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Helping a hero

Dual Enrollment students from Penn State Greater Allegheny help to build a house for a local Army veteran.

After serving two tours in Iraq, Army Staff Sgt. Michelle Satterfield returned home and continued to help others. After an assignment to help with recovery efforts from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, she returned to New Jersey a second time, on her own, after raising enough money to rent a truck and pack it full of clothing, furniture, and food to distribute the items to those in need.

Satterfield’s efforts didn’t stop there. She continued to help others by performing humanitarian work in Peru and El Salvador.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were so impressed with her spirit of giving and her humanitarian efforts that they helped to select her as a veteran deserving of a newly constructed home in White Oak, Pennsylvania.

But this was no ordinary house. Students from McKeesport Area High School's building construction tech course built the house, along with Penn State Greater Allegheny dual enrollment students from the IST 110 - Information, People, & Technology course, who designed and installed the security systems.  The Penn State Greater Allegheny High School Dual Enrollment Program offers high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to get a jump on their college careers by taking college courses and earning college credits while still in high school.

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Students from MASD help build vets house

Credit: Penn State

“The beauty of this house is that it was built by students,” said John Hodge, Chief Operating Officer of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which is a sponsor of the house. “You can’t say that about any of the previous 46 houses that we’ve been involved with. Today marks the 47th house that we’ve worked on to donate to a veteran and the first one built by students.”  The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is named in honor of Stephen Siller who perished in the Twin Towers on 911 while trying to save others, along with members of his fire company.  It continues his legacy by supporting first responders and service members.

Tunnel to Towers Foundation was just one of many organizations that donated time, money and resources to complete this house for Satterfield and her son, Hunter.

At a special ceremony held in McKeesport High School’s gymnasium, bleachers were packed with students and community members, along with politicians and sponsors, as Sgt. Satterfield and her son were welcomed by members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, present and past. “Today marks a special occasion,” said Craig Wolfley, retired Pittsburgh Steeler and master of ceremonies, “because the students that helped build this house are making a difference in someone’s life.”

The students from Penn State Greater Allegheny’s dual enrollment class worked under the direction of Bob Walters, director of technology at Blueroof Technologies. They designed, installed and tested the security systems in the Blueroof Tiger Vet house.  Walters, Professor Emeritus in Engineering from Penn State Greater Allegheny, works with students in the STEM curriculum throughout the year on projects at Blueroof’s Smart House, located four miles from the campus.

The dual enrollment students were present at the pep rally in the high school gym and at the modular house now permanently located in White Oak, Pa. when the key was presented to Satterfield.

Jacob Garwood, a senior from McKeesport High School and STEM alumnus said the work they did on the house was very rewarding and a great learning experience. “BlueRoof Technologies is an inspiring community asset which has always worked diligently to improve the community and the lives of the people in it.” 

Another STEM alumna, Sarah Toth added, “It was quite amazing to work on this project and to see what a profound effect it had on not just Staff Sgt. Satterfield and her family, but the whole city. We came together to do something truly amazing.”

Not many high school students can say that they built a security system that is now working in an actual house.  This talented group can take pride in knowing that they helped to make a house a safe place to live for a veteran and her son, and they have a great addition to their resumes before they even finish high school.