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Beck brings new vision to Boyd programs

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
The Herald
Joshua Beck

Josh Beck sometimes confuses his cellphone number with the number for his desk phone at Boyd Community Center.

Maybe that's a good sign because it means he is at home at the Locust Drive site.

Beck started working in September as the center's program director.

He just completed his first catalog that promotes the winter and spring classes.

January, he said, will be a whirlwind as time is spent preparing the summer schedule of programs and activities.

“I'm always looking for new ideas,” Beck said. “I'm passionate about the community.”

Beck sees a sure winner when parents come to him with an idea suggested by a group of children.

“It really gives me the green light,” he said.

A homework club, staffed with a certified teacher and volunteers, is the newest program at Boyd.

Open Mondays through Thursdays, starting Jan. 14, there will be two sessions: from 4 to 5 p.m. and then from 5 to 6 p.m.

The homework club offers youngsters a chance for extra help and gives parents an option after school.

Beck views Boyd as a safe haven, a center of learning and culture that enriches the lives of the area residents, and a huge resource for residents of O'Hara and all of the surrounding communities.

However, he isn't rushing to speed new ideas into the area.

“I don't want to step into the situation without a full investigation,” he said. “We're looking for lasting partnerships to empower the community.”

Getting all aspects of a community to work together is the path Beck has followed for many years before taking the position at Boyd.

For the past 10 years, he worked in 17 countries and traveled through 20.

His last stint was in western China, where he trained trainers to help residents of the earthquake-prone land to build better housing.

Public and private community leaders combined to “invigorate” communities.

Beck visited many international sites over the last decade to help create groups to problem solve.

He has worked in large cities and countries such as Moldova in Eastern Europe.

A Bethany College graduate who majored in political science, Beck attended the University of Amsterdam for his master's degree.

After touring the world and living in the pressure-cooker of consulting, Josh and his college sweetheart, Colleen, returned to the U.S.

“It was time to jump off the banana wagon and put down roots,” he said.

Beck, a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, and his wife are natives of West Virginia.

Moving to Pittsburgh means he can tap into institutions such as the University of Pittsburgh to create partnerships.

One of his first connections has been with local school district officials.

Moving to the area also has meant Beck has been able to get involved with SEED Farms International as the board chairman. SEED stands for Sustainability through Empowerment and Educational Development.

The organization fosters leadership locally and internationally.

Beck said there are many positives aspects of the local community.

He notes the strength of parenting and generosity of the residents.

As Beck and other community center officials look forward to a spring groundbreaking for a new building, he foresees a grand future.

“This (community center) will be one of the best in the country, making this a thriving community,” Beck said.

Sharon Drake is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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