academic Support Environment
Weekly after school sessions engage students in social justice issues and encourage them to achieve beyond the traditional academic curriculum
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Create Change Leaders
Students become familiar with tools for research in social science and humanities, and participate in a symposium of engaged research that supports public discourse about topics important to students from Westinghouse.
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Engage Students in Real Collegiate Experiences
Justice Scholars visit several campuses, apply for scholarships, and prepare for college admissions exams.
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Create a Pipeline
Feeder programs for local elementary and middle school students ensure that the next generation of Justice Scholars enter high school prepared for college-level studies.
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Evaluate specific community needs
Every location is different, so surveys, interviews, and other evaluations ensure that you're meeting their needs.
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