About Bearcat B.E.S.T.

About Bearcat BESTThe Bearcat B.E.S.T. program was born of the need, expressed by parents of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, for transition programming that would focus on the needs of young adults who, while they may not have the aptitude for post-secondary education, could achieve, with appropriate transition programming, a greater level of independence than a sheltered workshop would provide them. The goals of the program are to develop the students’ capabilities in each of the four pillar areas: academics, vocational training, activities of daily living and social skills.

Program Objectives:

  1. To increase the level of functional independence for all students in the program; 
  2. To prepare each program participant for an integrated, competitive employment environment; 
  3. To maximize independence in activities of daily living to empower each participant to live in the most independent setting possible; and 
  4. To assist each student in creating a family/community support system utilizing self-advocacy skills.

Based upon the intake assessment, a program of studies will be developed to support the student’s strength areas and to remediate, using evidence-based strategies, identified needs related to each pillar. Courses will be offered according to a schedule patterned after the type of class schedule that a typical college student would enjoy.

Evidence-Based Best Practice in a Team Approach
Under the supervision of Saint Vincent College professors, data-driven instruction utilizing evidence-based best practices assists students in meeting their individualized transition goals. Certified Special Education teachers, graduate and undergraduate teacher certification candidates, as well as students in other disciplines, including psychology, collaborate to ensure a seamlessly integrated transition experience for each student. Saint Vincent College students serve as job coaches in on-campus vocational placements and act as peer mentors to support maximal inclusion in the campus community for Bearcat B.E.S.T. participants.

Academic Programacademic-program

Academic Programs Bearcat BESTThe Bearcat B.E.S.T. experience is individualized based upon each student’s specific assessed needs, but rests on the sure foundation of four pillars: Academics; Social Skills, Independent Living Skills and Vocational Skills.

Academic Skills—enable students to grow the academic skills necessary to live with maximized independence through instruction tied to the Pennsylvania Core standards in reading and mathematics. 

Independent Living Skills—teach students the skills necessary to live in, and to make a meaningful contribution to, settings in which they live, be that with family or in group home or other residential arrangements. 

4 Pillars to ExcellenceSocial Skills—train students in skills necessary to initiate and maintain healthy relationships, with particular emphasis on the development of self-advocacy skills, prepare students for community involvement. 

Vocational Skills—enable students to explore and prepare for competitive employment upon completion of the Bearcat B.E.S.T. Program. 

Bearcat BEST Curriculum Map

Course Descriptionscourse-descriptions
Bearcat BEST Course Offerings

BB100ID: Orientation Seminar 
In this course students will explore the Saint Vincent College campus and familiarize themselves with the different buildings, offices, services, and resources available to them as students. Students will also learn about the various Saint Vincent traditions. In groups, students are required to complete a "Student Handbook" detailing various Saint Vincent locations, rules, and services. 

BB101ID: Study Skills & Organization I 
This course will enable students to maintain organization while meeting academic, professional, and personal deadlines. Students will become better equipped to independently manage time in order to effectively function in the home, school, and work environments 

BB102ID: Study Skills & Organization II 
This course encourages students to maintain organization while meeting academic, professional, and personal deadlines. Students become better equipped to independently manage time in order to effectively function in home, school, and work environments. Opportunities for 1:1 and small group tutoring promote academic success. 

BB201ID: Study Skills & Organization III 
This course promotes students’ success as they continue to maintain organization while meeting academic, professional, and personal deadlines. Students become better equipped to independently manage time in order to effectively function in home, school, and work environments. Opportunities for 1:1 and small group tutoring promote academic success. 

BB202ID: Study Skills & Organization IV 
This course continues to promote students’ success as they continue to maintain organization while meeting academic, professional, and personal deadlines. Students become better equipped to independently manage time in order to effectively function in home, school, and work environments. Opportunities for 1:1 and small group tutoring promote academic success. 

