Wilkinsburg once had a popular business district with a large, upwardly mobile population, according to the Borough of Wilkinsburg website.
But the borough has struggled ever since the steel mill closures in the 1970s and '80s resulted in layoffs and a depleted tax base.
But Wilkinsburg students are looking towards the future.
The students, as part of an after-school program called FUSE, produced a short documentary called "Wilkinsburg: The Way We See It," which highlights efforts made by the community to redevelop.
The documentary is part of Carnegie Mellon University’s Hear Me 101, which is a year-long program in which students engage in a series of workshops to learn how to use media to express their opinions about their communities.
Jessica Pachuta, Program Director of Hear Me 101, said the students designed the film to take the audience through emotional highs and lows.
“When you talk to them, they feel like people give Wilkinsburg such a bad rep, and they’re wonderful young people and those don’t go hand-in-hand, you don’t get these wonderful young people from a community that has that kind of reputation,” Pachuta said.
Pachuta said the students’ advisor, Christine Carnevali, connected them with groups in Wilkinsburg that started community gardens and cleanup days.
“When you watch this film, you’re going to see a lot of people from the community talking about things happening in Wilkinsburg, a lot of their green initiatives and a lot of things that people want to see changed,” Pachuta said. “So the end of the film leaves you with that little sense of urgency that the time is now and that people need to start paying attention to and supporting their dream.”
Pachuta said the basis of the film originated from a group of landscape architecture students from the Penn State Center.
Part of their class is to visit a neighborhood around Pittsburgh and create plans to revitalize, renew or redevelop empty spaces in the community.
The Wilkinsburg students and community met with the Penn State students to tell them what they want to do with the spaces.
She said the Wilkinsburg students hope the film will inspire fundraising for revitalization projects.
“I think that it’s a really important thing that kids are sticking up for themselves in their communities now, and there are certainly little pockets of it happening all over the city, but I find these kids so inspirational and I hope that other people do, too,” Pachuta said.
The film can be seen on YouTube and will be shown at the Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg at 6 p.m. this evening.