Manchester Bidwell Corporation

> Menu

Category Archive: National Center for Arts & Technology

  1. Hope Thrives in New Center in Sharon, PA

    HopeCAT students in front of the mural they painted on the side of the Reyers Store in Sharon, PA. Photo courtesy of Tom Roberts.

    The Hope Center for Arts and Technology (HopeCAT), a replication of the internationally regarded Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) education model, held its ribbon cutting ceremony in Sharon, PA on December 7, 2017.

    After breaking ground in March 2016, approximately 30,000 of the 45,000 square feet of what was once a dilapidated and abandoned elementary school was renovated into beautiful classrooms, galleries, and workspaces to serve the community throughout the region, with future renovation phases planned.

    “Thanks to creative collaborations with Penn State Shenango and regional organizations, we’ve been able to operate without a facility for the last two years,” said Tom Roberts, HopeCAT’s executive director. “This amazing facility captures the spirit of the other centers for arts and technology throughout the world and will allow ripples of hope to reach even farther than we can imagine.”

    The goal of the center—like the MBC model—is to place its adult career training students in life-changing careers and public high school youth arts program graduates in postsecondary education. HopeCAT is currently designing courses in partnership with the regional medical industry to help adults obtain long-term employment and will offer ceramics and digital arts to youth.

    “HopeCAT will be joining an affiliated network of centers reaching from Cleveland, OH to Buffalo, NY, from Brockway, PA to our original site in Pittsburgh as well as sites in New England, Michigan, California, and Akko, Israel,” said Bill Strickland, MBC President and CEO. “This center is an important piece in the expansion of access to the Manchester Bidwell education model for this area.”

  2. NCAT Welcomes New Project Manager

    Jeffrey Morris, NCAT project manager

    Jeffrey Morris, NCAT project manager

    NCAT is excited to introduce the newest member of its team, Jeffrey Morris.

    Prior to joining NCAT, Morris worked in performing arts production, management, and operations for a variety of nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Washington D.C. Notable companies include Actors’ Equity Association (labor relations), ODC Theater (dance presenting), Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (community choral organization), the San Francisco Mime Troupe (political musical theater), The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust (arts presenter), and Woolly Mammoth Theater Company (new works) to name a few.

    Morris holds a Master of Arts Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University as well as a Bachelor’s in Playwriting and Performing Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He enjoys spending as much time as possible traveling, exploring nature, and consuming art.

  3. NCAT Launches Replication Efforts in West Palm Beach

    Local leaders in West Palm Beach, FL are interested in bringing the Manchester Bidwell Education Model to their community in the form of a new Center for Arts & Technology (CAT).

    To help achieve that goal, the City of West Palm Beach has engaged NCAT to conduct a feasibility study to determine how best to position a local CAT for success. The 12-month study, which looks at employment needs, academic achievement, current service providers, potential sites, sources of funding, and local leadership, is scheduled to conclude by May 2018.

    Replication efforts are being coordinated by the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency and guided by a steering committee comprised of local education, workforce development, philanthropy, and industry leaders.

    NCAT will meet with community members throughout the feasibility study to understand the dynamics of the local landscape and to share information about the Manchester Bidwell Education Model.

    The replication process includes three phases of work, which are initiated by community leadership and result in the creation of a CAT based on the Manchester Bidwell Education Model. The three phases are:

    1. Feasibility
    2. Planning
    3. Implementation.

    West Palm Beach joins an expanding group of communities dedicated to improving lifelong outcomes of local residents through the Manchester Bidwell Education Model. The NCAT network currently includes 10 open and operating centers, six centers that are planning to open, and three communities undergoing feasibility studies.

  4. Trip of a Lifetime

    Students visit Yellowstone National Park

    By Melissa Klaric / The Herald


    You had to be there, they said.

    Three Farrell High students struggled to find the words to describe their four-day trip last month to Yellowstone National Park.

    “Beauty,” the kind only an artist can portray.

    “Amazing,” the majestic kind that’s part of a landscape unlike any in western Pennsylvania.

    “Wild,” as in wildlife like bison, bear and wolf.

