Contest wants students to think about city's future

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Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program today will kick off a contest designed to get high school students thinking about the city's future.

Students may work individually or in groups to address the question "What is your promise to Pittsburgh?" Responses must be submitted or postmarked by Nov. 24.

While the city prefers video responses, students may submit essays, photos, artwork or responses in other media. Mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said she didn't want to limit students' creative expression.

In December 2006, Mr. Ravenstahl and school Superintendent Mark Roosevelt unveiled the Promise, a college scholarship program designed to promote the school district's academic improvement efforts, reward students for good grades and attract families to the city.

The scholarship program is a springboard for the contest: "What's your promise back to the community?" Ms. Doven said.

The city is assembling a panel of judges to select five finalists Dec. 3. The finalists' entries will be posted on the city's Facebook page, and residents will be invited to vote for their favorite until 4 p.m. Dec. 17. The finalist with the most "likes" will win the contest. Votes also may be submitted to

Prizes include tickets to a Penguins game, lunch with Mr. Ravenstahl and publicity on the city's cable channel.

"I think it will be terrific to have our kids reflect on their vision for the city, their vision for their future," said Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Promise. "To me, it's less about payback and more about engagement."

The contest is open to high school students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Up to five students may work together on an entry. If they're chosen as finalists, entries consisting of essays or artwork will be converted to video format by the city for voting on Facebook.

Video responses may be dropped off at the mayor's office on the fifth floor of the City-County Building. Essay and photo entries may be e-mailed to

Signed waivers must accompany all entries. Waivers and additional information are available at

A $100 million matching grant from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center got the Promise off the ground in 2007. Over the past two school years, about 1,700 students have received scholarships.

Mr. Ghubril said some recipients have mentioned dreams of a more diverse Pittsburgh and a city where every household has wireless capability.

Joe Smydo: or 412-263-1548.


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