Heinz Endowment funds McKeesport's investment in youth
With financial support from the Heinz Endowment, McKeesport is seeking a diverse “cast” of youth to invest in the community.
The Select Committee on Crime and Violence that Mayor Michael Cherepko formed in 2012 is showing tangible evidence of success a year later by acquiring $162,560 in private grants to conduct a two-year Youth CAST Leadership Program. It will focus on 25 students in grades six through 12 in its first phase, and reach more than 300 kids by the end of its second year.
CAST — Community and Schools Together — was developed by community opportunity specialist Keino Fitzpatrick in partnership with the city, the MGR Foundation, YMCA, LaRosa Boys & Girls Club, Penn State Greater Allegheny, Carnegie Library of McKeesport, Bethlehem Baptist Church and McKeesport Area School District.
“This grant is about maximizing everyone's effort to impact change,” Fitzpatrick said. “Leadership will be a model for civic engagement for students. They can organize themselves in the right way and engage in positive activities with adults in the city, the schools and the faith-based community.”
The program focuses on changing relationships through leadership. It is intended to encourage youth, the community and schools to promote service learning, community service and civic engagement.
In September, seven students — one from each grade level involved — will travel with parents and committee chaperones to watch Detroit's Skillman Foundation-funded Youth Development Alliance in action for four days.
When they return, they will select 18 more peers to build a core group for the first year of Heinz Endowment funding. Those 25 will use peer-to-peer recruitment to organize community service projects that will be completed by August 2014.
“We want to be able to reach 315 kids over two years through our leadership training,” Fitzpatrick said, estimating a direct impact on 15 percent of the McKeesport Area student body.
Members of the mayor's select committee said young people were the focus when the committee sought grant funding.
“They are our future,” Bethlehem Baptist pastor the Rev. Earlene Coleman said. “If we don't invest in our future, we can look to be at a loss; but the whole community will gain on our investment.”
Cherepko said the committee's choice was correct.
“They are a committee focused on solutions, rather than just discussing a problem,” he said. “We wanted to see action, not just words.”
While the committee has made strides over the last year, Cherepko said the CAST program is something the whole community will recognize as progress.
Cherepko said he hopes the city will begin to have more faith in its youth as the children learn to have faith in themselves and in their ideas.
“A lot of kids aren't making the most of their education,” said Harold Allen, a McKeesport resident who sits on the McKeesport Area Diversity Committee. “This will get them on track, making them mentors and having them involved in the success of their community.”
The face of education is changing to give students hands-on opportunities to apply classroom lessons to real life. McKeesport Area school board president Patricia Maksin said that applies not only to core curriculum, but to volunteerism as well.
“For kids at this age level, community service means punishment,” Maksin said. “We are trying to turn that around — to make them realize that community service is about giving back to your community in a positive way.”
Coleman said the CAST program should help to instill values that many children don't have. She hopes it will help them establish goals with productive futures in mind.
“You cannot desire what you don't understand,” Coleman said. “We can open doors for children and let them see the good opportunities that are out there.”
Heinz Endowment funding should help McKeesport gain future support to sustain the program, and to establish new programs as time goes on, the mayor said.
“There is an instant credibility that comes along with this grant,” Cherepko said. “We look at this grant not only as something that will be successful in its own course, but as a step toward more to come. This is just the beginning of something that will continue to grow.”
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Twin Rivers Intermediate students get hands-on science lessons
- St. Agnes students assist food bank during Catholic Schools Week
- Former Century III Mall general manager waives charges
- Overall Mon-Yough homicide stats remain steady
- West Mifflin thrift store sells winning lottery ticket
- Steel Valley school directors honor new San Francisco 49ers head coach Tomsula
- Clairton City School District directors cap possible 2015-16 tax hike at 3 percent
- 3 arrested in recent McKeesport business burglaries
- Propel teams up with local organizations to test performing arts methods
- Liberty public servant Owens remembered as problem solver
- Munhall council president charged in crash that injured woman