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

It took some wrangling to fit nearly 30 Catholic school eighth-graders into the basement space of Most Wanted Fine Art gallery in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood where St. Bede English teacher Becky Baverso took her comic book club to see artist Marcel Walker’s exhibit.

“So this show here, ‘To Tell The Troof,’ this is my first solo gallery show,” Walker told the class, pointing. “I’ve had work in gallery shows before, but this is the first time it’s all mine.”  

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

 

In May, the Pittsburgh Foundation pulled the plug early on its Day of Giving, when a server crashed.

Foundation officials are hoping a do-over from 8 a.m. to midnight on Wednesday won’t result in any technical difficulties.  

During the original drive, Texas-based Kimbia’s servers were overloaded while facilitating various fundraising events for 54 community foundations across the country, including locally.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

 

Watching Abdullah Salem manage his staff of half-a-dozen men behind a Strip District counter, it’s clear who runs the show. 

“We’ve been working since yesterday, 6 a.m. straight, ‘til now,” said Salem, 35. “We still have six cattle to cut, and then we’ll be done.”

MAD DADS Pittsburgh

This year marks a decade since a group of local men began a chapter of the national faith-based organization MAD DADS in the Pittsburgh region.

MAD DADS stands for Men Against Destruction, Defending Against Drugs and Social-Disorder and in the last 10 years, membership has grown from about a dozen members to nearly 60.

Membership is key to MAD DADS’ signature program, street patrol. It consists of members going out into neighborhoods to offer a positive social presence. They aim to address drugs, gangs and violence through conversation.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

An estimated 20 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t have access to computers or internet, but a new initiative is aiming to close the “digital divide.”

Rec2Tech brings tech opportunities into neighborhoods through afterschool programs.

The city, Sprout Fund and other partners are pairing learning organizations with some of the city’s recreation centers to provide more digital learning opportunities for youth. Rec2Tech launched Monday.  

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Motorcycles revved and a crowd marched by the line wrapping around the Homewood Coliseum on Friday where former President Bill Clinton spoke on behalf of his wife and Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton’s visit fell on the same day as the funeral for a beloved pastor from the neighborhood. He offered condolences for the friends and relations of Reverend Eugene “Freedom” Blackwell, who died last month from cancer at the age of 43.

City of Asylum

Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum started in 2004 with a mission of providing a voice and temporary home for one exiled, politically oppressed writer at a time. But that mission grew as its first resident Huang Xiang went out into the neighborhood, and painted his poetry on the outside of the house.

With the renovation of the former Masonic temple on Pittsburgh’s North Side nearly complete, City of Asylum will soon have a new permanent home with Alphabet City.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

An independent investigation into the Pittsburgh Police chief’s appearance at the Democratic National Convention has found no violation of city code. The Office of Municipal Investigation’s findings were released Friday.

After investigators reviewed city code, conducted interviews and reviewed emails, they found complaints against Chief Cameron McLay “unfounded.”

Virginia Alvino / WESA

The City of Pittsburgh honored the life and career of former Mayor Bob O’Connor on Thursday, the ten-year anniversary of his death.

Mayor Bill Peduto organized the memorial on the front steps of the City-County Building, bringing together friends, family and colleagues of the late mayor. Some guests wore original t-shirts and buttons from O’Connor’s campaign.

Peduto said he met O’Connor 25 years ago, early in his own career.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Advocates from Lawrenceville-based advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh said a fatal accident this week between a motorist and cyclist could have been prevented.

Epicast Network

When Pittsburgh comedian Ed Bailey opened for headliner Tony Rock at Pittsburgh’s Improv comedy club last Friday, his polished set landed plenty of laughs – until he mentioned his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio

eddie~S / Flickr

The City of Pittsburgh will hire EMTs for the first time since 2004 and raise the starting pay for paramedics.  

The city and paramedics union announced sidebar agreements to the existing union contract Monday. Pittsburgh hasn’t had dedicated EMTs since 2004, when they were laid off due to budget constraints, said Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich. Instead, they city has relied on paramedics, who undergo more training, but cost the city more per hour.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

The Allegheny County Health Department heard public testimony Monday on proposed e-cigarette regulations.

