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Kids pitch their best biz ideas to Entrepreneuring Youth

Pittsburgh-area kids who want to start their own companies are getting an early boost from Entrepreneuring Youth this year,  The group's first business-pitching event was Saturday.
"We realized a few years ago that we needed to start earlier with kids … to help them think creatively about ideas they can pursue for a business opportunity," says Entrepreneuring Youth leader Jerry Cozewith. Today the group partners with two local charter schools (Urban Pathways and Manchester Academic) and two schools in Beaver County to guide 6th through 12th graders in underserved neighborhoods through realistic training on how to form and pitch business ideas.
This June, the group's kids will participate in the George W. Tippins Business Plan Competition, named after one of Pittsburgh's more successful businessmen. Saturday's pitch, before local businesspeople at Google headquarters in Bakery Square, was practice for the Tippins contest in June.
These same business people will be working as coaches of the kids over the next few months, teaching them how to identify markets and customers, how to set prices and other fundamentals.
Eighteen kids – half from middle schools, half from high schools – gave two-minute pitches for ideas ranging from party-planning services to bakeries. Last year's competitors pitched lines of cosmetics, a video service, clothing companies and more.
Learning to make a two-minute elevator pitch "is a prized skill," Cozewith says, which can help kids learn how to talk to other adults "to get a summer job or into the college of your choice." Still, he allows, talking in front of a roomful of strangers for two minutes is "an eternity to young kids." Some of the aspiring entrepreneurs will not yet have made a single product. "They're as much selling themselves as their ideas," he says.
"The parents are proud and even amazed at what their kids can do – the way they speak, the poise they have, the confidence that have."
This weekend's six winners received gift cards as seed capital to buy materials for their businesses.
"This is just an awful lot of fun for everybody," Cozewith says.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jerry Cozewith, Entrepreneuring Youth

Pittsburgh is now a Trail Town

Allegheny County is already part of the Great Allegheny Passage, a trail that runs from here to Cumberland, Md. Now four parts of the county will gain the expertise of the Trail Town program, which helps "to create a sustainable region through tourism," its program manager Will Prince says, "using the trail as an economic engine."
The four county locations (Pittsburgh's South Side as well as Homestead, McKeesport and Boston) were chosen because they have businesses and destinations next to the trail for visitors to stop, have a meal or stay overnight – and because they could have more such businesses.
The kick-off event for Trail Town here will be March 19 in West Homestead's Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational & Cultural Center. Everyone is invited, says Prince, to meet trail groups, business owners and other local tourism experts to talk about improving the trail/town connection. Participants will walk the trail and walk the town, trying to see them from a visitor's perspective: How is access from the trail to the business district? What businesses that might attract trail users are lacking in town? Is the signage from trail to the business district clear? Are there fresh opportunities for development?
"It's a big expansion for our program," says Prince, whose organization already works with local trail groups in each county spot: Friends of the Riverfront for Pittsburgh; Steel Valley Trail Council for Homestead and Duquesne; McKeesport Trail Commission; and Mon/Yough Trail Council for areas south of McKeesport to the county line.
In fact, Trail Town is simultaneously expanding throughout western Pennsylvania, partnering with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council to create a 51-county trail coalition with 1,400 miles of trails. It will include trails in the state's oil region around Titusville and Oil City, the Montour Trail that joins Allegheny to Washington counties, the Trans-Allegheny Trail System that connects to Saltsburg and Ebensburg, and the Sheepskin Trail from near Connellsville to Dunbar.
Trail Town is a program of the Progress Fund, a nonprofit loan fund focused on small businesses in the travel industry.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Will Prince, Trail Town

