Driving Change and Transforming Lives Together

2023 Impact Report

Digital Inclusion

Verizon Community Forward Digital Learning Centers bring resources for STEAM programming and workforce development to Homewood residents.

Driving Change and Transforming Lives Together

2023 Impact Report

Digital Inclusion

Verizon Community Forward Digital Learning Centers bring resources for STEAM programming and workforce development to Homewood residents.

After years of work and collaboration, we were thrilled to bring two new digital learning centers to Homewood in 2023 — the Verizon Community Forward Homewood-Brushton Youth Learning Center, located at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, and the Verizon Community Forward Homewood-Brushton Adult Learning Center, located at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) Homewood-Brushton Center.

Created in partnership with Verizon to remove barriers to Pittsburghers in under-resourced communities to accessing technology in an increasingly digital world, the centers promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) learning, support workforce development, and provide access to digital skills-building for all. Pittsburgh was selected as one of four pilot cities for the Verizon Community Forward Initiative, which aims to reinvigorate community spaces in cities across the country, providing access to free resources and enhancing hands-on learning with cutting-edge technology.

Images of the Digital Learning Centers at the YMCA and CCAC in Homewood. Photos by Kitoko Chargois, Photo by Kitoko.

Since opening, the centers have provided invaluable resources and expanded opportunities for community members.

At the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, the Verizon Community Forward Youth Learning Center has brought expanded programming and new connections with others in the technology sector. During the 2023-2024 school year alone, the YMCA has mentored 63 students ages 9-18 who used the space to explore their creativity while engaging in STEAM-based and Maker learning while continuing to receive guidance and support from YMCA staff.

“The Youth Learning Center is creating memories. Holding memory making at the center of our work, we offer holistic education experiences by co-designing programs that lend themselves to participants’ joys, minds, hearts, and hands. Our goal for the space is to continue our deep listening practice, shifting as our communities need us to shift, and holding our holistic education practice at the center of all that we do.”

Zena Ruiz

STEAM Program Director, Homewood-Brushton YMCA

Image of 4 people - 2 children, 2 adults - gathered around an activity on a table at the Digital Learning Center opening. Their backs are to the camera. Behind them on the wall is a large screen with blue dots in a circle on it.
Image of the Digital Learning space at the Homewood YMCA. Features a bright pink wall with sleek desks lining it, computers, plus white cabinets above. Also features a white shelf with art supplies and small artworks on it.

Photos by Kitoko Chargrois, Photos by Kitoko

At the CCAC Homewood-Brushton Center, adult students of any age can pursue credit courses and certificates in cybersecurity, networking, and administrative networking. The Verizon Community Forward Adult Learning Center and support from Neighborhood Allies has helped the CCAC nearly double their course offerings in these areas. The CCAC has also partnered with other organizations to host workshops on topics such as computer basics and Excel skills, and worked with local schools to hold STEM programming in the space.

“It is invaluable to have programs like this because it allows people to have a fair chance at meeting their true potential.”

Juel L. Smith, EdD, MS

Executive Director, CCAC Homewood-Brushton Center

Image of the CCAC Digital Learning Center ribbon cutting. Many folks stand, taking up the frame, wearing dark suits. They hold a red ribbon, looking off at another camera, and prepare to cut.
Group of people gather around a large screen mounted on a red wall in the left of frame. In the right of the frame, everyone looks up at the screen while one man holds a controlled of some type.

In addition to our partnership with the YMCA and CCAC, we also support STEAM programming through the University of Pittsburgh Community Engagement Center in the Hill District, the Homewood Children’s Village, Assemble, and Cloud Collective Media Productions, formerly Ocular Arcade, who teach drone technology to underserved youth.

The Pitt CEC Hill holds special courses for students, including STEM Saturdays, Girls Who Code, grant writing workshops, and more! Likewise, the Homewood Children’s Village uses their existing networks and connections with Homewood youth to deliver adaptive and innovative STEM programming to students as Faison, Westinghouse, and Lincoln Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“The kids really enjoy the activities we do with them. Neighborhood Allies help us to meet students where they are.”

Rashaa Brown

Program Manager, Homewood Children's Village

Image of a young, white girl with brown hair and bangs wearing a pink shirt. She sits at a desk with a computer in front of her. She looks over her shoulder, elbow resting on the chair, fist to chin, and smiles at the camera.
Image of a white board that says S-T-E-A-M in colorful letters.

Photos of STEAM Saturdays at the Pitt CEC Hill.

As of the end of 2023, 10,099 students of all ages have gone through STEAM programming delivered by one of these partners. We are so grateful for their work and impact!

To learn more about Neighborhood Allies’ Digital Inclusion work check out the Beyond the Laptops website.