Good News for Pittsburgh Youth!

Adam’s note: This is the second of many posts I’m writing for a blog called AfterschoolPGH. I’m taking the privilege of reposting it here for your reading pleasure and my future reference!

The news doesn’t generally tell us is how excellent youth today are. Despite the pressures of a crumbling economy and failing social safety net, more than ever, youth are thriving. From my experience and research traveling the nation, I have directly observed that civic engagement, volunteering, community action, and social change led by young people are soaring. I’m not simply talking about those kids either: Instead, there’s a rampant movement afoot across our nation to engage all young people in changing the world.


Allegheny County is no exception. Across the area, there are countless youth working with adults to make their neighborhoods, the whole area, and our entire world a better place. One excellent example is Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG). This nationally recognized multi-generational mentoring program fosters leadership skills, a sense of female community, and a commitment to service among three generations: elementary-school girls, undergraduate women, and professional women. Another is Unified for Youth in Pittsburgh (U4Y). An annual conference boasting over 70 participants, U4Y is the only conference of its kind in Pittsburgh, bringing together youth, adult allies and educators for two days of safe schools training in LGBT issues.

Powerful activities like these serve as role models for other organizations and communities throughout Allegheny. They also change the narrative about youth by forcing the media to see young people in Pittsburgh as powerful contributors to making the world a better place.

Other examples come from the City of Pittsburgh Mayor’s Youth Council. Their goal is to serve as a liaison between youth and the Youth Commission on issues affecting youth. The Council encourages the positive growth and development of young people by involving them in social, cultural, recreational and other drug and alcohol-free activities. Upon request of the Mayor or City Council, the Youth Council shall provide advice and assistance on matters concerning the needs of youth from the perspective of young people.

When NAACP President Benjamin Jealous recently spoke in downtown Pittsburgh, he challenged young people to see that groups of committed, principled people can always overcome organized money. So many examples throughout Allegheny County demonstrate exactly how that’s happening, especially because youth are partners.

A faith-based community in the region that focuses on seeing youth past the news is called the Pittsburgh Youth Cluster with Adults, or PYCA. This effort of the Unitarian Universalists focuses on building an interdependent web of youth in the greater Pittsburgh area (hereafter referred to as the Cluster) through spiritual, social action, and community building activities. They say, “We are youth organizing youth!”

A large engine in Pittsburgh moving youth past the news is the Heinz Endowment. Through strategic targeting, they’re funding campaigns led by and with youth focused on air quality, education reform, and much more. The reports linked to here cover more than a dozen organizations, and are well worth exploring.
One way that young people themselves are addressing media bias against them is by creating their own media. In Allegheny County, a coalition called Pittsburgh Youth Media is creating opportunities for young people in the region to engage in both traditional and non-traditional forms of media, using the tools, skills, practices and technologies that professional media outlets use, thereby enabling them to participate thoughtfully in reporting on current events and issues. Pittsburgh Youth Media is a coalition of education, media and community groups formed in early 2012. Members include Carlow University, SLB Radio Productions, Inc., The Consortium for Public Education, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Community Television, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, WQED Multimedia, Allegheny Conference on Community Development. These organizations and the individuals involved are concerned enough about how the traditional media portrays youth to create a new narrative with youth as partners.

Congratulations Pittsburgh- you’re beginning to see youth past the news. Keep it going!

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

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