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  1. Manchester Bidwell Corporation welcomes new board members

    Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) is always looking for bright minds from Pittsburgh’s important institutions to join its Board of Directors. Ann E. Cudd and David Rzepecki are perfect for helping MBC advance its mission.

    Ann E. Cudd, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor, University of Pittsburgh. May 19, 2015. Photograph by Dan Aguirre for BU Photography.

    As provost and senior vice chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh, Cudd is responsible for the university’s academic mission.

    When Cudd joined the university in 2018, MBC Founder and Executive Chairman Bill Strickland immediately invited her to tour MBC, and her desire to support the organization grew from there.

    Having Cudd’s input is imperative for MBC as she can provide insights on how the organization can help prepare our youth students at MCG Youth & Arts for success after high school. For Bidwell Training Center, Cudd provides a wealth of knowledge about education and how to help our adult students who are using Bidwell Training Center as a stepping stone into additional post-secondary education.




    David Rzepecki

    David Rzepecki, Vice President, General Counsel, Secretary and Compliance Officer, Covestro LLC


    Covestro has been an important partner for MBC stretching back to the founding of Bidwell Training Center’s chemical laboratory technician program. If you remember from our last issue of Assembling Success, Covestro alone has hired 70 Bidwell Training Center students in the 27 years that the chemical laboratory technician program has existed. This partnership has grown even stronger with the addition of Rzepecki to MBC’s Board of Directors.

    As vice president, general counsel, secretary, and compliance officer at Covestro, Rzepecki is an advisor to all Covestro business and service units. His experience in procurement, government affairs, finance, accounting, controlling, and tax functions at Covestro allows him to provide immeasurable guidance to MBC’s staff.



  2. A Dream Becomes Reality: Annamaria’s Story

    Annamaria Esplen, BTC culinary arts alum and owner of Anna’s Sunrise Café and Catering at UPMC’s South Hills.

    Since she was a young girl, Bidwell Training Center (BTC) alumna Annamaria Esplen has always had a love for cooking and a passion for planning parties. Annamaria recalls “Over the years, everyone told me that I should be a caterer or open a restaurant.”

    However, Annamaria’s path didn’t lead her to BTC right away.

    “After high school, I went to college for a year,” said Annamaria. “I came home and took a summer job with a small fastener distributor.”

    Annamaria worked 32 years for that company and learned all aspects of the business. She spent 15 years working in purchasing and then moved on to sales. She held a dual role as an in-house buyer and sales representative for one of the company’s largest customers.

    Thirty-two years later, the company was sold, so she decided to move on and make her earlier dream of owning a restaurant come true.

    “Twenty-five years ago, I brought my stepdaughter to tour BTC,” said Annamaria. “At that time, I fell in love with the culinary department, but unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right. At this point in my life, I knew I needed to attend BTC to help me become successful in my next adventure.”

    BTC’s culinary arts program enabled Annamaria with the push she needed to open her own catering business.

    “With what I learned and experienced through the classes, kitchen time, and volunteering for as many events as possible,” Annamaria explained, “it helped me grow; gave me the opportunity and confidence that I needed to move forward with my plans.”

    Annamaria in Bidwell Training Center’s culinary amphitheater during her time as a student.

    Since graduating from BTC in February 2019, Annamaria has opened Anna’s Sunrise Café and Catering at UPMC’s South Hills location. The Café is a small, open-air space that serves the medical and building staff and patients. As Annamaria’s business continues to grow, she is finalizing the details to open a second location.

    She has now taken the next steps to pay it forward, joining the American Culinary Federation Pittsburgh Chapter and serving on the BTC Culinary Arts advisory board.

    When asked what she would say to someone who is considering BTC, Annamaria exclaimed, “Do it! Open your mind, take the time to take on new challenges, and gain new opportunities. Everyone is there to help you succeed and improve your life.”

  3. MCG Jazz Inspires Collaboration in 33rd Season

    MCG Jazz’ 2019-2020 concert season features artists that explore the theme of creative connections. Internal collaborations of musicians and musical styles will demonstrate jazz music’s connectiveness to the listener and to the collective world culture.

    The diverse grouping of musicians and wide range of styles that make jazz music so vibrant today will be represented from traditional piano/vocal duo and standards settings to avantgarde and jazz fusion.

    Each concert will be performed twice for the public, and each performance will be recorded for inclusion in MCG Jazz’ archives collection. Select artists will participate in educational outreach or community engagement activities.

    If you are interested in subscribing, you can download an order form here.

    How to submit your order form:

    Mail your orders to MCG Jazz “Attn: Nick” 1815 Metropolitan Street, Pittsburgh PA 15233
    Email your completed order to
    Phone in your orders by calling Nick at 412-322-0800. We will be experiencing high call volumes, so please leave a message if you aren’t connected!
    Fax your completed form to 412-322-1075.


  4. Bidwell Training Center’s New Executive Director Stands As a Model for Students

    Kimberly Rassau, Ed.D, Bidwell Training Center’s new executive director

    Bidwell Training Center (BTC) has hired Kimberly Rassau, Ed. D., as its new executive director. Rassau comes to BTC with career training leadership experience working in several executive and dean positions at various for-profit schools.

    “Kim’s extensive experience and accomplishments in career training and higher education were the first things that caught our attention in our search for a new executive director at BTC,” said Kevin Jenkins, Manchester Bidwell Corporation President & CEO. “Her innovative ideas peaked our interest as they will allow us to help more people in the community while also pushing BTC as a leader in the career training space. And the fact that she was a non-traditional student who can serve as a model for our students cemented her as being our choice to help steer BTC into the next 50 years.”

    Rassau enters BTC in its 51st year after the departure of former executive director Valerie Njie, who retired after dedicating 37 years to the school.

    “I have tremendous amount of respect for what Valerie and the staff here have built,” said Rassau. “BTC has been a school of excellence two consecutive times. I know I have incredibly big shoes to fill.”

    Rassau plans to take BTC’s successful education model and look ahead as the school faces a changing education sector.

    “I want to make sure that the school remains relevant and sustainable,” said Rassau.“The landscape changes rapidly and industry needs can be fickle on any given day and on any given year. I want to make sure that BTC is not just meeting all the necessary standards but setting them.”

    While this is Rassau’s first time working for a non-profit, she’s been very familiar with schools like BTC from a young age. Rassau’s mother worked enacting the Jobs Training Partnership Act (JTPA), which gave money to organizations and tuitionfree schools to prepare youth and unskilled adults for the labor force. BTC was one of the organizations that received support from the JTPA. Rassau’s enthusiasm for the work started when she was a JTPA teen board member in high school, and while she made some deviations on the way she found herself back helping adults in transition.

    “I realized that I absolutely did not want to work for an organization that was strictly numbers driven only,” said Rassau. “ I feel like BTC is a perfect fit because what I’m doing is valued at a level that is focused more on developing the human spirit.”

    Aside from the enthusiasm for the work and her vast experience in the field, Rassau is also very familiar with many of the obstacles and stresses many of our students face.

    Rassau’s father worked at Edgewater Steel, and in 1981—when she was graduated from Valley Senior High School in New Kensington, PA—the steel industry was on the cusp of collapsing. Worried about her no longer being on his health insurance, Rassau’s father made it a priority for her to get a job so she could get health insurance. She luckily landed an administrative assistant position at Carnegie Mellon University, but it would take over eight years until she started working for Education Management Corporation and was asked to consider going back to school.

    “At that time I wasn’t thinking at all about going back to school let alone getting my bachelor’s degree,” said Rassau. “I had felt that school just wasn’t for me.”

    However once she returned to pursue her secondary education, she didn’t stop for 12 years until she got her doctorate in organizational leadership.

    “I know what it’s like driving down Route 28 at 10:30 p.m., crying your eyes out because your exhausted then get back up in the morning to go to work, do your homework, go to class, and do it all over again,” said Rassau. “I know exactly how it feels to look at your checkbook and think ‘I got $4.37 and payday is not for seven days but I have to pay my bills today.’”

    Rassau shared her story of being a nontraditional student during an assembly with BTC students and staff on her first week as executive director.

    “You’re never too old to realize your self worth or your potential earning power,” Rassau said during the assembly. “For me, that happened very much later in life.”

    While Rassau is inspired by the work BTC’s staff has done for 50 years there is one area that she wants to change.

    “My goal is to get rid of the idea that BTC is the best kept secret,” said Rassau. “I want to increase our exposure, so people stop thinking that BTC is only for a certain kind of student that lives on the North Side. BTC is a wonderful opportunity for everyone.”

  5. BTC Provides Culinary Art Students A New Pathway to a Degree With New Partnership

    Bidwell Training Center culinary arts students. Photograph by Jonathan Zito.

    Bidwell Training Center (BTC) and Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) have entered into an articulation agreement that will allow BTC’s culinary art students to transfer credits to CCAC if they wish to pursue a culinary arts degree.

    With regular wait lists to enroll, BTC’s culinary arts diploma program is among the career training school’s most popular majors. Our students have gone on to work at some of Pittsburgh’s most prestigious restaurants, started their own restaurants, and established their own catering companies. At no cost to qualified students the culinary arts program—like all other BTC programs—provides an excellent first step for student’s to change their lives. This new articulation agreement will help provide new opportunities for our students who would like to continue their studies and get an Associate in Applied Science from CCAC in culinary arts.

