Youth Project gets $100,000 for 'green' roof in Braddock

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A $100,000 Heinz Endowment grant will enable one of the Mon Valley's first "green" roof to be created this summer at the Ohringer Building in Braddock.

The community not only hopes to get its first green roof, but it also hopes to build the next generation of green developers.

The rooftop garden will be on a property of Mayor John Fetterman's nonprofit Braddock Redux, which he hopes eventually will house a Subway franchise owned by graduates of the Braddock Youth Project.

About 10 young people from the Braddock Youth Project, a summer employment program run by the county's AmeriCorps unit, will learn about green development and help to construct the planters that will go on the roof.

The youth project's 90 or so other participants also will learn about the importance of green development. They will work on other community projects, such as the borough's urban farm and community gardens.

The youth project will hire more than 100 teens for about $8 an hour this summer to learn about community development and to work on projects, from the urban farm to community gardens to developing video public service announcements.

The youth project is one of a handful of programs for teens offered throughout the county this year, in part supported by $43 million in federal stimulus money.

In its third year, the youth project has been so successful that a similar program in nearby Duquesne has been launched.

AmeriCorps members Jessica Schmid and Dan Barrett, who are running an after-school program for high-schoolers in Duquesne, saw a need for summer activities for kids in the programs, so they built a Duquesne program modeled on the Braddock Youth Project.

Participants in the Duquesne Summer Youth Employment program will build raised flower beds and vegetable gardens for local community members and will transform two vacant lots in that city into gardens and a community meeting space, complete with picnic tables. That program's participants will be paid about $7 an hour. They also will receive video training and interview local residents to put together a documentary on Duquesne.

Mr. Barrett said the program not only keeps kids busy, but also gives them a sense that they have a stake in the community.

"I think it's really important for the kids to realize that they really are a part of the community and they can determine what the community is going todo," he said.

Some community members are elated at the prospect of summer activities for kids in Duquesne. A local church has asked that youth in the program build a raised bed so it can grow vegetables for a local food pantry.

"A lot of people are really excited about the opportunity for all of these youth to work in the community and be paid over the summertime," Ms. Schmid said.

One of those people is Pat Bluett, who runs the Duquesne/West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club, which will provide a camp for youth up to age 14 this summer. But Ms. Bluett said the community doesn't have much for older teenagers to do. Frequently, parents call to ask whether their children can work for her, but she has no money to pay them.

"Not only is there a need for activities, but it also provides them with an income," she said. "When they do this, they're going to have a sense of self-satisfaction where they know they are going to take care of themselves."

Ms. Bluett said she also was excited about the documentary project, which she hopes will instill the youngsters with a greater sense of pride in Duquesne.


Correction/Clarification: (Published June 6, 2009) This story as originally published June 4, 2009 should have said that the green roof being installed on the Ohringer Building in Braddock will be one of the first, not the first, in the Mon Valley.

Moriah Balingit can be reached at mbalingit@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2533.


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