The question of how to meet the needs of youth in our neighborhoods has always been a large one.

This is especially true as relates to that special time after school before parents get home from work. In the case of single moms, it seems to be an ongoing juggling act and logistical nightmare around identifying a safe place for children at the close of the school day.

LOVE FOREVER—Tyian Battle looking at a poster of her late son.

A tragedy in the life of a single mom, 33-year-old Tyian Battle, who was cognizant of this struggle, created the impetus which allowed her to think she could somehow contribute to a possible solution for mothers like herself.

Tyian’s son, Amon C. Harris, lost his life to a rare heart disease at the tender age of 7, her grief was all consuming, bereft and stunned by the empty place her son used to fill, she knew she needed to find something to do with her grief that could also serve as a way of freeze framing the memory of her child. At first her idea was to begin a 24 hour child care service that would serve women who worked non-traditional hours; but it was soon clear, however, that such an endeavor was extremely ambitious, given her limited start-up funds. Still she wanted to do something to lift up and support children, and also help parents. She stayed with the idea of caring for children, but felt that she wanted to offer something more than just another ‘after-school’ program; she wanted to give them something more than a place to do their homework and have a snack.  Hence the ACH Clear Pathways seed was planted

A large crowd of approximately 150 showed up in the strip district at the elegant Savoy Restaurant for the United Way Campaign kickoff fundraiser of ACH Clear Pathways, the organization she finally decided on which was named for her late son. The event, sponsored by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and the Savoy Restaurant, was meant to bring together potential donors, stakeholders, and others interested in learning about this organization, and those who have a vested interest in the success of ACH Clear Pathways.

Among the guests were Harry Johnson from Councilman Daniel Lavelle’s office; representatives from Met Life; Carl Demi from the United Way; Kim Wood, community outreach coordinator with the Pittsburgh Penguins;  and Terri Baltimore, vice president, Neighborhood Development of the Hill House Association, just to name a few.

Battle did not receive a lot of encouragement when she began on this journey; she was told by some that she could not start a non-profit, that it would be too difficult; only two short years have passed, and not only has she created her non-profit, but that non-profit has received a powerful stamp of credibility by being accepted as one of the United Way Agencies.         “I know God wants to take this program somewhere, because I did not pursue this opportunity, it came to me at the suggestion of someone who believed in what we are doing,” she said.

The president of the ACH Clear Pathways board gave remarks at the event, along with Carol Demi of the United Way who encouraged the crowd and gave praise to Battle for what she has accomplished. But the most powerful words at the event were from Dr. Lawrence Butler, of Community Pittsburgh Pediatrics, who was the pediatrician to Battle’s son.  After explaining the details of Harris’ condition, he talked of Harris’ spirit, his smile and of his heart, stating that though his physical heart was damaged, the inner heart was not; and that his mother’s heart was equally as valiant for the work she is doing, what she is contributing to the community and ultimately to the health of other children by providing this programming.

Housed out of Ammon Recreation Center on Bedford Avenue, ACH Clear Pathways picks up after traditional daycare ends. And from 6 to 8 p.m. children are trained in ballet, acting, hip-hop dance, and Martial Arts; there is also a Girl Scout program—Girl Scout Troop #53611. There is a small fee of $25 per month with a limited number of scholarship positions available.

Battle gives much praise and thanks to her board, most of whom have been with her throughout. They are: President Nathaniel Darwin; Vice President Rev. Jeffery Burton; Secretary Evelyn Howard; Treasurer Roxanne Thomas; members Charlise Christian, Rhoda Christian, Jacquelyn Graham and Byron Wright.

“Now that we are a United Way Agency, we will be able to make sure that all the youth who want to participate in the programs can,” said Battle. She believes that because God has made the way for this program, he will keep doing so. “In the early part of 2010, the very first grant we received was from State Representative Jake Wheatley, he was generous in his support because he saw the value in this program in serving the children in his district,” she said. “And last year we were blessed enough to receive $10,000 from an anonymous donor, which was instrumental in helping us to hire our first paid staff person, Ashley Taylor, our program coordinator.

“I know God is real, when I think of how I was told that it was too difficult to start a non-profit.”

(For more information on how to contribute to ACH Clear Pathways, contact Tyian Battles, or check Vendor ID# 10532885 on your United Way Donor Card.)

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