    “At any moment of any part of the day, where ever we looked, the scenery was just beautiful,” said Christian Walker, a 2016 Farrell graduate. “It was like what you would see in movies. It was just amazing. As soon as we would leave our cabins, it was just mountains and stuff.”

    Walker, along with Isaiah Crosby and Michael McQueen, who will be seniors this fall, were chosen by Farrell teachers and administration to visit the nation’s first national park, the home of Old Faithful.

    The trip was made possible through a partnership of the Hope Center for Arts and Technology in Sharon and Park Journeys Inc., a non-profit organization formed in 2012 with the purpose of sending local students to Yellowstone who otherwise would not have had the chance to go.

    But that doesn’t mean the trip was a gift, said Tom Roberts, executive director of HopeCAT.

    “They did consistent work throughout the program,” he said. “So they earned it.” They “earned” it by attending HopeCAT’s first-ever class – ceramics – three times a week after school this past year at Penn State Shenango in Sharon.

    The young men beamed as they joked and reminisced about the trip with their chaperones, Roberts ad Christian Kuharik, their ceramics instructors.

    “We had the opportunity … to travel to Yellowstone, live as a family in cabins, prepare our own meals every day, and enjoy Yellowstone learning about the wildlife, ecosystem and nature,” Roberts said. The HopeCAT group stayed in Gardiner, Mont., with a group of students from Cleveland.

    And enjoy it they did.

    The favorite part of the trip for McQueen – who hopes his new nickname “Montana Mike” will stick – was when he got up close and personal with a bison.

    “I didn’t think animals would be as much fun as they were, and then I saw the bison,” McQueen said. “It started running at me, then they started pulling me away and I was like, ‘No I love it, and it loves me.’ “

    The running joke throughout the trip was that “Montana Mike” wanted to hug a bear and ride a bison.

    And while the travelers thoroughly enjoyed themselves, the trio were like sponges as they soaked up new lessons from the outdoor classroom that is Yellowstone.

    “When we went there, she (the park ranger) told us one rule: Do not pick flowers or plants because you have to preserve the wildlife and flowers,” Crosby said. “There were many types of flowers. All different colors – blue, purple, yellow, even some green.”

    Crosby marveled over watching a pack of wolves emerge from their den on the side of a ridge and said he was fascinated by fish in their natural habitat. “We saw a lot of fish. We actually saw how they protect each other. How they fight for their babies and all.”

    Yellowstone National Park covers almost 3,500 square miles in three states – Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

    “I remember our tour guide said for them to persuade the government to make Yellowstone a national park, they got an artist to draw out what Yellowstone looked like, and it was amazing,” Walker said. “They couldn’t believe how amazing it was. You have to be there to actually embrace it.”

    “I’m blessed to even be here,” Walker said he told the tour guide. “I never thought pursuing pottery for fun would have me end up at Yellowstone and would have me meet all the people that I’ve met.”

    About the Hope Center

    The Hope Center landed a $2.6 million state grant last October and is working with the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio to raise funds to match it so it can renovate the former Sacred Heart building at 115 Anson Way, Sharon.

    The center is slowly taking shape. When the first floor is finished – and Executive Director Tom Roberts said it should be done in the fall – classes for adults and youth will be held there. For now, the center has partnered with Penn State Shenango, which donated the use of its ceramics lab and materials for classes.


    See the original post and photos here.

  5. Big Idea Session inspires change one presentation at a time

    By Amanda Waltz / Next Pittsburgh

    This Friday, around a dozen thought leaders—from the Chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh to an entrepreneur from London, England—will share their big idea from a global stage at the Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC). The Big Idea Session, sponsored by the MBC affiliate National Center for Arts & Technology (NCAT), is free and open to the public.

    NCAT has worked to elevate communities in need by setting up centers to provide high-quality arts education and demand-driven career training. The organization also focuses on fostering a culture where people can come together and find innovative, creative solutions to societal problems, a mission it will continue with the first-ever Big Idea Session.

