Getting to know Hazelwood

Our group’s focus area is “Workforce Development and 21st Century Skills.” Here is some of the progress that we’ve made in researching our topic and the Hazelwood community.

Discussion with community on Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Our team had the opportunity to speak with members of the community about their lives in Hazelwood. The first activity we had for guests was using a set of cards, with one word on each card, that allows each of us to recall memories or any associations with the word we choose from the set. This activity opened up a lot of opportunities to talk about how each of us feel about the words chosen, what our feelings are, and a bit about how we grew up to be where we are today.

Start of meeting at Center of Life.
Below, are the cards we used for the first activity.


All three women, Jackie, Joy, and Danielle, are not from Hazelwood, but work in Hazelwood. Joy and Danielle, work for Fusion, an academic after school program for students from kindergarten to high school, and Jackie is a social worker (she works with children with disabilities). Joy and Danielle gave us a lot of information about how Fusion is working with students to prepare them for the workforce or for higher education. In terms of the current state of students, out of about 80 who are registered, 30-40 come regularly. There’s also a summer program of six weeks and out of about the 100 students who register, 80-90 attend.

Most of the students who come consistently seem to be motivated to do well in school, but there are some moments when families don’t do well, which affect the children and their aspirations. Parents come to volunteer for field trips and some special occasions, and try to be involved as best they can with their busy schedules. Many of the students’ families are not affluent so a lot of the students’ have not left Pittsburgh before, which is why Fusion plans field trips around Pittsburgh.

Danielle spoke of the different organizations that come to Fusion and how they work with the students: “We get people from a bunch of different organizations and nonprofits do things with the kids, take them on field trips. They go swimming, stuff like that. We spend a lot of time with those kids, a lot of time. There’s definitely been an improvement in the overall behavior and grades of the students that come consistently to our programs cause our whole things is to make sure that they’re Pittsburgh Promise Ready.

I think that the fact that Joy and I have been here for so long, that stability is super important for them cause like, I feel like I’ve raised some of them. I’ve known them for so long.”

It was interesting that Danielle pointed out the importance of stability because most of the past employees in her position have only stayed for about a year, whereas she has been there for a few years. This means that she has formed deeper relationships than the past program directors and allows students to feel comfortable around the people who teach them and work with them.

When we asked about whether students are enthusiastic about learning, Danielle responded:

“I think [students going to college] is something that everyone is told that they need to do now, so they know now, like if they ever want to have a quality life, they should go to college or a trade school.”

Fusion does their best to prepare their students for the workforce or for college and wants the best opportunities for their students. We can see that from the connections they have with nonprofits and the number of enrichment programs they have for their students. Through the time we spent with these women, we were truly able to see how much they care for their community and how much dedication they have to their relationships in Hazelwood.

Walk-about the community and a visit to the library on Saturday, February 4, 217

We went to Hazelwood to duck our heads into a few of the local businesses and get to know the neighborhood better. When we caught the 56 bus to Hazelwood, there was a distinct difference in the bus’s atmosphere. People knew each other, and even if they didn’t, they embraced conversation. One man got on and said it was his birthday, and the lady sitting across from him sung him the entire Happy Birthday song. There was a couple sitting with a little french bulldog, and the birthday man began petting the dog and talking about how dogs are really man’s best friend. Everyone was comfortable with each other, talking about their days.

We went to the library first and talked to a couple of the people that worked there. We met Michael, who leads the children’s programs. As we spoke, he was painting cardboard pieces white so they could act as canvases for an upcoming art activity. He received help from a high school girl, who had set up an internship with the library through her school. Nearby, a new artist in residence named Hannah, prepared activities related to community gardening. Two young boys sat using a laptop on the other side of the room. Next to them, a mother and a daughter were making beautiful jewelry together.

The library seems to intersect with a lot of Hazelwood’s organizations. They go on art excursions, bring in kids from the Center of Life Fusion program, and make it a point to provide activities for kids and adults, in all age ranges. You could see the diversity in the room, from the 16-year-old boy, to the mother and daughter, to the lady who helps run the senior center. We talked a lot to Tammy, the mother, who told us that they were making the jewelry to sell at the Marketplace in Hazelwood in March. They had been working on it for two months. She also showed us pictures of her chihuahua perched on the back of her rottweiler. She told us about how she sees kids on the streets, ages 10 and 11 and wonders what their parents are doing. She said parents make a choice, the drugs or their kids.

One of the other memorable people we met at the library was Dasawn, a 16-year-old entrepreneur. Dasawn told us about his environmentally-friendly candle business, which he has recently made a website for. He learned all of the skills necessary for his business from YouTube videos and his own personal research, rather than in school. Dasawn was very excited to show us the social media pages for his business as well as a newspaper article that he was recently featured in. Meeting him gave us an insight into how some community members are learning skills to create income and market themselves.

After the library, we stopped in Fat Rai’s for lunch. We hoped to speak with Kim about her business, but she was fairly busy, working the kitchen by herself. She did tell us that starting her business was initially difficult, but did not give us many details when we asked her to elaborate. Hopefully we can go back soon and catch her at a slower time.

Below, are photos from Fat Rai’s.

We’re hoping to go back to Hazelwood next weekend and visit the library again. It seems there is the potential to develop some deep relationships with people who work and frequent there. We also may be able to get some connections to other community organizations through the library.

Progress update from Hannah, Jackie and Kate.



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