INSPIREPGH: Art students inspired by kids with sickle cell disease

Derrick Davis and his fellow members of INSPIREPGH – a group formed by Art Institute of Pittsburgh students to give back to the community – have been meeting with kids who have sickle cell disease on many Saturdays since December at the Children’s Institute. 
The art student group had originally connected with the Children's Sickle Cell Foundation, Inc. through their school’s graphic design curriculum, which gives advanced students the chance to help local community organizations with free design services.
But the relationship has deepened. "We first met the kids around Christmas,” recalls Davis, president of INSPIREPGH.  “We helped them pick out Christmas gifts. I had no idea there were so many children with this disease – and how passionate they were about art. We wanted to show them they could do anything they wanted to, that they can't be held back."
Explains Tamara Pavlock, academic chair of graphic design, web and interactive media at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh: “They felt it would help the children with their pain to do these art projects.The strength of these children is amazing."
Now INSPIREPGH is holding ARTICULATE ART, an auction fundraiser at Sonoma Grille downtown on March 20, emceed by Franco Dok Harris.
Participants will have the opportunity to bid on original works by local artists and photographers Duane Rieder, Scott Smathers, Mark Bender, Terese Jungle, Mick Opalko, Elizabeth Castonquay and Karl Huber. Rieder and Smathers are Art Institute alumni, while the others are school faculty members. Pavlock, Davis and his fellow INSPIREPGH officers are also preparing artwork inspired by the kids whom they’ve met through the foundation. 
"We have such a great relationship with them,” concludes Pavlock about the foundation. She expects her students to continue this relationship – and their time with the kids – in the future.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Derrick Davis and Tamara Pavlock, Art Institute of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Funded: Love Your Block deadline extended

The city has extended its deadline to March 7 for this spring's Love Your Block grants – the grants that give micro-managing a good name.
Love Your Block gives local nonprofits $2,000 to buy equipment and supplies to bring neighbors together for an improvement project on a single city block.That's $1,000 more than the last time these grants were offered.
The $2,000, in the form of Home Depot gift cards from The Home Depot Foundation, also comes with aid from city departments for such things as graffiti removal and trash pick-up.
Nonprofits qualify if they have can produce "a detailed and realistic action plan," bring together 20 neighborhood volunteers from mid-April through mid-June, attend a grant orientation workshop, and secure permission to make their proposed changes from local property owners.
Priority will be given to projects on blocks with a large number of military veterans as residents and/or volunteers and projects that collaborate with a community group or bring other donations to bear on their projects.
The two top proposals will get an added $3,000 Home Depot gift card for a future project. Love Your Block is also supported by the Corporation for National Community Service and AmeriCorps VISTA program.
More than 290 block projects have been approved to date by Love Your Block, which the city says has collected more than 37,000 pounds of trash, created 197 green spaces, added almost $161,000 in donations and involved more than 3,300 volunteers. Spring 2014 winners will be notified by mid-March.

Writer: Marty Levine

'Through their art, they show how the world was deceived': Holocaust art contest

For only the third year since the contest began in 1985, the Israeli winners of the Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh’s Waldman International Arts and Writing Competition will be flown to Pittsburgh to join their local counterparts for a celebration, this year at the Andy Warhol Museum on April 27.
The local winning entries in the genres of writing, film and visual arts from middle- and high-school students were recently announced. The winners hail from Springdale Jr./Sr. High School, Pittsburgh Allderdice, Fox Chapel High School, South Allegheny High School, Community Day School and Yeshiva Girls School.
Jennie Pelled, the Center’s development and program associate, says: “I’m really proud that the competition invites the whole Pittsburgh and Israel communities to get involved. It’s not just a Jewish competition. The submissions we get are amazing and the kids are just very inspiring every year.”
Each year the contest concentrates on a different theme; this year it was the art and music of the Holocaust. Students wrote about the model concentration camp at Terezin, created by the Nazis to pass inspection by the Red Cross, which featured an inmate orchestra and other art activities for show. Students also wrote about the Vilna Ghetto and Oskar Schindler.
Pelled cites one of the winning poems from an Israeli high-school senior to show how students imagined kids their age having to pretend to be okay for camp inspectors:
“It's a whole new world outside, did you see?
They've been painting walls, planting flowers,
Playing dress-up with our lives;
But I'm prepared too, mama,
I've practiced my smile and my walk
And not looking hungry, which was hardest of all
Mama, please don't cry –
Today I was a star, not the yellow kind
But do you think you could still sew the memory of me onto your jacket
Close to your heart, where it's warm?”
“The teachers really promoted it,” Pelled says of the contest, “and put the subject on the map for these kids. They can research and identify with the children going through the Holocaust. Then you learn ... there’s a lot you can apply to the real world today,” from general issues of continuing prejudice to more specific discussions about bullying or marriage equality.
“Through their art,” she says,“they show how the world was deceived.”
The contest is also sponsored by Partnership2Gether and Jfilm.
Marty Levine
Source: Jennie Pelled, Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh

