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Last day of school: DuBois Middle School students engaged in computer science learning

DuBOIS — Though it was the last day of school Monday, approximately 130 DuBois Area Middle School sixth-graders were engaged in hands-on computer science learning thanks to a visit from Google’s CS First Roadshow.

“This is always one of the highest performing schools that I get a chance to visit,” said Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson, who represents the 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and who recommended Google make a stop in DuBois. “It’s always great to be here with friends from Google, I had an opportunity to visit them at their headquarters out in California as a part of my work on educational workforce. Everything today that you can do in life involves technology and science and, quite frankly, no matter what you wind up doing in your life in the future, I think you’ll probably learn things today right here at the middle school that’ll make you better in the future with what you do.”

Thompson told the students that technology is constantly changing and the country needs the next generation of computer scientists ready for any opportunities that may arise.

“That means learning and using computer science,” Thompson said. “Computer science is more than just interesting job opportunities, it’s about making the world a better place. The reality is that computer science will be a key part of the future of not just work, but everything, so finances, health, it’s government, it’s energy. It’s agriculture, it’s transportation, it’s art, it’s education. You name it, computer science is a critical component of improving it, of improving your lives for the better.”

Thompson interacted with the students as they coded their own stories using Scratch, an easy-to-use coding software that teaches students the basics of computer science.

The students explored Adventure on the High Seas, a one-hour activity that helped the student create a narrative story between two characters.

In addition to the basics of coding, the program also emphasized persistence in problem solving, a skill that is applicable in every job and hobby.

“As you start on your own journey with computer science, I hope you can learn these important skills and take them beyond not just learning for code, to feel empowered to try big, new, exciting things, and remember that anything is possible,” Thompson said.

After the presentation, Thompson said he was excited to see how engaged the students were.

“It was just incredible. They had such a good time,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be fun to check back in with the school as we get into the fall and see what seeds have been planted and where this goes from here. This is a type of skills that all of our kids everywhere need to get exposed to.”

In Pennsylvania, there are more than 17,000 open computing jobs (3.4x the state average demand rate) and a shortage of computer science graduates. Only 20 percent are female, according to statistics provided Monday. The CS First Roadshow aims to offset these statistics by traveling to classrooms across the country to encourage students in computer science.

By 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 1 million more computer science jobs than graduating students who qualify for the jobs. These jobs are in every state, in every industry and they are projected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs.


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Google tries to inspire coders at DuBois Middle School

DuBOIS — Sixth-graders at the DuBois Area Middle School had an exciting last day of school Monday — a team of presenters from online technology giant, Google, visited the school.

“Today we were here for our Google CS First Roadshow,” said Googler Alex Sanchez. “This is part of the roadshow where we go to communities all across the country and teach kids how to code.”

Sanchez, who travels throughout the country as part of the national roadshow, explained that it’s an hour-long session in which they really try to get students inspired by code.

“People have these misperceptions about coding being something that is really anti-social, or something that’s not easy to do, and what we try to do here is we try to show, actually that it can be a lot of fun,” Sanchez said. “It’s very collaborative, and we try to show them the ropes so they use a visual programming language called Scratch to make them interact with story.”

The goal of the program is to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering and math, and let them know that there is an abundance of STEM jobs further down the road.

“We want to really inspire kids to use technology and use technology as something that they can do good with,” Sanchez said. “We don’t want students to just be consumers of technology, we want them to be creators of technologies. We want them to take the skills they learn here today, and create programs, or create new initiatives. Or do things that they think they can do that will build their interest.”

The Google presenters showed the students examples of the fashion industry, the healthcare industry, and even instances with the video gaming industries, which most excited many of the students.

“We want to show them this is something really fun, really exciting, and something that they can do and isn’t scary,” said Sanchez.

“My friend and I created a story about two characters on a boat and they had to get to the best internet connection in order to play their video game,” said student Noah Keighley.

The CS First Roadshow has stopped in big and small communities in the nation for nearly the last two years.

“This is our first one of this kind in the area,” Sanchez said. “I think the closest one to here that we’ve done, we might have done one in Philly. Throughout the school year, we try to go everywhere. There’s a lot more places for us to go.”

Google worked with Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson, who represents the 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and was also in attendance Monday.

