JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown presented representatives of Flood City Youth Fitness Academy with a check for $3,750 on Thursday during an event where the two organizations signed the paperwork for the new “I Rise” tutoring program.

“It’s about building a very strong foundation for the future,” UPJ President Jem Spectar said.

Through the partnership, Pitt-Johnstown education majors may join the FCYFA staff of tutors to help learners in the Greater Johnstown area with math, reading and writing.

The university also will provide an instructor to teach basic coding skills to advance the students’ computer literacy.

Thursday’s presentation was held in the lobby of Blackington Hall on UPJ’s campus with stakeholders from around the community attending.

“We think this partnership reflects our commitment to student success and educational attainment,” Spectar said.

He added that the partnership is a wise and sound investment that will not only meet the short-term needs of the community, but also provide long-term support as well.

During the event, Deacon Jeffrey Wilson, academy program director, provided a breakdown of how the facility operates.

He said that every student who walks through the FCYFA doors receives individualized tutoring and that their parents buy into it as well.

Alan Cashaw, NAACO Johnstown Branch president, also spoke, bringing attention to the academy’s ambitions to get the children of the area educationally and physically fit.

He touted the “tremendous effort” of FCYFA Executive Director Oscar Cashaw and Wilson, as well as the staff at the institution.

“You’ll see these youth will be your Johnstown leaders in the future,” Alan Cashaw said.

While discussing the importance of mentors, Pitt-Johnstown Education Chairman Gerald Zahorchak said tutors and mentors plant the seeds of success in the children they interact with.

Oscar Cashaw agreed, providing the example of the Rev. Andrew W. Tilly, who was an influential figure in his life.

He added that the mentors and tutors don’t realize the impact they have on the students.

The partnership between FCYFA and UPJ will build on the organization’s existing offerings.

Funding for the tutoring program at FCYFA, including for tutors from UPJ, is directed there through The Learning Lamp from a $10,000 AT&T Foundation grant.

Prior to Pitt-Johnstown’s involvement, those at the academy and educational center teamed up to “provide children enrolled in both programs with extra help and reinforcement of core concepts in math and reading.”

That effort was launched with a $20,000 grant from PNC Charitable Trusts.

To date, 10 paid tutors, two volunteers and two Pitt-Johnstown students have delivered a combined 781 hours of one-on-one tutoring to hundreds of students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Anyone interested in volunteering or joining the tutoring team at Flood City can call the facility at 814-539-0164 or contact The Learning Lamp at 814-262-0732, ext. 246, or email

All tutors, volunteers and program staff must have current clearances. 

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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