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Allegheny County children's agency deputy director leaving to head NEED nonprofit

| Thursday, May 30, 2013, 11:41 p.m.

The longtime deputy director of Allegheny County's Children, Youth and Families is leaving to head a Downtown nonprofit that helps teenagers in need go to college.

Marcia Sturdivant, who has worked for CYF for 23 years, is leaving the county next month and will take over NEED — the Negro Educational Emergency Drive — as president and CEO on July 1.

“It's one of the oldest scholarship programs in the country to increase African-American college entrance and matriculation. It helps students who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to go to college,” said Sturdivant, 57, of Wilkinsburg. “It's a dream job.”

NEED has awarded $20 million in grants to nearly 19,000 students over the past 50 years. Sturdivant replaces interim CEO and current NEED board member Claudette R. Lewis, who took over following the June 2012 death of longtime leader Sylvester Pace.

Sturdivant, who made $90,693 with the county, worked closely with family court and was family-based in her approach to deal with children's problems, said county Common Pleas Judge Kim Clark, administrative judge of the family division.

“She wanted family reunification whenever possible. She wanted to empower them, making sure they were part of the process, even if we all knew a child couldn't go home,” Clark said. “I'm just going to miss her. If I had a question about anything, I could call upon her for advice.”

Clark credited Sturdivant with importing the idea of family group decision-making to Pennsylvania, where all family members can discuss issues and potential solutions for children.

Sturdivant was also involved in the Baby Byron case, an adoption situation that involved white parents' attempts to adopt Baby Byron, who was black. The case garnered media attention in the 1990s, but Sturdivant declined to discuss her role, citing confidentiality rules.

Sturdivant said she was proud of her accomplishments during her tenure at the county, including serving as a catalyst to help improve relations between the black community and CYF.

“When I came, it was a very closed system. It was sort of shrouded in secrecy; people didn't really know what went on there,” she said. “The most traumatic thing for a child is removing them for their parents. I wanted to get people to understand that.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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