I don’t want to move to New York! I like it here. I’ve been in Pittsburgh my whole life! New York is a big town, and I’m worried you won’t be able to find me next Christmas?
I’m a student at Pittsburgh Milliones School in the Hill District. Yesterday I opened up a copy of the A+ Schools’ “2015 Report to the Community on Public School Progress in Pittsburgh,” and it doesn’t look like my school is doing very well.
Only 23 percent of us are taking advanced-placement courses. The district average is 29. Last year, only 16 of 38 students took algebra by the end of the eighth grade. That means we’ll probably be behind if we make it to college.
At least the graduation rate here is 77 percent, which is higher than the district average of 74 percent. But fewer than half of students at my school are eligible for the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship, which means that even those of us who graduate and get accepted to a college might be unable to pay for it. Maybe that’s why only 41 percent of our most recent graduating class went on to attend a college or trade school.
Even our teachers are having a hard time. Only 52 percent of them think the school is a good place to work and learn.
A lot of us come from families that are struggling. The report says 88 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. Forty-six percent of us come from low-income homes. And 58 percent of us were absent 18 or more days last year. I’m not sure what our parents think of the school. Less than 10 percent of them responded to a survey asking whether they’d recommend it.
The school used to be known as University Prep, but I get the feeling that they’re trying to make us forget about the name since our school doesn’t really seem like it’s preparing us for college. We need help, Santa.
A proud but discouraged UPrep Wildcat
I was wondering if you could bring one of those big oversized-load trucks to pick up and move my son’s school about a mile or so down the road? You see, we moved to the neighborhood some years ago. It was such a nice place — rolling hills and friendly neighbors. But ever since the gas-drillers came, and our town started making some money from them, they’ve been allowed to set up shop almost everywhere! Even less than 1,000 feet from my son’s school! Can you believe that, Santa? Rolling hills are now the site of several acres of fracking operations, and neighbors are pitted against neighbors in legal battles.
I’ve been reading studies, and I’m worried. Some new studies, like one from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health, are associating lower birth weights with a mother’s proximity to gas wells. If our state constitution has an amendment that specifically, and legally, promises that “people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment,” then how, in the face of such ominous studies, can this be allowed to happen? My friend who’s a registered nurse, and who takes calls from people who live near drilling, says she’s seen consistent symptoms of rashes, headaches, nausea and asthma attacks. The companies tell me it’s safe. I just can’t trust their word when I know how much money is involved.
A Concerned Butler County Parent
For the last couple years, people keep moving into East Liberty, and I have watched all my new friends receive shiny new apartments and homes for Christmas.
While I see all these new rich neighbors receiving all the best gifts, I keep getting coal in my stocking. Part of my home will be torn down two months after Christmas, and it looks like my favorite neighborhood park will be taken away, too. On top of that, it seems like more rich people will move into where I live now. I am not sure what I did to deserve to be on your naughty list, but please take me off it!
I know there is nothing you can do to stop my apartment buildings from coming down, but maybe you can make sure a decent building will be ready before my home is demolished so I can stay in East Liberty. It doesn’t need to be shiny and pretty like all my new neighbors’ places; just something nice and safe that I can afford. Also, please make sure that there are enough affordable places for my Penn Plaza friends, too.
The owners of my apartment complex are giving us some small gifts to help us find new places to live, but it is like getting a Wawa gift card, when I asked for Sheetz — I can’t use it in my neighborhood! I would ask for a Section 8 voucher, but I can’t use them here either because no one in the neighborhood accepts them anymore.
Santa, please help me and my Penn Plaza friends stay in East Liberty. I know lots of my old friends have moved outside Pittsburgh, but I really don’t want to have to move to Penn Hills and would like to stay because the neighborhood is starting to look pretty nice.
A Penn Plaza Resident