    On the morning of May 20, more than a dozen arts, education and technology leaders from Pittsburgh and around the globe will meet at the MBC to share their socially-conscious ideas during a series of focused, fast-paced presentations. The featured speakers have successfully employed strategies that deal with issues such as poverty, unemployment and low academic achievement.

    “Overall, we were looking for people who would bring different perspectives and new ideas to an informed conversation about what we could do differently,” says NCAT Chief Operations Officer Paulo Nzambi. “Sometimes in our work there’s a level of cross-pollination that occurs where you take ideas from arts and infuse them in technology, where you take ideas from the realm of technology and infuse them into education, where you take principles of education and you infuse them into the arts and technology. And this cross-pollination produces an outcome greater than the sum of the individual parts. That’s what we’re hoping to create with this field of presenters.”

    Each presentation will take no longer than 15 minutes and end with a line summarizing its content. The format forces presenters to get to the essence of their ideas and keep audience interest.

    The event will welcome representatives from foundations, corporations and nonprofits, as well as the general public, free of charge.  Allowing everyone to come “adds to the culture of innovation and reinvention for which Pittsburgh has become known,” says Nzambi.

    “We wanted an environment where these ideas would be democratized. They should be shared with as many people as possible who have any interest in learning and being inspired because we never know what seed of an idea might get implanted in someone that will produce the next big thing.”


    See the original story and photos here.

  6. ‘Genius’ Bill Strickland is more than just a kid from the neighborhood

    Bill Strickland describes himself as “a kid from the neighborhood who got involved in the arts.”

    While that is certainly true, he might also be selling himself a bit short — Strickland, who is the President and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation, is a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant winner, founder of the Grammy-winning subscription jazz series MCG Jazz, and author of Make the Impossible Possible, a book about a kid from Pittsburgh’s ghetto whose crusade to inspire others to achieve the extraordinary would lead him to a board seat at the National Endowment for the Arts and a speaking gig at Harvard, among other things.

    It all started in the 1960s in the Manchester neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side, where Strickland grew up as a disengaged youth. Then he met high school art teacher Frank Ross. Ross showed Strickland the power of art, education and community, and instilled in him an interest in working with the kids through an after-school arts program.

    In 1968, Strickland launched his own small after-school ceramics program. That initiative is now called the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth & Arts program — it serves public school students via classes in ceramics, design, digital imaging, 3-D manufacturing and photography.

    By 1972, Strickland had also taken over leadership of the Bidwell Training Center, a struggling job training center near the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. He rebuilt the organization into a “pretty good” job training and vocational center in partnership with various Pittsburgh area industry leaders.

    Once again, Strickland is being humble: This “pretty good” vocational center is a nationally accredited and state licensed adult career training institution, with programs that range from horticulture to medicine to the culinary arts.

    “We partner with industry leaders to develop curriculum specific to their industries,” explains Strickland. “We have these industry advisory boards that work directly with us. The programs we develop are industry compatible, so as to have a high degree of placement and retention.”

    Manchester Bidwell’s arts education opportunities for public school students are directly connected to this work.

    “Our goal is to improve the retention and graduation rates of public school students using arts as an intervention strategy,” says Strickland. “As kids get better in the arts, their retention improves. We graduated 99 percent of our kids last year. We average 90 percent, and a lot of these students go on to college. I think this is a very powerful way of adding value to what these kids need to have to be successful.”

    Once out of school, arts program alumni can continue on with Manchester Bidwell via vocational training (for ages 18 and up). By talking to industry leaders to determine their workforce and skills training needs, they have been able to make these programs incredibly effective.

    According to Strickland, between 75 and 85 percent of Manchester Bidwell’s vocational students go to work every year in the industries in which they were trained. These numbers are consistent across Manchester Bidwell’s eight affiliate sites.

    Those affiliates operate in cities across the United States and follow the same model as the one in Pittsburgh. Five more sites are in the works and should be online in the next 18 months. Strickland’s goal is to eventually have 100 centers throughout the country.

    While Strickland has reason to be proud of the programs he has built, he remains steadfastly humble. To him, the impactful work of Manchester Bidwell is a relatively simple matter.

