Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mayor Launches ‘ServePGH’

With an eye on making Pittsburgh and even more livable city, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has launched a new citywide civic volunteerism program. The ‘ServePGH’ program is a multi pronged effort to get more residents involved in their city.

The city has already launched a Civic Leadership Academy where residents are trained to learn how to lead community groups, start block watches and launch other community-building activities. Today Mayor Ravenstahl unveiled four other efforts that will form the basis of ServePGH.

Taking the spotlight today was the “Mayor’s Mentoring Initiative” that gives city workers up to two hours of administrative leave per week to mentor middle-school students. The program piggybacks on a mentoring program launched last year by the United Way of Allegheny County. United Way President Bob Nelkin says many kids in the city need to see adults who hold everyday jobs. “Our kids don’t know what those jobs and careers are, They may have the dream of being an NBA star but they need to know what the real jobs are in health fields and in other fields.”

Toni Kendrick is a principal in a Pittsburgh Public school on the North Side. She says she has seen firsthand the impact of mentoring. “Students who are mentored receive better grades… are less likely to be involved with drugs and street violence… [and] students with mentors are 86% more likely to attend college,” says Kendrick. Her school is home to 55 sixth graders with United Way mentors this year and she says 28 of them are on the Honor Roll.

Other prongs of the ServePGH program will be rolled out in the coming months. The “Love Your Block” program will roll out this spring along with the “Redd Up Zone” effort. Both programs have the goal of cleaning up neighborhoods and instilling more civic pride. A “Snow Angles” program will launch in the fall, calling on residents to volunteer to shovel the sidewalks and driveways of neighbors who can’t do it themselves. “When I grew up, I used to love snow and when I became the mayor I now hate snow,” says Ravenstahl. He says we all have to deal with the snow and many seniors need help.

It is unclear if the mayor plans to adopt a sidewalk but he says he will be taking on a mentee. “I can’t with a straight face ask our directors and city employees to go do something I’m not willing to do myself,” says Ravenstahl.

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