In the 2010 Census, Pittsburgh saw an across the board population increase of 22% for young residents between the ages of 20 and 24. Our median age decreased from about 35 years old to about 32 years old. And we welcomed thousands of young new residents to our neighborhoods; many who came from larger cities to take advantage of the lower cost of living and job opportunities here. We know that young people don’t just want trendy coffee shops and artist lofts, they want the same things all residents want: safe communities, vibrant business districts, and solid public transportation. New residents can be powerful growth engines for the city, and we need to find opportunities to attract new residents to move in, get college students to stay, and encourage kids who grew up in Pittsburgh to move back and be a part of our city’s future.
Fresh, locally-grown fruits, vegetables, and dairy are the building blocks of a healthy diet that help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Pittsburgh has some fantastic groups working on fresh food and food security around the city and helping to promote community gardening and urban farming. Yet many of our neighborhoods are still classified as food deserts –- areas not served by retailers offering fresh foods. While strides have been made to rectify the problem, such as the grocery store being built in the Hill District, we have a great deal of work to do to ensure that all residents have access to fresh, healthy food in their neighborhoods. Cities around the country are working on innovative ways to do a better job of providing healthy food options and Pittsburgh has a lot of opportunities to learn from these initiatives and create some of our own.
With less than one month until Election Day, Mayoral candidate Bill Peduto is focusing on opportunities this week as part of web-based initiative to reveal his plan to change Pittsburgh. His 100 Days/100 Policies initiative this week will include Summer Youth Employment in High-Tech Industries, ReBuild Pittsburgh, Financial Empowerment Centers, and Fresh Food Initiatives.
Pittsburgh’s Summer Youth Employment Program provides paid job opportunities for several hundred Pittsburgh youth each year. The program gives kids an opportunity to gain some real-world work experience, make a bit of money, and make connections with employers and other youth. The program is a joint venture of the City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Foundation, and corporate sponsors and allows kids between the ages of 14 and 21 to apply to participate. The Summer Youth Employment Program is a fantastic partnership and something that we absolutely must continue to support. However, I would like to bring in a more diverse set of site partners and allow kids to enter a broader field of summer jobs that will better prepare them for the kinds of jobs that are available in our region. We must expand the program to provide kids exposure to jobs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.
#31 Mayor’s Summer Reading Program: Challenging Kids to Improve Their Reading Skills Outside of the Classroom
In the era of high-stakes testing and the immense pressure put on parents, teachers, and kids to perform in reading and math the idea of reading for enjoyment can often be lost in the rush to acquire the technical skills necessary to succeed on the tests. Yet every study has shown that kids who are nurtured and develop habits of reading for enjoyment are much more successful academically later in life. We need to find new ways to help promote reading not as a task that must be completed but as a form of enjoyment and relaxation that supports a child’s imagination and becomes a fulfilling habit throughout their entire lives. Mayors across the country have created successful Summer Reading Programs that I would like to emulate as Mayor of Pittsburgh. But we have something they don’t –- we have an incredible system of Carnegie Libraries that are in a class of their own in the United States. I will work with the CLP to create the nation’s finest Summer Reading Program and inspire a new generation of kids to pick up a book for fun, not just because they have to.
Pittsburgh has, on average, an older population than many cities of similar size and, as the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age, tens of thousands of people will be leaving the workforce or looking for job opportunities in new fields. For 25 years, the University of Pittsburgh ran an innovative intergenerational teaching and learning program called Generations Together. The program was designed to help retiring seniors or seniors transitioning into new fields find opportunities, both paid and volunteer, to connect with younger generations and impart their skills, wisdom, and interests. This occurred both inside and outside of schools. Generations Together was nationally recognized as one of the most successful and innovative programs to bring people of all generations together to learn and share. And it wasn’t just kids that benefited. The interplay and interaction was an enriching experience for the seniors who participated as well. As Mayor, I will work with the University of Pittsburgh and other stakeholders to bring back Generations Together and create new opportunities for intergenerational teaching and learning.
Clifford B. Connelly Trade School, which opened in 1930 and closed in 2004, represented a beacon of opportunity for so many Pittsburghers who aspired to enter technical and vocational fields and sought the kind of skilled training that would allow them to get the jobs that built this city, from manufacturing to metalworking. Connelly was a national model of technical and vocational education and opened new doors of opportunity to generations of Pittsburghers. Those opportunities still exist but these days it can be difficult for students seeking them to take the courses they need to build their skill sets. While many Pittsburgh Public Schools still offer technical and vocational courses, now called career and technical education or CTE courses, they are spread piecemeal throughout city high schools. I would like to work with Pittsburgh Public Schools, our trade unions, and private industry to create a Pittsburgh Connelly for the 21st century.
By all accounts, expanding access to early childhood education is among the wisest investment that can be made in efforts to strengthen Pittsburgh’s economy. Mayoral candidate Bill Peduto is committed to doing just that. According to the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the United States Chamber of Commerce, for every dollar spent in early childhood, savings range form $2.50 to as much as $17 over time. During a press conference today held at Downtown’s Small World Early Learning Center, Peduto said, “We know that children who receive high-quality early education are set on a path to happier, healthier, and more productive lives. If we want kids to be Promise-ready, we have to start them now.”
April is the annual Month of the Young Child, a month each year when we should reflect on the ways that local government can support families with young children to build the foundations they need for healthy successful lives. One of the most critical interventions government can make is in the provision of high-quality early childhood education. There are more than 10,000 children in Pittsburgh between the ages of one and five, yet less than half of them are being provided with any form of early childhood education. Of that portion a much smaller percentage are being educated in facilities rated STAR 3 or 4, the highest levels of quality under the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Keystone STARS program. We know that children who receive high-quality early childhood education are happier, healthier, and are set on a path to a more secure future. We know that early childhood education works –- for both kids and our society. Studies show that for every dollar spent on quality early childhood education, we save up to $17 later on. It is time to work together to offer every child in Pittsburgh the opportunity to succeed. It is time to make sure our kids are on the path to become Promise-ready by age five.
Our neighborhood schools are the anchors of our communities. They are the places where our children spend a great deal of their time, they are community centers where our neighborhood organizations gather, they are event spaces where we come together to celebrate the arts, and they are economic attractors that can bring in small businesses and development opportunities. Unfortunately population decline over the past several decades and funding cuts at the state level have shuttered many of our neighborhood schools and turned these former assets into empty shells in the heart of our neighborhoods. Recognizing that these population shifts are real and that resources are scarce we have to find innovative new ways to keep our neighborhood schools open without bankrupting our entire school system.