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Students Getting a Sweet Deal At Gateway Achievement Center

Former West Virginia University and Pittsburgh Steelers football player Wes Lyons, who founded the Pursuit program to help students succeed, helps Candice Paugh decorate cupcakes.

MOUNDSVILLE — With some instruction and encouragement from a former West Virginia University and Pittsburgh Steelers football player, students in Moundsville are developing new skills and putting them to good use.

A few students at Gateway Achievement Center spend part of their days about two to three times a week filling orders of cupcakes for Cakery Square, a Pittsburgh-area business formed in partnership with Wes Lyons, a former wide receiver and tight end for the Steelers and Mountaineers.

Candice Paugh, a freshman, said the time in the bakery was a good use of her time, and helped to keep her busy and out of trouble.

“It’s honestly a good thing, because it gives us things to do. If it weren’t for this bakery, I’d probably be getting in trouble every day,” Paugh said. “The people who say baking’s not a sport — I work up more of a sweat in the kitchen than I do anywhere.”

Paugh prefers the decorating aspect of the program, while classmate Donald Dayton, a junior, enjoys the preparation and baking.

“I accidentally put in 2 pounds of powdered sugar, instead of 2 ounces,” Paugh recounted of one of her less successful attempts.

“The feeling is just, ‘Wow, I made these ones better than the last ones,'” Dayton said.

Lyons started the Pursuit program, which eventually helped bring Cakery Square to the school. Lyons also does motivational speeches and works with students in the area for other programs.

“We work with students to help develop a sense of purpose, remain motivated, and give them life skills,” he said. “We started in Pittsburgh originally, and we saw the impact it was having, so we wanted to bring that here.”

Lyons said the bakery helps him connect with the students on a different level than he has in the past through his speaking to students.

“We can connect on a different level by getting direct to them, and letting themselves express themselves more. We can build a better relationship,” he said.

“It’s excellent, especially in this area that we’re working, because a lot of times, perspectives have been pushed on students to do something or that they can’t do certain things. I come in and try to break those perspectives, showing them that they can do anything. I’ve shown them success when they actually do it, and once they get in the habit of seeing success, they get motivated, and this could change their life forever.”

The Pursuit program and its offshoots, Lyons said, have been a two-way street for inspiration, as their success has inspired him in return.

“This is so inspiring for me, because this was just an idea. … To see it come to live and help the students is inspiring, not just here but at home. A lot of times, we do wonder if the students carry their work home, … so knowing that they’ve got something pushing them in that direction is very impactful on my life.”

Gateway principal Amy Trowbridge said Lyons comes to speak to students every Wednesday, while time in the bakery is usually after lunch. She said that Gateway, as the alternative school for Marshall County, is pleased to be able to offer unique opportunities for the students.

“We want to give students an alternative to a regular education. This gives them an opportunity that they may not have experienced somewhere else,” she said. “The baking aspect, but the production and distribution of a product, gives them an opportunity to set a goal, and to achieve that goal, and provides them with a skill they can use outside of the school setting.”

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