For the last month and a half twenty-two Pittsburgh high school students have been spending their Wednesday nights learning how the city works. Tonight those students will become the first graduates from the Mayor's Youth Civic Leadership Academy.
"Many of them were really struck by how little they knew about what local government is and what it does," said the Pittsburgh Chief Service Officer Rebecca Kottler-Wein. "I think one of the really exciting parts for the departments was feeling like they had an opportunity to share with the students what types of jobs are available."
The students visited one department each evening, ranging from Police and Animal Control, to City Planning and the Mayor's Office. "The URA looked at photos of all of the individual student's neighborhoods with them and talked about redevelopment plans for the area. The Department of Finance had the students try to balance a budget in about ten minutes, making about $10 million worth of cuts, or finding new revenue," said Kottler-Wein.
Students tried to man a fire hose while visiting the fire training academy and came face to face with animals that had been picked up that day by Animal Control officers.
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl hopes to grow the concept of the academy. A similar program for adults will be held this fall. Kottler Wein said the goal is to continue to offer educational opportunities in the future.