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Pitt students make a difference in Duquesne, North Versailles

| Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 1:14 p.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
North Versailles Township commishioner George Beswick and wife Louise welcomed University of Pittsburgh students who volunteered to clean up as part of Pitt Make a Difference Day.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Over 3,000 students, staff and faculty from the University of Pittsburgh participated in service projects around the region on Saturday as part of Pitt Make a Difference Day. Seen here, students Ify Urama, Julian Quiros, Jake Herman, Joshua Larrence are picking up trash along Fifth Street in Duquesne.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
University of Pittsburgh students Joe Baker, Eric Richman and Stephen Anderjack clean up an area along Warren Drive in North Versailles Township between Greensburg Pike and Route 30 on Saturday as part of Pitt Make a Difference Day.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Denise Caldwell of the Duquesne Trashbashers coordinates a group of students from the University of Pittsburgh who helped clean up the streets of Duquesne as part of the Pitt Make a Difference Day on Saturday.

More than 3,000 Pitt students set out to have a positive impact on Saturday.

It was the university's sixth annual Make A Difference Day, and 70 towns were beneficiaries of service-oriented projects.

Students picked up garbage along Greensburg Pike and the Westinghouse Bridge in North Versailles Township, and along Kennedy and Crawford avenues and on side streets in Duquesne.

Junior Harry Clapsis, the fifth-floor resident assistant at Pitt's Litchfield Tower B, headed the 14-member brigade in North Versailles, and fourth-floor resident assistant Jacob Korb, a senior, supervised the 30 workers in Duquesne.

“The city of Pittsburgh does a lot for Pitt students,” Clapsis said. “It helps us grow. It's part of the reason we come to Pitt. This is about giving back to our community. It's just a small thing that we can do in this one day to really help out.”

“It's a great feeling,” Korb said. “It's good to be participating in our community. It was interesting on the bus ride out here; no one knew where we were going. We often don't leave Oakland. This is a great experience for (volunteers) to come to other parts of the community, to realize where they're living and to help.”

The projects were organized by Louise Beswick and Citizens Against Litter in the township, and by Duquesne Trashbashers coordinator Kirsten Pastrick. Both organize an annual spring cleanup.

“I think it's good to get young people involved in community service,” Beswick said. “It's great that they're able to come out and help us clean up the litter. We do a cleanup in April, but by the time October comes around again it's looking pretty bad.”

“They're doing a fantastic job,” Pastrick said. “We're getting a lot of the main arteries and many side streets done, and then we're going to have a lunch at the fire station. The firemen are setting that up. It's a wonderful thing.”

Pastrick graduated from Pitt in 1989.

“I am very proud of my future Pitt alumni,” she said. “It's real exciting to have them here.”

Other volunteers were Beswick's husband George, a township commissioner, and Denise Brownfield Caldwell and Catherine and Andrew Scharding from Duquesne.

Louise Beswick said it is difficult to get volunteers for cleanups.

“I think everyone has such busy lives and maybe they're just being pulled in so many different directions,” she said.

Clapsis and Korb said it was a bit of a struggle to get students out on a cold Saturday morning when there are no classes and the football team is playing on the road at Navy.

“It's tough,” Clapsis said. “I had to do a lot of advertising. There were some people on the floor who were really excited about it, and they helped get others to feel the same.”

“Waking up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning is kind of a trial for some of these guys, but they do it,” Korb said. “Once you get to your site, you end of having a lot of fun. You get to spend a day with your friends.”

It was Korb's fourth tour of duty on Make A Difference Day.

“The number (of volunteers) has grown every year,” Korb said. “It's hard now. We're kind of capped because there's a lot of transportation involved in the process, but it's definitely an event that is well supported by the university. Everyone really gets involved.”

Volunteers elsewhere painted, landscaped and helped with Habitat for Humanity projects.

Make a Difference Day was started in 2007 through Pitt's Student Government Board and the Office of Student Life.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965 or