The ban would apply to places where smoking is also currently prohibited under the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act.

This includes schools, hospitals, restaurants, public transportation, sports facilities and theaters.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay said there’s a crisis of confidence in American policing.

“We’re trying to become a benchmark that others will compare themselves to, that’s our goal,” McLay said at a press conference held to release the police department’s 2015 annual report Friday.

1Hood Media / Facebook

Celeste Smith wants people to know hip-hop has always been alive in Pittsburgh, whether people have seen it or not.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Voice-activated technologies, like the Amazon Echo speaker, are gaining popularity with people of all abilities.

But Pittsburgh-based Conversant Labs has developed an app that’s aimed at benefiting people with visual impairments. It’s called Yes, Chef! and uses voice commands to lead users through recipes.

“So, your hands are dirty they have like raw chicken, raw meat, you don’t want to have to wash your hands every time to either touch your phone and get food on your phone or on your lap top,” said founder Chris Maury.

Scott Roller / Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

August Wilson Park opens in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood Saturday after years of planning and construction. 

Abby Warhola
The Andy Warhol Museum

Photos and paintings at The Andy Warhol Museum are set up chronologically by decade, starting at the top.

From the seventh floor, School Programs Coordinator Leah Morelli explains, “This is the floor in which his early life starts and the story begins.”

But even without a human guide, all visitors -- including those with visual impairments -- will soon have a tool to let them know where they are and what’s around them in the space thanks to the organization’s first audio guide.

Democratic National Convention / Screengrab

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay on Monday requested a review of his appearance at the Democratic National Convention. Two entities will investigate to determine if McLay’s appearance violated any city code.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay said he broke no rules by speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Tuesday night, despite backlash from the police union.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Standing on the corner of Liberty Avenue and Wood Street, Joe Kennedy held a paper sign Thursday. It read, “I am a human being.”

“Systems change when change is demanded, and I’m here to demand change,” said Kennedy, 48. “It is unacceptable that in a society that calls itself the land of the free and the home of the brave, black men are being gun downed at taxpayer expense by law enforcement.”

What's Up Pittsburgh / Facebook

A group of mostly first-timers showed up for one of What’s Up Pittsburgh’s open meetings last Monday night.

Facilitator Lizzie Anderson asked participants sitting on the floor to squish together to make room for latecomers in the room, which was packed well beyond capacity.

Keith Srakocic / AP

 

 

Democrats have won every presidential election in Pennsylvania since 1992, but this year could be different.

Pennsylvania seems to be getting redder, while a potential Donald Trump ticket is pushing other states towards a democratic vote.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

About 100 teens, many of them covered in splattered paint, gathered at the corner of North Homewood Avenue and Idlewild Street in Homewood on Tuesday.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Thousands of grassroots activists from across the country marched through downtown Pittsburgh Friday afternoon, demanding racial, economic and environmental justice.

The participants are part of the People's Convention taking place this weekend. The gathering of community leaders aims to create a community of action and share best practices for inciting change. 

Center for Popular Democracy / Facebook

Hundreds of activists, community organizers and progressive elected officials from around the country are meeting in Pittsburgh this weekend. 

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Norfolk Southern blasted loose boulders Wednesday from a Mt. Washington hillside that were threatening to tumble onto its railroad tracks and a busy city road below. 

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Attendance is up at Anthrocon, a conference boasting the world's largest convergence of human-like animal characters, now celebrating its 20th year.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Memories Sportsman Shop & Taxidermy Studio has occupied the same small storefront in Sharpsburg since 1990. Owner Sam Stelitano said since the mass shooting at an Orlando night club, he's seen more customers walk through his door.

Tony Urbanek, 46, is a regular at the store. He said he bought his first gun for self-protection when he was young.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

It’s a standardized testing day at Miller African-Centered Academy in the Hill District. But before one class of third graders starts the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, Kathy Flynn-Somerville turns off the lights and has them just listen. She teaches them calmness strategies like being quiet, present and taking deep breaths.

But students aren’t the only ones employing these mindfulness strategies in the classroom. 

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