Justice Scholars Institute

Graduating students from high school

Preparing Future Advocates for Change

Justice Scholars Institute logo

The Justice Scholars Institute at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education provides a rigorous college preparation experience for high school students who otherwise may not receive opportunities for college exposure. We prepare them for college success by offering courses for college credit, college readiness opportunities, campus visits, and research and service-learning projects focused on social problems. The theme of educational equity and social justice is embedded across all aspects of the program. Through a mixture of classwork and real-world experiences, youth are encouraged to think in ways that prepare them to be advocates for marginalized voices. 

Our Goals Are To:

  • Enrich students educational prospects by preparing them for future college success

  • Enhance students’ writing skills through a cross-content literacy focus

  • Educate students about educational opportunity as a social justice priority

  • Equip students with the tools to become change agents within their school, community, and the broader world

Program Partners

The program leaders gather for a selfie photo outside

The Justice Scholars Institute is a college-preparatory experience offered by the University of Pittsburgh and the Westinghouse Academy. 

Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy

Located in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Westinghouse is part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools district. Westinghouse partner teachers include Mr. Sean Means, Ms. Angela Flango, and Mr. Vincent Werling. 

Pittsburgh Perry Traditional Academy

Serving families on the North Side of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Perry is part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools district. Perry partner teachers include Mrs. Sharon Brentley and Ms. Lacy Montelione.

Pittsburgh Milliones University Prepatory School

Located in Pittsburgh's historic Hill District, Pittsburgh Milliones/UPrep is part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools district. Milliones partner teachers include Mr. Bilal Abbey and Ms. Shaquaya Gilbert.

Pitt School of Education

Consistently ranked among the top graduate schools of education by U.S. News & World Report, the Pitt School of Education is guided by a mission-vision that advances educational equity and justice. 

Pitt-Assisted Communities and School (PACS)

Pitt-Assisted Communities & Schools is a program of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work.  The mission of PACS is to mobilize University of Pittsburgh resources in ways that enrich the lives of Homewood children and youth, while simultaneously advancing the university's commitment to transformative teaching, learning, and community impact.

Program Details

Two students from the program give a presentation

The Justice Scholars Institute provides courses for college credit, workshops that help students understand the expectations of the college environment, and real-world learning experiences that engage the youth in their community.

All students in grades 9-12 can be involved in the Justice Scholars Institute.

  • Students in grades 9-10 meet with college mentors and learn about how to navigate pathways to college

  • Students in grades 11-12 complete all of the experiences listed below

Courses for College Credit

During their regular school day, students take courses offered by the University of Pittsburgh College in High School program that offer college credit in high school. Courses offered in the past include Introduction to U.S. History, Introduction to Social Justice, and Argument.

College Readiness Programming

Students complete programming that supports the acquisition of strategies and habits of minds they can apply in college courses. There is a bootcamp offered that is modeled after a college preparation course at Pitt. There is also weekly after-school programming offered that is meant to reinforce these skills.

Campus Visits

Exposure to the University of Pittsburgh provides Justice Scholars Institute students with an affirmation that they belong in spaces of higher education and offers a glimpse into what the college experience will be like.

Participatory Action Research 

Students have the opportunity to explore community-related topics and social issues through the research process. This engaged learning experience provides infrastructure to support the entire research process – from formulating a research question to presenting research. Students learn project management skills, critical thinking and perspective taking, and justice-informed engagement through the research experience. 

Community Engagement – Service Learning

Students can participate in service-learning experiences over the course of the school year. These service learning experiences will be grounded in an understanding of historical and current injustices that affect communities. 

Core Program Team

Esohe Osai headshotEsohe Osai is Program Director of the Justice Scholars Institute. Dr. Osai is an Assistant Professor of Practice at the Pitt School of Education. She is a community-engaged, scholar practitioner with an interest in how communities and schools can support positive development and well-being for children and youth. Her research centers on the development of psychosocial capacities in children and adolescents.

Shanyce Campbell headshotShanyce Campbell is Co-Lead of the Justice Scholars Institute. Dr. Campbell is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Urban Education. Dr. Campbell’s research focuses on understanding how policies and practices influence access to quality learning opportunities for students marginalized by the educational system. She explores various institutional factors associated with advancing marginalized students’ opportunities to learn including instructional quality, school-community partnerships, and curriculum.


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