Coro wants South Pittsburgh known for peace and cooperation

The South Side and its South Pittsburgh neighbors have great community leaders, but they’re all vying for the same bucks and volunteers, says Robert Young, director of development for the Coro Center for Civic Leadership, Pittsburgh. The Coro NEXT Leaders Project aims to fix that, answering the question “How can we bring together community leaders in the south of Pittsburgh to better collaborate on the common issues?” at this year’s NEXT Leaders Project opening event on March 6 at  St Paul's Retreat Center on the South Side.
Young, who is part of the NEXT Leaders program, says the group has already had a number of strategy sessions and dialog with leaders, both seasoned and emerging, in preparation for this event. The issues they’ll be concentrating on include youth engagement – “How to start almost from the cradle … to engage youth as the next generation of leaders,” he says.
Those issues also include street-level blight – better cleanup, raising the quality of the housing stock—as well as public safety, which can involve building a better block watch program, and educating the neighborhood groups on how to obtain grants.
All of this will move the groups toward a one-day summit in late summer, where Young says the effort will continue to create partnerships, to share innovative projects already underway in their communities, to learn from one another and to gain a better understanding of how to cooperate.
To RSVP for the March 6 event, click here.

Pittsburgh Funded: Youth funding youth at Teens 4 Change

Three Rivers Community Foundation takes a chance on non-traditional groups looking for funding,” says Sydney Olberg, who heads TRCF’s Teens 4 Change. And Teens 4 Change has an even bolder vision – it takes a new group of about 15 high-school teens each year and teaches them how to make smart grants to other youth-led or youth-driven organizations that offer services to youth as well.  “So that the youth voice is incorporated into the project,” Olberg explains. “It’s also about the future of grant making and hoping that social justice becomes a part of it.”
TRCF focuses its giving on social-justice groups – “changing the inequalities in the system,” Olberg says – so the teens also learn about local social-justice issues before they choose the recipients of their $500 to $2,000 grants.
Teens 4 Change’s last round of six grants funded such causes as Educating Teens HIV/AID, Inc. and the PRYSE Academy, a Pitt student summer program for refugee youth  that teaches skills for navigating in society and for appreciating other cultures.
This year’s Teens 4 Change program has the help of a past member, now in college. The kids are learning how to write their own Request For Proposals, do outreach to applicants, even design graphics for program advertising.  “It’s good practice for youth to be reaching out to each other and seeing each other as a network,” Olberg notes.
TRCF has just received reports from two of last year’s awardees, she says; PRYSE, for one, has doubled its refugee contacts, thanks to the grant.
The deadline for groups to apply is April 4 at 5 p.m.  The application is online at the TRCF site, or you can contact Olberg at  (612) 886- 5268 or email here.
“It is an empowering experience to apply to youth and to be funded by youth,” she concludes. “We’re a starting point for taking a chance on these youth-led programs.”
Writer: Marty Levine (forgood@popcitymedia.com)
Source: Sydney Olberg, Teens 4 Change