BB301ID: Transition Seminar 
In their final semester, students explore, develop, and cement relationships with adult service providers as they prepare to enter the world of adulthood. They explore post-secondary living and employment opportunities. 

BB101MA: Basic Computation I 
During this course, students receive direct instruction and practice in mathematical operations. Extending and firming their knowledge of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, the course prepares students for practical applications of computational principles. 

BB102MA: Introduction to Real World Measurement 
This course provides students with extended opportunities to apply the concepts learned in BB101MA: Basic Computation I through application to independent living and work situations involving time, various forms of measurement, and money skills. 

BB103MA: Advanced Computation I 
While extending their knowledge of the basic computational principles of addition and subtraction, including fractions and decimals, this course builds students' skills in the areas of multiplication and division. 

BB104MA: Basic Computation II 
Throughout this course, students receive direct instruction and practice in mathematical operations. Extending and firming their knowledge of addition and subtraction, students focus on multiplication and division operations. Additionally, this course prepares students to solve multi-step problems, while utilizing a calculator to check their work. 

BB105MA: Advanced Computation II 
This course provides students with direct instruction and practice in mathematical operations. Students extend their knowledge of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using whole numbers to decimals and fractions. Through the introduction of basic algebraic skills, students increase their ability to solve multi-step problems, while utilizing a calculator to check their work. 

BB106MA: Personal Finance and Banking Basics 
This course is designed to increase students’ banking skills, in regard to their personal lives on a basic level. The course will begin with a focus on counting mixed coins and bills and transition into daily, weekly, and monthly budgeting. Students will also gain an understanding of writing checks, making deposits and withdrawals, and recording their transactions. 

BB107MA: Intermediate Banking and Personal Finance 
This course is designed to increase students’ banking skills, in regard to their personal lives on an intermediate level. Students will extend and firm their knowledge on counting money, while also developing an understanding of daily, weekly and monthly budgeting. Students will gain skills in writing checks, making deposits and withdrawals, recording transactions in order to reconcile account balances, and utilizing credit and debit cards. 

BB108MA: Advanced Banking and Personal Finance 
This course is designed to increase students’ banking skills, in regard to their personal lives on an advanced level. Beginning with a focus on daily, weekly, and monthly budgeting, students will then explore the following skills: writing checks, making deposits and withdrawals, recording transactions in order to reconcile account balances, and utilizing credit and debit cards, at a level more in depth than BB107MA. 

BB201MA: Integrated Math Applications I 
This course is the first in a two part series of integrated mathematics classes designed to combine the foundations of mathematic skills and everyday applications. This course will focus on building core math skills such as computation, money, measurement, and time and how these relate to our everyday lives. 

BB202MA: Integrated Math Applications II 
As the second in a two part series of integrated mathematics courses, this course continues to combine the foundations of mathematic skills and everyday applications built in BB201MA. This course will continue to enhance core math skills while teaching advanced mathematical skills such as decimals, fractions geometry and how it relates to our everyday lives. 

BB301MA: Applied Practical Math I 
This course is the first in a two part series of applied mathematics classes emphasizing the use of core mathematical skills to problem solve. The problem situations, models and technology used foster connections to various mathematic skills such as managing money, calculating area, and balancing checking and saving accounts, which will then be used to solve daily living problems. 

BB302MA: Applied Practical Math II 
As the second in a two part series of applied math classes, this course continues to use core mathematical skills to problem solve. The problem situations, models and technology used foster connections to various mathematic skills such as ratios, proportions and conversions, which will then be used to solve daily living problems. 

BB101LA: Language Arts Skills I 
Focused on the 5 essential skills of reading, this course provides students with opportunities to increase their skill levels in decoding, oral reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. 

BB102LA: Personal Writing I 
Creating ideas through the means of writing at the sentence level and building competence in writing at the paragraph level, students will focus their writing on personal experiences, attributes and goals. With an emphasis on using the writing process, including pre-writing, drafting, revising, and editing to produce organized and coherent writing, students will begin a personal writing portfolio that they will develop and expand through their time in the Bearcat B.E.S.T. program. 

