Teens on the Rise
Museums gainfully—and meaningfully—employs city teens
By Danielle Scherer
According to a recent study by
economists, young people ages 16 to 24 have been hit hardest by the recent
recession. Last year, more than one
million young adults lost their jobs, as compared to 100,000 dot.com
workers. And, young
African-Americans fared the worst, losing nearly a decade’s worth of
employment gains in 2001 alone.
Museums of Pittsburgh is working to reverse this trend with two outreach
education programs that employ city teens while they develop skills they
can apply in school and, later, in the workplace. “Our vision inspires us to integrate with
our communities for the advancement of this region—socially, culturally,
and economically,” says Carnegie Museums’ president Ellsworth Brown. “Working with local schools and social
agencies to help prepare young people for the workforce is an important
part of fulfilling that vision.” The
teens’ eligibility for and participation in these programs is overseen by
YouthWorks, a consortium of public, private and volunteer organizations.
Science in Your Neighborhood
In a working world increasingly dominated by technology,
young people who lack the appropriate skills may find themselves virtually
unemployable. At the same time, many
schools and social agencies, especially in inner cities, lack the funds to
give children a sufficient education in science and technology.
Science Center bridges this gap with Science
in Your Neighborhood, which currently employs 30 high school students
for up to 15 hours every week as “Youth Explorers.” The teens are trained to present hands-on
science and technology demonstrations at after-school programs for children
in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Training includes math, science, and
technology as well as in public speaking, child development, and more.
skills were on admirable display recently at Thaddeus Stephens School in
the West End as Youth Explorers Cliff Davis and Arnika Watson, both 15,
presented “Chem in a Bag” to a small group of children.
“Do you know what chemistry is?” Cliff asks them.
The children silently shake their heads “no.”
“Well, do you wash your clothes?” he prompts.
“Yeah!” several of them shout, a little indignantly.
“That’s chemistry,” he informs them. “Laundry detergent
mixes with water in a chemical reaction to clean your clothes. Do any of you cook?”
Yetysha and Robbyn cook eggs. Alexis says she cooks chicken and
hamburgers, but Tyrell doesn’t believe her.
“Well,” says Cliff. “That’s chemistry, too. Any time you mix things together to make
something else, you’re doing chemistry.”
and Arnika lead the children in conducting their own chemistry
experiment—combining baking soda, calcium chloride, and Phenol Red to
produce a chemical reaction. Cliff
encourages the children to observe the results. “Eew.
It’s hot!” says Julia. “No,
it’s cold,” corrects Marshall.
Actually, as the children discover through continued
experimentation, it’s both: the
calcium chloride and Phenol Red produce a hot reaction the baking soda and
Phenol Red produce a cold reaction.
Marshall asks Cliff when he’ll get to take chemistry in school. “In a couple of years,” Cliff assures
him. Marshall nods. “That’s cool,”
As Science in Your Neighborhood program
coordinator Kenya Boswell notes, most after-school programs—especially in
low-income neighborhoods—offer only tutoring or recreation. These weekly presentations give the
children quality academic enrichment.
Concurs LaTonya Mixson, assistant group supervisor of the
after-school program at Thaddeus Stephens, “Just look around you. You can see that we don’t have a lot of
supplies to work with. We don’t have
any science supplies at all. This
program really helps us out. The
kids learn something, and they really enjoy it.”
children also get to see someone from their own neighborhood—someone not
much older than themselves—mastering science and sharing it in an
understandable way. The relationship
between the children and the teen Youth Explorers is mutually
beneficial. “I really enjoy working
with these kids,” says Cliff.
and Arnika say they also enjoy working with their peers and in their own
neighborhoods, rather than at anonymous jobs in the mall or at a fast-food
restaurant. Besides, they say,
unlike those unskilled jobs, they can actually use what they learn at work
in their high school classes. Plus,
through Science in Your Neighborhood,
they receive assistance with professional development, career exploration,
and college preparation.
