About Us

Best of the Batch Foundation

Best of the Batch Foundation is a nonprofit organization devoted to improving the lives of children and families in distressed communities by building character, self-esteem, and appreciation for education. Currently serving southwestern Pennsylvania, Best of the Batch Foundation does good works, such as scholarships to college-bound students and a yearly back-to-school BatchPack book bag distribution to kids and teachers.  Best of the Batch also offers programming that couples sports with learning—such as the seven week summer basketball camp where participating boys and girls attend study halls where they read and discuss pre-selected books.

Founded by NFL quarterback Charlie Batch in 1999, Best of the Batch Foundation embodies Charlie's values of dedication, leadership, and trust.  Over the years, Charlie has leveraged his status as a Pittsburgh Steeler to attract and engage young people. Every program at Best of the Batch affirms the value of his personal motto--the 5 P's--in all aspects of life: proper preparation prevents poor performance. His passion is to unlock the potential of children and their families by providing resources to educate and empower them to give their best efforts in all they do...to be the best of the batch in life.

Mission Statement

Unlocking potential in communities to build the best future for kids and families by providing choices, motivation, and education.

Blueprint

To create communities where all kids and families are equipped with the tools they need to build their own best futures.

Team Batch

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Charlie Batch

Founder

Charlie Batch is an NFL quarterback, community advocate, author, media personality, entrepreneur and professional speaker who takes his “Expect Your Best” message to audiences across the country at Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit organizations, universities and more. Charlie motivates and inspires with his personal stories of loss, perseverance and victories on and off the field, and audiences leave his sessions excited about their own potential as he shares with them his 10 proven ways to start winning today.

Charlie’s NFL career spanned 15 years, 60 touchdowns and more than 11,000 passing yards. He was drafted in the second round as a starting quarterback by the Detroit Lions in 1998 from Eastern Michigan University, where he had set numerous school and MAC conference records. In 2002, he joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as back-up quarterback and was instrumental in critical game wins that led the team to Super Bowl XL and XLIII.

His leadership within the NFL extended far beyond the gridiron to include positions as the Vice President, Executive Committee for the NFL Players Association and NFL Spokesperson for the United Way. In retirement, he has continued to be a respected strategist in the NFL, providing game commentary for national sports outlets including CBS, FOX, NBC, ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, SiriusXM NFL Radio and Yahoo! Sports. Locally, he’s a frequent guest on Pittsburgh’s WDVE Morning Show and broadcasts WPIAL games in partnership with KDKA-TV Sports.

Today, Charlie continues to be active in all aspects of the game. At the same time, he has established himself as community advocate, philanthropist and public speaker. In 1999, he created the Best of the Batch Foundation, which gives Pittsburgh city kids a safe place to learn and grow. The Foundation includes a summer basketball league that teaches good sportsmanship and life skills; year-long reading and computer literacy programs; a Batchpacks for Kids school supply program, and much more.

In addition to his own foundation, Charlie serves on multiple boards including the Strong Women Strong Girls National Advisory Board, the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, among others. He is a National Speakers Association (NSA) professional speaker, and he has completed several NFL Business Management, Communications and Entrepreneurial programs through Harvard Business School, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, the University of Notre Dame and Bowling Green State University.

In 2014, Charlie received an honorary Degree of Doctor of Human Letters, Honoris Causa, Public Service, from La Roche College, and the year before, he was presented with an honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service from Washington & Jefferson College. In 2013, he was awarded the United Way of Allegheny County Outstanding Campaign Volunteer of the Year, the Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year Award, and the Baptist Ministries Conference Award “Hero in the Midst.”

Charlie’s football career began at the age of 7, when he first took to the field for the Steel Valley Midget Association. A graduate of Steel Valley High School and a native of Homestead, Pennsylvania, (a suburb of Pittsburgh), Charlie continues to reside there with his wife, Latasha, and their five dogs. Through his foundation, the Best of the Batch, as well as countless other community projects, he has become widely known as a service leader who gives back to his hometown. Visit Charlie's web site to download a copy of his bio.

Latasha Wilson Batch

Latasha Wilson-Batch

Executive Director

Latasha Wilson Batch, M.S., serves as the Executive Director of Best of the Batch Foundation. The role and the Foundation’s mission is her passion. The passion empowers Latasha to fulfill the vision of making the impossible, possible for countless area kids. The result is a community committed to becoming the “best of the batch” in life.