BB103LA: Survey of Literature through Reading & Language Arts 
This course provides a survey of the different genre of literature, with a focus on fiction, expository texts, poetry and drama as a means of further developing the essential skills of reading including decoding skills, oral reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. 

BB104LA: Language Arts Skills II 
This course provides students with the opportunity to increase essential reading skills including decoding skills, oral reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Students do this through an exploration of fiction and non-fiction literature. 

BB105LA: Survey of Literature II
Focusing on increasing the development of the essential skills of reading including decoding skills, oral reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension, this course continues to explore the different genres of literature including fiction, non-fiction, comedy, drama and tragedy. 

BB106LA: Genre Studies I: Mystery and Suspense 
Continuing the development of the essential skills of reading including decoding skills, oral reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, this course extends exploration to include consideration of the five elements of mystery stories: character, setting, plot, problem, and solution. 

BB107LA: Expository Writing through Professional Documents
This course demonstrates and offers practice in both the writing and organization of various documents in the professional setting. Students master the writing of professional documents, including the following: cover letters, resumes, professional emails, and letters of resignation. 

BB108LA: Research and Public Speaking 
This course provides information on and practice with various forms of public speaking, including informative, persuasive, motivational, influential, and entertaining speech. Students research the topics on which they present, utilizing various references for information. 

BB201LA: Integrated Genre Studies II: American Humor
This course will focus on the conventions and elements that tie together and characterize humor within the United States. Through the reading of various forms of literature, students will continue to strengthen their skills in reading fluency, comprehension, vocabulary development, and writing. 

BB202 LA: Integrated Genre Studies III: Historical Fiction 
While focusing on stories that are written to portray an event or a specific time period, information about a specific time period, or specific historical event, students will be expected to analyze these works for accurate and authentic information in regard to setting. Students will strive to increase their skills in the following areas: reading fluency, comprehension, vocabulary development, and writing. 

BB301LA: Integrated Genre Studies IV: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
This course will focus on literary works that are believable, set in the modern world, and contain characters that could potentially be real. While exploring various types of literature within this genre, students will continue to strengthen their skills in reading fluency, comprehension, vocabulary development, and writing. 

BB302LA: Genre Studies V: Expository Texts
Utilizing various forms of expository texts, students will be encouraged to delve into the exploration of the difference in tone, style, structure, and features, as opposed to narrative texts. Through the use of graphic organizers and note-taking strategies, students will increase their understanding in the following areas: identifying and analyzing problem and solution, cause and effect relationships, and comparison and contrast of two or more given variables. 

BB101SS: Building Healthy Relationships
This course deepens students' awareness of social distance, relationships and boundaries to facilitate inclusion in campus and community environments. Students will develop skills for positive and healthy interactions with peers, strangers, and authority figures, as well as for relating positively to the natural environment and animals. 

BB102SS: Social Skills Practicum I Fitness Activities
This course assists students to develop healthy physical well-being through the participation in Yoga with a Twist or other integrated fitness activities while establishing an appropriate understanding of the college social environment with their like-aged peers. 

BB103SS: Current Events & Problem Solving 
Students will investigate current events that are relevant to their lives and develop their self-advocacy skills. Increasing their oral presentation and public speaking skills, students will present current news items, identify problems posed by the news stories and discuss alternative solutions to resolve scenarios described. 

BB104SS: Emotional Regulation 
This course is designed to increase students’ self-determination. Students will develop skills for self-regulation, in order to assist in coping both independently and interdependently with new and challenging life situations. 

BB105SS: Social Skills Practicum II: Continuing Fitness 
This course assists students in maintaining healthy physical well-being through the completion of Yoga with a Twist, while establishing an appropriate understanding of the college social environment with their like-aged peers. 

