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A transformative investment: Rising to McKeesport's challenge

| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 9:00 p.m.

“McKeesport Rising” is an ambitious project intended to address urban blight, joblessness and morale in the city.

Announced by Mayor Michael Cherepko in January 2018, this project invests in the city and will transform the landscape and opportunities for citizens in the region. Similar efforts are underway in Braddock, Duquesne and other Mon Valley communities.

Penn State Greater Allegheny is playing a role in these important efforts by leveraging an Invent Penn State grant to address the educational and economic needs of the region. Invent Penn State is a statewide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student-career success.

We are proud of our roots in McKeesport. The campus began in the 1930s as a center to develop workforce and labor education in the region. It remains committed to serving the region, and Invent Penn State will further these efforts.

This program provides $50,000 in grant funds to support the Penn State-McKeesport Community Center, situated on Ninth Street in the former YWCA building.

Cherepko is an active partner in this collaboration. His office provides space for the center, which includes two large classrooms, small office spaces and access to a multipurpose room for larger events.

Currently, the Penn State-McKeesport Community Center offers community-based education programs and support for small businesses. It is intended to invest in people, and that investment will bring long-term change.

Current services are based on input from local business owners, city government, elected officials and clergy. These programs are responsive to regional needs and range from basic computer skills to resume-building workshops, support for small business startups and safety workshops.

Community outreach is also provided at the center.

In November, 50 families received supplies for Thanksgiving meals with donations from Sam's Club, Jordan Banana Co., the Penn State Bookstore and Greater Allegheny faculty, staff and students. In December, the Student Government Association conducted a toy drive for local children.

The revitalization of post-industrial communities requires strategic and coordinated effort across multiple institutions. Government agencies, educational institutions, health-care providers, religious groups and a broad range of social services must pool resources, both human and capital, to address long-standing problems faced by these communities.

Penn State University's support for the Penn State-McKeesport Community Center will allow the Greater Allegheny campus to be an active partner in continuing dialogue and collaboration with institutions and leaders in the region.

This investment will be transformative as “McKeesport Rising” and similar projects in other Mon Valley communities take hold.

Jacqueline Edmondson, Ph.D., is chancellor and chief academic officer at Penn State Greater Allegheny.

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