Let’s Get Digital: City of Learning and Digital Badges

Let’s Get Digital: City of Learning and Digital Badges

Do you consider yourself a nature nerd? Do you geek out outdoors?

imageFor up-and-coming environmentalists with diverse interests, a new opportunity to build and share skill sets is about to go viral. The Sprout Fund, in collaboration with 20 organizations (including the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy) has unleashed the City of Learning initiative. Through this program, students are challenged to climb their own personal achievement ladders to gain new skills, then digitize their success.

In our hyper-connected world, young people not only have to be well-rounded, but well connected. The Sprout Fund aims to engage over 3,000 students this summer through a myriad of studies, then plug them in to digital badges as a way to quantify and share their accomplishments with teachers, college admissions, and future employers. By working through specialized curricula designed by each organization to earn badges, students can strive for cyber certifications of their achievements.

What exactly is a digital badge? Think scouting badges meets LinkedIn, explains Taiji Nelson, a Naturalist Educator here at the Parks Conservancy. Under his guidance, a team of five exceptional high school students — graduates of our High School Urban EcoSteward program — will be the pioneers not only in working towards these digital badges, but also of our Young Naturalists program. Starting in June, these Young Naturalists will spend five weeks developing expertise on park stewardship, ecology, tree identification, and much more — all while working towards badges that will show the world what they know.

Week by week, Young Naturalists will earn the following badges, embedded with data and particular to the skills that they’ve mastered:

Beginner Tree IDBeginner tree ID badge

Our budding botanists and future foresters will learn to identify the common trees of Pennsylvania by their leaves, seeds, buds, bark and branches. They do this by recording observations of 10 different native trees, learning to use field guides, attending an identification hike with a tree ID expert, and writing a field guide entry in the form of a blog.


Birding BasicsBirding basics badge

Naturalists will learn the basics to identify all of the birds that flit, tweet and roost in the parks. They do this by using field guides and journals to learn how to identify 10 species of birds,  hiking with a birding expert, and writing a detailed field guide entry for one species of native bird.


Healthy Parks, Healthy CitiesHealthy parks, healthy cities badge

Earners of this badge explore and study parks to learn about the important role of trees in forest ecosystems. They will participate in a transect-survey (studying trees along a specific path) of several forest plots and gain experience with collecting and interpreting data, use scientific tools and methods, and practice systems-thinking.



Urban EcoStewardUrban EcoSteward badge

The skills needed for this badge are generally developed long-term in our Urban EcoSteward program. To earn this badge, EcoStewards must learn how to properly use the tools needed to work in the parks. They will also master invasive plant species identification. To earn this badge, they’re required to plan and complete at least one restoration project to manage erosion, canopy loss or fragmentation, litter, and invasive species.


Young NaturalistYoung Naturalist badge

Earners of this badge gain experience making and recording observations in nature journals using a variety of scopes, methods and mediums. Analyzing the features of plants, animals and landscapes strengthens their ability to compare, contrast and synthesize many observations to form a conclusion. Analyzing natural change strengthens their systems thinking and ability to form assumptions and predictions.


Young people that participate in the City of Learning not only benefit from working with The Sprout Fund and the many civic, educational, creative, and outdoor organizations associated with this initiative, but they’ll also be connected to a larger network across the country kicking off similar digital badge programs. Through City of Learning, we hope to see that young people gaining new skills in the parks can translate that into success throughout their lives.

Lead Your Child Outside: Fun, Affordable, and Family Friendly Happenings

Few voices have resonated deeper or carried further in the crusade to encourage kids to explore and find joy in nature than Richard Louv.

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.”
– Louv in Last Child in the Woods


The Parks Conservancy is in the business of nature discovery. The hundreds of acres of public parkland within Pittsburgh are our classrooms; on dirt trails, in streams, and through meadows, our educators guide thousands of children to learn about the natural world around them. Last year, over 600 students from 1st through 12th grades made countless discoveries with our small but mighty team of educators in our park classrooms through our school programs.

