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Education Is A 'Bridge To Hope' For Pittsburgh's Homeless Youth

Kevin Gavin
90.5 WESA
Carlos Carter (left), executive director of Homeless Children's Education Fund, stands with Joe Lagana, the founder of the group. The pair are celebrating HCEF's 20th anniversary this week.

Former school superintendent Joe Lagana was walking out of a homeless shelter 20 years ago when he saw a young man writing on the hood of his car. He thought the vehicle was being vandalized, until he spotted the boy's alarmed expression and scribbled paper—he'd been doing his homework. 

From that first revelation, Lagana created the Homeless Children's Education Fund as a learning center for homeless youth. It's since expanded to include 12 centers providing after school and summer programs, career readiness, college preparation and STEAM enrichment programs. Lagana joins HCEF's current executive director Carlos Carter to talk about the group's impact, how they're marking two decades of service and how the HCEF model works for similar nonprofits. 

“Education is critical but first you do have to address their immediate needs–food, clothing, shelter, social and emotional. As you’re addressing their basic needs you’re able to get them to focus and see the bigger picture, because a lot of time people are in crisis mode,” says Carter. “We want to meet their needs and help them make healthy connections and feel good about themselves and then introduce education.”

Credit PRC
Erin Rimmel of Mt. Lebanon drops off her glass recycling at a PRC pop-up collection event. Many municipalities across the region have stopped collecting glass at the curbside.

Later in the program:

Some communities in Pennsylvania are discontinuing glass collection as part of curbside recycling programs. Kara Holsopple of The Allegheny Front reports that while this change came as a surprise to some residents, members of the recycling industry weren't surprised

Blue-Hots founder, pianist and vocalist Ian Kaine, percussionist Dan McMillan and vocalist Reenee Montiverde explained their unique Mad Men-esque blend of jazz and doo-wop and with 90.5 WESA’s Bob Studebaker. The Blue-Hots perform Friday at the Wallace Whiskey Room in East Liberty. 

And three years ago, a study by the Penn State School of Medicine found that a certain type of thyroid cancer was common to people who had been near the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the aftermath of the 1979 partial meltdown. As part of a look at Three Mile Island 40 years later, WITF’s Brett Sholtis reports on how the study has re-started the discussion around health effects due to the accident.

90.5 WESA's Alex Lenigan, Mick Stinelli and Julia Zenkevich contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a reporter for 90.5 WESA. She reports on breaking stories from a variety of realms in Pittsburgh; with specific interest in the growing technology sector.
Kevin Gavin is a native Pittsburgher and has worked in public broadcasting since his college years. Gavin served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years, and since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects, and for the last five years as host of WESA's news program "The Confluence."
Bob is Production Director for 90.5 WESA and a Host and the Operations Manager for JazzWorks. Bob has been working in different areas of the radio industry for 33 years. He thinks “public radio is a forum for ideas and entertainment unavailable on commercial radio and that makes it indispensable.” Bob is a lifelong Pittsburgher who married and raised both of his children in his home city.