    “This is a wonderful opportunity for Bidwell’s culinary arts graduates who would like to receive their Associates Degree in culinary arts,” said Cynthia Tuite, BTC’s culinary arts program director. “This agreement will give them the opportunity to have a flexible schedule with CCAC by receiving credits for courses completed at Bidwell Training Center.”

  6. Two New Medical Companies Join BTC’S Industry Advisory Boards

    Adagio Health and Accredo have joined Bidwell Training Center’s (BTC) industry advisory boards, which help shape curriculum to better prepare students for employment and help develop externship and placement opportunities.

    Adagio Health is now part of the medical assistant industry advisory board. For nearly 50 years, Adagio Health has served over 100,000 patients and clients—most of them women who are uninsured and underinsured—in 23 counties in Western Pennsylvania. They provide life-changing services including 9,000 breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings through the HealthyWoman, WiseWoman, and the Komen Mammogram Voucher program, which help low-income underinsured women. Their insight on women’s health will be a great asset for the medical assistant students.

    Pharmacy technician students will gain more knowledge about the specialty pharmacy field with the addition of Accredo to their industry advisory board. This specialty pharmacy company serves patients with HIV, cancer, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, and other complicated health conditions. Focusing on these complex conditions allows the pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and nurses to provide more personalized care to the patients.

  7. MBC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

    GRAMMY® Award-winner Dee Dee Bridgewater performing a tribute to Manchester Bidwell Corporation in the
    K. Leroy Irvis Concert Hall. Photograph by Jonathan Zito.

    Nearly 300 guests started our 50th Anniversary Celebration in the concert hall hearing from our founder and executive chairman Bill Strickland, watching our short documentary, and enjoying a tribute from GRAMMY® Award-winner Dee Dee Bridgewater.

    Guests signing the 50th Anniversary vase in the ceramics studio. Photograph by Jonathan Zito.

    From there guests enjoyed cocktails and specialty cuisine curated by noted Pittsburgh chef and Bidwell Training Center alumna Kate Romane, witnessed demonstrations from former students in our art studios; explored our training center classrooms showcasing alumni accomplishments, and swung to live jazz throughout our building. The night ended with Mel Torme’s classic “A Christmas Song” performed by his son James Torme and MCG Jazz musicians.

    Thank you to our sponsors PNC, UPMC, UPMC Health Plan, PJ Dick, CNX, The Bair Family Fund,Byham Charitable Foundation, Rackoff Family Fund, Schneider Downs, Chatham University, Community College of Allegheny County, Eckert Seamans, Enkompas Technology Solutions, Hefren-Tillotson, Huntington Bank, and Nicholas D. Varischetti for making the night possible.

    Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Julie Strickland-Gillard, Mayor Bill Peduto, Bill Strickland, and State Sen. Jay Costa.

  8. NCAT Welcomes New ECAT Executive Director

    Daria Devlin, executive director of Erie Center for Arts and Technology

    NCAT welcomes Daria Devlin as the new Executive Director to Erie Center for Arts & Technology (ECAT). Devlin brings a great blend of experience in education, nonprofit fundraising and management expertise.

    Devlin is a life-long Erie resident and a strong advocate for social responsibility in its urban core. Devlin graduated from Colgate University in 1995 (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian Studies and History. She also holds a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Edinboro University. Devlin has over 10 years of nonprofit fundraising, program development and management experience. She played a major role in securing grant funding for many of Erie’s most prominent nonprofit projects including the Wayne School-Based Health Center, the Blue Coats Community-School Bridge, and Erie’s Community School pilot.

    In 2012, Devlin founded the Partnership for Erie’s Public Schools, a local education foundation dedicated to organizing financial and community support for Erie’s Public Schools. From 2013–2018, Devlin also served as the Coordinator of Grants and Community Relations for Erie’s Public Schools, where she was part of the leadership team that successfully secured a $14 million increase in state funding for the district after a three-year public awareness and advocacy campaign.

    Devlin is an active member of her church community where she serves as Secretary of the Parish Council and the Chairperson of the church’s annual Russian Troika Festival. She also volunteers at the Overflow Homeless Shelter and the Emmaus Soup Kitchen. Devlin was named a Woman Making History in 2014, one of “Four Under Forty” by the Erie Times News in 2016, and Public Relations Person of the Year by the local chapter of the PRSA in 2017. She lives in Erie with her husband and her three sons.

  9. DMC’s Controlled-Environment Agriculture Initiative

    Schematic of controlled-environment agriculture greenhouse at the Drew Mathieson Center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology.

    The DMC Greenhouse plans to add commercial Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), where food crop production is dependent on creating and maintaining optimum growing conditions in an enclosed structure, to the unique operating model focused on workforce development and will create a new and exciting opportunity to develop educational and career building platforms. With CEA, the environment and plants are monitored by technology and agricultural technicians.