    “I decided I wanted to get involved with the arts in the community and that’s how this started,” he says. “This has really been a 40-year story of one neighborhood.”

    See the original story here.

  7. Inaugural Big Idea Session Set to Inspire

    On the morning of May 20, 2016, the National Center for Arts & Technology will present the inaugural Big Idea Session. Delivered from the world-class stage at Manchester Bidwell Corporation and recorded for a global audience, leaders from throughout the country will share their own big ideas to improve society’s quality of life through a fast-paced, exciting, and focused presentation. From the arts, to education, to innovative technologies, approximately 15 different influential thought leaders will present new ideas and inspire others into meaningful action.

    “The Big Idea Session will be an extraordinary opportunity to hear directly from some of the most intriguing, inspirational and innovative minds of our time. It is sure to be a memorable event,” notes Paulo Nzambi, COO of the National Center for Arts & Technology.

    The audience of the Big Idea Session will include diverse individuals from around the world, including leaders of foundations, corporations, nonprofits and Centers for Arts & Technology, MBC staff and students, as well as the general public. While admission to the event will be free, RSVPs will be required for seating purposes. A morning reception and intermission will also allow attendees to share ideas and have impactful conversations, with the common goal of community enrichment.

    You can register for the Big Idea Session at

  8. BCAT Graduation Ceremony Focuses on Opportunity

    By Gant News Team

    Opportunity. That was the theme at the third graduating class at the Brockway Center for Arts and Technology Wednesday, as 22 students received certifications as Medical Assistant and Pharmacy Technicians.

    BCAT is a unique collaboration between Pittsburgh-based Mancheste-Bidwell and its founder, Bill Strickland, state Sen. Joe Scarnati and Brockway businessman Peter Varischetti.

    Manchester-Bidwell’s model offers adult job training and education opportunities for youths. The Brockway center was the first foray into a rural setting. It is situated in a portion of the former Brockway Glass Main Office headquarters building.

    The training that culminated in Wednesday’s graduation is a nine-month course of instruction offered tuition-free to the students and including two national certification examinations.

    “BCAT is growing,” Varischetti said. “We hit a home run and the ball is still sailing.”

    “This is truly a model for education, across the state and the nation,” Scarnati said. Addressing the graduates, he said, “You took the initiative; that is what separates those who succeed from those who don’t. Initiative and courage will carry you a long way.”

    Brittanei Neubert of Ridgway, co-valedictorian n the Medical Assistant Class, said, “I am ready to face anything that is thrown my way. Bring it on.”

    Co-valedictorian Courtney Walker of Penfield said, “I will always cherish” the experience at BCAT, adding that all 22 graduates passed their national certification exams.

    Ashley McAninch of Brookville, Pharmacy Technician valedictorian, said, “I can’t help feel that this is just a dream” and thanked Scarnati, Varischetti and the Varischetti family for “making this dream a reality.”

    BCAT Executive Director Deborah Heigel said she is “extremely proud” of the class, noting that “They’ve worked very hard. We’ve worked together. We’ve worked diligently.

    “Always remember that you were here,” she said. “Appreciate your skills; share them. What you are going to do is important.”

    Individual members of the classes were presented by Deborah Grunthaner, director of MA, and Dr. Joseph Spencer, Pharmacy Tech instructor. The BCAT staff also includes Nicole Snyder, Kristine Gasbarre, Shelley Hanes, Dr. Gary McGee and Dr. David Parrott.

    The BCAT board of directors includes Peter Varischetti, president; Dan Hawkins, vice president; Sue Snelick, secretary; John Sutika, treasurer,  and John Blasdell, Duane Vicini, William E. Strickland Jr. and Ray Calhoun.

    Megan Hoy sang the National Anthem and Renee Tuning provided instrumental selections, the processional and the recessional.

