Friday, December 8

Friends and family grieve the loss of two teens killed at North Side house party

The steady all-day rain on Monday could have been representative of the tears being shed at the loss of Mathew Steffy-Ross and Jaiden Brown.

The two 17-year-olds died on Easter Sunday after a shooting at a party in a rented house on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

People mourned the teens as further details about the shooting emerged Monday.

About 200 people were inside the home, rented as an Airbnb, when the shooting started, witnesses and police said.

Steffy-Ross, of Pitcairn, had recently transferred to the East Liberty location of Phase 4 Learning Center, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that operates schools for at-risk and disadvantaged youth.

Steffy-Ross was a “kind and a very respectful and considerate young man who said he was looking forward to his future,” said Phase 4’s founder Terrie Suica-Reed. “He loved music.”

Grief counseling was made available for students, she said. There needs to be an intervention to stop this from happening again, she said.

Woodland Hills High School, where Jaiden Brown attended will have counselors available on Tuesday when the students return from Easter break. Interim Superintendent Daniel Castagna sent a message via email to students and families.

“First, let us please extend our deepest sympathy to the family impacted by this senseless violence,” Castagna said. “We all, as educators and parents, feel the pain of this unimaginable grief.”

Castagna said in light of the tragic events of this weekend, the district will be “fully prepared and committed to supporting all students and families.”

Suica-Reed echoed those sentiments.

“Tragically, both Mathew’s and Jaiden’s life were unfairly cut short by another senseless act of violence,” Suica-Reed said. “Life is not a video game. Guns in the wrong hands can end a life. We as a society must do more to intervene to stop these shootings. Too many lives are lost and we all feel the impact from the loss of so many of our young people. We have to do better.”


Suica-Reed has been communicating with Steffy-Rose’s father.

“I spoke to Mathew’s father and offered my condolences and any support he needs,” Suica-Reed said. “He and his family are just trying to wrap their heads around what happened. They are devastated.”

Prior to coming to Phase 4, Steffy-Ross had been enrolled at Grace Non-Traditional Christian Academy as of the end of March, according to Sonya Meadows, senior director of strategic communication & enrollment for Propel Schools said via email.

Like Woodland Hills, Propel Schools are also on spring break. The staff returns Tuesday and the students on Wednesday. There will be grief counseling available to everyone to help with the loss of Steffy-Ross, who was also a former student at Propel Braddock Hills High School , Meadows said.

“There is no question that events like what happened this weekend can affect people deeply,” Meadows said.

Jack Bova, Gateway school board president who lives in Pitcairn, said via email that he is devastated by the loss of yet another young life.

“We are sad and furious as everyone else about our inability to keep these young people safe,” Bova said.

Woodland Hills will coordinate in-house social workers and guidance counselors with outside services from Turtle Creek Valley, the Neighborhood Resilience Program and CURE Violence, Castagna said.

“Students will be able to access services all day on Tuesday and Wednesday and we will continue to assess additional need and provide supports to students as long as necessary,” Castagna said.

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Social workers will be in direct contact with families that have been affected by the violence and offer family supports which includes academic and attendance supports will also be provided to impacted students, Castagna said.

He suggested his staff be vigilant and present through this week and to “practice patience through this difficult time.” It is their role to be an example for students and families.

“Violence impacts students at all levels and in every building so tomorrow, more then ever, they need us!!!” Castagna said. “I have full faith in our team and am confident no other staff is better equipped to handle such a heavy burden.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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