This year, we’re joined by even more outstanding educators from the Frick Environmental Center. With these extra passionate nature lovers, we’re determined to leave no child inside. We invite you to lead your child outside and join us in enjoying our world-class outdoor spaces and battle nature deficit disorder with these family-friendly events:

Earth Day in Frick Park
“Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our chidlren’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).” 
Carrying on the longstanding tradition of the Frick Environmental Center, we’re jazzed to invite the entire community out for this annual celebration of Earth Day. This two-day party is all about spending time outside in the parks. Did we mention it’s free?! Here’s what you need to know:

Community Campfire
Saturday, April 12th
6 – 9pm
Pack your favorite campfire treats (s’mores, hot dogs, veggie dogs, and mountain pies are all fair game!), and we’ll provide the fire and roasting sticks. This is an all-ages community campfire under the stars is the perfect spot to spend time with your family on a Saturday night.

Nature Walks and Hikes
Sunday, April 13th
Every hour between 11:30am – 4pm
Sign up for any number of hikes with themes like Bald Eagle Nest Building, Critters in the Litter, Nature Story Hike – The Lorax, plus many more on this full day in Frick Park led by expert naturalists. No prior registration is necessary, but arrive early to sign up for preferred hikes.


Ultimate Play Day
“If getting our kids out into nature is a search for perfection, or is one more chore, then the belief in perfection and the chore defeats the joy. It’s a good thing to learn more about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it’s even better if the adult and child learn about nature together. And it’s a lot more fun.”
Let loose and play with the Pittsburgh Play Collaborative! We’re cooking up a day of fun, free activities in Oakland for kids and adults. Play on the Imagination Playground, run with giant cardboard soccer balls, crawl through the Lozziwurm, and of course, discover nature!

Sunday, April 27th
Schenley Plaza, Carnegie Museum of Art, and Carnegie Library
1 – 5pm

Summer Camps
“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
Pittsburgh’s parks aren’t only our children’s classrooms. They’re also the coolest spots for summer vacation. Whether your young one is three or 13, we have an age-appropriate camp to challenge their skills and creativity. Camps run on a weekly basis, and the price can’t be beat. See which camps have openings here.


PNC Carousel
“If you can’t live in the land you love, love the land you’re in.”
Bopping sea horses, humpty-backed camels, and mythical dragons make for imaginative family memories in faraway lands never forgotten. For less than the price of one video game, score your family a season pass to the PNC Carousel, valid for two adults and up to four children. The carousel is wheelchair accessible and open extended hours throughout the summer. Purchase your season pass here.

Get Outside!
“The Environmental Protection Agency now warns us that indoor air pollution is the nation’s number one environmental threat to health — and it’s from two to ten times worse than outdoor air pollution.”
Rally your family to make a long-term pledge to play outdoors. Be active, have fun — and go outside! Take the pledge with your family, organization, or neighborhood to connect to nature all year long. We think the best place to start is bringing the gang out to volunteer with us during one of our upcoming volunteer days.

See you outside!
All quotes from this blog are taken from Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods: Savings our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Read more about Louv and Children and Nature Network here.

Never an Off Season

frozen dogwood

Dogwood on ice (photo by Taiji Nelson)

For many park users, the wooded trails they know and love during the spring, summer and fall are out of their minds from December to March. Long, lazy hikes seem like a distant memory. So when I tell people that I’m an environmental educator they often ask “how do you keep yourself busy in the winter?” My typical response is that I finally have a chance to get around to all of the projects and e-mails that have fallen to the bottom of my checklist.  It’s a time to regroup, catch my breath and prepare for the storm of back-to-back programs, busloads of excited students and constantly changing plans in our active seasons. To the outside world all seems quiet, but internally, the winter is by no means a time for hibernation for Pittsburgh Conservancy’s environmental educators. Plenty of planning, preparation and anticipation always preclude the crazy rush of school programs, volunteer days and summer camps.

a spice bush swallow tail butterfly cacoon

Students study a promethea moth cocoon (photo courtesy The Ellis School)

Similarly, to the unknowing eye, it could look like winter is the off-season for nature. Many woodland animals spend months storing energy as fat, before they migrate or enter torpor (a state of lowered activity and body temperature) for winter. Plants also spend much of their year storing energy in the form of sugars in their roots, stems, and buds before going dormant. On winter hikes, we tell our students that the trees around them aren’t dead, they’re waiting.

