Pittsburgh Scholar House to benefit from the Critical Needs #ONEDAY online giving event
The Pittsburgh Foundations #ONEDAY Critical Needs online giving event is raising money to support organizations that provide basic needs for our neighbors in need. Since 2013, Critical Needs Alerts have raised nearly $12 million. Though communities are slowly recovering from the economic impacts of COVID, the need for food, housing, health care, child care and employment are greater than ever. Pittsburgh Scholar House is among the organizations that will benefit from this year’s #ONEDAYonline giving event, which takes place from 8 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 1 at www.PittsburghGives.org. All gifts over $25 will be increased with funds from the $550,000 incentive pool. The Foundation spoke with Dr. Diamonte Walker, CEO of Pittsburgh Scholar House, about the organization’s work and how #ONEDAY will help.
What is Pittsburgh Scholar House and how do you help people?
“We are a nonprofit dedicated to helping single-parent families by employing a two-generational model so parents earn a two- or four-year degree while raising their children. We break the cycle of generational poverty and build generational prosperity.
We help our parent scholars--whatever their hopes, dreams and barriers may be--to build them a plan to move them along the economic mobility spectrum. Some families come in relying entirely on entitlements. We help them build a sense of self-efficacy so they can reach economic autonomy, so their children won’t have to face the challenges they faced on their journey. This can help their kids can go to college right after high school, and live in high opportunity neighborhoods, with access to high quality early learning programs.”
Is Pittsburgh Scholar House a place where people live?
“Our parent scholars live in local neighborhoods right now and we, as an affiliate of the Louisville, Kentucky Scholar House, are in the early stages of building a residential community. In the meantime, we go out into the community and work with our parent scholars wherever they live. Our office on the North Side is a supportive place where they can come with their children to get services and meet with our family success coaches. Children play while their parents work on one of their family’s economic goals. Our plan is to create a residential facility to house up to 50 single-parent families working toward a two- or four-year degree and provide all the services on site.”
What types of services are they receiving to achieve their dreams?
“We work with single-parent families facing challenges in housing security, transportation, food, child care and fair access to post-secondary education. We partner with providers who address barriers to affordable housing, food access and transportation, by providing Connect Cards and ride sharing services. Parent scholars come to our offices and talk to our staff to help identify the challenges that may have prevented them from achieving their degree in the past. We knock those barriers down one by one so they can succeed. We offer a safe place for our children to learn and play while our team works with our parent scholars. Our partnerships include higher education institutions, nonprofits and local health plans, all working together as a team to provide the necessary services and supports.”
Is the program for single mothers only? Or do you serve fathers too?
“Our program is gender agnostic, so a dad who wants to earn a two- to four-year degree can absolutely work with us. We have found that most parents want to prioritize the needs of their children and be present in their children’s lives. Some parents have stronger support systems than others. We seek to be the supportive system that some might not be fortunate enough to have on their own. We are that system so our parent scholars do not need to choose between keeping their children safe while going to school and working toward a degree.
We work with these highly motivated parents who want to develop these 21st century skills. We emulate what other folks’ families have done for them and provide that same level of support and guidance. We also serve people who are new to Pittsburgh and need help navigating partners and supports that exist here in the community.”
What challenges unique to Pittsburgh are your families experiencing?
“We live in a city that is increasingly becoming less and less affordable. We see housing costs rising but incomes not rising at the same rate. Having a two- to four-year degree makes people more competitive in the job market. Single-parent families should not have to choose between being present for their children or earning a two- to four-year degree. We position that family to have that support and get their basic needs met so they can make that long-term investment in their future.”
Tell me about the dreams that your clients and their families have?
“When we released our application in October of 2022, we thought we would get 50 applicants. We were blown away when we got 150 applications. These are people who wanted to be the first in their family to earn their college degree and be examples for their children and community. This includes women who may have been facing domestic violence and found the courage to get out of that situation. A lot of our parent-scholars want to give back and be in the position to help others increase their own social capital. These are people looking for mentors, partners, and connections within the community. While most are experiencing some level of poverty, we do not see poverty in spirit; we see people who are highly motivated and want a chance. Many have been dealt cards in life that put them on the other side of privilege, and we want to be a bridge to opportunity and prosperity. So many of our applicants tell us they want to be strong enough to stand on their own and help others. The best way to do that is to get a good education and ensure that their children also have a good education.”
How will #ONEDAY matter to you?
“Any measure of giving goes a long way. You would be surprised how much it means to a mom to be able to get an extra loaf of bread or to be able to send her daughter or son to dance class or baseball. Those small dignities provide families access to the things that make childhood positive. For a mom earning her nursing labs, getting through that last mile, a donation can fund lab coats and textbooks so they can walk across that graduation stage. #ONEDAY helps us make tangible investments that have a massive impact on our families. A little bit of investment and caring will go a long way.”