NEW PRINCIPAL—Sharon Fisher introduces herself to parents. (Photo by Gail Manker)

In the fall, several students from the Voices Against Violence youth program will be going on to post secondary education at colleges and universities like Penn State and Community College of Allegheny County. The program, serving youth in the city’s south neighborhoods, boasts a nearly 100 percent graduation rate and a nearly 100 percent college acceptance rate.

On Aug. 15 Voices Against Violence held a back-to-school event where parents and students were given guidance on how to prepare for the coming school year.

“I challenge the educators in this city to emulate what we do,” said Richard Carrington, Voices Against Violence’s executive director. “We’re paying them to educate our children and they’re doing us a disservice.”

Founded in 1995, Voices Against Violence was conceived with the goal of reducing conflict among members of underserved communities, but it’s involvement in south area high schools has made it one of the most successful dropout prevention programs in the city.     

Today, the organization operates an incentive-based high school retention program for at-risk youth, an in-school and out-of-school conflict solution program, a summer enrichment program, and a GED preparation and trade union training program. Voices Against Violence also hopes to expand their reach to grade schools and middle school in the area.

“If we don’t start preparing them at an early age, they may be lost by the time they reach high school,” Carrington said. “We are about solutions.”

The organization’s student empowerment program, aimed at increasing high school graduation, college-readiness and employment rates of low-income youth, operates out of both Brashear and Carrick high schools. The program offers case management, in-class academic and behavioral support, counseling and mediations, academic tutoring, violence-prevention education, leadership training, financial literacy education and community awareness activities.

This year, there were 280 kids in the Voices Against Violence summer program. The day camp serving youth 6-17 years old is offered free of charge to families whose children attend school in Pittsburgh’s south neighborhoods.

As part of the back-to-school program, held at McKinley Park Recreation Center in Beltzhoover, parents were introduced to Sharon Fisher, the new principal at Grandview K-5.  Fisher has served 11 years with the Steel Valley School District and previously worked with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

“Schools can not do this job independently. We need parents to support us. As parents, when you get involved in a meaningful way, it makes a difference,” Fisher said. “It’s time that we let kids know that we value education. You are your child’s first teacher and role model.”

The event also featured healthy cooking demonstrations, political education, and entertainment including African dance and African drumming.

Sponsors included, Ujamaa Collective, Legacy Arts, the Brashear Association, Reading is Fundamental, Juice UP 412, State Rep. Jake Wheatley’s office and A+ Schools.


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