The past three months at the Pitt CEC in the Hill District saw the continuation of existing programs as well as the addition of new ones. The highlight of our fall programming was the STEAM Saturday Series, a set of collaborative classes aimed at elementary-level kids taught by Pitt students and faculty. The series included classes such as Girls Who Code, Designing for the Elements, Scales to Tails, BioBots, and Video Game Design. Each class, while completely unique from each other, focused on building skills that would help students succeed in STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Entertainments, Arts, Media, and Math.
One of the newest programs this semester was our Bridges to IT program, which I helped design from the very beginning. Geared towards high school seniors, this program teaches critical IT skills as well as a certification course(CompTIA A+). More exciting, once students complete their certification, PittIT, in cooperation with its vendors, will offer paid internships which will help them transition to actually working in the IT field.
These are just the beginning of what the CEC in the Hill District aims to do. As part of Pitt’s promise to neighborhood commitment, the CEC attempts to build stronger ties between the University and the communities in a way that benefits both. The CEC offers the community an easier access to Pitt’s expertise, resources, and connections as well as opportunities, health/wellness, employment, and arts. In return, the University aims to benefit by giving faculty and students better access to existing community connections and more support to establish new partnerships, opportunities to learn from and with community members in preparation for professional experience, and diversifying the student body. It is truly a partnership between Pitt and the community.
The key to making the CEC into a well-oiled machine when there are so many involved, is good communication which is why recently we hosted a Community Dinner. The dinner marked the successful operation since the center opened it doors in the Blakey Center last May. But more importantly, it brought everyone from the community into the same room so that we could reaffirm the University’s Neighborhood Commitment—to build a stronger community and a stronger University by establishing long-term partnerships. We informed community members about our progress—14 successful programs in hand with 14 partnering organizations—and provided a vision for moving forward.
Much like how the CEC requires good communication to operate effectively, working at the CEC also requires good communication. The CEC is operated only by a handful of full-time people. Yet, it works with so many(volunteers and community members). Because the CEC is truly a diaspora of community members, students, university faculty and staff, good communication skills are not only recommended but essential. This means good communications with your colleague. Because there is always so much to do, you are given a lot of independence to how you do your work. While this provides the backbone of how we get our work done so efficiently, you want to always be in contact with your colleague so that you know what they’re doing, and they know what you’re doing. Yet, because the CEC works with so many partners, volunteers, community members, your communication skills must also extend beyond your coworkers.
But most of all, working at the CEC requires creativity. Like me, the CEC is also new to Pittsburgh. We venture in waters that have not been tested, travel routes that have not been charted. The CEC, like me navigating my first year in college, is navigating its infancy. As such, much of the work you do will requires some cleverness and creativity. Many times, there is no set way of doing things; the way I do it is the way it is done. One of the joys I have from working at the CEC is seeing my ideas become realities, to real programs. And the limit for the CEC’s future is truly my(our) creativity.