The plants and animals who stored energy weren’t just working to survive winter, they were also planning ahead to make a strong start in spring when the competition is fierce. The increase in sunlight, temperature and water in spring is like a starting gun at the beginning of a race. Right now, outside, something amazing is about to happen as the ground thaws. Plants and animals are stirring and patiently at the ready. Soon, buds will burst and eggs will hatch. A new year and life for some is about to begin.

PAEE staff shot

Our education staff hiking at the PAEE conference (photo by Taiji Nelson)

At the Parks Conservancy, our education team has also been preparing for spring. Our reach continues to grow as six new schools have signed up to participate through our K-12 programs this year. We’ll share outdoor experiences and adventures with hundreds of students from a diverse range of schools, as well as through family programs, like Earth Day and summer camps. We’ve hired and trained a passionate and talented crew of seasonal educators to use best-practices to connect children with nature through observation, exploration, inquiry and restoration. We’ve developed new programs and partnerships while making tweaks to improve our existing programs. At the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators Conference, our staff gained skills from expert naturalists and educators while sharing our own knowledge about connecting with nature in cities.

lydia plus skull

Lydia, long-time Frick Environmental Center educator, now a Naturalist Educator with the Parks Conservancy

The most exciting winter development for me was the merger of the Frick Environmental Center and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Our two organizations have been jointly running programs for the past few years, but by moving into the same office space and working side-by-side every day, I’ve gotten to know their personalities and talents. We’ve inherited an outstanding staff and a legacy of excellent programming.  When construction of the new Frick Environmental Center is completed, our staff, programs, and facilities will be the best they’ve ever been. We’re ready and waiting for this spring and beyond.

Taiji Nelson, Naturalist Educator at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Confessions of a park volunteer

Steve, leading a crew at this year’s Panther Hollow Extravaganza

I must say, before I volunteered with The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, I thought I had a pretty good handle on things.

I grew up in the 60’s in the country. My dad never owned a TV and there were no video games, personal computers, calculators, or cell phones. The woods and fields of Armstrong County were my playground. I lost countless hammers and saws building forts in the woods, aggravating my dad to no end! My Schwinn was my best friend.  We read books – lots of them. We had a garden the size of a football field. We raised chickens and ducks and I worked on a nearby farm. I drove a farm tractor before I was allowed to drive a car. So, as an adult, I thought I knew quite a lot about quite a lot.

That changed when I turned 50, my milestone. My kids were grown and on their own. I had time. I needed something to do. One day, while looking for maps online, I stumbled across The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy web site and the Urban EcoSteward program. So I joined. While attending Urban EcoSteward training, I was surprised to find out I didn’t know so much.

Each training session involved actual field practice – not much classroom time here. We learned by doing. Rain or shine we learned how to plant trees by planting trees. We learned to identify invasive plants by going out and removing them spring, summer, and fall. There were a variety of trainings, too, like seed propagation, erosion control, and winter tree ID.  The Parks Conservancy staff, past and present, are all wonderful, friendly, helpful, dedicated, and most of all, knowledgeable people. But there was a problem.

The oak wilt site in Highland Park

Now that I was familiar with most of the invasive species present in our parks, I saw them everywhere. I could spot them a mile away along roads, in fields, in the woods, and even in the city.  Everywhere! What a jolt. I had to sort this out somehow. How could we possibly win this battle? The answer, I think, is with more volunteers working with The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and many other organizations committed to restoring our woodlands. So how could I help? I became a crew leader with the training of the Parks Conservancy. That is how! The more volunteers there are, the more work that can be accomplished. At least I can be part of the solution.