'Housing options' offers creative housing solutions for those with disabilities

Among people with disabilities such as autism in Pennsylvania, there's a 17,000-person waiting list seeking community housing funds, says Linda Marino, resource coordinator at Jewish Family & Children’s Service (www.jfcspgh.org) (JF&CS).
That’s why JF&CS and Jewish Residential Services, which focuses its support work on families of individuals with special needs, will present “Housing options for individuals with disabilities” on March 4 at Rodef Shalom in Oakland.
Local disability housing advocates appearing to speak and answer questions include Deborah Friedman, executive director of Jewish Residential Services, who will talk about current residential programs and plans for housing in Squirrel Hill; Mary Hartley, a consultant for the United Way of Allegheny County’s 21andAble Initiative, discussing innovative housing models for adults with disabilities; Elliot Frank, president of Autism Housing Development Corporation of Pittsburgh, who will speak on The Heidelberg Apartment project for autism spectrum adults and typical adults living together; Nancy Murray, head of the ARC of Greater Pittsburgh and ACHIEVA, will talk on ACHIEVA’s “A Home of My Own” program that combines a family's private resources with government funding and natural supports to help people with disabilities to live safely in a home of their choice; and Robert Garber, an attorney, landlord, court-appointed co-guardian and family member of an individual with special needs, whose topic is privately arranging residential services for a family member with special needs.
The event, Marino says, “isn’t a step-by-step approach to getting housing. Some people are doing some very creative things to get housing for their loved ones,” and the event will highlight “how housing can be provided by thinking outside the box,” such as creating housing with other parents of adult children with disabilities, or directly with a social services agency.
She points to The Heidelberg Apartment project as a great example of community housing possibilities. “We want them all to live in the community together – that’s what inclusion is all about,” she says of adults with disabilities, although there are various degrees of independence. “A lot of people can live in the community with support. Everybody’s different, so everybodys needs are at a different level. The preference is for folks to live in a community. My son’s group home is in a community and he’s a part of the community.”
The presentation is free and open to the community and includes a light kosher meal at 6 p.m. Registration is required. For more information or to register, contact Marino at 412-422-7200 or email here.
 “I think this is a good start for a lot of people looking for adults to live in their community and not in their [family] houses,” she says.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Linda Marino, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

National scholarships for African Americans come here

The NAACP offers two college scholarships annually, and last year no students from the Pittsburgh area applied for either of them.
That will likely change this year as the national scholarship opportunities are being administered by the local POISE Foundation – the first public foundation in Pennsylvania organized and managed by African Americans.
The POISE Foundation’s mission, says Karris Jackson, its vice president of programs, "is to assist the Pittsburgh region’s black community in achieving self-sustaining practices, through strategic leadership, collective giving, grant making and advocacy." POISE manages 150 scholarship and grant funds currently.
The NAACP's Agnes Jones Jackson Scholarship is available only to NAACP members, but its Hubertus W.V. Willems Scholarship is available to all male students.
"I find that a lot of students start the application but never complete it," Jackson says. "That’s usually because they did not give themselves enough time to gather all the necessary documents and/or to write a thoughtful essay."
Over the past few years, POISE has heard from an increasing number of students needing emergency funding to remain in school, she notes. "African American students often lack access to the networks that expose them to the vast number of available scholarships," she adds. "I also think that African American students have a higher degree of need and, as a result, depend more heavily on scholarship money to help cover the cost of tuition.
"Scholarships help to close the gap between financial aid and family responsibility," she concludes. The NAACP scholarships provide up to $3,000 each. "This is a great opportunity for students in the Pittsburgh region and we hope more will take advantage."
Applications are being accepted from now until March 17.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Karris Jackson, POISE Foundation

You knew the Giant Rubber Duck would be on the cover ...

With a cover featuring Pittsburgh's largest visitor last year – the giant rubber duck – VisitPittsburgh's new 2014 Official Visitors Guide to Pittsburgh, which debuted last week, also features double the number of neighborhoods.
"There's a travel trend," says Connie George, the organization's vice president of communications. "People want to get a taste of a city by experiencing its neighborhoods – and actually neighborhoods are what makes Pittsburgh so strong."
VisitPittsburgh picked neighborhoods that past visitors have liked, and that are home to their own attractions: Mt. Washington, East Liberty, Downtown, North Shore, Strip District, Lawrenceville, Oakland, Shadyside and two that aren't even city neighborhoods: Sewickley and Monroeville. 
The book marks the debut of the group's new brand: a bridge and river logo and the slogan "Mighty. Beautiful."
"We tried in the book to show that Pittsburgh is a friendly city and a very vibrant city that has transformed itself into a surprisingly progressive city," George says.
The book goes free to potential tourists who call for information or those who stop by VisitPittsburgh's seven welcome centers, from Fifth Avenue Place and the Duquesne Incline to Golden Triangle Bicycle Rental. Their sales team also uses it to attract conventions and inform visiting press, including 90 travel journalists a year.
It also features "new and exciting photography," she adds, including the cover shot by local photographer Roy Engelbrecht (http://www.rephoto.net/) and photos by ex-Post-Gazette Pulitzer winner Martha Rial, among others.
It will be available for download "soon," the group says.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Connie George, VisitPittsburgh

