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. 

Contact Virginia at valvino@wesa.fm.

Point Park University

The faculty of Point Park University have reached a tentative agreement for their first ever union contract.

Faculty voted to join the Communication Workers of America, or CWA, in 2003, a decision which the university continued to appeal until 2015.

Samey Jay

UPDATE: The March on Google, which was scheduled to take place outside of Google's Pittsburgh campus at Bakery Square Saturday, has been postponed. Organizers posted online early Wednesday that it was on hold due to "Alt Left Terrorist threats." 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Communities across the country are reacting to Saturday’s racist violence in Charlottesville, Va.

For some in Export, Westmoreland County, it's a reminder of the borough's own history with the Ku Klux Klan. Five years ago, the town made headlines when a regional KKK meeting was allegedly held there.

Kezee / Flickr

Last night Pittsburgh city officials said they were preparing public safety resources ahead of a planned right-wing protest Saturday at several Google sites across the country, including the company’s Bakery Square location. The "March on Google" has since been postponed.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

A new website, Storyburgh, aims to highlight the stories and experiences that often go overlooked in traditional media, like those of immigrants, Asian-Americans and stay-at-home dads. Will Halim, Storyburgh’s founding director, happens to be all three. 90.5 WESA’s Virginia Alvino Young spoke with Halim about how he came up with the concept. 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

The journey for refugees from their home countries to Pittsburgh often takes years and includes lots of stops along the way. As part of WESA’s five-part series sharing the stories of young refugees, native Iraqi Maryam Nader, 15, talks about her desire to continue her travels and experience other cultures.

Nader is from Iraq, but she’s Kurdish, not Arabic.

“I don’t think anybody knows what are Kurdish,” said Nader. “They just assume they’re the same thing as Turkish, but they’re not. Kurdish have a different language and kind of a different culture.”

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Young refugees have to adapt quickly once they arrive in Pittsburgh. Although they often come from difficult circumstances, many are able to learn English and make friends quickly. As part of a five-part series from WESA, four young people from Iraq, Tanzania and Congo share their stories of transition.

Hussein Zangana, 15, now lives in Brookline. He said it’s very different from Iraq, where fighting forced his family to flee. “Something is wrong,” he said.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Some young refugees in Pittsburgh resettled in the city when they were infants and have lived here most of their lives. Others arrived earlier this year. 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

As part of a five-part series exploring the experiences of young refugees in Pittsburgh, Hamadi Hamadi, 15, shares the story of his life back in Kenya and the journey that brought his family to America. 

“Kenya when I was there, my family was poor,” he said. “We had a farm over there. My dad, he used to work in the farm, and he used to call us, me and my brother, to go over there to work.”

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

The Democratic Republic of Congo is experiencing one of the highest rates of internal displacement in the world because of conflict. More than a half-million people have fled the violence. Some of those refugees, including children, have resettled in Pittsburgh. 

Gerry Broome / AP

A report released Thursday by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network finds Pennsylvania isn’t doing enough to produce statewide policies that help prevent and fight cancer.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

On a humid Friday afternoon in the West End, students practice soccer and push each other on the swings. The kids are loud, except for the few listening to music on their phones under the shade of a tree.

Some speak Swahili, some Arabic, but they all understand how to play.

The 5th annual Pittsburgh Refugee Youth Summer Enrichment program, or PRYSE Academy, is serving about 70 middle- and high-schoolers this year.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

One afternoon nearly three years ago, Masedi Thata Kewamodimo walked to the radio station near her university in Botswana and said she wanted to go public about being HIV positive. Now she is visiting Duquesne University through the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

Back home, she focuses on HIV advocacy and helping people cope with the daily challenges of the stigmatizing status by speaking on government-owned radio stations, which reach everyone in the country. 

Ron Larson / Ace Hotel

Amid Pittsburgh’s restaurant boom, a new conference this week aims to tackle tough issues within the food and service industry, including gentrification, sexism and cultural appropriation.

