South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
Contributing Writer 

Hilltop programs aim to keep kids off the streets with academics and sports


Last updated 5/8/2018 at 10:04pm

The May meeting of the Allentown CDC had a recreation theme with speakers from YouthPlaces and the Hilltop Huskies making presentations.

Cynthia James, president of YouthPlaces, said the countywide program is currently operating in ten locations, including on the Hilltop in A Giving Heart’s building at 816 Climax Street in Allentown. YouthPlaces works with youth in grades six through 12.

“We do everything from academic enrichment to college and career exploration,” she explained. Recently, they took a group of kids to the eastern part of the state to visit six schools to see what the state had to offer and connect them through the Pittsburgh Promise.

“A lot of the schools that come to Pittsburgh don’t really offer kids that come to our program good opportunity,” she continued. “We wanted them to see the state’s breadth…we gave them the whole experience what it’s like.”

YouthPlaces’ academic enrichment component has been supported by the Department of Education for more than 20 years.

Ms. James said they are trying to capture “that new demographic” of sixth to 12th graders hanging out on the street.

Previously, the organization operated out of the Warrington Recreation Center. She said the move was made so they could collaborate more closely with A Giving Heart. A Giving Heart’s focus, she explained, is with kindergarten through sixth graders.

The collaboration allows the kids to transition from one program to the other without having to go to a new location.

Ms. James said while they do work with the kids on workforce readiness, they don’t provide workforce development training or summer employment programs. “But we do connect the youth with summer youth employment programs.”

There is no fee for kids to participate in the program, including the twice a month field trips.

YouthPlaces after school programs operate into June and then transition to summer programming. The free program is available 50 weeks throughout the year.

Their work is completely supported through grants from foundations.

For more information about YouthPlaces, visit their website at:

As president and head coach of the “big team” of the Hilltop Huskies, Will James explained they were a new sports organization, now in their second year, playing on the Hilltop. He is also a teacher and football coach at Brashear High School.

“I have a lot of boys who were coming to me and they don’t know the fundamentals of football and they don’t know the importance of getting an education,” he said.

The boys were coming up to the school, they weren’t doing their school work and expected to pay football. Many couldn’t make the 2.0 gpa to be eligible to play, he said.

Mr. James said the Hilltop Huskies work to get the kids in the door and then collaborate with A Giving Heart and YouthPlaces to get the academic help they need with mentoring and tutoring programs.

Signups for boys and girls ages 5-14 for the Huskies are every Saturday, from 2-5 p.m., at the lower McKinley Park field. They plan to be there signing up for the football and cheerleading programs until July 1 when practice begins. Cost is $50 for football and $25 for cheerleaders.

The Huskies also partner with Duquesne University’s football program and are able to provide other counseling services for the kids, if needed.

Games will be played at the field beside Arlington K-8 school off of Mountain Avenue.

“We want to include the whole Hilltop,” Mr. James said. “The Hilltop Huskies is another option for kids to get off the street.”

In a quick neighborhood update, the tire and television collection by the Allentown CDC and Allentown Clean and Green gathered a “crazy a lot” amount of the debris. They estimated as many as 200 tires and 100 televisions were removed from streets, garages, basements and woods in the Allentown neighborhood.

The Allentown CDC hopes to hold the tire and television collection once or twice a year for neighborhood residents.

Allentown Clean and Green posts times and dates for their neighborhood cleanups on their Facebook page at:

Mayor William Peduto is scheduled to be the speaker at the next Allentown CDC meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5 at the Allentown Senior Center, 631 E. Warrington Avenue.


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