Getting to Know the West End Staff

Our West End Achievement Center has two new staff members! Twila Simmons-Walker, Center Director and Devin Hanley, Volunteer and Scholar Coordinator, have jumped right into Afterschool Academy 2019, but have taken a few minutes to answer some “getting to know you” questions:

Tell us about yourself! (Where are you from? What do you do? What brought you to Pittsburgh?)

Twila Simmons-Walker (TSW): I am a native of Pittsburgh. My employment background is varied with the vast majority of my career development having worked with children & youth both as a volunteer and for employment.

Devin Hainley (DH): I am from Altoona, PA and have always loved the city of Pittsburgh ever since I was little. I enjoy golf, reading, listening to music, and playing pick-up sports with my friends.

What brought you to Higher Achievement?

TSW: I landed at Higher Achievement via my interest to continue working with youth in an enrichment capacity.  I spend a short time as a school counselor before coming to Higher Achievement, and during that time I realized that afterschool is a better fit for me after having spent more than 15 years working in that setting.

DH: I have always had an affinity for teaching. While studying at Pitt, our Director of Programs, Todd Derby visited my class to recruit new part-time staff and new mentors. I was so thrilled to have such an opportunity that I sent him an email that afternoon. After a few weeks, I began working as an after school teacher. I enjoyed my time with Higher Achievement so much that I taught during our summer academy and have now stayed on board as the West End Center’s Volunteer and Scholar Coordinator.

What were you like as a middle schooler?

TSW: I was an energetic and very talkative middle school student.  I would characterize my overall experience as rocky.  I struggled socially and somewhat academically.  I started my middle school years in a small Parochial school but then convinced my mom and grandmother to allow me to attend public school in 7th grade.  It proved to be both beneficial and challenging.

DH: As a middle schooler, I was always very busy between sports, music, and academics. My involvement provided me with invaluable opportunities to meet new people, visit new places, and share new experiences.

What are you most looking forward to in this upcoming year?

TSW: I’m looking forward to summer programming at Higher Achievement, and really just all of the experiences that come with working with the middle school population.

DH: I am most looking forward to helping our scholars realize their full potential and utilize their unique responsibilities. Our West End Center continues to grow and I am really excited to see what this year brings.

Interested in volunteering with the scholars that Twila and Devin serve? Contact