“He (Thompson) recommended the school and we were like, ‘Great. This sounds like a great place to be in,’” said Sanchez. “The school community here has been fantastic. The kids were really engaged, they were learning, they were having a lot of fun. A lot of them hadn’t necessarily seen, had not done computer programming themselves, but they were getting it really quickly. They were having a lot of fun. A lot of laughter, a lot of really interesting stories.”

“There’s 6.5 million jobs open and available in this country and most of those jobs involve basic coding, technology or some computer science,” Thompson said. “Whether it’s in manufacturing or medicine, that number is increasing each day and it’s going to grow exponentially into the future.”

Those interested in learning more about CS First Clubs can check out www.cs.first.com.


Photo by Travis Fausey 

DuBois Central Catholic's Carley Semancik, front, is congratulated by assistant coaches Michelyn Gulvas, left, and Jamie Meholick, right, as she walks backs to the dugout with her teammates after hitting a grand slam in the top of the seventh inning Monday against Meyersdale in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.


Elaine Haskins / Elaine Haskins  

Hula hoop

DuBois Area Middle School seventh-grader Henry Myers does the hula hoop during the obstacle course in physical education class Thursday.


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A MOTHERING LOVE: Local woman raises orphaned Husky from birth

STUMP CREEK — Local woman and dog mom Courtney Herzing has a love for Siberian Huskies, and recently took that love to a new level by mothering an orphaned puppy who desperately needed her help.

Herzing, who lives in Stump Creek, is the owner of Shamokin Siberians — a kennel business that focuses on raising and showing Siberian Huskies, along with finding them forever homes. She also is an employee with Seven Mountains Media.

One of the orders of business is forming relationships with other breeders, Herzing said.

In early March, another local breeder and friend’s dog, Lyric, went into labor five days early with her first litter of puppies, when serious complications developed. She passed away due to an infection of the uterus and sepsis. Out of four, only one of her puppies survived — Annie, who was named after the “Annie” musical film based on the experiences of an orphan.

They first tried using a surrogate Golden Retriever mother for Annie, but she rejected the puppy, Herzing said. Annie was premature and only three days old, weighing in at seven ounces. She had only half of a chance of survival, and no litter mates or mother to lean on.

Herzing took the puppy home, waking up every couple of hours a night to bottle feed her, and taking her everywhere she went, even using a baby sling to keep her close. Before she knew it, she was like a real mother much sooner than she expected — her entire schedule was rearranged and sleepless nights were a part of her regular routine.

These orphaned puppies are called “singleton puppies,” meaning they survived and grew up without their litter mates, which can often cause problems if they aren’t raised with the socialization and discipline the mother provides, Herzing said.

Annie looked to Herzing as her mother, too, recognizing simple things like just the sound of her voice. Herzing’s other three dogs, Laika, Chance and Laska, also took to the puppy. Annie would sleep on them for that “fur to fur” contact, and one of the dogs took on the responsibility of bathing her.

Through her kennel business, Herzing is constantly looking for ways to improve the Siberian bloodline, she said. To get her Huskies ready for dog shows, she grooms them and exercises them and makes sure they have the proper skills, like being trained through the Canine Good Citizen program with the American Kennel Club and attending confirmation classes. Herzing also is a member of the Butler County Kennel Club.

She attends dog shows all over the state of Pennsylvania, and is taking in another Siberian puppy this fall, Herzing said. Working with other breeders is important, she said, so they can team together to help improve the breed as a whole.

Laika, who is Herzing’s show dog, will be bred next spring. The process is a lot more complicated than most people realize, though. When breeding dogs, there are several considerations, such as size, pedigree and color, since Siberian owners will specifically look for a certain type of bloodline, or Champion or Grand Champion-awarded dog.

One of the most difficult parts of her business, though, is letting the dogs go to their intended homes after falling in love with them, Herzing said. Before Annie was even born, there was a family in Warren, Ohio lined up to take her from her breeder.

At 10 weeks old, she was given to her new family, who renamed her “Evanna” — which stands for “young fighter.” They plan on raising her to be a therapy dog, taking her into local places like nursing homes to help people heal.

“In the beginning, (raising her) was really hard,” Herzing said. “It was definitely quite an experience. But it was harder giving her up than it was raising her.”

Herzing plans to keep in touch with the family, even babysitting and visiting Annie when she’s able, and receiving photos of her as she grows.

“I’ll still see her, and she will always be a part of our lives.”