As you probably know already, I work at an after school program called the Pittsburgh Young Leaders Academy at Oliver High School. Here is a short article I wrote for the Pittsburgh Cares (the agency that runs PYLA) newsletter:
The students at Oliver High School’s Pittsburgh Young Leaders Academy have been busy making a difference and changing lives this school year. The PYLA 9th and 10th graders are required to complete 10 service projects by the end of the school year, but Oliver’s students have already exceeded that expectation, and it’s only April.
Among the projects the students have completed are three site visits to Providence Family Support Center, right down the street from their school. The PYLA students have conducted numerous activities with the kids at Providence, including a Diversity Day and a Martin Luther King Day celebration. The PYLA students plan to visit Providence Family Support Center again soon for a “Think Spring!” project in April.
Oliver’s PYLA students have affects the lives of more than just kids this year. The kids also helped a local community member paint their house in anticipation of renting it out. The students put on their painting clothes and got out their brushes for two full days of taping, painting and rolling! This project also served as a fundraiser for this program, as the gracious community member donated to the Oliver PYLA group.
A 9th grade PYLA student commented on her feelings toward PYLA. “PYLA has changed me as a person. It made me think of people more. When we painted it helped out someone in need, it made me feel good as a person,” she said.
The most involved service project Oliver PYLA students participated in this year was the “Winter Fun Kit” project. After Chade, 9th grade, and Raven, 10th grade, presented the idea in front of a panel at Price Waterhouse Coopers, the students were awarded $500 to go toward this innovative service project. With the funds, the students chose to purchase fleece and winter clothing for local needy children. They used the fleece to make 20 no-sew blankets for the children by hand. Although the blankets were a lot of work, the PYLA students enjoyed learning something new.
“I had fun making the blankets and I look forward to doing more,” said Jaquon , 9th grade.
PYLA students also held a toy and clothing drive in their school during December and got many more items for the children. After gathering the donations and purchased items, the students made “Winter Fun Kits” for each child living at the Sojourner House, a recovery home for mothers and their children in East Liberty. Oliver’s PYLA students held a “Reading Day of Caring” at the Sojourner House for the children, where they delivered the kits, as well as read to the children and served them a hot meal.
“It was good to spend some time with kids who are in need. I liked showing them some love,” Brea , 10th grade, said.
The staff at the Sojourner House also appreciated PYLA’s presence. “It was nice for the kids to get to spend time with other people. It is especially nice to see young men here doing some good,” Liz, Sojourner House volunteer coordinator, said.
The PYLA students at Oliver are far from finished making a difference this school year. They have 7 more projects planned before June, including donated bagged lunched to the Light of Life Rescue Mission, hosting a Mother’s Day Tea for moms at the Sojourner House, and participating in the Light of Life’s Walk for the Homeless in May.