LM Otero, AP File

A new initiative aims to better prepare unemployed immigrants in Allegheny County for the American workforce.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Ashley Morris often brings her 7- and 3-year-old daughters, Taniea and Ta’naea, along with her to run errands downtown. The 26-year-old can’t afford to fix her car, so they take the bus. Even though the line goes right by her place, she doesn’t like living in Hazelwood.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

The latest plans for the Forbes Avenue Betterment Project in Oakland were revealed by PennDOT, Carnegie Mellon University and other planning partners at a public meeting Monday night.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Advocates are pushing for a citizen’s commission to review Allegheny County’s election practices and technology.

Allegheny County’s current machines are 11 years old, and there’s no immediate plan to replace them. The approximately 4,700 machines were purchased in 2006, when the Help America Vote Act made billions in federal funds available for such purchases.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Dozens of supporters of Sanctuary City legislation offered emotional testimony to Pittsburgh City Council Wednesday after residents petitioned for a public hearing.

90.5 WESA

A grant from the Hillman Foundation will help the Port Authority of Allegheny County in its search for a new CEO.

The $100,000 gift will cover their $91,575 contract with Krauthamer & Associates of Maryland, plus a portion of $20,000 in expenses. Krauthamer recruited Allegheny County Airport CEO Christina Cassotis. 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

One Pittsburgh-based online magazine is celebrating it's first birthday this month. QueerPGH volunteers and contributors say they hope to create a hub of content by and for the queer community in Pittsburgh.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Aaron Anthony, his wife Lauren Kokai, two-year-old daughter Adelaide, and their long-haired cat Cyrus recently moved into a single family home in Anthony’s hometown, Shaler. It’s just north of Pittsburgh, along the Allegheny River.

“A hidden gem,” Kokai said. “There’s lots of kids running around, rugrats on bikes.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A petition urging Pittsburgh to officially declare itself a sanctuary city has resulted in a scheduled public hearing at City Council.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

On a breezy Wednesday morning, a tour group of gardeners and members of Pittsburgh's nonprofit community visited all the green spaces the neighborhood of Homewood had to offer. They saw the personal gardens of resident Amir Rashad, walked through shared plots and the garden manned by Operation Better Block.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

An independent bookstore chain in Pittsburgh is opening its third location on the South Side this week.

Amazing Books owner Eric Ackland still has quite a few bookshelves to fill. The 4,600-square-foot space on East Carson Street is about five times larger than his Downtown and Squirrel Hill locations.

“Most people assume a third store is evidence of great success,” he said. “In our case, thank God we’re seeking it out, but we need to thrive and we need a location to grow into.”

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

 

Last year, Hopewell Memorial Junior High School started noticing some negative race-based comments being made among students. Studies show safe environments are essential for learning, and being victim to identity-based harassment can be especially detrimental in school.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is seeking public input as it finalizes plans for Pittsburgh's long-awaited bus rapid transit system.

Riders can offer suggestions at upcoming neighborhood meetings about street design, station locations and what amenities they’d like to see at each station, like benches and Connect Card machines. They'll also offer general updates and allow for questions about the planning process, spokesman Adam Brandolph said.

Irina Zhorov / Keystone Crossroads

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously agreed Tuesday to create a bipartisan group tasked with investigating lead exposure in the state.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Every day at Urban Academy Charter School in Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood begins with students, teachers, support staff and administrators gathered in the cafeteria.

Mornings start with brief presentations on black history, followed by song: “I Believe I Can Fly,” the black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and once in a while, a little Bruno Mars.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Consultant Brian Burley says his new book YNGBLKPGH (Young Black Pittsburgh) is proof that his community produces a lot of success stories and that the next generation can go even farther.

The book highlights 140 black professionals from the city. Each wrote an open letter to fellow young, black Pittsburghers.

90.5 WESA’s Virginia Alvino Young talked to the author about his book and the social movement Burley says he hopes it will create. 

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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