Virginia Alvino Young

Reporter

Virginia reports on identity and justice for 90.5 WESA. That means looking at how people see themselves in the community, and how the community makes them feel. Her reporting examines things like race, policing, and housing to tell the stories of folks we often don't hear from. 

A native of Las Vegas, NV, Virginia has slowly been making her way eastward, reporting for NPR stations across the country. She started her reporting career at the statehouse in Oregon, and has had stints in Indiana and Texas before moving to Pittsburgh in 2016. 

Virginia lives on the North Side with her husband and fat cat Bean. They enjoy exploring Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, and hiking throughout the region, although they usually leave Bean at home. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The president of the South Side Chamber of Commerce said he feels the popular bar district is still a safe place despite a deadly shooting inside the Rowdy Buck bar early Sunday morning.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Theresa Finn’s son, Jamar, was murdered nearly five years ago. She said it’s getting harder to deal with every day.

“Somebody shot through the window and killed my baby instantly. What I told people is that everyone is suffering. It [isn’t] just the moms,” Finn said. “When you take somebody’s life, it affects everybody, the whole community.”

Last week, Finn attended a preview of a new exhibit at Center of Life in Hazelwood called "I Lived, We Live, What Did We Miss?"

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner wants the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to stop all partial lead line replacements in the city.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

On a Friday afternoon in April, David Lyttle pieced together his drum kit on a patch of grass in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

Adam Kucenic

A local restaurateur who planned to open a ‘90s hip-hop-themed fried chicken restaurant in East Liberty is changing the concept after receiving some backlash from the community.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Activists across Pennsylvania planned protests Monday to express their disapproval of the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote to appeal the Affordable Care Act.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

New research from the Rand Corporation shows that who you are – including your race, education and income – is a big predictor of how healthy you eat. But where you live matters, too.

Since 2011, Rand has compared the health of residents in Homewood, a food desert, with the Hill District, which went 30 years without a grocery store before finally getting one in 2013.

Screengrab / Woodland Hills Surveillance Video

More Woodland Hills High School students have come forward alleging abuse by a school principal and a school resource officer.

Four students are claiming abuse over the past two years, according to Pittsburgh Attorney Todd Hollis, who represents three of the students.

A 2015 surveillance video shows a student thrown to the ground by armed school resource officer Steve Shaulis, who works for the Churchill Police Department. The school’s principal, Kevin Murray, assisted Shaulis in holding the student down. The student was then Tasered.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

While waiting for his bus downtown, Melvin Dawson said he doesn’t dislike Mayor Bill Peduto.

“He’s OK,” he said. “But I think they messed up when they let that police chief go."

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Demonstrators on the City-County Building’s steps downtown Monday called for legislation recognizing Pittsburgh as a sanctuary city. It was part of several May Day events in the city, which traditionally call for workers’ rights.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said she will investigate the county health department’s methodology for determining the cause of elevated lead levels in children.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Jeremiah’s Place is celebrating three years of service as western Pennsylvania’s only crisis nursery this month.

Located inside the Kingsley Association in Larimer, the facility provides 24-hour care for infants and children, who can stay for a few hours or even days when their parents are unable to provide help themselves.

Mark J. Terrill / AP

A new Pennsylvania program allows adults with disabilities and their families to save money for future expenses.

Pennsylvania ABLE was launched Monday and is open to people with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities or blindness – or anyone who qualifies for Social Security Income or Supplemental Security Disability Income

It’s the result of the federal ABLE Act which was passed in 2014, led by Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey. It was then up to individual states to design their own programs.

Taylor Davidson

Pittsburghers who want to support refugees in the community will soon be able to do so one-on-one.

A new organization called Hello Neighbor is now taking applications for individuals and families who want to be matched as friends and mentors to incoming refugees.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The story of Abraham is well known in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. According to the texts, God calls upon Abraham from his home in Mesopotamia to journey to the promised land with his family. 

That story inspired Pittsburgh writer Jacob Bacharach's second novel. 

"The Doorposts of Your House and on Your Gates" is a modern retelling of Abraham's tale set in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania. 