 

BB106SS: Project-Based Community Service

Students in this course work together with members of Incubator 143, a group who aims to “incubate” positive change for children’s development. Students can choose service projects of interest, which they will assist the incubators in carrying out. These projects may include the following components: technology, music, or art. 

BB201SS: Introduction to Self-Advocacy 
This course assists students in the development of self-awareness regarding their skills and needs to make a successful transition from school to adulthood. Students gain understanding of their exceptionalities, rights, and how to present themselves responsibly, as well as learn how to assertively advocate their needs. 

BB202SS: Social Skills Practicum III: Participating in Fitness Activities 
The purpose of this course is to educate students about concepts, techniques, safety precautions, and equipment needed to maintain a healthy life-style. Implementing skills developed in BB102SS and BB104SS, students select from yoga, weight lifting, or swimming, with all three courses incorporating participation with their non-disabled, undergraduate peers. 

BB203SS: Community Relations 
This course assists students in developing relationships and life-skills needed to navigate safely and properly through the community with working professionals on an everyday basis. Strengthening concepts developed in BB101SS, students learn how to communicate properly with professionals (i.e. interacting with a medical professional), as well as being a responsible member of society. 

BB204SS: Social Skills Practicum III: Participating in Fitness Activities 
The purpose of this course is to continue to educate students about concepts, techniques, safety precautions, and equipment needed to maintain a healthy life-style. Building off of what students learned in BB202SS, students select from yoga, weight lifting, or swimming, with all three courses having them participate with their non-disabled undergraduate peers. 

BB302SS: Human Sexuality 
In this course, students will learn how to address one’s sexuality in a healthy and safe way. Students use concepts developed in BB101SS to strengthen skills in relationship building. Students advance their skills learned in BB103SS to develop strategies and skills that will help them learn self-management skills. The goal of this course is for students to use the accumulation of skills to build healthy, intimate relationships. 

BB101IL: Introduction to Independent Living 
The focus of this course is on the skills related to living independently, as well as in group or family settings. Exploration of topics, including etiquette, personal hygiene, conflict resolution, personal safety and healthy decision-making, provide opportunities for students to develop and practice skills needed to transition from living at home to living in other settings. 

BB102IL: Introduction to the Contemporary Kitchen 
This course will familiarize students with the contemporary kitchen. Students will develop their food and kitchen vocabulary, as well as learn the cooking process, including ingredient preparation, cooking, and clean-up procedures. Students begin with no-cook meal preparation and simple meals, progressing to more complex entrees, nutrition and safety procedures. 

BB103IL: Personal Health & Hygiene 
This course directs students in the development of a healthy lifestyle, including but not limited to, proper nutritional choices, exercise, grooming and hygiene, as well as maintaining healthy living conditions. 

BB104IL: Kitchen II: Rangetop Recipes 
Building on principles mastered in BB102IL, this course teaches students to independently utilize a stovetop for cooking basic meals. Throughout the course, students work in small groups and independently to prepare course-selected recipes, while also focusing on kitchen safety, proper measurement techniques, and cooking vocabulary. Students compile these recipes into a book for future reference and use in their adult lives. 

BB201IL: First Aid and Community Safety 
The purpose of this course is to help students identify and eliminate potential hazardous conditions in their environment, recognize emergencies and make appropriate decisions for first aid care. The course will teach skills that participants need to know in order to provide immediate care to themselves or someone close to them until more advanced care arrives. This course will also address safety and first aid in the community as it relates to the students and their specific needs. 

BB202IL: Appliance-Based Cooking 
This course assists students in learning and familiarizing themselves with new cooking skills, while using concepts developed from BB102IL and BB104IL. Students continue building their food and kitchen vocabulary, as well as the correct preparation, cooking, and cleanup procedures. Students develop correct and safe use of different appliances in the kitchen, including (but not limited to): microwave, toaster, toaster oven, blender, mixer, crockpot, and oven. 

