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Mitchel Nickols, Ph.D., part-time faculty member for the School of EducationRowland School of Business and Department of Community Engagement at Point Park University, has launched Rising Brothers and Sisters, a mentorship program focused on academic preparedness, career readiness and character development for high school students, especially students of color, in the Greater Pittsburgh region. 

"Rising Brothers and Sisters is an initiative of the Rowland School of Business, which is a perfect fit because Dean Stephen Tanzilli is proactive about helping students and making sure that, when they leave Point Park, they have options," said Nickols, who serves as director of the program. 

How it started

Born out of conversations with Tanzilli and Point Park President Don Green, Nickols said the program is an extension of the mentoring and thought leadership he has offered to local schools and other organizations for many years. He is a diversity and sensitivity trainer and consultant for police departments and school districts throughout Western Pennsylvania. He has mentored students in the Highlands, Burrell and New Kensington-Arnold school districts. In his 20 years as a faculty member at Geneva College, he mentored more than 400 students to help them finish their master's degrees. At Point Park, he teaches and works with students in undergraduate, master's and doctoral programs. He is also the director of learning and development for The Advanced Leadership Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Where it's going

Through Rising Brothers and Sisters, Nickols and guest speakers will meet with students at their schools to discuss topics related to academic, career and financial success. He said much of the material is inspired by "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens," by Sean Covey. In addition to these assemblies, students will be invited to Point Park for a day to tour the campus, learn about the college experience and the doors that a Point Park education can open for them. Nickols is also working to secure several corporate partnerships to create career opportunities for program participants, regardless of their education path. 

Additionally, Rising Brothers and Sisters will pair high school students with Point Park-based mentors, such as faculty or alumni with experience in the industries that interest them. Nickols said a "Circle of Success" networking group within the program will further connect students with members of the Point Park community and other Pittsburgh professionals.

A commitment to future professionals

Rising Brothers and Sisters is similar to another Rowland School of Business initiative, the Chuck Cooper and Josh Gibson Center for Equity and Education, which is committed to investment in youth and improving social capital in Pittsburgh communities. Between the Center's cohort model and Rising Brothers and Sisters' focus on large-scale assemblies, Tanzilli is optimistic about the positive impact these programs will have on Pittsburgh youth. 

"The Rising Brothers and Sisters program helps our faculty, students and staff engage directly with many Pittsburgh Public School students of color, coupled with additional schools within our footprint," Tanzilli said. "I am very excited to work on a program that is truly committed to providing mentorship, career-readiness and college preparatory opportunities to these deserving students.”

To help develop the program, Nickols has assembled an advisory board of Point Park alumni and current students from the various degree programs he is involved in on campus. He also hopes to incorporate ideas and feedback from other Point Park faculty, staff, alumni and students of color, such as Point Park's Black Student Union. Anyone interested in learning more about or contributing to Rising Brothers and Sisters may contact Nickols at mnickols@pointpark.edu

Read more about Nickols' impact on students in the stories linked below:


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