Aiming at a larger problem -- Racial Equity in Arts group starts

The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) has launched the Pittsburgh Coalition for Racial Equity in the Arts because "the arts really have an ability to lead broader society and push the changes," says Tiffany Wilhelm, deputy director of GPAC.
The Coalition has just begun but already has 80 individual and group members.  GPAC has been sponsoring workshops and arts events promoting better arts access for those with disabilities, and the new Coalition will add to GPAC's ongoing push for diversity in the arts, she says.
"Now we want to be more public about talking about race and racial equity," Wilhelm says. "We see organizations that are led by people of color or involve artists of color not getting as much opportunity … People say that they feel like funding is not always equitable and that people are getting passed up for exhibitions and performances. It really is the same challenges and inequities we see in broader society."
Wilhelm notes that the current exhibition in GPAC's own gallery features art by African American men. "They felt it was unusual to have an opportunity to exhibit Downtown," she reports. "We felt that that shouldn't be unusual."
How can the arts help to fix these societal issues? Arts organizations and individual artists can exhibit and perform work that starts people talking about race. Wilhelm points to Bricolage's theatrical series focused on race relations and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's "Race: Are we so different?" exhibit slated to open in March. The first Coalition event will be "Moving Against Racism in the Arts" on Feb. 20 at The Alloy Studio (5530 Penn Ave.) in partnership with the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater. The dance and discussion program for artists and arts administrators is being billed as "a candid community conversation with movement, writing, and small group sharing to set us in motion to listen, learn, and lead."
"The more we can connect to what is happening in the community and the conversations that are already happening, the better off we will be," concludes Wilhelm. In the meantime, the Coalition will be looking for more events that will provide "lots of entry points for people to join the conversation ..."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tiffany Wilhelm, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

Fast Pitch: 'best nonprofit coaching around' up for grabs

Sure, $30,000 is at stake for local nonprofits, but it's the coaching that is the biggest prize of the local Social Venture Partners' fourth annual Fast Pitch competition, says Director Elizabeth Visnic.
The contest this year will be held on March 6 the Circuit Center (5 Hot Metal Street) on the South Side. Finalists chosen March 3 will hit the stage to give a three-minute pitch, to be judged by the Partners and the public.
The nonprofits have been busy receiving expert coaching on honing and delivering their message – a skill that will leave them better able to plan for their futures and seek other funding as well.
This year's semi-finalists are:
  • CARE Ownership Asset Development & Training Program
  • CHS Homeless Assistance Programs
  • First Tee of Pittsburgh
  • High School Urban Eco Stewards: Young Naturalist Educators
  • Homeless Education Network
  • Lending Hearts
  • Music Smiles
  • Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse
  • J.A.W.S. (Jobs Access and Waste reduction through Small business creation)
  • Refugee Teen Mentoring Program
  • Small Seeds Development Inc.
  • Treasure House Fashions 
Among the prizes this year are capacity-building grants from the Partners and from the Forbes Fund – not only cash but continued coaching.
"I think we've gone a lot deeper in our whole coaching program" this year, says Visnic.  She calls it        "really one of the best in the country for coaching pitches," based on exchanges Pittsburgh SVP group has had with other SVP organizations around the world.
"We have a great array," of semi-finalists, Visnic notes, "from faith-based communities, social services, social enterprises – generating their own resources to sustain what they are doing – and others.
"It is their opportunity to raise awareness about their issue to everyone in Pittsburgh, and their specific role."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Elizabeth Visnic, Social Venture Partners Pittsburgh

