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.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

No agency is independently testing or verifying the quality of Pittsburgh’s drinking water, according to an audit released Monday by Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

A lot has changed over its 35 year history, but the Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour has always started on Beech Avenue at Calvary United Methodist Church.

Kristi Jan Hoover / City Theatre

For Pittsburgh’s theater community, national headlines like “Oscars So White” feel just as relevant to local stage productions. 

City Theatre Company artistic producer Reginald L. Douglas said playwrights often write with certain types of actors in mind to speak about themes of race, class or gender. A play about the immigrant experience could be cast with white actors, he said, but that might not tell the same story.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Albert and Jen Wolf love the sound of their daughters practicing their instruments at home, but that wasn’t always the case.

“When they first begin, it’s a lot of very unusual sounds and you’re not sure what’s coming out of that instrument,” Jen Wolf said. 

Matt Rourke / AP

Allegheny County officials found no disparities after recanvassing some of the election results on Monday.

Participants in a campaign led by the Green Party’s Jill Stein filed recount petitions in 52 of Allegheny County’s 1,322 voting districts.

Allegheny County Elections Division Manager Mark Wolosik said the recanvass that took place is different than recounting individual votes.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED: 8:20 p.m.

The Service Employees International Union targeted McDonald's restaurants and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center with marches demanding a $15 minimum wage and union representation.

The union contends UPMC shuttle bus workers have also gone on strike seeking union representation.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra ended their strike Wednesday.

After months of tense negotiations, musicians and management agreed to a new five-year contract, which calls for a 10.5 percent salary cut in the first year. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

A few decades ago, Terri Baltimore tagged along with a group of architecture students and their professor while they were visiting the Hill District.

“And what they said about this neighborhood broke my heart,” she said. “That it was dirty.

The yellow brick road has taken a turn into Downtown Pittsburgh.

Last December, a live television adaptation of The Wiz was viewed by more than 11 million people. One element of the production’s success was the strikingly colorful costumes, which are now on display at the August Wilson Center. 

“I love Eveline, and this was the costume that was worn by Mary J. Blige,” said Demeatria Boccella, co-founder of Pittsburgh’s FashionAFRICANA, which works to expand society’s standards of beauty.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

 

Municipal officials from around the country grappled with changes in transportation, such as self-driving cars and rail safety, while meeting in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

This week, Pittsburgh is hosting 3,000 mayors and council members from around the country, as well as local leaders, for the National League of Cities' annual City Summit. They’ll meet through Saturday to discuss the challenges currently facing cities and share best practices for energy efficiency, working with startups and increasing transparency.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto presented his proposed 2017 budget to City Council on Monday. The $539 million plan includes income from Rivers Casino.

daveynin / Flickr

A three-day housing summit hosted by the University of Pittsburgh this weekend will bring together academics and activists.

The University-Community Housing Summit will explore urban renewal, human rights and gentrification through talks, workshops and neighborhood tours.

Mindy Thompson gave the keynote address Thursday. Her 2013 book Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America's Sorted-Out Cities explored the urban renewal of Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

Marvel Comics

 

Crafting a longer narrative voice for comics wasn't a huge stretch for Pittsburgh artist Yona Harvey.

“I feel like by nature I’m already a visual thinker,” said Harvey, “so that was already alive as a poet.”

Andrew Harnik / AP

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton drew thousands outside the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning on Monday.

“I’m here to ask you to vote for yourselves, vote for your families, vote for your futures, vote for the issues that matter to you because they are on the ballot, not just my name and my opponent’s name,” she said.

Clinton asked supporters to consider volunteering in the next 24 hours to get as many people to the polls as possible.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay announced his resignation from the Pittsburgh Police Department on Friday. 

Mayor Bill Peduto called a news conference to address escalating rumors.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Sage Arnold, 13, is not a big fan of this year’s election.

“When I was little I watched one of the debates between Obama and Mitt Romney,” he said. “I couldn’t really understand a lot of it, but it sounded really civilized and mature.”

Traisaun Leake / Hazelwood Youth Media Justice

If a student misbehaves in a Pittsburgh Public School, the administrators are bound by a disciplinary code. But which reactions are punitive? Which are restorative? And what's more likely to help the student and his or her classroom culture?

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Sara Middleton and Catlyn Brooke both teach cross fit at the Allegheny YMCA on the North Side.

 

They renovated the upstairs studio themselves. Middleton built the barbell racks, as well as a huge structure for pull up rings and high bars.

 

  “I fell in love with it and I got certified to teach,” Brooke said.

 

Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra remain on strike and on the picket line. 

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has canceled symphony concerts through the end of October.

The PSO’s contract with its musicians expired earlier this month, following months of negotiations. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Amongst some pretty worn-down storefronts in Sharpsburg, seven miles from downtown Pittsburgh, Memories Sportsman and Taxidermy Shop has operated since 1990.

In the musty, cluttered space, owner Sam Stelitano, 65, sells new firearms and collectable ones, like original Smith and Wesson’s and Civil War muskets. But look above the rifle-lined counters, and you see his real passion.

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.

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