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Nazareth Prep guides city youths to path of accomplishment

Saturday, July 25, 2015

New students at Nazareth Prep start the school year with nothing. Not even desks.

Those, they have to build.

“How many of you have worked with tools?” Rick Okraszewski, head of the Carpenters Training Center in Collier, asked a group of incoming freshmen seated in the center's conference room this month.

The teenagers, who met for the first time a week ago, fidgeted in their seats. A few raised their hands.

“You got to pay attention to that router that you're using, that sander that you're using, that drill you're using, all the equipment in there today,” Okraszewski continued during a safety briefing.

The students put on hard hats and safety glasses and followed Okraszewski into the heart of the training center, where carpenter apprentices learn their trade and where Nazareth Prep's newest class will build their desks.

“Proudly built by Henry,” “Proudly built by Haylee,” “Proudly built by Syanne,” read the nameplates on desks built by last year's freshmen.

Holy Family Institute, a more than century-old, Catholic child and family services organization, opened its academy last year, welcoming about 60 students to its Emsworth campus. The high school aims to improve the lives of city youths by blending typical college prep courses with an intensive job-training program. Students spend one day a week working at Pittsburgh-area businesses, nonprofit organizations, colleges or universities.