BB204IL: Household Management 
In this course, the students focus on skills needed to maintain a healthy and clean residential living space. Building off of their skills learned in BB101IL, students strengthen their cleaning and sanitation skills, while also developing household organization skills. Students also discuss concepts of living with others in regard to privacy/personal property, as well as other concepts needed for successful independent living. 

BB205IL: Oven-based Cooking 
Building on topics previously discussed in BB202IL, students take a deeper look in safe and proper use of oven-based cooking. Students use their skills gained in BB102IL and BB104IL and strengthen them by implementing these concepts into recipes centered on oven cooking. Students continue to build their recipe portfolios that began in BB102IL, as they develop skills needed to safely live on their own, while gaining the ability to cook for themselves. 

BB301IL: Consumer Nutrition 
This course aids students in their attempt to become healthy independent individuals. Students not only take a look into how nutrition is an important part of life, but the importance of routinely grocery shopping that is needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Students develop concepts needed to shop in a grocery store on a budget, while maintaining healthy choices. 

BB302IL: Transportation & Safety 
The purpose of this course is to introduce the importance of public transportation and how to use it in the proper and safest way possible. Students learn concepts to include the safe way to use a public bus, taxi, metro, subway, etc. Students strengthen safety concepts to use in public areas to keep themselves and others safe. 

BB303IL: Balanced Meal Preparation
Students will demonstrate their knowledge and ability of safety awareness in the kitchen, preparation of no-cook, rangetop, microwave, and oven-based recipes and meals, while increasing awareness of the effects on healthy eating habits across the lifespan. After exhibiting the ability to plan daily and weekly well-balanced meals, students will independently be responsible for preparing simple, yet delicious home-cooked meals. 

BB101VT: Employment Skills 
This course is designed to prepare Bearcat BEST students for vocational training field placements. This course will equip students with the necessary skills to obtain and maintain employment as well as to solve and troubleshoot common workplace situations they may encounter in their professional lives. Students will explore areas of vocational interest. 

BB103VT: Vocational Skills II 
This course prepares students for common workplace scenarios, including but not limited to workplace safety, social etiquette, professionalism, and time management skills. Students are encouraged vocalize their strengths, weaknesses, and concerns associated with their on-campus work placements, through BB104VT. 

BB104VT: Employment Skills Practicum 
This course places Bearcat B.E.S.T. students in on-campus work placements several days throughout the academic week. They are expected to report and perform as any professional in a typical workplace environment would. Throughout this experience, students have the support of job coaches who will provide assistance and mentoring as needed. Additionally, students begin to compile a professional portfolio, documenting key learning skills in order to assist them in obtaining future permanent employment. 

BB201VT: Vocational Skills III 
This course extends students’ exploration of workplace scenarios, including but not limited to workplace safety, social etiquette, professionalism, and time management skills. Students are encouraged to vocalize their strengths, weaknesses, and concerns associated with their on-campus work placements, through BB203VT. 

BB202VT: Basic Computer Applications 
This course introduces word processing, spreadsheet, database and presentation skills instruction using Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint to create, edit, format and store documents, worksheets, databases and presentations. 

BB203VT: Employment Skills Internship I 
This course expands the Bearcat B.E.S.T. students’ on-campus competitive employment placements to 3 mornings per week for a total of 9 hours per week. Throughout this experience, students have the support of peer job coaches who provide assistance and mentoring as needed, applying the skills developed in BB101VT, BB102 VT and BB201VT to troubleshoot common situations and issues arising in the workplace. Additionally, students continue to compile the professional portfolio they began in BB104VT, documenting key learning skills in order to assist them in obtaining future permanent employment. 

BB:204VT: Vocational Skills IV 
This course extends students’ exploration of workplace scenarios, including but not limited to workplace safety, social etiquette, professionalism, and time management skills. Students are encouraged vocalize their strengths, weaknesses, and concerns associated with their on-campus work placements through BB206VT. 

BB205VT: Computer Applications in the Workplace 
This course builds on concepts and skills gained in BB202VT to provide additional word processing, spreadsheet, database and presentation skills instruction using Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint to create, edit, format and store documents, worksheets, databases and presentations. Additionally students create a web-based template for presenting their professional portfolios. 

