Inspired by SCA service, Quincy Swatson is bringing opportunity to his Pittsburgh neigborhood
Growing up in Pittsburgh’s troubled Manchester neighborhood in the 1990s, Quincy Kofi Swatson thought most of his doors were closed. “It was a homogenously poor neighborhood,” he says, “and homogenously of one race, and you’d get caught up in the mindset that everyone is in the same situation and there are limited ways to get out.”
For Quincy, that began to change at age 16 when he joined an SCA crew working in city parks and, eventually, Allegheny National Forest. “Being in that forest, experiencing wildlife, camping, suddenly being with people from different cultures—SCA showed me there are so many doors of opportunity available,” he says.
Now 23, Quincy is opening doors for others.
With two college friends, he’s founded The Door Campaign to provide role models for youth in Pittsburgh’s lower socioeconomic areas. “Kids look up to people they see on TV: rappers, entertainers, athletes. Not necessarily people in the local community,” Quincy states. “I felt an obligation to engage with these kids and show them I came from same neighborhood and overcame the same obstacles.”
Quincy concedes without his mom’s watchful eye, he could have easily fallen into gangs and drugs, and adds without SCA, there likely would not be a Door Campaign. “SCA changed my thinking on everything,” he notes. “My crew leaders and other SCA staff, looking up to them and seeing their influence, this is me wanting to imitate that.”
Quincy wants to use the platforms of urban agriculture and sustainability to capture the interest and imagination of Pittsburgh teens. His initial pilot project involves 45 students in aquaponics: growing vegetables and raising fish in a common, symbiotic ecosystem.
“I felt that if I wanted to make an impact, I needed to create my own revenue source,” he reasons. He’s cultivated a long list of local chefs who have agreed to buy his herbs, lettuce and tilapia, and the city school district is ready to expand the project to other classrooms. Thus far, students have learned about nature, science and the benefits of locally-produced food; in time, Quincy hopes his aquaponics enterprise will also provide these teens with jobs.
“SCA opened my eyes,” Quincy declares. “Now I want to open doors.”