Latasha’s leadership has helped spearhead the growth of the Best of the Batch Foundation that reaches more than 3,300 boys and girls from financially challenged communities annually. Latasha’s direction has resulted in new and innovative educational and extracurricular activities which collectively encourage children to become engaged and active participants in their education and in after-school activities. She is a constant presence at “The Clubhouse” and the participants know that they can talk with her about anything. She has developed special programs for young girls and women with emphasis on education, sports and growing up. The most important component of these relationships is being present.

Wilson Batch has been honored by the Get Involved! Woman of the Year, Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania Woman of Distinction, National Association of Women Business Owners “Make the Connection Award,” Pittsburgh Courier Women of Excellence and is a recipient of the UPMC Center for Inclusion “Champion Award.” She serves on several boards, including Strong Women Strong Girls, Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, Women and Girls Foundation, Hill House Association, Off the Field Players’ Wives Association, and more.

Her reach has also been felt outside of the U.S. by traveling to Swaziland, South Africa with Beyond the Game for mission trips, where she “adopted” three children by visiting them frequently; paying for their schooling, food and clothing and contributing to the construction of an additional hut for the family.

Latasha fully believes that success comes from within and that one’s attitude determines how successful they will be. She encourages everybody to be somebody for someone.

Wilson Batch received a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A in Physical Education from Johnson C. Smith University and a M.S. in Human Development in Sports from the University of Tennessee. She recently completed her Master’s of Science in Professional Counseling at Carlow University and is now pursuing her Psy.D.

Latasha is the soul mate to Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback, Charlie Batch and together they have six four-legged fur babies: Roxie, Bunz, Snoop, Nate, Aysia, and Snickers

HER FAVORITE QUOTES THAT KEEP HER GOING:

"If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day." --E. B. White

"My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can." – Unknown

Ryan McConnell

Ryan McConnell

Director of Operations

Ryan McConnell is a life-long resident of Steel Valley, currently living in Munhall. As Director of Operations with Best of the Batch Foundation, Ryan fulfills his desire to help the families of the Steel Valley area.

Ryan’s family is the center of his life, anchored by his wife of 15 years Angie, daughter Kendall, and son Nolan. He also gives back to his community by serving as a board member for the Munhall Planning Commission, and as a volunteer coach. As a former football coach, wrestling coach, and current coach in the Steel Valley Baseball Association and Munhall Girls Softball Association, Ryan enjoys helping shape the minds and skills of today’s youth, much the same way he was taught growing up.

Early in 2014, Ryan traveled to La Victoire and Port-au-Prince, Haiti on a week-long mission trip. He, along with thirteen others, volunteered to begin the construction of a rapidly expanding church. Together they were able to lay the foundation to the church, while enjoying the fellowship of those around them, including the Haitian congregation. The trip fueled his desire to continue to help others with a possible return to Haiti in the spring of 2016 for the completion of the church.

He brings his passion and skill for mentoring to his work at the Foundation as well, and never hesitates to take time from his day to talk to kids about what’s going on in their lives.

Kelsey Thompson

Kelsey Thompson

Program Manager

Kelsey, originally from Honey Brook, PA, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016, where she earned a degree in Administration of Justice with a concentration in Adult and Juvenile Corrections and a minor in Political Science with a concentration in American Politics. While at Pitt, Kelsey worked through the health center as a peer educator, presenting to campus groups on the prevalence of on campus sexual assault and what it means to be a positive bystander in dangerous situations. As a student, she also served as a Programming and Services intern for the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit 3ENow, where she assisted in the development of after school programming to educate young students on maintaining healthy relationships.

Following graduation, Kelsey began a fellowship year with Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE). She was placed at Best of the Batch Foundation for her 11 months of service as part of the Foundation’s Development Team. During her time as a fellow, Kelsey assisted in after-school activities, mentoring, grant writing, data collection, maintenance of Foundation social media platforms, and day-to-day operations.

Kelsey now serves as the Program Manager at Best of the Batch Foundation. As the Program Manager, Kelsey coordinates educational out-of-school-time programming for students, including Girl Talk, STEAM Club, FIRST Lego Robotics Team, tutoring, and ongoing personalized educational enrichment. Additionally, Kelsey coordinates other Foundation programs and events, such as BatchPacks, In the Pocket, Batch-A-Toys, Project C.H.U.C.K., and Day of Caring. Kelsey assists in grant writing and data collection and evaluation. Kelsey’s favorite part of her job is the mentoring relationships she is able to build with the kids that make her smile every day.

