Student Voices students and alumni from western Pennsylvania have more to be proud of today, as their project continues to get attention (and now, funding) from the legislature!
Students, school faculty and staff and residents from around the Canon McMillan community will be in the audience tonight as PennDOT displays its plans for repairs to the bridge over Interstate 79 in North Strabane Township. It was the Student Voices classes of Canon McMillan High School in 2006 who successfully lobbied the state legislature to name the structure Canon McMillan Alumni Bridge.
They were led by their history teacher, Tom Olszewski. After considering which issues they were most concerned about, their attention turned to a bridge with no name that stood just off of school grounds and was in need of repair. It was their idea to bring attention to the structure and have it named in honor of the alumni of their school, one of whom is State Rep. Tim Solobay. Canon McMillan High School sits on the southwestern end of the bridge.
Now the student “bridge-keepers” have been cheered by news that PennDOT is about to give the span the face-lift it has needed.
Rick Bell, Canon McMillan’s social studies department chair and actively involved with Student Voices, was quick to praise the efforts of those students and teachers, APPC and the Student Voices project. “Tom and I are extremely proud of the students from Canon McMillan responsible for this,” he said. “We believe this shows that students’ voices really can be heard.”
PennDOT currently is developing final design plans for rehabilitation of the bridge that carries State Route 1025 over Interstate 79 in Washington County. Work is expected to get underway sometime this summer.
In 2006, the Canon McMillan Alumni bridge renaming project was undertaken by social studies classes that participate in the school’s Student Voices program, organized by Bell. As part of their efforts, students launched a letter-writing campaign seeking the name change.
State Rep. Solobay sponsored the bill while lauding the students for their work: “When these kids are older, every time they drive over the bridge and see the signs, they will remember the role they played in getting it named,” he said when the renaming legislation unanimously passed the House.
PennDOT plans to replace the deck of the bridge as well as to repaint the steel superstructure. One plan under consideration is to paint the bridge the Canon McMillan school colors of blue and gold, according to Valerie Petersen of PennDOT. That will be a fitting reminder for future classes of Canon McMillan of just what can be accomplished when pen meets paper and students speak out!