Local nonprofit bridges the gap in education By Rachel Kelly
In 2013, three individuals, who would later form the stakeholder group of the nonprofit Arivva, attended a conference to hear speaker Bill Strickland. Strickland is the founder of the Bidwell Education Model, which has seen much success in impacting marginalized and underserved members of the Pennsylvania Community. The Bidwell Education Model provides no-cost career-focused training to encourage success in its students. This learning model sculpts education for practical results.
“These stakeholders made it their mission—which became Arivva’s mission—to create a program Iike Bill Strickland had built in Pittsburgh. To transform lives in the most challenged neighborhoods of Pierce County by focusing on critical education and employment issues through arts-based youth development and industry-specific career training,” says Dr. Dan Bissonnette, the executive director of Arivva.
From that spark of inspiration came the concept of Arivva, which is an empowering educational nonprofit that resides here in Pierce County.
From that day in 2013, the stakeholders held a comprehensive feasibility study, which led them to concentrate its efforts on Parkland and its surrounding areas. Over time, with much effort and research, they formed a board. They then incorporated as Pierce Center for Arts and Technology in 2016 (now known as Arivva) and achieved nonprofit status the following year. With early funding from Multicare Health Systems and State Farm, Arivva was able to hire Bissonnette as their executive director in 2018—whose job it is to bring the nonprofit from ideas to action.
Arivva is in a unique position to “serve our students in a way that differs from other job training and visual arts programs. Much more than a program with rules and regulations that students need to adhere to, we are more interested in our students’ lived experiences and supporting them to move toward success,” says Bissonnette. Arivva’s idea is to serve; their action is to provide quality, accessible education. With a research-backed and people-forward approach, Arivva is in the process of doing just that.
The past few years have seen a lot of development for Arivva. The first of programs being visual arts classes for highschoolers, classes which encourage creativity and innovation. These classes can be conveniently registered for online. Classes for transitioning adults are next in the works, continuing the trend of providing educational resources for people looking for well-paying and high in-demand work. Arivva is working to offer no-cost medical assistant certification and HVAC programs. Arivva also has a thriving after-school and summer visual arts programs where they offer courses in videography, ceramics, photography and visual arts.
Unfortunately, much of their programs and goals have suffered through a hiatus due to Covid. While this has stopped some of the rapid inevitable growth of its educational programs, it has failed to stanch the flow of ideas from the board. Arivva hasn’t stopped dreaming and moving to see those dreams fulfilled.
“We feel that our hopes and dreams have been delayed for some time now, and we look forward to so many things,” says Bissonnette.
It is no overstatement to say that Arivva certainly has high hopes for the future of its work, and for the benefit that accessible education can bring to any one community. Plans for the future include transforming their 100-year-old retail shop into a world-class facility for their visual arts programs. They strive for the day when their medical assistant laboratory and classroom spaces are ready to accept students, and not just in the works. Arivva also eventually hopes to build a community room, where individuals and organizations within Parkland can gather together. Cementing relationships, forging new ones, and encouraging a more cohesive community. A place where, together, Parkland is that much stronger.
However, for a nonprofit, every dream, every step forward, requires community support and funding. Everything they do requires successful fundraising and relationships with friends willing to lend their time, talent and treasure toward creating success for local students. The future of Arivva relies on its community to push it forward. That being said, volunteers can find many opportunities to come alongside Arivva and the students of Parkland. Volunteers can contribute through aiding the after-school and summer education programs. This is an opportunity that enriches the lives of kids year-round. There are opportunities for those who are knowledgeable in construction to help transform their spaces into world-class harbors of learning, places meant to spur the human spirit toward success. This includes work on the community center and classrooms.
The continued work of Arivva is unique in that it is motivated to capture the attention of the student who may think that they, mistakenly, do not belong. They are focused on reaching the students who think they cannot succeed and shouldn’t try. People who consider themselves to be on the sidelines when it comes to success, rather than on the road that progresses. This nonprofit isn’t interested in by-passing its community through elite processes that prevent access to life-giving education. They believe that each individual possesses so much potential that it would be a shame to miss that opportunity for success simply because of limited resources. Arivva wants to excite their community along the same goal that they possess: to create a place where success is a natural by-product of an environment that invests in its students. An environment that encourages positive behaviors and outcomes that bring life-giving results. As Arivva moves forward in their dreams, we have an opportunity to come alongside them as they partner with the Parkland community to break down barriers that prevent access to quality education. We have an opportunity to get involved.
For more information on ways that you can get involved, please email Arivva at firstname.lastname@example.org. For prospective students, please see Arivva.org for opportunities to register for current or up-and-coming classes.