In Spring 2018, Kelsey was a member of the pilot group and completed the Simple Interactions Leadership Institute through APOST and the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. The 6-week intensive course focused on identifying ways to increase developmental interactions with youth in out-of-school-time settings to positively support the social and emotional well-being of youth served.

RyKai Wright

RyKai Wright

Volunteer Coordinator

RyKai Wright serves as our STEAM and Volunteer Coordinator for the Batch Foundation, who specializes in 3D printing. As the STEAM Coordinator, she assists with creating hands-on, quality STEAM programming for middle school participants, and develops curriculum materials and learning activities to increase their academic skills.

As the Volunteer Coordinator, she coordinates over 1,000 plus volunteers annually, and she creates, distributes, and analyzes survey data. She also assists with grant writing and serves as the liaison for our scholarship committee. RyKai works on programs and events such as, Day of Caring, Project C.H.U.C.K., BatchPacks, In The Pocket and Batch A Toys.

RyKai graduated from the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in May 2017 with two Associate of Science degrees in Engineering Technology and Mathematics & Sciences with plans on transferring to a four-year institution to achieve a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. While attending CCAC she served as Co-President of Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society (Alpha Iota Eta), and as an Ambassador for the Honors Program, and the CCAC Student Ambassador Program.

Additionally, RyKai had been selected as one of six students nationwide as an Achieving the Dream 2017 DREAM Scholar. Where she had the opportunity to participate in a unique learning and professional development experience, culminating at the ATD annual DREAM conference on student success in San Francisco, CA in February 2017.

Board Members

Yasmin Shaheed

Yasmin Shaheed

Chief Administrative Officer

Yasmin Shaheed’s professional expertise in the areas of management and technical support to the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) has been a significant catalyst for the Housing Authority in gaining recognition as a leader in the housing industry. The HACP serves over 20,000 residents within the City of Pittsburgh.

Ms. Shaheed possesses an impressive track record of hands-on experience in strategic planning, business development, project management, and effective system directive strategies. She has demonstrated the proven ability to successfully analyze the organization's critical business requirements, identify deficiencies and potential opportunities, and develop innovative and costeffective solutions for enhancing competitiveness while increasing and improving customer service offerings.

A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Ms. Shaheed is a former elementary education teacher in the Pittsburgh School System. She holds several certifications that include Public Housing Manager, Housing Choice Voucher Specialist, Public Housing Management, Rent Calculation Specialist and Fair Housing & Reasonable Accommodation Specialist. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Carlow University with an MBA in Business Administration on May 14, 2016.

Recognizing the value of community service, Ms. Shaheed is a contributing board member for Family Services of Western Pennsylvania and the Best of the Batch Foundation. As an active volunteer, notable community activities include: the United Way, Goodwill, Employee Recreation Activities Committee (ERAC) - Committee Chairperson, Best of the Batch Foundation – “In the Pocket” and Project C.H.U.C.K. where she has coached basketball for 11 – 15 year old boys for the past eight (8) years. Ms. Shaheed sat on the Board for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executive (NOBLE) for their Annual National Conference. Ms. Shaheed understands the importance of children understanding that teamwork, dedication, discipline, and self- worth are important qualities in achieving success in life. Ms. Shaheed is passionate about touching lives for the better and making a difference anyway that she can.

Ms. Shaheed enjoys traveling, exercising, watching movies and spending time with family and friends. Ms. Shaheed is a 2016 awardee for the Pittsburgh Courier FAB 40 and recognized as the Young Leader from the YWCA.

Sandy Cochran Fritz

Sandy Cochran Fritz

Board Member

Sandy Fritz (BS health sciences, MS organizational leadership, licensed massage therapist Mi. NCTMB) is the Owner, Director, and Head Educator of the Health Enrichment Center in Lapeer, MI, and is dedicated to achieving excellence in massage practice. In massage practice for over 30 years and actively involved in the global advancement of massage therapy, Sandy is also passionate about training the next generation of quality instructors and leaders. An educator for many years, she designs classes with innovative concepts and teaching strategies. She maintains an active massage practice with individual professional football players, basketball players and others. Sandy is the author of the textbooks Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage, Essential Sciences of Therapeutic Massage and many other textbooks published by Elsevier.

Sandy is also a founding member of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education and a school member of both the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals and American Massage Therapy Association.