NPC's Design Our Future targets action on startups, diversity, public policy

The New Pittsburgh Collaborative (NPC) has narrowed down the priorities for its Design Our Future program, starting its members on a two-year effort to focus greater city attention on three areas:

  • Diversity, inclusion, and equity
  • Public policy and leadership
  • Startups, innovation, and entrepreneurship
The process began on Nov. 9, when more than 60 individuals from about 40 organizations met at NPC to come up with the region's biggest opportunities and challenges. Since then, 300 ideas became 40 issue-specific designs, now narrowed to the three categories above.

"Accessibility is such a big issue," says NPC head Dan Law about the first focal issue for Design Our Future, "not just to jobs but to our civic organizations, our local government, the chance for young people to be integrated into our neighborhoods." Solutions may lie in changing people's "economic trajectory," Law says.  
Law says the discussions about the issues will include not only young professionals in their twenties and thirties but younger students and older people in mid-career. "The intergenerational, interdisciplinary approach is going to be the linchpin for future collaboration," he says.
"We're still trying to figure out what is the recipe for constructive and productive dialog on equity," Law adds. "These are very difficult questions, but we firmly believe we need to take the time to have dialog before we move to have constructive programs."
Law hopes to encourage local individuals and groups to contact the NPC and be a part of Design Our Future. Concludes Law: "We don't have all the answers yet but we're going to spend the next two years figuring it out."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dan Law, NPC

Deadline Pittsburgh -- GPAC artist's grants, Feb. 24

Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council is offering up to $2,500 each in Artist Opportunity Grants with a Feb. 24 application deadline to "help artists hone their skills and craft [through] important professional development opportunities, such as travel to work with a mentor, participation in a festival or artist residency."
Four factors make artists most eligible: If the grant will sponsor something the artist has not attempted before; if the artist is committed to undertake the opportunity; if it fits in well with the current stage of the artist's career, and if it "will help you achieve a professional goal."
These grants don't fund the creation of new work; rather, they fund such items as "childcare, framing, shipping, travel expenses, professional installation of your work, documenting, and tons of other stuff that you usually can’t afford."
The thrice yearly grants also have deadlines of May 19 and October 20.
Sponsors of this grant opportunity include the Fund for Individual Artists of The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments and the Hillman Family Foundations.
Eligibility requirements: Artists must be at least 18, live in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Mercer, Lawrence, Somerset, Venango, Washington or Westmoreland counties for at least the past year and "have a record of artistic accomplishment that can be documented, including evidence of work that has been publicly performed, exhibited, published, critically reviewed, etc."
Writer: Marty Levine 

Could your nonprofit benefit from 46 weeks of help?

Dannai Harriel believes there are nonprofits in Pittsburgh that could use the help of a budding health professional who really wants to serve this community.
Harriel is program manager for Pittsburgh Health Corps (PHC), the local group of AmeriCorps members who are again this year seeking placements in Pittsburgh nonprofits where they can work on public-health projects.
"There are so many grassroots, smaller organizations doing this type of work," says Harriel. "I know there are organizations out there who could benefit from an AmeriCorps member.”
The PHC/AmeriCorps members will each put in 1,700 hours of community service over a 46-week period from September 2014 through July 2015. Notes Harriel, the group is particularly looking for opportunities to work on promoting community involvement in healthy eating, exercise, environmental stewardship and managing such diseases as hypertension, diabetes and asthma.
The typical PHC member, says Harriel, is a recent college graduate who wants to move into public health, medicine or social services. PHC already partners with health centers, food banks where members work to promote good nutrition, and the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, where they are doing outreach and testing to prevent the spread of HIV.
Now she hopes organizations that start community gardens and that promote community fitness will want to take on PHC members as well.
“I would really like to see our members in schools," she adds, "because they’re young and they’re so excited. I could see them with children to help inspire them to be healthier. Maybe it can trickle down to their parents and the community."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dannai Harriel, Pittsburgh Health Corps
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