BYP and PITT’s Graduate School of Public Health working together!

On October 9th, Members of BYP went to the air quality lab at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health as part of a project focusing on air quality in Braddock and Clairton. The project aims to determine air quality based on the concentrations of pollutants in tree leaves. A specific species of tree is being used to collect samples, acer platanoides, or the Norway Maple. This project is being led by PhD students Sara Gillooly and Leah Cambal, with the oversight of Dr. Kyra Shields, Assistant Professor of Public Health Practice and Dr. Jill Kriesky, Senior Program Coordinator at the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities.

BYP youth have been involved in this project since early September, collecting leaves which will eventually be analyzed for pollutants linked to bad air quality, especially particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or PM 2.5. It is roughly 1/7 as wide as a single strand of hair, and because of this PM 2.5 is able to penetrate our skin and bloodstream very easily. The EPA has found PM 2.5 to pose a significant health risk that can cause respiratory problems, asthma, and cardiovascular problems such as heart attack. Sampling in Clairton is being done in partnership with the All Mothers Are Blessed Program.

Once the research results come in, BYP youth will be presenting the project at a community meeting on December 4th at the Nyia Page Community Center. More details to follow.

BYP youth and senior at Woodland Hills HS, Regina Sakas, practices
using the temperature and humidity-controlled scale that is used to
weigh filters filled with particulate matter 2.5. The results of this
traditional (and expensive) method of sampling will be compared with
the results found in the leaf analysis.

BYP youth, enjoying the city views, at the lab site adjacent to the
Hot Metal Bridge

Expectations for the Year

Our first day of the school-year program has started! On October 9th the youth were asked to flesh out some of their expectations for the upcoming year. Below are some common themes that were in each of their responses in some form or another:


Connecting with others




These common themes and the responses below, taken directly from the youth, accentuate what BYP strives to achieve day in and day out:

“[Continue to have] a positive presence in the community”

“Exceed the good group of members we previously had”

“Expect it to be fun and educational at the same time”

“Doing what I am supposed to do”

“I expect to [earn] respect”

“Having great adventures, trying and learning new things”

Staff members agree that helping the youth make decisions about their future is one of the most rewarding aspects of our work. The youth will be the ones to continue the revitalization of 15104 and we will do all that we can to aid in their effort. We are all looking forward to making this year the best one yet and (hopefully) getting to go sled riding!


This Weekend’s Rankin Bridge Flower Site Clean-Up

Volunteers at the Rankin Bridge Flower Cleanup

This past Saturday, we prepared the Rankin Bridge Flower Site for the upcoming winter months.  BYP would like to offer special thanks to the hard-working volunteers who helped up clean up the site: Amber Lutsko, Shannon Fink, Alyssa Crawford, and Julia Baker.  You guys were a huge help!

Meet our new VISTA

Hello All:

My name is James Swonick, and I am the newest VISTA that will be
working with the Braddock Youth Project. I wanted to take a few
minutes to introduce myself and give everyone a little more information
about me. I graduated from McKeesport High School (Go Tigers!) in
2003, received my Bachelor’s Degree from PITT, and last August I
earned a Masters Degree in Social Work, from PITT as well. For the past
6 years I have also been coaching for a youth Futsal (a form of indoor
soccer) organization called The Barbarian FC. Below are some questions
that only paint a small picture of me, so I encourage everyone to come
and say hello so that I can tell you more as well as learn about you!

Why I wanted to be a part of BYP: I was left almost speechless when I started
looking at what the community was doing, and how BYP was supporting that effort.
A lot of the projects that the youth of Braddock are completing are in areas that I am
interested in as well, and have a passion for, so I knew that I this was a program that
I wanted to be a part of.

Future Goals: Possibly joining the Peace Corps and going back to school to earn
a Ph. D. I also hope to see The Barbarian FC continue to grow and attract talented
youth from around the country.

Hobbies/Interests: Gardening and landscaping, most sports but my favorite is
soccer, video games, technology, Politics (domestic and international), all forms of
Art, Star Wars, board games, Dungeons and Dragons, reading, browsing the Internet,

Favorite Movie: Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back

Fun Fact: I have been to Cuba

Favorite Books: Dante’s Inferno, The Odyssey

Favorite Subject: Psychology

Least favorite subject: Chemistry

Recent Personal Achievements:
• For the Barbarians – Back to back (2011, 2012) USFF regional champions,
Two National Champions in 2010
• College – National Honors Society during Undergraduate

Favorite Website:

Who Inspires Me: My father

Favorite Quote: Eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, Gandhi

If I could talk with anyone living or dead, who would that be and why?: Gandhi.
His non-violent resistance freed India from British rule, and inspired some of the
greatest people to ever live, even in America.

I look forward to talking with everyone soon, and working together with
the youth of Braddock and the community as a whole!

Voices of Braddock

The Braddock Youth Project presents “Voices of Braddock,” a short film about the people of Braddock and how they see their community, through their own eyes.  In a combination of interviews “Voices of Braddock” explores the work, love, and hopes of people that live and/or work in Braddock and how their voices give valuable dimensions to the story of Braddock.

Voices of Braddock is now on the Braddock Youth Project’s Youtube channel for your viewing pleasure.