BB206VT: Employment Skills Internship II 
This course continues the Bearcat B.E.S.T. students’ on-campus competitive employment placements 3 mornings per week for a total of 9 hours per week. Throughout this experience, students have the support of peer job coaches who provide assistance and mentoring as needed, applying the skills developed in BB101VT, BB102 VT and BB201VT to troubleshoot common situations and issues arising in the workplace. Additionally, students continue to compile the professional portfolio they began in BB104VT and BB203VT, documenting key learning skills in order to assist them in obtaining future permanent employment. 

BB301VT: Employment Externship I
In this course, students are placed in integrated, off-campus employment placements 3 full days per week for a total of 15-18 hours total. Throughout this experience, students have the support of peer job coaches who provide assistance and mentoring as needed, applying the skills developed in BB101VT, BB102 VT, BB201VT and BB204 VT to troubleshoot common situations and issues arising in the workplace. Additionally, students continue to compile the professional portfolio they began in BB104VT and BB203VT and 204VT, documenting key learning skills in order to assist them in obtaining future permanent employment. 

BB302VT: Vocational Seminar I 
In Vocational Seminar I, students explore the issues that arise in their experiences in their Employment Externship I placements. Application of problem-solving skills is emphasized as students develop a digital version of their employment portfolio. 

BB303VT: Employment Externship II
Students continue integrated, off-campus employment placements 3 full days per week for a total of 15-18 hours total. Throughout this experience, students have the support of peer job coaches who provide assistance and mentoring as needed, applying the skills developed in BB101VT, BB102 VT, BB201VT and BB204 VT to troubleshoot common situations and issues arising in the workplace. Additionally, students continue to compile the professional portfolio they began in BB104VT and BB203VT, 204VT andBB301VT, documenting key learning skills in order to assist them in obtaining future permanent employment. 

BB304VT: Vocational Seminar II In Vocational Seminar II, students continue to explore the issues that arise in their experiences in their Employment Externship I placements. Application of problem-solving skills is emphasized as students develop a web-based version of their employment portfolio and apply for jobs as they exit the Bearcat B.E.S.T. program. 

Admissionadmission

Bearcat BEST AdmissionIn order to be eligible for admission, applicants must:

  • be 18 years of age or turn 18 years of age before the end of the first semester of enrollment;
  • be diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability;
  • be eligible to receive special education services in their home districts;
  • be able to independently manage and self-administer medications, if prescribed;
  • be able to successfully complete an admission interview and screening assessment.

Applications must be submitted by the student’s sponsoring school district, unless the student’s family is privately paying the tuition.

Pre-Admission Waitlist
Applications may be submitted prior to the student’s 18th year of age, however, the student must be at least 16 at the time of application submission. Such early applications will be pre-screened for eligibility and eligible early applications will be waitlisted for the year of enrollment. The application will need to be updated during February of the calendar year in which the student hopes to enroll. The purpose of early applications is solely to secure a position on the program’s wait list, and in no way guarantees the student’s ultimate admission to the program.

In order to ensure an optimal, personalized experience, program enrollment is limited to 15 students. 

Meet the Staffmeet-the-staff

Leann Downs, Teacher 

Leann DownsMrs. Downs graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in psychology and a Children’s Literature Certificate in 2006, and received her teaching certification from Saint Vincent College in 2006. Since then, she has worked as an instructional aide for students who needed additional supports and taught in an inclusive classroom in the Norwin School District. After receiving her master’s degree in Special Education from Saint Vincent College, Mrs. Downs was the lead Autistic Support teacher at NHS Autism School in Ellsworth. 

Mrs. Downs enjoys biking and traveling in her spare time, as well assisting her husband in horticulture and marketing at his greenhouse. 

