In Our Own Words

WQED has been a respite for us in 2020. All of it – from TV to radio to all the online offerings. Now that we are all working from home, I keep WQED-FM on as a soothing background the entire day. In the evening, we take a break from the news with national PBS programs like Nature and NOVA, and weekend programs like Filmmakers Corner and QED Cooks. Everyone is cooking more during the pandemic, so we keep up with the Create Channel for My Greek Table, America’s Test Kitchen, and Christina Cooks. Online gems we can watch anytime include WQED Sessions and Digital Docs. And we always look forward to new documentaries from Rick Sebak that promise to show us something we never knew about Pittsburgh. WQED also brings us national news like PBS NewsHour, Washington Week, Frontline, and Independent Lens. We know that every program will be informative, thoughtful, and free from ratings-grabbing sensationalism.

The pandemic has impacted all of our lives. It has caused both positive and negative feelings for me. One of the disappointments I faced this year was when my husband and I decided we weren’t going to pass out Halloween candy. I love seeing the kids in their costumes, but knew it was safer to skip the tradition this year. When I learned that WQED’s Education Department was looking for volunteers to help with a drive thru Halloween event, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. The 2 hour drive through event welcomed hundreds of kids from all over the region.  The team handed out goody bags filled with stickers, activities, and candy.   I think I enjoyed the event as much as the kids did. It made me so proud to work at WQED and know that I was a part of these festivities.

Many WQED supporters have always enjoyed being able to have a piece of WQED at home. During this pandemic many have flocked to Shop WQED website, to order a Chris Fennimore cookbook, a Rick Sebak DVD, a Mister Rogers’ trolley or our ever so popular Doo Wop CD boxset. With so many confined to the comforts of home, Shop was an outlet for those waiting to try a new recipe or catch up on shows. I received many appreciation calls regarding the shop website and items offered. This holiday season was the best we have had in years.
“Proud of the products offered and timely shipping of the items” raved one supporter.
“Really excited to watch all of my Rick Sebak shows” raved one viewer as he ordered every Sebak DVD in the store.
We love our supporters and our supporters love us!

I’ve worked at WQED for over three years, promoting the amazing programs we have to offer. I have watched many documentaries and other discussion programs, and I always turn on PBS NewsHour for important reporting. But it wasn't until this last year that I discovered my love for MASTERPIECE and period dramas! From the stunning cliffs of Cornwall in Poldark to the adorable seaside town of Sanditon, WQED Passport takes me away from reality and into a different world. Since we cannot travel in person, the only real passport I need to go on a journey is WQED Passport

Sometimes I’m kind of floored by just how much is going on at WQED, across all fronts. I’m a huge fan of WQED FM’s Voice of the Arts podcast series – this keeps me totally up to date on the cultural scene with a steady supply of interesting and informative interviews. The WQED Education team’s various projects are a continual source of inspiration.  And, the Production team is producing a wide array of stories about our local community that are incredibly compelling – and simply not available anywhere else.

If I have to name one project of which I am most proud, it has to be WQED’s Future Jobs workforce development initiative. There is so much happening in our region, and so much opportunity. Pittsburgh, with its history as an industrial powerhouse, helped to build the world as we know it. What’s really exciting is that Pittsburgh has emerged as a global leader once again, with advanced technologies like robotics/AI and additive manufacturing, and world-class healthcare and educational institutions. For our region to sustain this momentum and vitality, we need to make sure that everyone in our region has the opportunity to contribute and realize their full potential. I sincerely believe that Future Jobs is inspiring and helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their dreams and build our future together. This video from a Future Jobs school screening event last year really says it all:

I’m so excited that we’re continuing Future Jobs into 2022 because there’s a lot more still to do.

I work on the WQED Smartschools program, and it is meaningful to me because I get to work with school partners who are truly passionate about education and helping their students get to where they need to be. It is a lot of work, and I don’t always get to see the results of it but my enthusiasm for the program gets replenished when I speak with the wonderful teachers and administrators who let me know how much of an impact the program has had on their students.

In the face of the phrases that you often hear when working with schools such as “low-income” and “underperforming test scores,” getting to know the challenges and celebrating the successes of people who really care about their students and want them to succeed keeps me hopeful with the work we are doing together as a community.

My name is Liz and I am a member of the Education Team at WQED. One of the biggest parts of my job is to support public libraries and the tremendous work that they are doing within their communities. When the pandemic hit, libraries –like everything else –were forced to shut their doors and completely reimagine how they provided services to their patrons. And WQED was here to help. Embracing our role as a media mentor, I was able to work closely with our library partners to create innovative programming that best served the needs of their communities in a world that pivoted quickly from in-person to virtual without creating unnecessary barriers to access. Our library partners presented over 400 programs from April through December of 2020 that leveraged content and resources from PBS.

In addition to supporting their programming, we also stepped in to create original programming that could be used by our partners, modeling best practices for media use and easing some of the burden on our partners. The Library Explorers program was a completely virtual experience that featured beloved PBS characters and the ability to travel to new spaces without leaving the safety of home. We also created 22 original program videos that featured winning stories from our Writers Contest with extension activities as well as character driven activity videos.

Fred Rogers is often quoted as reminding us to “look for the helpers” when something scary happens. I don’t think that anyone could argue against 2020 being scary and uncertain. I am proud of the role we were able to play in helping people get through this scary time.

