Right Here: GLUE gets young people to stick to the Rust Belt

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Abby Wilson traveled across the world, only to return to Pittsburgh to revitalize it.

She grew up in Penn Hills, went to Columbia University in New York City for college and lived in South Africa and Scotland before returning to Pittsburgh in 2006.

She worked on political campaigns in Pittsburgh for two years before beginning law school at the University of Pittsburgh in August.

In the summer of 2007, Ms. Wilson and Sarah Szurpicki started forming the basis for the Great Lakes Urban Exchange, and in the fall of that year, GLUE was born.

Ms. Wilson describes GLUE as "an online resource of people and ideas." The main goal of the exchange is to connect like-minded people in Rust Belt cities, including Pittsburgh, Columbus, Detroit, Buffalo and Cleveland.

GLUE operates with the help of grant money from fiscal sponsors, initially from the Brookings Institution and now through the Tides Center.

The exchange has three main initiatives -- community building, storytelling and blogging, and advocacy. GLUE is currently focusing on multimedia blogging and citizen journalism, and its second conference, to be held in February in Milwaukee, will train people as citizen journalists to help Rust Belt cities come up with solutions to things they encounter in their communities.

"Sarah and I will blog about great ideas, change makers, etc.," and look to touch on things that the "mainstream media" might have missed, Ms. Wilson said.

One of the challenges GLUE faces is getting Rust Belt residents involved in the revitalization of the region.

"It's really important to me that GLUE is not only a resource for people who 'get' urban policy," Ms. Wilson said. "We also want to bring ... a diverse set of [curious people] to the table."

Once you bring in those people, it's clear "there's a community of young people that cares deeply about the city's future," she said.

Ms. Wilson hopes that GLUE will ultimately become an organization that can influence policies in the Rust Belt and advocate for those issues.

Her biggest beef with Pittsburgh is the public transportation. Having lived in New York City, she admits she perhaps holds it to an unfair standard.

"It makes a huge difference if you don't have to worry about how you're going to get home at night," she said. "I wish we had a more robust public transit."

Pittsburgh has its perks, though. Ms. Wilson cites the food, the nightlife and the trails along the river as reasons for young people to stay.

"I'm a 20-something with disposable income. What do I do with my life?" she asked.

"Pittsburgh has good answers to those questions."

Right Here tells the stories of 20-something Pittsburghers. Annie Tubbs is a Post-Gazette staff writer and copy editor. Are you a 20-something who loves living and working in Pittsburgh? Send your stories to atubbs@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613.


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