Each experience I’ve had with the Parks Conservancy is remarkable to me and repeated by many others I’m sure. Here are just a few:

  • Finding a dozen tires on my EcoSteward site and carrying them to a designated drop off a hundred yards away. Not only are tires unsightly, but they breed mosquitoes. Here’s to your health!
  • Leading a crew of 6th graders from the Winchester Thurston School who were celebrating the school’s 150th anniversary by planting 150 trees in the Highland Park oak wilt area. I could tell they had loads of fun getting out of the classroom and digging in the dirt.
  • Three pawpaw trees and one redbud volunteered to grow on my site. Deer fence were installed to protect these new trees, thanks to a Highland Park work day crew.
  • Teaching a volunteer how to blow his nose in the woods without a hanky. (Isn’t that what long sleeves are for?)
  • Opening a hydrant (authorization required!)
  • Picking garbage off the hillside above the oval bike loop in Highland Park and selling the recovered scrap metal to help the Pittsburgh Trails Advocacy Group build and maintain multiuse trails on that hillside. To this day, I still walk these trails with my Chihuahua, the fastest Chihuahua in Pittsburgh!
  • Planting dozens of trees on a landslide in Riverview Park, preventing further erosion.
  • Planting ten or so hackberry trees on my site. I carried buckets of water from a seemingly great distance to help those trees survive.
  • Girdling Norway maple and sycamore maple (invasive species) on my site. They eventually die and fall. Watch out!

If I sound excited, it’s because I am. Yes, I get irritated at people who litter. I fall a lot and I get dirty (my balance isn’t what it used be). Poison ivy beats me up at least once a year. But I’m always having fun and learning, thanks to The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

Steve Harvan, a long-time volunteer and Urban EcoSteward with The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Learn more about Steve and his love of the parks on his blog and photography site.

A cardinal in the park, captured by Steve

Parks as classrooms, parks as offices: A Public Ally perspective

When I first applied to Public Allies, an AmeriCorps-run leadership development program, my idea of working in a professional office setting was stereotypical. I envisioned boring, tedious tasks. I pictured myself sitting at a desk all day, slaving away at paperwork and waiting desperately for 5:00 to roll around. These thoughts made me nervous, and I considered not going through with Public Allies. After my first week of placement with The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, I found out how wrong I actually was. Many Public Allies are now going through the cliche office experience, but thanks to the Parks Conservancy, I probably spend enough time out of the office for them to be jealous of me.

Reading two poems about nature before sending HSUES students into Frick Park to journal

These past few weeks have been a huge surprise and loads of fun for me. I thought this job would bring boring, slow days, but I was definitely proven wrong. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. The first day of Habitat Explorers started it all. Habitat Explorers is a program that teaches kindergartners and 1st graders about habitats in nature. The program also teaches the students about community, both in our society and outdoors. Children from a variety of schools, including Colfax, Faison, Community Day, and Propel Braddock Hills participate in the program.

1st grade Habitat Explorers throw seed bombs at a praying mantis target in a meadow

The program includes an activity that involves throwing seeds into a meadow. This activity helps the meadow grow back healthier the following spring. Seeing how interested the kids were during the lesson about community and habitat and how much fun they had exploring the meadow also made me very excited. Observing the students’ thirst for knowledge gave me a sense of hope, especially for the future of society. These kids loved the idea that they were scientists, taking samples and bringing them back to the laboratory – even though the labs were only a tent and a tool shed. Some of the smallest findings – a tiny spider in a goldenrod flower, for instance – seemed unimportant to me, but were huge breakthroughs for some of the kids.

Seeing how fun learning was to the kids made me look at things in a different way. I was always a curious person, asking questions about everything I saw, especially as a kid. As I grew older, though, I lost some of the passion I had for learning and being curious. When I started working with Habitat Explorers, I started to reevaluate how I felt about learning. I thought, if these young 1st graders are just starting their education and are this excited to learn new things, shouldn’t I, someone that knows so much more, be even more excited than they are? Every time that I have participated in a Habitat Explorers session, the students inspired me to become more and more interested in learning new things.

HSUES students reflect on their surroundings, keeping a journal throughout their time in the program

High School Urban Eco Stewards (HSUES) is another Parks Conservancy project that I enjoy. HSUES is a program that began as a way to teach high school students about watersheds and ecological restoration. The program actually takes the kids out into the parks to do hands-on field work that is truly helping the park environment. Sci-Tech, Westinghouse, Perry Traditional Academy, Ellis School, and City High participate in HSUES. These past few weeks, my coworker has been taking me to the HSUES sites to give me a feel for the work that we will be doing. Each high school has their own site (a section of woods that the school stewards throughout the year). Although I have not worked with HSUES in the field yet, working with students so close in age to myself as an instructor will most likely bring some interesting experiences.

