Crayons beside child coloring.

‘The strongest lifeline’: Districts struggle to find Allegheny County’s homeless students as COVID increased distance and needs

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These days, Christina Russell and her daughter, Mareica Anderson, are busy unpacking their new home. It’s a brighter time for the duo, who faced housing insecurity living in Pittsburgh during the fall months of 2020 amid the COVID pandemic. “We had to go from a house to a shelter to a shelter to another shelter, you know what I mean, until we found our place where she was comfortable,” said Russell, 41. When school began in the fall, Russell did everything she could to keep her daughter engaged and feeling a sense of normalcy despite changing living environments. “Well, I didn't really let it affect her,” Russell said.

Jessica Salfia standing in her empty classroom

In the union strongholds of Southwest PA and WV, labor struggles for health benefits echo in teacher union vaccination efforts

Unions for workers in the steel and coal industries fought for healthcare benefits and better job conditions for those workers.
Those struggles have informed the tactics of teachers unions to this day — particularly notable during the COVID-19 pandemic amid a vaccine rollout and clamoring for a return to in-person teaching. I

Amber York (left), a youth development professional with Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania serving through AmeriCorps, sits with students during a gym period at the organization's Lawrenceville location. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

How Pittsburgh-area learning hubs helped students through COVID and could change how public education is delivered

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Wanika Steele has clocked into the same job for 14 years. But in September, she put in her two-week notice. She feared her 10-year-old son, Ty’Kir, would have no one to facilitate his new full-time virtual learning experience. “I was ready to actually quit my job so I could be home,” said Steele, 45. But four days before her notice took effect, as if her very own deus ex machina, the Thelma Lovette YMCA learning hub in the Hill District announced it would open for students in kindergarten through middle school.