The Buddy System: Woman’s main motivation now being a buddy
She covered presidents, superstars, plane crashes, floods, blizzards, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, a potential environmental crisis and even hit the beach with the Marines on a 3 a.m. training exercise.
Yet, award-winning television journalist and writer-producer Susan Brozek Scott found her most challenging assignment was one she gave herself three years ago.
That’s when the Pittsburgh native decided after 28 years to take “a strong, genuine leap of faith” and leave it all behind.
Having worked on the air and behind the scenes at five stations spanning four states, including WTAE and WPXI, she was ready to answer the call of her entrepreneurial spirit.
It would have been a potentially life-altering move at any time, let alone voluntarily stepping away from a well-paying job in the midst of a recession. And she had to rely on her own financial resources.
Brozek Scott founded and is president and CEO of Afterschool Buddy Inc., a Pittsburgh-based, globally reaching, children’s multi-media production company. It produces educational and entertainment programming for television, videos, the Internet and live productions and assemblies. The goal is to teach youngsters about health and wellness, diversity, self-esteem, environmental awareness and other subjects. Its motto: “Educate, Entertain, Explore, Excite.”
She leads Afterschool Buddy’s Rainbow Kids, a performance troupe for ages 7 to 15 whose members belong to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania, and represent more than 20 schools in the region. Already, they have been seen by over 1 million people on television, stage and at other regional events. Brozek Scott, who grew up in Springdale, performs in the shows as “Aunt Junk,” who, along with her two animal buddies, Jake Poodles and Manny Cat, helps guide children on adventures.
Last summer, Brozek Scott was trained and certified by NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center to teach its Afterschool Universe program to students, adding another dimension to Afterschool Buddy’s offerings in school assemblies.
Having built a strong foundation and “amazing network of support” in the community, the Hampton resident says Afterschool Buddy is fully designed and positioned to be a national company with Pittsburgh as home base. She could not have done it, she says, without the support of of her husband, Bobby Scott, Cheswick’s police chief.
The early benchmarks of success have not been insignificant, including registering six federal trademarks relating to the company; founding The Rainbow Kids; shooting original adventure videos; being chosen to present at an international education and technology conference last year in San Diego; launching an internship program; and working with an ethics and corporate communications class at Penn State, Greater Allegheny.
“We’ve survived the first three years, and we’ve already worked with children, not only in the performing arts, but to prepare them with skills for a successful life,” says Brozek Scott, who is also a motivational speaker. The children come from a variety of socio-economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and even from countries as distant as Kenya, China, Cambodia, Russia and Iran. “It’s early exposure to different cultures that we hope will prepare them for good relationships, no matter what they choose to do in life,” she says.
Today, she says, there is a lot of pressure placed on children “to become instantly rich and famous,” which leads to many being overbooked with activities.
“Our view is, ‘How about if we just concentrate on being good first?’ Then, once we are good, and, our skills are solid, let’s work to become excellent at what we do, with everyone living up to their fullest potential. The children we work with blow us away with their dedication and talent,” Brozek Scott says.
“Susan helps them believe in themselves,” say Joyce Ellis, choreographer for The Rainbow Kids and executive director of the LeMoyne Community Center in Washington, Pa.
“She motivates them to be their very best in everything they do,” says Ron Bruno of Scott, who worked with Brozek Scott in television news and production and now as owner of The Videohouse Inc., Greentree.
Parents are pleased with the growth they have seen in their children in Rainbow Kids.
Cheryl Wall of Venetia, Peters, says her daughter, Nikki, 14, loves being part of the group. “She has built strong friendships with kids from many different towns and school districts and backgrounds, and is able to see the world as it is, not just as it appears in our little bubble,” she says.
The organization gives performers an opportunity to build on their skills, whether it is singing, dancing or public speaking says Joe Starr of Adams, whose son Jason, 13, is an original member. “I have built a lot of confidence over the years,” Jason says.
Wendy Maletta of Franklin Park, former director of marketing at Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, and now a marketing and professional image coach with her own company, Ahhluminating, loves the Rainbow Kids for who they are and what they represent. “The group’s diversity and depth is what is most impressive. When a child watches a show, chances are very good they are going to see someone on that stage who they can relate to,” she says. “My daughter, Julia, has grown so much by having these kids as her friends.”
Wendy Maletta is impressed with Brozek Scott’s caring, her sense of humor and her professional acumen.
“I was stunned at how thorough she was in setting up Afterschool Buddy to be a company that can grow rapidly and become a worldwide provider of educational content for children,” Maletta says. “I love working with entrepreneurs with great vision and want to see this company succeed. She has a brilliant visionary mind, a big heart and an ‘I won’t settle and I’m not giving up’ determination that is inspiring.”
For whatever reason, Brozek Scott says she was not meant to have children in the traditional sense. “I was meant to do this,” she says.
While the enormity of the undertaking is sometimes overwhelming, she says, “when the kids are genuinely excited and smiling, it makes it all worthwhile.” At 53, she sees herself at a unique place in the journey of her life and career. “This part of the journey is so all encompassing, so I don’t look back.”
It “takes guts” to have opened this new chapter, says national television consultant Joe Rovitto of Pittsburgh, who hired her in 1988 as a news reporter at WTAE. “Susan produces excellence,” he says.
She possesses the ability to keep others calm in the midst of chaos, adds Mark Barash, program director of WPXI and station manager of PCNC. “I would think that what she has accomplished would inspire people, especially young people, to go after what they really want to do and be prepared to work hard for it,” he says.
Placement on the many Top 10 and Top 20 lists on which our region finds itself has not come about by accident, Brozek Scott insists.
“They’re the result of hard work by many, many creative, passionate and persistent people,” she says. “I’m very goal-oriented and rather driven, because life is short, and if you want to do more than simply pass through, you really have to get busy.”
Rainbow Kids will hold auditions by appointment on Aug. 16 at the Boys & Girls Club, Lawrenceville. Details: www.afterschoolbuddy.com
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or [email protected].