Another program that I will be working with during my time here at the Parks Conservancy is the Mission Ground Truth (MGT). This program takes 7th and 8th graders into the forest to evaluate and determine the health of the forest and any streams that it contains. Students learn about how humans impact the environment. Just like the other programs, everything that MGT teaches is hands on. The students that participate are doing the jobs of real field ecologists with professional tools, such as pH sensors for measuring pollutants.

MGT students use GPS to map their site locations

A big part of my job is further integrating technology into our education programs. Many people believe that technology has taken children’s interest away from the outdoors and nature. I am trying to get rid of this pre-conceived notion that technology and environmental education cannot coexist. This will come by trial and error through different facets of the program. I am hopeful and excited for all of this to come together, and I am looking forward to a big year for the Parks Conservancy and for myself.

Lynn Johnson, Pittsburgh Parks Public Ally

High School Urban EcoStewards – A Student Perspective

UES_logo_b&wThrough High School Urban Eco Stewards, schools adopt a plot of land in one of Pittsburgh’s four regional parks (Frick, Highland, Riverview, Schenley).   Students visit their site four times throughout the course of the year to complete ecological restoration projects to control erosion, clean up dumpsites, manage invasive species, and plant native species.  At each session, the students document their experiences, make observations, and reflect on the value of their service in nature journals. 

Non-native invasive species refer to flora or fauna that are transported, purposefully or unintentionally, out of their native region and do not have natural controls (pests, pathogens, or predators) in their new climate.  They out-compete native species for sunlight, water, food sources, etc. and reduce biodiversity.

We at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy are so fortunate to go on this journey of discovery with High School students from all over the city. We are thrilled to share this account of the High School Urban EcoStewards program that was sent to us by Tracey Thomas, who will begin her senior year at Westinghouse High School this fall…

May 2013 marked my third year in High School Urban EcoStewards or Eco as most participants call it. I’ve really enjoyed working out in Frick Park to plant trees, flowers, shrubs, dig up invasive species and just sit in nature and write in a journal. I started Eco back in my ninth grade year when my afterschool program, the YMCA Westinghouse Lighthouse Project, introduced the program to a few of us.

Growing up, kids are exposed to nature. But Eco was a way to be exposed to nature while helping it thrive. By all means, Eco didn’t introduce me to planting and learning about nature. I actually had a summer job working for the Student Conservation Association (SCA), which is similar to Eco but at more parks. SCA took a group of about seven-to-ten teenagers (fifteen and older) and took them to different parks around Pittsburgh to fix up the parks, work on stone staircases, plant trees, flowers, shrubs and remove invasive species. I guess that’s why I immediately jumped at being a part of Eco.

The first day we had Eco, we took a walk around the area in which we were to be working. It was not really that far from the entrance but it was still somewhat far. When it rained, the trail would get muddy and we’d have to struggle not to lose our shoes in the mud, but our work site was beautiful. It was an open field with three giant full grown trees in it. One of the trees was a cherry tree and another was in the oak family. The field also had a big, almost jungle gym look to it because of all the grapevines that wrapped themselves around the shrubs and some of the smaller trees. Over the course of that year, we planted about six baby trees and cut down a lot of grapevines.

080613_grapevine fence

The grapevine “fence” that Tracey and her classmates made

The most memorable part about the field was our art project. Instead of throwing away the grapevines, we made a “fence” out of the grapevines to plant inside of.  The purpose of the “fence” was to create something that would protect the plants we would later plant from any animal that would try to eat them. It took a lot of time sketching ideas, but when we finally came up with one, we loved it. Once we finished constructing it, we planted about four to six baby shrubs and a couple flowers inside the “fence.”

The next year, we worked half of the year at the site but soon moved to a new site as there was nothing more we could add to the old site. We basically filled up every available space. The new site though, was much closer to the entrance and was behind a nursery maintained by the park. Sometimes, I miss the old site but the new one had more trees for us to identify and it did offer a good view of the street below and beyond.