90.5 WESA’s Virginia Alvino Young spoke with Bacharach about his new book. 

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Michael Olijnyk has a hard time throwing things away. He’s co-director of the Mattress Factory, along with with Barbara Luderowski. They live in the museum, on an upper floor.  

“We are obsessive, obsessive collectors,” he said.

Not hoarders, Olijnyk specified.  

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Franklin Avenue in Wilkinsburg is a mostly uneventful place these days.

“It’s been quiet,” said Jackie Pendleton, who’s lived in the borough northeast of Pittsburgh for 34 years. “It’s been quiet since that incident took place down the street.”

Chris Sloan / Flickr

 

The Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has agreed to take more steps to protect children from sexual abuse. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Vanessa McCarthy-Johnson was scrambling to organize her community at this time last year. The Wilkinsburg Borough councilwoman said she felt there was a need to come together after five people, including a pregnant woman, were murdered at a backyard barbecue in the neighborhood.

Auslandsoesterreicherflickraccountinhaber / Flickr

Ticks don’t always wait until the spring to become active. A warm snap in western Pennsylvania could mean more breeding among the insects, and more cases of Lyme disease.

Pennsylvania has had the highest rate of Lyme disease in the nation for years – and that number is going up. More than 12,000 cases were reported last year -- one-third the total cases of Lyme disease across the country.  

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

A new film fest is coming to Pittsburgh.

The inaugural Black Bottom Film Festival will showcase contemporary, classic and independent black cinema this Friday through Sunday at the August Wilson Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

Joe Lewis of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust said there aren't enough platforms for black video, particularly locally produced and independent films. He said the jumping off points for selecting media for the festival, were the themes frequented by famed Pittsburgh writer August Wilson.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

A member of the Somali Bantu community in Pittsburgh is in critical condition after being severely beaten early Tuesday morning. 

The victim is a cab driver who was responding to a call in Beltzhoover.

Many members of the Muslim and refugee community said they're concerned it may have been a hate crime. Pittsburgh Police are investigating, but said there is no evidence of bigotry.

Pittsburgh Police Assistant Chief Lavonnie Bickerstaff said it’s possible the Somali man was beaten as the result of a robbery.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Declining enrollment is causing the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to restructure some of its elementary schools.

Last weekend, Diocese officials announced that 10 elementary schools in the North Hills would be put under a single administration. The changes will go into effect next fall.

Bishop David Zubik said now, all 32 regional parishes will support those schools.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The number of Pittsburgh police officers is on track to reach its highest number in 15 years, city officials said just one day after installing new Chief Scott Schubert.

On Friday, a class of seven new Pittsburgh police officers were sworn in – all experienced and coming from other regional departments.

Mayor Bill Peduto said the city has made intentional efforts to attract outside talent.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Between Scott Schubert's recent appointed as Pittsburgh's new police chief and President Donald Trump's vow to be a “law and order" president, Pittsburgh Director of Alliance for Police Accountability Brandi Fisher is very busy.

Allegheny County

Health agencies in Allegheny County want more families to take advantage of free home visit programs.

The “Open Doors to Home Visiting” campaign was launched this week by the Allegheny County Health Department and Department of Human Services.

There are currently 36 home visit programs in the county for expectant and new mothers. Health Department Director Karen Hacker said home visit programs have been proven to work.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Politicians from the local and state level are partnering in a new way to find out what issues are most important to Pittsburgh’s black residents and how to address them.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A western Pennsylvania school superintendent has resigned after water problems forced an elementary school to close and relocate students to a previously shuttered building.

According to the Butler Area School District’s website, Dr. Dale Lumley’s resignation is effective immediately.

Summit Elementary in Summit Township was closed for two days

About two weeks ago, the district and Department of Environmental protection worked to rectify high lead levels in the well water provided to the property.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

On a snowy afternoon in the Hill District, Shafon Willis and her two kids waited for the 83 bus. Winter, 3, couldn’t seem to hold onto one of her pink gloves, which kept falling to the ground.

The Willis family rides the bus about three times a day to get to daycare and Shafon’s job on the South Side. She said she’s not a big fan of some of the recent changes to the bus system in Allegheny County. A new rule that went into effect Jan. 1 requires riders to enter in the front of the bus and exit from the back of the bus.  

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