When the pandemic began to shut down schools in our area, the need for educational support for students was greater than ever, especially for those in vulnerable populations. Because the WQED Education team is at the forefront of providing the community with outreach and fundamental resources, they were hyper aware of the resources that families needed during this time. Working together, the Corporate Support and Education team came up with the Explore More Backpack Program to provide more concrete support for students at home. These free backpacks contain school supplies and learning materials that are distributed through local districts and organizations providing food distribution and services for local families.

The Corporate Support team raised over $110,000 for these backpacks to be provided to local families since May 2020. Thanks to the incredible level of community support, WQED was able to distribute over 17,000 backpacks over the last year. Behind the scenes, the backpacks were assembled one by one by WQED staff and family volunteers. I even recruited my parents for a day to help assemble the backpacks, which will always be a fond memory for me. Side by side, we worked in the Fred Rogers Studio to stuff the backpacks with hands-on educational research-backed PBS resources, school and craft supplies, and materials for parents and caretakers. When the summer hit, we did not slow down. Instead, the education team continued to distribute the backpacks through Citiparks and other partners. The summer Explore More backpack distribution was part of WQED’s multifaceted Summer of Learning initiative, connecting families with a wealth of PBS Kids educational resources and activities. This initiative is a great example of the good that can be accomplished when departments work together and do not give up, even during a global pandemic.

WQED Cooks, with our own Chris Fennimore, is one of my favorite locally produced shows of all time. During the lockdown of the past year, watching this show brings back special memories of watching it with my mother. We always watched it together and planned out which recipes we were going to try, or learn a new variation of an old favorite.

What an unusual and interesting year this past year has been!  While I’m able to do my job remotely, circumstances have actually provided more opportunity for collaboration, particularly with the Learn At Home initiatives.  I’ve had more interaction with our Education Department to get our local content on the air.  I’ve worked closely with the programmers from the other PA public stations to execute the Department of Education’s statewide education block, and shared some of our local productions for that block.  It’s also been an honor to chair the Traffic subgroup of PBS’s Interconnection Working Group and keep WQED at the forefront of transitioning to PBS’s new interconnection system.  And I’d like to add kudos to our production department for continuing to churn out quality content throughout the pandemic.

With the arts scene shutting down due to the Covid Pandemic, I’m proud of the way WQED-FM filled the void of no live performances. In particular, we put an emphasis on our vast archive of local performances by adding a weekly “Concerts@Home” broadcast every Monday at 7pm. These broadcasts included past performances by Chatham Baroque, Chamber Music Pittsburgh, the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh and many more. These broadcasts, along with our regular Wednesday and Sunday evening Pittsburgh Symphony Radio shows, and Friday evening Performance in Pittsburgh programs, really put the spotlight on the local arts scene at a time when many of them were forced to go dark.

In addition to “Concerts@Home”, we also worked with Pittsburgh Opera to produce 4 30-minute highlight programs featuring excerpts from past Pittsburgh Opera productions (titled “Pittsburgh Opera@Home”), and we worked with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh to produce a Pittsburgh Top 10 choral works program.

As the Voice of the Arts in Western Pennsylvania, WQED-FM went out of our way to live up to that motto during a most difficult time for the Arts.

As the Director of Membership for WQED, part of my job is to communicate the value of our programs and services and raise the necessary funding from the community that makes it possible to continue these services. I could do this in my sleep; mainly because I believe deeply in the mission of public broadcasting and I value the ways in which we connect neighborhoods and communities at the local level. As a mother of two young girls, I have a particular fondness for the programs geared toward ouryounger audience. In early 2020, I had no idea just how much I would come to rely on these programs on a daily basis throughout the next year.

Like most people, nothing could have prepared me for how the world would change almost literally overnight in March of 2020. As I adapted to a new way of working and collaborating with my colleagues, I also navigated a new world of virtual elementary school and zoom playdates for my children. Our everyday schedules that gave us a familiar weekly rhythm were suddenly thrown out the window, giving way to what felt like constant chaos and noise. I often describe those early days of 2020 as feeling like I got sucked up into a tornado every morning to be thrown around like a rag doll and carelessly spit out at the end of the day. It was all-consuming and completely exhausting in a way I have never before experienced. I know most working parents can relate.

As schools and teachers scrambled to adjust and provide students with the necessary tools to continue learning remotely, parents everywhere struggled to fill in the gaps and procure our own resources and materials to help our kids succeed. Of course I didn’t have to look very far. It didn’t take long for WQED’s Education team to take the lead and pivot an already vital and successful hands-on learning program into a virtual treasure chest of educational tools for parents. WQED became our number one, go-to resource to find age appropriate projects and activities that helped to support what my girls were learning in school. Some of the activities, like their “Family Style” cooking series had us all in the kitchen together testing new dishes. Other times, I could feel comfortable having them explore videos and games on their own so I could focus my attention elsewhere. Truthfully, in any other situation I would be utterly embarrassed by the amount of time my kids havespent on their tablets lately, but it’s easy to give myself (and them) a pass any time it’s WQED.

With or without children, we’ve all struggled to overcome our own challenges throughout the last year, and I’m heartened to see the many ways in which people and organizations throughout our community have stepped up and quickly adapted to support one another and WQED has been a shining example of this. As a parent, I’m grateful to WQED for the educational programming and resources available tome and my kids. As a member of the staff, I’m immensely proud of the services we continue to offer our community. And to our dedicated members, I offer a heartfelt and sincere "thank you." Your contribution makes it all possible.

2020 Highlights

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