Innovative, international millennials heading cross-country from Pittsburgh
Dan Scullin has spent much of his adult life in Pittsburgh.
On Monday, he got a chance to see it through different eyes.
“To see it from a perspective of so many of my peers … it's helping me to see the city I live in in such a different way, and to see a lot of the opportunities for change that are here in the city,” said Scullin, 25, who lives in the city's Allentown neighborhood.
He is one of 26 participants from more than 31 U.S. cities and nine countries who are taking part in the Millennial Trains Project, which launched its fourth journey on Monday starting in Pittsburgh. The nonprofit leads crowd-funded transcontinental journeys for young innovators via vintage rail cars, during which participants launch projects that “benefit and inspire their communities,” its website says. Examples include anti-gun violence advocacy, sustainable transportation and early childhood education.
Scullin plans to create a short film about small food economies in the cities the group visits. He swung by the East Liberty Farmer's Market to talk with customers and farmers about why such a market is important.
“Across the country I'll be meeting with different types of people who work with food and others, like small local businesses, as a way to empower their communities and to make growth in those communities sustainable,” he said.
Pittsburgh was the first of five cities the group is slotted to visit: other stops include Chicago, Kansas City, Albuquerque and Los Angeles. This is the nonprofit's second time to Pittsburgh; it also visited during its first journey in 2013.
“This is a really cool place where you can see almost the full scope of America's innovation journey from the first great age of American innovation into the present and potentially into the future,” said Patrick Dowd, of Washington, D.C., the group's founder.
Pittsburgh was chosen for its size, as medium-sized cities have “tremendous stories to tell” and offer “inspiring examples of leadership” that are not always recognized or talked about on a national scale, Dowd said.
“We invariably find that our participants get more out of a visit to a city the size of Pittsburgh or Denver than maybe Los Angeles or New York City, which people already may have visited or know a lot of people from,” he said.
Scullin thinks Pittsburgh was chosen as the starting-off point because it has a rich history of enacting change.
“We're the city where organ transplants happened, in addition to all the stories you hear about the steel,” he said.
In each city, participants meet with local leaders and work on their individual projects. Dowd said such meetings allow for trans-regional perspectives about how different communities and their leaders approach similar problems. They also give participants ideas they can bring back to their own communities.
Innovators on Monday met with Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and his wife, Gisele, and with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
“I thought the best part of it was these are very knowledgeable people, so you're dealing with a group that really understands local and national issues and has a commitment to them,” Peduto said. “I think the best thing about it, that we can all learn from each other, is something that they really understand.”
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer.