Virginia Alvino Young

Reporter

Virginia reports on identity and justice for 90.5 WESA. That means looking at how people see themselves in the community, and how the community makes them feel. Her reporting examines things like race, policing, and housing to tell the stories of folks we often don't hear from. 

A native of Las Vegas, NV, Virginia has slowly been making her way eastward, reporting for NPR stations across the country. She started her reporting career at the statehouse in Oregon, and has had stints in Indiana and Texas before moving to Pittsburgh in 2016. 

Virginia lives on the North Side with her husband and fat cat Bean. They enjoy exploring Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, and hiking throughout the region, although they usually leave Bean at home. 

Contact Virginia at valvino@wesa.fm.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Voice-activated technologies, like the Amazon Echo speaker, are gaining popularity with people of all abilities.

But Pittsburgh-based Conversant Labs has developed an app that’s aimed at benefiting people with visual impairments. It’s called Yes, Chef! and uses voice commands to lead users through recipes.

“So, your hands are dirty they have like raw chicken, raw meat, you don’t want to have to wash your hands every time to either touch your phone and get food on your phone or on your lap top,” said founder Chris Maury.

Scott Roller / Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

August Wilson Park opens in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood Saturday after years of planning and construction. 

Abby Warhola
The Andy Warhol Museum

Photos and paintings at The Andy Warhol Museum are set up chronologically by decade, starting at the top.

From the seventh floor, School Programs Coordinator Leah Morelli explains, “This is the floor in which his early life starts and the story begins.”

But even without a human guide, all visitors -- including those with visual impairments -- will soon have a tool to let them know where they are and what’s around them in the space thanks to the organization’s first audio guide.

Democratic National Convention / Screengrab

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay on Monday requested a review of his appearance at the Democratic National Convention. Two entities will investigate to determine if McLay’s appearance violated any city code.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay said he broke no rules by speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Tuesday night, despite backlash from the police union.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Standing on the corner of Liberty Avenue and Wood Street, Joe Kennedy held a paper sign Thursday. It read, “I am a human being.”

“Systems change when change is demanded, and I’m here to demand change,” said Kennedy, 48. “It is unacceptable that in a society that calls itself the land of the free and the home of the brave, black men are being gun downed at taxpayer expense by law enforcement.”

What's Up Pittsburgh / Facebook

A group of mostly first-timers showed up for one of What’s Up Pittsburgh’s open meetings last Monday night.

Facilitator Lizzie Anderson asked participants sitting on the floor to squish together to make room for latecomers in the room, which was packed well beyond capacity.

Keith Srakocic / AP

 

 

Democrats have won every presidential election in Pennsylvania since 1992, but this year could be different.

Pennsylvania seems to be getting redder, while a potential Donald Trump ticket is pushing other states towards a democratic vote.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

About 100 teens, many of them covered in splattered paint, gathered at the corner of North Homewood Avenue and Idlewild Street in Homewood on Tuesday.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Thousands of grassroots activists from across the country marched through downtown Pittsburgh Friday afternoon, demanding racial, economic and environmental justice.

The participants are part of the People's Convention taking place this weekend. The gathering of community leaders aims to create a community of action and share best practices for inciting change. 

Center for Popular Democracy / Facebook

Hundreds of activists, community organizers and progressive elected officials from around the country are meeting in Pittsburgh this weekend. 

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Norfolk Southern blasted loose boulders Wednesday from a Mt. Washington hillside that were threatening to tumble onto its railroad tracks and a busy city road below. 

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Attendance is up at Anthrocon, a conference boasting the world's largest convergence of human-like animal characters, now celebrating its 20th year.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Memories Sportsman Shop & Taxidermy Studio has occupied the same small storefront in Sharpsburg since 1990. Owner Sam Stelitano said since the mass shooting at an Orlando night club, he's seen more customers walk through his door.

Tony Urbanek, 46, is a regular at the store. He said he bought his first gun for self-protection when he was young.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

It’s a standardized testing day at Miller African-Centered Academy in the Hill District. But before one class of third graders starts the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, Kathy Flynn-Somerville turns off the lights and has them just listen. She teaches them calmness strategies like being quiet, present and taking deep breaths.

But students aren’t the only ones employing these mindfulness strategies in the classroom. 

Charlie Riedel / AP

Heavy rains put a damper on the first day of the U.S. Open Thursday. Golfers now have to make up for the delayed play.

Players in the U.S. Open golf 72 holes – four rounds of play usually spread evenly over four days.

But several inches of heavy rain caused three stoppages on day one of golf’s biggest championship.

The United State Golf Association's Director of Public Relations Janeen Driscoll said it takes a lot to suspend play.

Staff Sgt. Regina Machine / U.S. Army

Earlier this week in Westmoreland County, the Hempfield Township’s zoning hearing board decided to allow a teenage girl to keep her four pet therapy chickens despite initial neighbor complaints.

Emily Stock / 90.5 WESA

Thursday is the first day of the U.S. Open, one of golf’s biggest championships. Most of the world’s best male golfers, professionals and amateurs alike, are in the Pittsburgh area to compete.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

Pittsburgh public safety and emergency response departments are working together to create a new strategy for dealing with large events and natural disasters.

The changes were proposed after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s April rally at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, during which three people were arrested and four police officers treated for minor injuries.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

The Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department is partnering with the gun industry’s main trade group to encourage safe gun practices in Pittsburgh.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation provided the Sheriff’s Department with free cable gun locks to distribute to gun-owners, with officials saying it’s the best way to prevent firearm accidents.

The organization said it has provided 37 million locks to law enforcement agencies across the country, including to Norma Kutscher who owns a 380 Ruger.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

 

Hundreds of golfers are trying to secure the remaining spots in the U.S. Open, which takes place this month.

This year, the annual golf competition is being held at the Oakmont Country Club, just outside of Pittsburgh, June 13 through 19.

About half of the 156 competitors have already been chosen – roughly 70 are top professionals who were entered automatically. Ten-thousand golfers wanted the remaining spots and 10 sectional qualifying rounds across the country on Monday determines who gets them.

andrewwin / Flickr

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends restoring 7.3 acres of ecosystem on Pittsburgh’s North Shore along the Ohio River. 

Officials with the corps and its nonprofit partner Riverlife began a study of the area last year in hopes of restoring degraded riverbanks and improving the depleted aquatic and floodplain habitat.

Ginny / Flickr

Contemporary Pride festivals are largely celebrations of personal identity and sexuality born from the start of the gay liberation movement.

"(They're) a time to remember the folks that have fought battles in years past and ... to continue the fight for the community to achieve full equality," said Christine Bryan, director of marketing and development for the Delta Foundation, the North Side-based nonprofit that organizes Pittsburgh Pride

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Though more than 60 percent of the students in Pittsburgh Public Schools are people of color, district officials said eighty-five percent of its teachers are white and primarily women.

Carrick High School junior Trevon Stanton said throughout his education, he’s rarely had a teacher who looks like him. That’s why he’s considering becoming a teacher one day.

First off, it starts with me," Stanton said. "If no one’s going to be the change then I will.”

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

More than 200 people pedaled out to Bike Pittsburgh's city-wide celebration of national Bike to Work Day on Friday. 

The Lawrenceville-based nonprofit coordinated coffee meet-ups and breakfast stations across the city. 

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

This month, Pittsburgh officials and members of the organization Donate Life are encouraging locals to consider becoming organ donors.

According to Donate Life, there are more than 8,000 people in Pennsylvania waiting to receive organ transplants. Most transplanted organs come from deceased donors, but just 46 percent of Pennsylvanians are registered eye, organ and tissue donors. While advocates are working to increase that number, they're also looking for more options to meet the demand.

For some, like Steve Debakawitz, that’s a living donor.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Don Mahaney is the reigning king of North Side Sandwich Week. He's the owner of Scratch Food and Beverage, whose Reuben sandwich was voted the best of the North Side in 2015.

The fifth annual North Side Sandwich Week kicked off Tuesday at his restaurant, and this year, it has an added mission.

Christine Wagner / Flickr

 

After bringing in more than $1 million Tuesday, Pittsburgh’s annual Day of Giving was halted early.

Nick Amoscato / Flickr

About 800 organizations are asking for donations Tuesday as part of Pittsburgh’s annual Day of Giving.

Now in its seventh year, the day-long call to altruism traditionally included as much as $750,000 in match money from the Pittsburgh Foundation.

But with so many organizations now involved, as the foundation told the Pittsburgh City Paper, that money is stretched too thin.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

At a hearing Thursday, the Affordable Housing Task Force presented its recommendations to protect low-income housing options in Pittsburgh to City Council members.

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