She has served as speaker for the World Massage Conference and as the keynote speaker for Education Destinations, Managing Chronic Conditions, Sports Based Massage, ABMP Converence, AMTA Converence and Michicgan Home Health Association.

In 2008, Sandy was inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame and has appeared in Massage Magazine twice: on the cover in 1996 and as the "January Star of the Century" in January 2000. She is also the author of the leading textbook line for therapeutic massage published by Mosby, An Affiliate of Elsevier.

Tamara Tunie

Tamara Tunie

Board Member

Tamara Tunie is in her 13th season as Medical Examiner Dr. Melinda Warner in Wolf Films/Universal Media Studio's top-rated series "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Ms. Tunie has had other memorable roles on television, most notably as the longstanding character Jessica Griffin on the CBS Daytime Drama "As The World Turns," for which she received two NAACP Image Award nominations and two Soap Opera Digest award nominations. She also appeared in the highly visible role of Alberta Green in season one of the hit series "24" (when she worked on three series simultaneously), as well as guest appearances on "Law and Order," "Sex and the City," and "NYPD Blue."

She went behind the camera, producing and directing her first feature film entitled "See You In September," starring Justin Kirk and Estella Warren. Shooting on the streets of New York City, the film surrounds a woman who forms a support group for abandoned patients when all their therapists go on vacation in August.

Ms. Tunie was recently seen onstage at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, in Tracy Thorne's new play “We Are Here”. She starred on Broadway with Denzel Washington in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," (the play's first Broadway staging in over 50 years), and received rave reviews for her turn in the lead role of Madame de Merteuil in "Les Liaisons Dangereuse" at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. She starred in "Fences" in "August Wilson's 20th Century Cycle" at the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. She also starred in "All's Well That Ends Well" at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, playing three roles, while producing the musical "Frog Kiss," part of the New York Musical Theater Festival, simultaneously.

Ms. Tunie’s first “role” as Broadway producer, was on the team responsible for the Tony Award-winning musical "Spring Awakening." She also produced August Wilson's Tony Award nominated "Radio Golf" and “Magic/Bird.”

She has shared the Broadway stage with the legendary Lena Horne in the Broadway musical "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music," and starred in David Merrick's revival of "Oh Kay!" with Brian Stokes Mitchell. Ms. Tunie toured Europe with "Bubblin' Brown Sugar," and portrayed Helen of Troy in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of "Troilus and Cressida" in Central Park. In addition, Tunie played Maggie in the first all African American production of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" at Theatre Virginia in Richmond. After September 11th, she co-starred with many veterans of Broadway, including Audra Mc Donald and Lillias White, in the 20th anniversary benefit concert of "Dreamgirls."

In film, Tunie has worked with some of the most respected directors of the screen, including Robert Zemekis, Taylor Hackford, Brian De Palma, Mimi Leder, Harold Becker and Oliver Stone. She had the unique opportunity to work with the legendary Al Pacino twice; she portrayed the possessed wife of a partner in his law firm in the hit film "The Devil's Advocate," and his press secretary in "City Hall." She also worked with famed director Kasi Lemmons and Samuel L. Jackson on both "Eve's Bayou" and "The Caveman's Valentine."

Ms. Tunie is the National Spokesperson for the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths in Washington, DC, a Coalition of five national organizations that came together to elevate attention and increase actions to prevent the more than 2,500 child abuse deaths each year in the United States.

She is Chair Emerita of the Board of Directors of Figure Skating in Harlem, a non-profit organization that supports academic excellence and teaches life skills to young girls in the Harlem community through the art and discipline of figure skating. She is Chairperson of the Board of Directors at Harlem Stage/The Gatehouse, and serves on the Board of God's Love We Deliver. She also serves on the Advisory Board of Hearts of Gold, NYMF, and Landing Strip Films.

In 2005, Mayor Bloomberg awarded Tunie the "Made in New York Award" from the City of New York for her support and commitment to Film, Television and Theater in Manhattan.

Ms. Tunie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from Carnegie-Mellon University. She resides in Harlem with her husband, Jazz Vocalist, Gregory Generet.

Candi Castleberry Singleton

Candi Castleberry-Singleton

Board Member

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Robin L. Gostic, CPA

Board Member

Robin Gostic was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania and is a Graduate of California University of Pennsylvania. She has been practicing in public accounting for over 16 years. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and Pennsylvania Institute of Public Accountants (PICPA). She is a Girl Scout Leader and Volunteer since 2011. Robin also serves on the Board as the Service Unit Finance Manager for the GSWPA Firefly Service Unit.

