Westmoreland anti-poverty program prompts new ideas
About 20 people gathered in the basement of Logans Ferry Presbyterian Church on Tuesday afternoon to discuss a Big View.
The Big View is an idea to develop a youth center in New Kensington or Arnold.
The idea was spurred by Angela George and Joana Riederer, two recent graduates of the Getting Ahead Program, which teaches adults how to better their socioeconomic status.
The Getting Ahead Program is part of the Alle-Kiski Valley chapter of the Westmoreland Circle Initiative. The initiative is designed to educate people and help them escape poverty.
When students graduate from the program, they become class leaders and propose “big views.”
Tuesday was the group's first meeting and was designed to get input from community members and solicit ideas on how to make the idea for the youth center a reality.
“We're trying to get children off the streets so they have a safe haven to go,” George told the group. “We want somewhere children can feel safe.”
The meeting was a brainstorming session that Alle-Kiski Valley site team Leader Scott McMannis hopes will lead to action in the community.
“We have identified a problem,” he said. “The kids in the community need somewhere to go. Maybe the community can pull together and build something they can be proud of.”
The group was full of enthusiastic participants with ideas about what needs to happen in order to get George and Riederer's idea off the ground.
“We have to learn how to encourage one another, “ said Brian Uhler, who owns the 9th Street Deli in New Kensington and was at the meeting representing the New Kensington Chamber of Commerce. “We talk about how it used to be around here.
“This is something we can do to make sure our kids can have those memories, too.”
Suzette Venturini, who acts as a mentor to students in the Getting Ahead Program, said the meeting gave the group a good launching pad for their ideas and showed how much effort it will take to get the project going.
“We need to invite more community leaders to our meeting and get them involved,” she said. “We have a good base of ideas. The meeting was very encouraging.”
Venturini said the group is in the early stages of planning and hopes that anyone who would like to help attends their next meeting on Jan. 22.
R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.