During my internship at the Pitt Hill CEC, I saw a vision turn into reality. The Pitt Hill CEC and the concept of New Granada STEAM all started as a vision, a dream of how all these things could combine to create a positive change in the community. I learned about the vision on my first day and heard about it from various stakeholders during the soft opening. Kirk Holbrook, the director at the Pitt Hill CEC, described his vision during the soft opening. The creation of a tech pipeline, engaging youth with various STEAM programming to shepherd them into careers in the tech industry. He also outlined a vision of providing intergenerational programming, creating spaces where learners of all ages could exchange ideas and teach one another. He wanted the Pitt Hill CEC to serve the community as partners with the community guiding the programming and the purpose of the Pitt Hill CEC. It is more than just a bridge between the Hill District and the University of Pittsburgh; it catalyzes a multifaceted community-oriented development. An investment in the future of all residents regardless of age, income, and background. The beauty of the Pitt Hill CEC is its significant changes based on the population it serves.
Visions have no bearing on reality until materialization. Until then, it remains inaccessible, just an idea that exists in perfect conditions in our minds. We cannot learn anything from these ideas: they are unobservable because in our minds it remains in a static state. Unlike the idyllic state we conjure in our minds, reality is in a constant state of motion: evolving and devolving. The transformation from an idea to reality allows us to learn about its flaws, benefits, and impact. My internship was aiding the process of transforming an idea into reality. Transforming a vision into a thing capable of impacting the lives of those who participated in the programming we offered was the essence of my internship.
The process began with me creating marketing materials for programs we held throughout the summer. Although I had little graphic design experience, I became proficient in using Canva to create flyers. Initially, it took about an hour to complete, as my competence improved, it took half an hour. Aside from creating flyers, I spent much of my first month and a half curating resources for the Pitt Hill CEC to develop new programs. The list included various student organizations that could serve as student leaders for programs or volunteers for programs. I also discovered resources for developing STEAM-based programs. It will serve as a starting point for organizations, like student organizations, to create new programs. Scattered across the first month and a half were meetings with student and community organizations where we discussed future partnerships, progress on current programs, and current plans for delivering programs this summer.
I spent the last month and a half of my internship helping to facilitate a wide array of programs: STEAM Saturday Series, School2TechCareer, Grant Writing Workshops, and other programs. My favorite part of the internship was School2TechCareer. I observed a group of newly minted high school students interact with various aspects of technological innovation. Over a couple of weeks, these ambivalent high school students became generally engaged with technology. They were excited to learn about artificial intelligence, programming, cybersecurity, and informational technology. Interacting with the students was a fulfilling experience; I got to be a minor part of their lives, possibly convincing them to continue learning tech skills which will be vital to their future success.
School2TechCareer further honed my leadership skills: listening, communicating, delegating tasks, and teaching. Every week of the School2TechCareer provided a new challenge. Improving the delivery of the Google Micro: Bits course during Google Week improved my ability to listen to the needs of others and delegate tasks to members of my team. Cybersecurity tested my ability to communicate and teach complex ideas to an audience with little experience with computer jargon. IT Help Desk tested my ability to step back and occupy a more support-oriented role. Adapting to new circumstances was a common occurrence during my internship at the Pitt Hill CEC.
Just as important as the work I did at the Pitt Hill CEC was getting to the Hill District. Working in the Hill District every day was a great way to learn more about the community; there is only so much I could learn by reading about its history. Getting to know long-time residents and talking with them gave me a new perspective on the community’s history. Often, communities like the Hill District are viewed as victims in their own story: robbed of their agency. Being in the community, I came to understand that they had agency: they were deeply involved in the history and future of their community. They saw the Hill as more than just a location; it was home. I got to learn about the community through the Pitt Hill CEC. Marlo Hall, the outreach coordinator at the CEC, and I conducted flyer drops throughout the community to market our programs. During these drops, I got to see the physical locations. I also observed the interpersonal bonds that elevate a physical location into a home.
We also participated in a march against gun violence, where I got to the testimony of community members impacted by gun violence. I saw the community come together to remember the lives they had lost to gun violence: the victims never forgotten. At that moment, I realized the community’s pride came from their resilience, their willingness to learn from the past, and the radical optimism they had for a better future. We participated in an event where we bagged reading materials alongside the local librarians. The bags were a part of an initiative to introduce young children to reading. The entire CEC staff also attended a tabling event during National Night Out, where we informed Hill residents about the purpose of the Pitt CEC and the programs we host.
As I continue to unpack the many lessons learned from my internship, it is dawning upon me that this internship was more than I expected. I was allowed to imagine what my role would look like; I could have done the bare minimum, but the vision Kirk outlined during the soft opening was a guiding light. It shaped how I approached my internship and how I interacted with others. Kirk’s words shine like a lighthouse light amidst a foggy night, guiding ships to safety. It is an alluring light, a reason to continue to approach the shore. It is why others are not afraid to go out at sea because the lighthouse continues to shine even on the darkest of nights. Although this marks the end of my internship, I hope to contribute to the Pitt CEC in some capacity. I hope to venture out into the vast expanse of the sea, returning to shore guided by the unextinguished light of the lighthouse.
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Mychal, beautiful words and reflection!