“As a graduate student at St. Vincent College, my professors stressed the need for transitional programming once students leave high school. Once I began teaching at the NHS School after graduation, I became aware firsthand of the lack of transitional programming available to students and realized the need for the creation of post-secondary programs for students with disabilities. I feel greatly honored to be chosen as an integral part of the new Bearcat B.E.S.T. program and greatly look forward to positively impacting each of my students' lives!”   


Philip Pisone, Teacher 

Philip PisoneMr. Pisone graduated from Slippery Rock University with a degree in Elementary Education in 2011. He has most recently worked at Clelian Heights School for Exceptional Children as a Personal Care Aide for students with special needs. He also worked for Community Living Care to help individuals make advances in social, safety, and daily living skills. He has also been the Assistant Coach for the Westmoreland County Special Olympics Basketball Team and has volunteered at Special Olympics Track and Field since September of 2013. He received his master’s degree in Special Education from Seton Hill University in 2015. 

Mr. Pisone greatly enjoys both playing and watching sports and participates in fantasy football, basketball, and baseball. 

“Becoming a teacher is a career path that I have been working towards for most of my life. Within the past years, however, my passion for working with individuals with mental and physical disabilities has truly grown. Helping every individual in this program become a productive and valued member of society is a goal that I will be working towards. It is a true honor to be an initial member and pioneer of this program, and I look forward to being a part of the growth and success of every student in the Bearcat B.E.S.T. program.”  

 


Amy Hildebrand, Classroom Aide

Amy HildebrandMrs. Hildebrand graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Elementary Education. She holds a certificate in Gifted Education and English as a Second Language. She has 22 years of experience in the classroom. She has been a classroom aide at Greater Latrobe School District, Learning Support grades 10-12, a teacher on the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit grades K-12 at Latrobe Hospital and a Math Specialist for grades K-8 with Catapult Learning. 

Mrs. Hildbrand enjoys competitive swimming and has both competed and coached swimmers. “Chlorine is my perfume!” 

“I try to teach students a subject in a way that they may not have heard before with the hope that it sticks with them and they remember it long after they have left me.”  


Rev. Dr. Philip Kanfush, O.S.B., Executive Director 

Philip KanfushDr. Philip M. Kanfush is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the Doctoral Level and a licensed Behavior Specialist in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Additionally, Dr. Kanfush is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist. He holds current Instructional II teaching certifications in the Commonwealth in the 10 areas of Early Childhood Education (pre-K to 3), Elementary Education (K – 6), Middle Grade areas of English, Math, and Science (7 – 9), Comprehensive Social Studies (7 – 12), Business, Computer, Information & Technology Education (K – 12), Special Education (pre-K – 12), Reading Specialist (K – 12), and as a Program Specialist in English as a Second Language (K – 12). Dr. Kanfush earned Bachelor of Arts degrees at both the University of Pittsburgh and Saint Vincent College, and the Master of Business Administration and Master of Education in Special Education degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. Additionally he completed post-graduate studies in Applied Behavior Analysis at the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Kanfush completed the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts degrees at Saint Vincent Seminary and earned his Doctorate in Education in Special Education at the West Virginia University. Dr. Kanfush is the Executive Director of the Bearcat B.E.S.T. Program at Saint Vincent College, and holds the rank of associate professor. He currently teaches undergraduate courses in reading instruction, multiple and severe disabilities, behavior and autism, and statistics and research design, and graduate level courses in inclusionary education, the assessment and instruction of students with multiple and severe disabilities, the assessment and instruction of students with severe emotional disabilities, and statistics and research design. His research interests include literacy instruction for struggling readers and students with intellectual disabilities, life skills instruction for individuals with significant and multiple disabilities, and the treatment of behavioral disorders, as well as teacher development. 

Frequently Asked Questionsfrequently-asked-questions
  • Will I have any out of pocket expenses or will the school district cover everything for my child to attend?

    Funding for the Bearcat B.E.S.T. program is a matter between families and their individual school districts. Consequently, families should contact the Director of Special Education at their home school district to discuss the district’s policies regarding sponsorship and funding. There may be some expenses students are expected to pay.