    Medical Assistant graduates include Maureen Amacher of Ridgway, Kayla Bailey of Brockway, Christi Fleeger of DuBois, Megan Hoy of St. Marys, Hannah Johnson of St. Marys, Tiffany Knap of Brookville, Brittanei Neubert of Ridgway, Violet Richards of Curwensville, Miranda Tapper of Reynoldsville, Diane Thomas of Clearfield, Amber Vrobel  of Punxsutawney, Courtney Walker of Penfield and Christina Wingard of Falls Creek.

    Pharmacy Technician graduates include Juhaina Al-Tikrity of Karthaus, Tracy Bundy of Falls Creek, Stephanie Kingsbury of Falls Creek, Ashley McAninch of Brookville, Briana Salada of DuBois, Paul Schmidt of Punxsutawney, Karen Wachob of Brockport, Julie Whaling of Falls Creek and Breannna Wiggin of Brockway.


    See photos and the original post here.

  9. Hope Center seen as center of hope for many

    By Melissa Klaric / Sharon Herald

    Farrell High School junior Ramone Battle stood in front of a large group interspersed with community leaders on Friday morning and spoke from the heart about Hope Center for Arts and Technology.

    “I’m going through stuff at home and I just try to come to the ceramics program and cool myself down and just build stuff,” Ramone said.

    Ramone is one of 14 Farrell students taking the ceramics class offered through HopeCAT. The center is housed at Penn State Shenango while its future home is being remodeled at the former Sacred Heart School at 115 Anson Way, Sharon.

    In preparation for HopeCAT’s groundbreaking ceremony, Executive Director Tom Roberts placed 50 chairs in the gymnasium – the future site of the ceramics lab – and hoped there would not be too many empty seats. He never expected every seat to be filled along with every available floor space, with people standing into the hallway.

    “I didn’t know it was going to be this big,” Michael McQueen, Farrell junior, said of the number of people interested in the center. “It’s amazing because I feel like I helped to get everyone to start talking about this.”

    Two Farrell seniors in this first class offered by HopeCAT, neither of whom had considered college, have signed up to attend Penn State Shenango, Roberts said.

    State representatives from Pennsylvania and Ohio, a county commissioner, Sharon city council members, local business owners and curious community members were among the estimated 125 people who turned out to celebrate the progress made in the reconstruction of the school.

    “I’m thankful for everyone who’s made this possible for us,” Ramone said. “I know everyone in Farrell that’s here right now that’s doing this is very, very grateful.”

    Foundations, individuals, and the HopeCAT board have raised almost $2 million toward the center.

    Construction, including new windows, new roof and first-floor renovation, will be completed in phases as more funds are procured. Phase I is slated to be completed by the end of the summer and school officials are hopeful that the school will be in operation by the end of the year.

    When completed the school will be a replication of the Manchester Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh. HopeCAT is the ninth training center to open across the nation using this educational model. A 10th center will be opening soon in Israel.

    The training model is designed to help high school students transition to higher education and give adults skills needed in the area job market.

    “A lot of people are hurting,” William E. “Bill” Strickland Jr., president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corp., said.

    “They’re unemployed. They don’t have skills. They’re on public assistance. They need a chance. And something like this will provide them with a lifetime opportunity.”

    Although the program is of no cost to the student, it is not free.

    “It’s the combination of legislatively-directed money,” Roberts said.

    “In working with the state, the county, employers and with people like you and me that just live and work in this community, you’re truly able to take people and get them off of assistance and put them to work.”

    Roberts said the cost to taxpayers for housing and food assistance is $13,000 per year, compared to the approximately $12,500 it costs to train someone.

    “So you train them one time and after 10 months they graduate, pass their certification, and start working,” Roberts said.

    “Now they’re off of assistance and they’re paying taxes.”

    “This is why this resonates – because it’s truly a hand-off not a hand-out,” Roberts said.

    “It’s a public-private partnership, and the beauty of this model is economic development at its best.”

    Strickland said the program works. He and Roberts noted that the center in Brockway, Pa., has graduated two classes – and every person got a job and almost everyone got a raise in their first year of employment.

    “What you’re doing is building a tradition of excellence in Hope,” Strickland said, “so that we can begin to break this cycle of sadness and build something that has permanence and opportunity associated with it.”


    See the original story here.