On the field or on the bench, backup Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch knows his role is to be ready for the moment when he can make a difference.
Right now Mr. Batch is trying to make a difference by helping students at two high schools, Brentwood and Monessen, move beyond an ugly episode last February.
It began when a pair of Brentwood students wore banana costumes to a basketball game between the two schools. Some fans of the mostly black Monessen team felt the suits were racist, although the students had worn them at other games. Monessen supporters also said their team was the target of racial slurs, but Brentwood school officials found no basis for the charge and the WPIAL, after an investigation, concluded that it, too, could make no such findings.
Nevertheless, hard feelings can fester.
Mr. Batch, along with the UPMC Dignity & Respect Program, has been involved in trying to change attitudes at the schools for the better. On Tuesday, he was part of a student assembly at Monessen on respect. A similar event was held at Brentwood four months ago.
As a Homestead native (and former player for Steel Valley High School), Mr. Batch knows local passions and prejudices. He also knows the importance of overcoming biases and treating with dignity those who are different. He and others with the UPMC program have met with students from both high schools on ways to move forward, and Mr. Batch will attend when Monessen and Brentwood meet on the football field this Friday.
Charlie Batch's mediation effort won't make ESPN or the Steelers highlight reel, but he's going deep for his community. Any Pittsburgher will give him points for that.