At the new site, the first thing we did was write in a journal. When we wrote in our journals, we were to find a spot and write down all of the observations we could come up with. That included animals, trees, sounds, feelings and anything else we could come up with. I think a couple of us even wrote little poems or raps from our spots. The new site was peaceful and bigger than the old one.

Tracey cutting grapevine in Frick Park

Tracey cutting grapevine in Frick Park

After we finished journaling, we jumped right into planting. We planted shrubs and trees, but I’ve long since forgotten the names. Each time we came to the site, we would plant a little, journal a little, and try to identify what type of trees, shrubs and flowers were at our site.

This year, after one and a half years at the new site, we planted trees and flowers. For every tree planted, we were to plant two flowers, one on either side of the tree but not too close. After we planted the trees and the flowers, we went and dug up a few invasive trees and plants. I forget their names but we got to use shovels, loppers, and an axe. It was a new experience for me to use an axe and watch someone up close use one. I felt thrilled. At the end of this third year, we talked about working in Eco as a future career.

I wholeheartedly enjoy working in Eco and I can’t wait until next year. I’m curious and anxious at the same time about whether we will have a new site and to see how the old sites turned out. I’m glad I participated in Eco and if I could do it again, I would and I will. Eco in some ways has become a part of my life. Because of Eco, I appreciate nature a little bit more than I did before.

 – Tracey Thomas

YMCA Westinghouse Lighthouse Project Participant

Help us sustain programs like High School Urban EcoStewards by making a gift designated to our environmental education programs. Or find out if your company participates in the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program and encourage them to support our education programs that mean so much to students like Tracey.

Mission Ground Truth:21 – Educational Partnerships (part one)

Despite the frigid temperatures, the wind chill, and a two-hour delay to boot, 10 teachers showed up to the Frick Environmental Center for our first ever Mission Ground Truth: 21 teacher training. Mission Ground Truth is an inquiry-based experiential science curriculum that gives middle school students the opportunity to investigate the health and value of forest and freshwater stream ecosystems. Combining classroom and field sessions, Mission Ground Truth gives students a glimpse into the everyday life of an ecologist.  After piloting the program in the spring with the 7th grade science classes at Propel Montour, we have expanded our reach this school year to include Propel Homestead, Propel McKeesport, Winchester Thurston, The Ellis School, and the Environmental Charter School.

Educational Partnerships

Propel teachers learn how to use dichotomous keys to ID tree leaves.

Teacher trainings are an important part of developing a partnership between informal educators and classroom teachers. We have different styles, different objectives, and different experiences to bring to the table. The training was a chance for everyone to get to know each other, establish appropriate roles and expectations, and to introduce new teachers to the content of the program. We wanted to provide a space where they could ask questions, give feedback, and learn from Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy staff and teachers who have previously gone through the program.

Many of the teachers had limited experience teaching outdoors and wanted some tips to prepare their class and themselves. As an informal educator myself, two of the most integral aspects of a successful program are ensuring that students are dressed appropriately for the weather (nothing is more distracting than discomfort) and having an enthusiastic and involved teacher on board. Really, it all comes back to communicating expectations to others. We had a great conversation about how helpful it is for the teacher to model the good behavior we expect from our students. As much as the training is for the teachers to become comfortable and acquainted with the program, it was also a space for us to get feedback on the curriculum content. From these discussions, we developed an Environmental Education tip sheet to share with all of our program partner teachers.

Calculating the area of Frick Park using Google Earth

At the end of every discovery activity simulation, we always came back to the overarching goal:  We want the kids to have hands-on experience outdoors doing what scientists do. They’re getting the chance to see what it means to be an ecologist. That means doing research and making predictions, then going out into the field to test those predictions and analyze their data. Both elements are essential. Once they understand that, then they can work through the details that make it all happen.

Be sure to check out part two of our blog next week to learn more about Mission Ground Truth:21 and how we use parks as classrooms.

Bailey Warren is the Education Program Assistant at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy through a 10-month apprenticeship with Public Allies Pittsburgh AmeriCorps program.