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Afterschool Programs Celebrate With Their 'Lights On' Thursday

In 2018, the Brasher Association at the Allentown Learning Center had a Fall Festival-themed Lights On Afterschool event in partnership with the Y Creator Space.


On today's program: One Carnegie Mellon University professor wants to democratize access to computer programming; Pittsburgh’s Jewish community is still healing after the Tree of Life attack; research has found some vaping products share the same toxic chemicals as traditional cigarettes; and local afterschool programs gear up for a celebration this week. 

Credit Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University
Phillip Compeau is the assistant teaching professor and assistant department head for education at Carnegie Mellon University's Computational Biology Department in its School of Computer Science.

 Local professor brings CMU sensibilities to the masses
(00:00 — 12:36) 

Dozens of coding classes live online and many of them are free of charge, but what if someone wants a university-quality course with real-life application? Phillip Compeau, a professor at CMU’s computational biology department, is trying to meet that need. 

Compeau offers “Programming for Lovers,”—a play off his CMU course dubbed “Programming for Scientists”—that he says should empower learners at every level to create something of their own.

Beyond guided homework and passing tests, Compeau hopes graduates of his program will be able to write code for apps or build simulations similar to those used for presidential polling. Find course information and registration access here.   

One year after Pittsburgh’s synagogue shooting, residents are healing
(14:00 — 17:36)

Members of Pittsburgh's Jewish community tell 90.5 WESA's Sarah Boden that one year isn't enough time to recover, but the neighborhood is making progress

The shooting took 11 lives during Saturday morning services last October and is still considered the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in U.S. history.

“Healing isn’t linear,” says Barb Feige, executive director of Tree of Life, Or L'Simcha, one of three congregations that met at Tree of Life. “It doesn’t have a deadline, and you may never heal. But you’re always healing.”

As vaping devices have evolved, so have potential hazards
(17:41 — 22:32) 

Some consumers credit vaping and electronic cigarettes with helping them kick their traditional smoking habit, but the technology and the liquids used by the devices have changed over the years without much standardization. WITF’s Brett Sholtis reports on a study that shows two common vaping devices emit the same toxic gas found in cigarette smoke.

Some states and cities have banned certain items, such as cartridges of flavored e-liquid. And last week, Juul Labs announced it will suspend sales of most of its flavored products, including cucumber, mango and fruit medley.

National rally for afterschool programs commences tomorrow
(22:37 — 38:52)

An estimated one in four children in Allegheny County participate in afterschool programs, but areas like the Mon Valley lack the resources and necessary partnerships to engage with large groups of kids through the early evening. 

Leah O'Reilly, director of programs for the Turtle Creek-based Human Services Center Corporation, says quality programs can encourage learning, generate more interest in going to school and keep kids safe, but demand far exceeds the spots available. 

The national nonprofit advocacy group Afterschool Alliance estimates an additional 38,000 children in Allegheny County alone would be enrolled in a program if one were available.

Stephanie Lewis, acting director of APOST, or Allegheny Partners for Out of School Time, agrees demand is there, but so are barriers like a lack of access to transportation, funding for expanding staff and activities and information parents then use to make informed choices about their kids’ needs. 

Fifty afterschool programs in Allegheny County will open to the public from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday as part of Lights on Afterschool. It’s the 20th year for the event nationally, and ninth year locally. 

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich contributed to this report.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
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