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How to improve state of Black Pittsburgh

According to a 2002 study by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, parental engagement in education correlates with higher grade point averages among students. This is one of many statistics regarding the impact parents have on their children’s future success.

The importance of parenting was the focus of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh’s 2012 State of Black Pittsburgh, themed “Raising Champions.” Along with the event’s main feature where guests heard from Pittsburgh Steelers players and their parents, there were also a series of sessions for adults about effective parenting.

“Definitely being involved in your child’s life, being a parent, not handing that job over to a social service agency is important,” said Rev. Brenda Gregg, founder of Project Destiny, a nonprofit organization targeting inner-city youth. “As we saw today, some of the men had both parents, some did not, but they were all successful.”

After hearing about the many problems still present in the African-American community at the event at Carnegie Mellon University on Nov. 10, many guests at the event identified effective parenting as a solution. They also said strong role models were necessary to fill the void sometimes left by parents.

“It’s important to talk about parents really sticking close to their children, but it’s also about the other adults in children’s lives,” said Marilyn Barnett Waters, principal at Imani Christian Academy, a school for at-risk children. “I really do believe it takes a village to surround children.”

According to another 2002 study that looked at the impact of mentoring programs, minority youth in these programs were 70 percent less likely to initiate drug use. In general, the study also found youth in mentoring programs were 52 percent less likely to skip school.

“They hit the nail right on the head. We need to come out of our comfort zone and talk to the young people,” said Clayton Powell, technology coordinator at the Urban League. “Everyone who’s successful has had someone to look up to.”

While many saw the event as a positive step toward improving the dire conditions many African-Americans face, others said they would like to see the community take a new approach.

“It’s nice to see a community effort promoting the evolution of our community, but I’m tired of going to community meetings and hearing the same stuff I heard 25 years ago,” said Raymond Logan, who works in the field of psychology and has been looking at neuroscience (the brain and how it works), as a tool for helping African-American youth.

Still most said the event, which included sessions for youth and adults, as well as a resource fair, helped raise awareness about the issues in the Black community and some of the solutions for solving them.

“I think we need to have more events like this where we can get the community together,” said Kelly Starver Hall, a nurse manager with the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System. “Let’s look at some things that have worked. Back in the day we used to do things like marches. There’s a reason that worked.”


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