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Child advocate picked to lead Pittsburgh Promise

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By Bill Zlatos
Friday, June 6, 2008

Saleem Ghubril, a North Side child advocate, has been hired as executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise, officials of the $250 million scholarship program announced Thursday.

"The Pittsburgh Promise has the potential not only to help kids go to college, but also to leverage significant public school reform as well as community and economic development," said Ghubril, 47, of the North Side.

Funded through a $100 million gift by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the program gives scholarships worth up to $5,000 a year and eventually as much as $10,000 a year to graduates of Pittsburgh Public Schools and its charter schools.

"Saleem has an unrivaled commitment to Pittsburgh and to children," Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation and a member of The Promise's board, said in a prepared statement. "He is an adept fundraiser and knows how to run a high-quality program for young people."

Ghubril founded and has led The Pittsburgh Project since 1985. The nonprofit group has overseen more than 25,000 young people in repairing more than 1,400 homes and mentoring more than 1,500 children. The project has 60 full-time and part-time employees.

Ghubril emigrated at age 16 with his family from war-torn Beirut to Iowa City, Iowa. He received a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Iowa and a master of divinity degree from Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa.

An ordained Presbyterian minister, Ghubril and his wife, Patti, moved to Pittsburgh in 1984 and live in the North Side. They have two children, Christina, 24, and Nathan, 22.

Ghubril was chosen from among nearly 40 applicants for the position.

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