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Christopher Smith, Sr.

Board Member

Christopher Smith Sr. is a son, brother, uncle, friend, mentor and husband; but considers his most important job as being a Father. Like his parents; the late Herbert Sr. and Yvonne Smith, he was born and raised in Homestead, Pennsylvania, alongside four brothers and one sister and is blessed to have had a two parent home. He attended the Homestead Public School district, now Steel Valley School district. His family attended Sunday school and Church service every Sunday at Park Place A.M.E. Church in Homestead, Pennsylvania, where he is currently an active worshipper.

After graduating from Homestead High School, Chris joined the U.S. Army Reserves and successfully completed basic training and AIT at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri. Upon completion of his training, he returned home and enrolled at the local Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) receiving a Certificate in Black and White Photography. In 1996, he graduated from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh with honors and received a Diploma in Desktop Publishing and Computer Art.

In 1986, he proudly accepted a job at WRS, Incorporation, a motion picture and video laboratory where he met his wife, Bonnie Rae Poole. They married in 1992 and have four amazing children: Jasmine, Christopher Jr., Miles and Kennedy Smith. Jasmine, their oldest child and only daughter, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth. Jasmine is currently a resident at McGuire Memorial, located in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. One of the most difficult decisions he and his wife have ever had to make was entrusting McGuire Memorial with their daughter’s wellbeing. He sincerely respects and praises the staff for their dedication and commitment they provide to the residents of McGuire Memorial.

After leaving WRS Incorporation, Chris accepted a position with the Methodist United Social Agency (MUSA) as a Youth Program Coordinator; his role was to educate, tutor and mentor the local youth on how to become outstanding role models for their community. In addition, he worked as a Case Assistant for Auberle Foster Care Agency in the evenings. During his tenure at MUSA and Auberle, he attended various educational classes and trainings receiving numerous Certificates.

Presently Chris is employed with the Borough of Homestead Public Works Department. He hopes through his hard work and dedication to his family and community that he instills a foundation for his children as his father instilled in him. He strives to keep the Borough of Homestead clean and beautiful for the residents and visitors.

Volunteer Work
Salvation Army, Homestead Pennsylvania
1982-1988 - Served as the Basketball Coach, supervised the gym and game room, and assisted in organized summer basketball camps.
Steel Valley Midget Organization, Homestead, Pennsylvania
Active - Assistant Football Coach / Camp Roughhouse volunteer
Project Chuck Best of Batch Organization, Homestead, Pennsylvania
Active - Basketball Coach/Instructor

Mary Lou McConnell

Mary Lou McConnell

Board Member

Mary Lou is a recently retired Para-professional. She was employed at Franklin Primary, Steel Valley School District for twelve years. In her twelve years there, she became a certified Para-professional through classes offered through the PSEA and AIU. She focused her years in education on kindergarten children, through the Title I Program, working with the basic and below basic students. Her passion involved working with children ranging from average to gifted to physically disabled. During that time she was also a bus monitor and lunch room monitor for the children. She retired in January of 2012 to focus more on the needs of her family.

She has spent her working years from the age of sixteen in service oriented jobs ranging from a pediatrician assistant, pizza maker, switchboard operator, to lead banquet waitress for the Radisson Hotel. She was a volunteer youth director for Anne Ashley UMC in Munhall for five years.

Mary Lou has been married for 48 years. She is the mother of four, grandmother of eight, and great-grandmother of one. Mary Lou’s passion for youth has been filling her time since retirement, volunteering at Anne Ashley UMC, Franklin Primary, and Best of the Batch Foundation.

In Memorium:

Bill Campbell

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Best of the Batch Foundation lost our amazing and dedicated Board Chair, Bill Campbell.  The Steel Valley community lost a legend.  I lost not only a great mentor, but most of all, my friend.  My heart is heavy.  We will continue to do our part to make sure his legacy lives on.   ~ Charlie Batch

We are saddened by the passing of our Board Chair, Bill Campbell.  We send our condolences to the Campbell family and to the friends he made wherever he went.  Bill was invested in our community with his time, amazing talents and treasures.  You can see his name on schools, athletic facilities and even our Campbell Cyber Center.  We thank him for all he has done to support Steel Valley youth in becoming the Best of the Batch.  ~ Latasha Wilson Batch