A Foundation for the Future: DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation, McKeesport School District Meet Needs of Local Youth With Groundbreaking School/Community Center

The best type of community investment is one that’s focused on the future – and what better way to do that than ensure that a community’s youth have the tools they need to thrive?

DICK’s Sporting Goods is doing just that, with a new commitment to young people in the western Pennsylvania region they’ve called home for 75 years. In May 2022, the DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation and the McKeesport Area School District (MASD) announced a partnership to provide children at United at Twin Rivers Elementary School and their families with holistic resources and programs to support their learning and wellbeing. The new school and the Community Resource Center opened this fall with communal spaces, laundry, a food pantry, free WiFi and shower spaces. Services include increased staffing, improved facilities and a restructured school day to allow for more individualized student support to help ensure their holistic needs are being met – all in an effort to build healthy minds, bodies and relationships.

“The process to re-design Twin Rivers has been a remarkably collaborative one,” said MASD Superintendent Dr. Tia Wanzo in a press release when the program was announced this past spring. “Our kids and families deserve the best educational opportunities we can offer, and this is a critical step in creating that experience for everyone.”

This program – which was inspired by the LeBron James Family Foundation I PROMISE School in Akron, Ohio, is the culmination of yearslong collaboration and listening sessions between the Foundation, the school district, families, teachers and community leaders who shared a vision of ensuring the health, safety and overall wellbeing of the whole child in families across McKeesport.

Those recommendations that students will benefit from this school year aim to encourage healthy, active lifestyles that also support education and make the school environment fun. It kicked off this summer with a DICK’s-sponsored camp for grades K-8 and continued this school year with extended healthy and active lifestyle programming, proper nutrition guidelines, flexible and inclusive classroom seating and common learning spaces. There are also resources for parents and community members, including counseling services and employment information; with an ultimate goal of being able to offer the students and their families medical and dentistry services as well.

“We knew that we wanted to formalize the communication between home, school and the community,” DICK’s Foundation Associate Executive Director of Education Jackie Castma said in an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the new center.

She added that while the program is a first for them, the DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation has long been providing grants and support to help schools and community youth across all 50 states. The McKeesport investment goes deeper, of course. But having been rooted in the community for three quarters of a century, it’s safe to say that the company isn’t going anywhere and is excited to see its long-term positive impact on the kids who get to utilize its services.

“DICK’S Sporting Goods has been investing in kids since our first store opened almost 75 years ago,” said Aimee Watters, Executive Director of The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation. “We believe it is our responsibility to invest in our communities to ensure future generations have the resources they need to thrive.”

One parent who was deeply involved in the project simply but accurately explained the necessity and the positive impact of the program to the Post-Gazette this way: “If your other needs aren’t being met, what good is math class?”