here & now

Proud of their new “Agent of Change” badges are, back row: Olivia Ernest, Alexis Schulte-Albert and Ally Klotz. Front row: Shirah Wasik, Collette Konig, Madalyn Evason, Lindsay Mathews, Bailey Scott and Emma Chothani.

Girl Scout Troop 55054 is small but mighty. With only nine members, the fourth- and fifth-graders—six girls from Jefferson School and three from Foster—put together an event that not only pulled together nearly 200 Mt. Lebanon scouts but also benefited two good causes. On Friday, May 4, the girls hosted “Movie Night for a Cause” at Jefferson Auditorium. The film Toy Story 3 was a draw, but it was not the main attraction, says Troop Leader Judé Ernest. The troop’s goal was to make a difference in the world and in the process earn the prestigious Agents of Change Leadership Journey Badge.

“The Agents of Change badge helps the girls discover the power of who they are, who they are as a group and how they can help the world,” Ernest says. “The badge represents the good of service and the power of action. “Our troop worked together learning the business of planning a big project, from goals, to definition to work breakdown. They developed the marketing materials, established a budget and finally rolled out the end result—Movie Night.” Wearing 100th Anniversary of Scouting T-shirts and their badge sashes, the troop collected nonperishable food items and a $3 admission fee from all who attended. The “shelf food” stocked the food pantry at the Salvation Army’s new headquarters in Mt. Lebanon and will help people struck by disasters. The $3 entrance fee will purchase wet wipes for a 911 Air Force squadron headed by Ernest’s neighbor, Cpt. Ed Quinn, currently serving in a hospital in Kuwait. Quinn, who has taught the girls about international and military affairs, told them the wet wipes are in high demand in Kuwait because of the sandy environment. Popcorn, soft drinks, a good movie and charity that will help people close to home and on the other side of the world. “At the end of the evening, it was like a business plan completed,” says Ernest. 

Like Mt. Lebanon, Girl Scouting is celebrating its Centennial this year. With 2.5 million members and a million volunteers, the organization continues to make an impact though its programs, camps and leadership. Scouts range from ages 5 to 17 and may progress from Daisies to Brownies to Juniors to Cadettes to Seniors and finally to Ambassadors. Membership is ony $12 a year. To find out more about scouting, make a donation or look into volunteering, visit


Meera Whitson, a Howe Elementary School fifth grader, is a finalist in the Public Park Student Design Competition hosted by Pittsburgh architect Matthew Schlueb of SCHLUEBarchitecture. For the project, students from 18 Pittsburgh public and private schools were invited to propose a redesign of Allegheny Public Square on the North Side; eight finalists were selected. The competition offered students a rare glimpse into a real world design project and the workings of the architectural process. All the finalists will get a chance to work with Schlueb this summer on one of his studio’s residential projects and will receive a private tour of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (a partner with the competition) as well as the competition site they designed, which will be led by landscape architect Andrea Cochran, designer of the new park.

Mt. Lebanon grad Katie Johnston-Smith’s uneasy marriage of Full House and Sweeney Todd is drawing critical acclaim in Chicago.

Growing up in Sunset Hills, Katie Johnston-Smith enjoyed music, acting—and the  television  comedy  Full House.

Now 25 and living in Chicago, Johnston-Smith has found a way to unite her childhood loves by writing and starring in a musical that re-imagines the ’90s television sitcom, titled Attend the Tale of Danny Tanner: A Full House Musical. This dark comedy, which Johnston-Smith describes as a cross between Full House and Sweeney Todd, follows the Tanner family seven years after Pamela, Danny’s wife, died in a drunk driving accident. In this alternate reality, Danny, Joey and Uncle Jesse kill a drunk driver every year on the anniversary of Pamela’s death.

“It’s funny, but it’s very black humor,” says Johnston-Smith, who graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 2005. In addition to co-writing the musical alongside Chris Gorton and Tara Trudel, Johnston-Smith also stars as an updated D.J. Tanner in this morbid piece of ’90s nostalgia, which had its initial run at the Gorilla Tango Theatre from May 9 to June 27 in Bucktown, Chicago. She is also the executive producer at Gorilla Tango and performs in several improv and sketch comedy groups, including the Second City Training Center, around Chicago. Johnston-Smith, who studied musical theater at Belmont University in Nashville, got her start in musical theater at Mt. Lebanon High School, where she was involved in the theater program and the Evening Theater Company. “I started really liking musical theater in high school,” says Johnston-Smith. “Mrs. [Cindy] Schreiner, who’s the theater teacher at Mt. Lebanon High School, really fostered an appreciation and love of musical theater in me.”

“I love Mt. Lebanon, it was a great place to grow up,” she says. “My education there definitely set the groundwork for my being in theater today.” Johnston-Smith’s parents still live in Sunset Hills. Attend the Tale has been well-received by critics, garnering positive reviews from publications like the Chicago Reader.