Historic photo of Bethel AME Church, a large, Romanesque-style cathedral, amid demolition. A crane hovers over the building, and a few construction workers stand in front.

Pittsburgh’s oldest Black church was demolished as ‘blight’ in the 1950s Lower Hill. Today, members seek justice.

As conversations heat up over development plans for the Lower Hill District, one voice is drawing religious history into the spotlight. Bethel AME Church, founded in 1808, was once a thriving congregation and center of learning and social activism. As part of the Lower Hill redevelopment project of the 1950s, the City of Pittsburgh seized the church by eminent domain and demolished it, despite eminent domain laws excluding churches from their reach. 

Photo of a high school senior.

As the pandemic upends normal college visits, high school seniors seek a different view of campus

The deadly virus reduced national college enrollment, particularly for students of color. The percentage of high school graduates who went to college immediately after high school fell by more than a fifth last fall. Colleges and universities have made attempts to adapt recruiting efforts to avoid a similar or more severe drop from this batch of high school seniors, but it is unclear how students will respond, even amid vaccine distribution.

Voice your struggles: Pittsburgh university students create spaces to talk about mental health during the pandemic

Facing a deepening pandemic, another stretch of mostly online classes and a national backdrop of political turmoil, Pittsburgh-area students are turning to their colleges — and to each other — to meet growing mental health needs. Kayla Koch, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, said students were already struggling with the transition that college life brings, but the pandemic has made everything harder. “The entire pandemic is a time of trauma," Koch said. "We are all living through a trauma and expected to produce and exist as if we are not.”

She's working to create a space for students to talk honestly about mental health. “Our goal is to come into these meetings and say, ‘This is normal.

Five ways COVID-19 will continue to change Pittsburgh college life this spring

With COVID-19 cases rising following the holidays and an expected lengthy vaccine rollout, Pittsburgh-area colleges and universities are bracing for another difficult semester. How things will look for students and faculty this spring will be informed by lessons from the fall. “The whole thing has been a real challenge for everybody, but I believe that the response from the students and the faculty and the administration has really made the best of this particular time,” said Susan O’Rourke, faculty senate chair at Carlow University. Colleges are readjusting schedules to start the spring semester later, expanding COVID-19 testing, asking for student input on the fall semester and creating connections with classmates and professors — both online and in-person. Meanwhile, they face challenges like tighter budgets and deflated enrollment. 

The University of Pittsburgh, for instance, has been monitoring case metrics and advice from health officials in deciding when to bring thousands of students back to campus.

Stacked one dollar bills.

Pittsburgh, what’s YOUR college debt story?

PublicSource wants to report on how college debt has impacted the lives of Pittsburgh residents and we need your help. How has college loans factored into your financial decision-making? Do you believe $10,000 is enough or too little relief? How has college debt impacted your life overall?