Local Author Jake Oresick Speaks at Obama


Mr. Oresick’s Welcome Sign

For nearly a hundred years, the Schenley High School occupied the distinctive triangular building located at 4101 Bigelow Boulevard, among the first school buildings in the nation to cost more than a million dollars. In 2008, after a months-long battle between the Superintendent, the School Board, students, and parents, a decision was made to close the building, and let Schenley’s last class graduate in 2011 from the Reizenstein building. Jake Oresick, a Schenley graduate who was deeply involved in the struggle to save Schenley from closing, felt that the school deserved someone who was willing to remember it and tell its story, a story that mirrors the rise and fall of high schools all over the nation and shows the way a community and its school are intimately interconnected. So he wrote a book.


Obama was delighted to host Mr. Oresick this Monday the 29th for a presentation on the connections between Obama and Schenley, which are in part covered in his book The Schenley Experiment, which was published early last year. Mr. Oresick’s intriguing lecture revealed much of Obama’s history, going back as far as 1855, when Pittsburgh’s first public high school was founded, and to as recently as 2008, when Schenley was split into Obama, Sci-Tech, and U-Prep. Mr. Oresick was also the target of lively questioning from students in the audience, of whom there were about 50.


The racial and social diversity of Pittsburgh, and in turn its public schools, was a focal point of Mr. Oresick’s lecture. He stressed the impact that such diversity has had on his life, allowing him to connect with his peers in a way that he could not have had he attended school other than Schenley. In his words, “I was one of five white kids on the football team. I was the only white kid on the wrestling team. A lot of those classmates and teammates were of different economic classes, and that really shaped me politically and personally. I remember kids would quit the wrestling team because they had to work or they couldn’t take that many busses home that late in the day, and I would say, ‘Stay on the team and I’ll drive you home’ or ‘Stay on the team and I’ll drive you to work’….It made me very open-minded that not everyone was like me.”


Mr. Oresick concluded by reiterating the importance of a city public high school experience, even saying that he may one day encourage his children to attend his reincarnated alma mater in the form of Obama. Additionally, he was glad to see that the IB program that Schenley was renowned for had transferred successfully into Obama’s unique environment. Mr. Oresick is currently a legal clerk for the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, along with now being a published author.


Mr. Oresick is being billed as the first in a series of speakers that will be coming to Obama roughly every month until the end of the year, with the next individual to make an appearance slated to be Mayor Bill Peduto on February 12 (more information coming soon).


The Schenley Experiment is available in the school library as well as from Penn State University Press. Current Obama teachers Ms. Mckrell, Mr. Naveh, and Mr. Vitti were all teachers at Schenley, and both Mr. Naveh and Mr. Vitti were involved in the creation and promotion of the book.