Summer Student Conservation workers get job done

Diana Nelson Jones and Madeline Conway
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Monday, August 11, 2014

SCA Pittsburgh Crews help reduce storm runoff

Every summer, thousands of low-income youths across the nation work on public lands on Student Conservation Association crews. They build and clear trails, clean garbage dumps, plant and tend trees and remove invasive growth.

This summer, one local crew installed rain containers while working on Project 15206 and the East End Rain Container Initiative, a joint effort of state Sen. Jim Ferlo, the Penn State Center and Pittsburgh Community Services to reduce storm runoff in the Negley Run and Heth’s Run watersheds.

The watershed project has $500,000 in Allegheny County grants and grant requests pending while designs are completed for 11 sites, said Deno DeCiantis, director of the Penn State Center.

After a week of training, students on the East End project began ticking off the list of householders who had requested rain containers, installing eight to 12 a day. They have installed 171 so far, with a goal of 200. When their summer work ends, another 200 will be installed by staff Mr. Ferlo hired for the project and one of the SCA students, said Joe Kramer, Mr. Ferlo’s economic development director.

“SCA has been an awesome partner,” he said. “We wouldn’t have been able to get all this done without them.”

The Student Conservation Association is one of several contractors the city works with in assigning youths to summer jobs. The city’s youth employment program hired about 600 students. They are chosen by lottery and paid minimum wage.

One of the city’s youth jobs supporters for years, the Pittsburgh Foundation, granted $75,000 this year and specified Project 15206, said Jane Downing, the foundation’s senior program officer for community and economic development. “We’re interested on the whole in green infrastructure, so when Ferlo convened 15206, it seemed like a good match and something different for [the students] to do,” she said.

Nancy Schaefer, program manager for the local student workers, said she has six crews of 70 participants this year. The students also work on projects other sources fund. The Heinz Endowments is supporting 24 of them working on projects in Hazelwood with a $119,000 grant.

This is the third year SCA has conducted the program in Hazelwood. This summer, in addition to some cleanup and garden work, the students’ focus is on trail work, a “professional expertise we’re pretty well known for,” Ms. Schaefer said. The crew is working on building a trail off Alluvian Street near the eastern border of the neighborhood.