Shaler grad relishes role as Maker Program director at Millvale Library
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 | 12:01 AM
A Millvale Community Library program that teaches children to create is reaching out.
Maker Program director Roman Benty said his role is being expanded to work more closely with Millvale students in Shaler Area School District.
“(The goal) is to keep integrating with SASD and expand our teen programming,” said Benty, 25, a Shaler Area graduate who lives in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood.
Among projects last year were a sustainability storybook with fifth-graders and a 3D-printing workshop for ninth- to 12th-graders.
Shaler Area Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Darla Gerlach has worked with Benty the past two years and looks forward to working with him again.
“My students recognize him as a vital link from the classroom to their respective neighborhoods and after-school programs, as well as his involvement in educational youth events at the library,” Gerlach said.
Benty said Maker participants make anything and everything, including 3D-print models, sculptures and guitar picks. They write songs, make pottery and stop-motion animation videos, sew and embroider, upcycle and create water sculptures and filters.
“We basically try out any idea the kids or I have,” Benty said.
Gerlach said her students donated a bubble bucket to the library for Benty and Maker members to grow plants in.
Benty said 120 slots are available for summer camps. During the school year or in noncamp weeks, there are usually 10-15 kids in a workshop.
Close to 40 kids in the neighborhood rotate in and out. In noncamp weeks, the program holds workshops and has other smaller crafts just about every day.
Library executive director Susan McClellan is impressed by Benty’s ability to get children and teens excited about making.
“When kids get excited, they want to see other people get into it, too,” McClellan said. “I am truly inspired every day to see how Roman works with entities in our communities and the school district to work toward a common goal of educating our youth.
“He has a heart of gold and a true kindness to all.”
McClellan said she would like to see the program grow to include more programs for teens and the newest technology.
Benty started as a volunteer with the library as a high school student and remained involved with the organization throughout his college years. He took over as Maker Program director in fall 2017, after earning bachelor’s degrees in fiction writing and urban studies from Pitt.
“I was lucky to come into an excellent program developed by the previous Maker Program director, Nora Peters,” Benty said. “Since taking over, we’ve grown to include a music maker’s program once a week, where patrons of all ages can learn how to play guitar and also experiment with bass guitar and piano.
“We’ve also gotten way more involved with SASD.”
McClellan said the library has guitars and a ukulele that patrons can check out with a library card.
Shaler Area High School art teacher David Boyles taught Benty at Shaler and said Benty is spectacular at what he does.
“I can’t be more proud, more excited to work with him,” Boyles said.