With support from the Eden Hall Foundation, Alcoa
Foundation, Verizon Foundation, and others, Science in Your Neighborhood had doubled both the number of
Youth Explorers it employs and the number of children it reaches over the
past two years. In addition to
visiting after-school programs throughout the school year, the Youth
Explorers also visit city day camps during the summer. Last year, the Youth Explorers saw about
400 campers a week. This summer,
says Kenya, they expect to see more than 1,000 a week.
Andy Warhol’s seminal magazine, Interview, was famous for having its finger on the pulse of
contemporary culture. For the past
__ years, teens from the North Side have been creating their own version of
Warhol’s magazine, called Urban
Interview, with assistance from The Andy Warhol Museum and funding from
the Alcoa Foundation, Alfred M. Oppenheimer Memorial Fund of the Pittsburgh
Foundation, Verizon Foundation, and others.
Like Warhol’s original magazine, Urban Interview records what’s hip, hot, and happening among
today’s teens. Each issue contains
interviews with local and national personalities—past interviewees include
Mayor Tom Murphy and Steeler Jerome Bettis—as well as artwork, photography,
poetry, and prose by the teens.
young teens on the rise,” says Stephen Curges. The sky is the limit for Stephen, the
five other young people employed as artist-apprentices, and the two former
apprentices who are now employed as student assistants. Among these eight young people are
aspirations to be a chef, a lawyer, a computer network specialist, and a
cartoonist—and, because of the broad range of professional experience they
are getting at The Warhol, they feel that their dreams are that much closer
recent Thursday evening, the artist-apprentices are lined up at a bank of
computers in The Warhol’s education studio, using advanced multi-media
programs to work on various aspects of the publication. Stephen Curges is using Adobe PhotoShop
to refine a puzzle motif for the magazine’s cover. He says he’s increased his computer
knowledge significantly while working on Urban Interview. “I’m
learning how to use a lot of different tools,” he says.
artist-apprentice interviews someone of his or her choice for the
magazine. Stephen chose artist Jim
Campbell, whose work he had seen at the Wood Street Galleries. “He uses lights and LEDs and digital
media to create motion,” Stephen reports.
“I wanted to know how he did it.”
Stephen is applying some of Campbell’s techniques to his personal
Web page, the creation of which is another facet of the Urban Interview project.
Meanwhile, Harry Diggs is positioning text art on the
back cover. The text is an
inspirational phrase written by fellow artist-apprentice, Jeff Porch: “Stay on track and piece your life
together.” Harry is on track to
fulfill his ambition of becoming a computer network specialist. He got some first-hand information on
computer careers from Tom Lebar, The Warhol’s LAN administrator/PC support
technician, his interview subject for the magazine.
Kristina is putting the finishing touches on the
transcript of her interview. Like
Harry, Kristina, who wants to be a chef, got some career advice from her interview
subjects, chef Scott Schmucker and admissions counselor Lisa Sandier of the
Culinary Arts Institute of Pittsburgh.
Michael Mason and Shavon Beasley, the two student
assistants who help The Warhol’s artist-educator Nicole Dezelon supervise
the students, say they can already see how their experiences at Urban Interview will help them
launch their careers. An aspiring
cartoonist, Michael can include the illustrations he’s done for Urban Interview in a portfolio to
show prospective colleges and employers.
Shavon, who plans to be a lawyer, used the resume she prepared with
assistance from The Warhol staff to apply for a law school preparation
program sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. “No matter what you want to do,” she
says, “you always need to use computers.
Someday, I’ll use a computer to prepare briefs.”
Affirms Tresa Varner, assistant curator of Education at
The Warhol, “Computer skills are a large focus of the program, since they
are of such paramount importance in the world job market.”
Nevertheless, traditional skills such as short-term and
long-range planning, problem solving, teamwork, and interpersonal relations
are still important in the workplace.
After working nine hours a week for 28 weeks to produce Urban Interview, the teens will have
refined these critical job skills as well.
The 2002 issue of Urban
Interview will be published this summer and will be available at
various locations throughout the North Side and online at The Warhol’s Web