    The DMC Greenhouse’s commercial food production will be focused on hydroponic production techniques and will include a combination of vining crops, herbs, specialty/ mixed greens, lettuce, and microgreens. Growing in a pristine greenhouse environment ensures a product free of disease and contamination. Producing a premium product should not come at the expense of nature’s limited resources. Incorporating principals of conservation and preservation results in a positive impact on the environment while providing a premium product to our customers.

    To grow in the winter months, DMC Greenhouse will utilize LED grow lights to help supplement lighting conditions. Diffused glass is used on greenhouse rooftops for increased quality and production without increase in energy. The addition of these state-of-the-art energy efficient artificial lights, along with natural light will create perfect growing conditions year-round. Implementing environmentally conscious efforts throughout our production facility include the practice of Integrated Pest Management, which reduces pesticide usage and includes the introduction of eco-friendly predator insect to control any harmful pests. In addition, the production strategy of introducing bumble bees allows for natural pollination in the greenhouse.

    Supply chain-wide electronic traceability will be implemented with the development of a Produce Traceability Initiative plan. Consumers and distributors desire to know where their food is coming from and this effort will focus on ensuring a superior quality traceable product. A perfectly controlled, closed environment will allow fruit and vegetable harvest to occur at the peak of ripeness with delivery to our customers within 24 hours.

    Good Agricultural Practices creates strict sanitary guidelines, with innovative growing methods and combining them with exacting, state-of-the-art technologies will allow the DMC Greenhouse to grow premium quality crops.

    The learning environment created at the DMC Greenhouse through the CEA initiative will provide students with expanded opportunities for new and exciting applied learning experiences and a wide range of hands-on training associated with food production. Educational goals will be focused on mastering and managing the science and technology behind the updated DMC Greenhouse and CEA initiative.

    As an incubator for innovative technology and techniques the DMC updates will address areas of conserving resources, operating more efficiently, and incorporating additional AgTech. When complete, the DMC Greenhouse updates will evolve the DMC in to a high-performing facility. In a growing industry, DMC’s evolution to include CEA provides a comprehensive growing laboratory for flowers, food, and the mind.

  10. Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Westminster College Partner to Add College Courses to World-Class Youth Art Center

    Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) Youth and Arts, a program of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, is announcing an exciting new partnership with Westminster College. High school students that attend MCG Youth and Arts have long been given access to university-level art training and equipment to enhance their secondary education. Now, alongside Westminster, MCG will be offering college courses to junior and senior high school students taught by Westminster professors. Students taking these courses will be met with the same level of engagement and support that MCG Youth and Arts has provided for 50 years.

    Kevin Jenkins, President and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, sees this new partnership with Westminster as a natural fit for MCG Youth and Art’s programming.

    “This is part of another path we see for MCG to carry out its mission of helping people break down barriers to opportunity and growth,” said Jenkins. “We’re committed to seeing students develop the tools and confidence they need for the rest of their lives, and enhancing educational resources for them is another vital piece of that goal.”

    Beginning on January 2, 2019, students can take Economic Reasoning on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Introductory Writing on Mondays and Wednesdays. All classes are from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will be held at 1815 Metropolitan Street. Pittsburgh Promise funding is available to all Pittsburgh Public School students who have attended PPS since ninth grade. As with MCG Youth and Arts’ art programming, transportation for students can be provided or arranged.

    Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson, President of Westminster College, expressed her enthusiasm about the partnership with MCG as well.

    “We are pleased to be partnering with MCG to provide Westminster’s Early College courses taught by Westminster faculty members on site on their Pittsburgh campus,” said Richardson. “This learning opportunity coordinates so well with the strong enrichment options that have long been offered at MCG to help enrolled students strengthen their preparation for their college careers.”

    Enrolling in these classes can be a gateway to becoming a full-time Westminster student. Successful participation makes admission to the college very likely. Students and parents can contact Samantha Rapp from MCG Youth and Arts at for more information or to sign up for classes.

    About MCG Youth and Arts

    MCG Youth & Arts’ mission is to educate and inspire urban youth through the arts. In 1968, Pittsburgh was a city racially divided and economically distressed. Bill Strickland established Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild to help combat the economic and social devastation experienced by the residents of his predominantly African-American North Side neighborhood. Today, MCG Youth & Arts provides free arts programming to over 3,000 high school and middle school students. For more information about MCG Youth & Arts, visit

    About Westminster College

    Westminster College, founded in 1852, is a four-year liberal arts college. The first integrated and unrestricted coeducational college in the country, Westminster was recently ranked #22 in The New York Times’ list of “Top Colleges Doing the Most for the American Dream.” For more information about Westminster College, visit:

    Joel Mora
    Communications Manager
    Manchester Bidwell Corporation

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