Pittsburgh YMCA Transitions into Tech Hub

The project aims to maximize the local Y's space and equip children it serves with tools such as 3-D printers, a music production studio, a digital design lab and a high-volume commercial kitchen.

by Natasha Lindstrom, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review / December 9, 2015 0

(TNS) -- Homewood-Brushton YMCA is undergoing a $6.5 million “transformation” into a creative arts and technology hub for teens, part of a foundation-backed effort to improve outlooks for youths living in one of Pittsburgh's most violent neighborhoods.

The facility on Bennett Street, just west of Lang Avenue, will continue to provide its regular YMCA services during the three years it will take to complete the Creative Youth Center. The project aims to maximize the local Y's space and equip children it serves with tools such as 3-D printers, a music production studio, a digital design lab and a high-volume commercial kitchen.

“It's reflective of that age group of 13 on up that we really, really want to tap into, because there are so many youths in the East End that just hunger for structured out-of-school time,” said Jose Diaz, who does community outreach and runs the Hope for All program at Homewood-Brushton YMCA. “This is a place for them to get that.”

The concept builds off the success that Homewood-Brushton YMCA has had working with Westinghouse High School students through the Lighthouse Project, which introduces youths to digital media, filmmaking and visual arts. Data show students in the program boast higher graduation rates and GPAs than their peers, YMCA officials said.

Construction at Homewood-Brushton YMCA begins next month, with the first phase slated to wrap by fall 2016 and final completion set for 2018.

The Heinz Endowments pitched in more than $1.5 million from a capital project fund to cover the first phase. The foundation also funded travel so James Brown, Homewood-Brushton YMCA's youth and family program director, could observe successful youth programs in New York, Boston and the San Francisco area.

“It's a big statement about the growing importance that we assign to the arts in community and arts for youth,” said Janet Sarbaugh, director of Heinz's arts and culture programs, which has an annual budget of about $9.5 million.

Brown said the goal is to “ensure that the arts are not a luxury, but a fundamental part of youth education that teaches students creative ways to solve problems.”

©2015 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.