  • How long will the enrollment process take?

    Students and their families begin the application process by contacting the Director of Special Education in their home school district. Depending on the district’s procedures, policies, and timeframes, the application process may take several weeks. Information about student eligibility requirements can be found on the Admission page.

  • What will be needed for my child to attend the program?

    For some vocational practicum placements, specialized clothing, footwear or uniforms may be required. The Bearcat B.E.S.T. program does not provide these items, which are the responsibility of the student and/or, depending on its policies, the sponsoring school district.

  • What are the hours for the school day?

    The instructional day begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m.

  • Will my child follow the College’s academic calendar or his home school district’s calendar?

    The Bearcat B.E.S.T. program follows the calendar of the Greater Latrobe School District. More information about the Greater Latrobe School District’s calendar can be found under the District Info tab on the Greater Latrobe School District’s website at www.glsd.us

  • Will my child's IEP follow him or will another be created to match the skills that I think my child still needs to learn?

    Each student’s Individual Education Plan represents a careful collaboration between Bearcat B.E.S.T. staff, the student and his/her parents, and the sponsoring school district. In most cases, a new IEP, reflecting the student’s participation in the Bearcat B.E.S.T. program will need to be developed.

  • Where will my child eat lunch and what are the costs associated with meals?

    Saint Vincent College students have the option of eating in the College’s main cafeteria, the Community Center, or the student snack bar, called the Shack. For the 2014-15 academic year, students pay between $6.25 and $7.00 per day for lunch depending on their choices.

  • What activities will be available for my child to participate in that will permit inclusion into the campus community?

    Bearcat B.E.S.T. students have access to the Latimer Family Library, the College’s Fitness Center, Swimming Pool, as well as Sporting and Arts events and the opportunity to participate in clubs, intramurals and other student activities. All students at Saint Vincent College pay a Student Activity Fee that provides access to these activities. For the 2014-15 school year, the fee is $250.

  • How often will I receive a report on my child's progress?

    Progress reports are issued on the time frame specified by the sponsoring school district, which typically is each 9 weeks.

  • If I have concerns about the progress my child is making, who would I contact?

    Questions and concerns about the Bearcat B.E.S.T. program and any individual student’s progress should be directed to Father Philip Kanfush, O.S.B., Executive Director of the program at philip.kanfush@stvincent.edu or by phone to 724-805-BEST (2378).

  • Will there be a nurse available should my child become ill or be injured?

    Staff of the College’s Wellness Center will treat Bearcat B.E.S.T. students in accordance with the College’s established treatment protocols. All students at Saint Vincent College pay a Health Services Fee. For the 2014-15 school year, the Health Services Fee is $180.

  • What kind of behavioral support plan is going to be utilized should my child need to have one implemented?

    Behavior support plans will be developed in consultation with families and sponsoring school districts as the need arises. The Bearcat B.E.S.T. program adheres to the principles of positive behavioral support. 

  • What is going to be the staff to student ratio?

    The staff to student ratio will vary depending based upon the involvement of College students and interns, but minimally is expected to be 4:10, at least 3 of which staff will be licensed Special Education teachers.

  • Will my child have the opportunity to participate in special activities such as art, music, gym?

    While Saint Vincent College does not currently offer physical education classes for its students, Bearcat B.E.S.T. students may, in consultation with their sponsoring school districts, be eligible to participate in studio arts and music classes with their typically developing peers.

  • Will speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy be available to my child while enrolled in the program?

    Related services, including speech therapy, physical therapy, etc., are not provided by the Bearcat B.E.S.T. program as a part of the student’s school day. If students require such services, school districts may provide them according to their policies. 

  • What are the conduct expectations for my student at Saint Vincent College?

    Saint Vincent College student rights and responsibilities and related policies are found in the Student Handbook, which can be accessed on the main SVC website by clicking here.