Day of Peace first step for North Side group

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On July 17 more than 300 North Side residents came out to West Park with their friends and family for the Workforce Development Global Alliance’s Day of Peace. This was only the first step to the North Side Family Connections Project set to begin in the fall.

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DAY?OF?PEACE ORGANIZERS—From left: Neicy Dennis, Paul Scott and Nancy Lee Cochran.

“Our goal is to create a better neighborhood by building family connections as well as economic opportunity through peace,” said Niecy Dennis, president and founder of WDGA. “We want youth to find and take the path from peace to education to jobs to the prosperity that completes the circle and reinforces peace.”

The day was complete with a march, concert and vigil designed to avert violence and promote peace which is part of WDGA’s 2Steps2Work program. The organization uses professional development and job placement as a way to decrease violence in the North Side.

Featured celebrity speakers included former Steeler Chuck Sanders, who is the CEO and founder of Urban Settlement and U.S. Ambassador Daniel Simpson, the chief international editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and chairman of WDGA’s Peace Ambassador Program. Participants were encouraged to wear white shirts to promote a sense of unity for the North Side community.

The North Side Family Connections Project will run for a total of 12 months and will include career development classes, computer training, job placement services and ongoing family activities. Additionally, participants will receive support in finishing the GED, be able to obtain a discounted bus pass, and have access to clothing for interviews and work.

“In addition to our goal to create a better neighborhood, we also used it as a prelude to a project that will be beginning in Sep­tem­ber. The first step to a job is averting violence and helping people understand there’s a brighter way and a legal way to get ahead,” Dennis said. “Much of the curriculum involves resolving conflict. The first step is peacefully resolving conflict. If you don’t get along you won’t get ahead.”

Over the course of the day, WDGA was able to sign up 20 participants for their North Side Family Connections Project. Enrollment is still open and their goal is to have at least 30 participants.

“It’s targeted at the community in the North Side. It does really focus at targeting families because we do know you can target young people but if the environment at home is not conducive to that, it doesn’t work,” Dennis said. “The reason we connect that family is because a lot of those problems are in the home.”

Serving as the event sponsor was UPMC’s Dignity and Respect campaign, an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders and organizations, educational institutions, businesses and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.

“Besides being a future potential employer to the kids, what’s so important about UPMC is they have a dignity and respect campaign. Their campaign is to get people to take a pledge to treat others with dignity and respect,” Dennis said. “They had more people than I can count taking that pledge. When you take that pledge you’re promoting peace.”

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