National Volunteer Week, Part 2: MGR Youth Empowerment

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Alan (on the left) and our youth from Schiller pose in front of the travelling rubber duck along the river trail!

MGR Youth Empowerment is a national non-profit which focuses on three program areas: Active Health, Arts in Action, and Environmental Justice. Arts in Action empowers youth to speak up about their communities and issues that matter to them using creative arts of all genres. Environmental Justice discusses issues that directly affect the youth in our program including Food Justice and food access in their own communities. Lastly, our Active Health initiative Positive Spin Youth Cycling empowers youth to bike as a viable form of transportation and to gain the mechanics skills to fix their own bikes as a way to further their independence and self-sufficiency.

While biking on the North Shore trail, students use Positive Spin bikes to ride along the river with their mentors each week. Volunteers are crucial to this program to ensure the safety of all of the students and to accompany them on their ride. One volunteer in particular, Alan Butera, has been a crucial part of our program for the past year. As a social worker for Allegheny County, he understands the need for a non-traditional after school program: Positive Spin allows youth to thrive outside of the classroom and on the trail.

Alan first contacted MGR so that he could join our program along with a young person, Max* that he worked with who was passionate about biking. Max had not connected with the other after-school programs he has tried out beforehand. Positive Spin was a new program, which Max felt he could fit into. Alan brought Max and his friend and together the three of them joined us for our rides along the trail. Now that Max has graduated from services, Alan returns to us each week to ride with the other youth in our program. Week after week his dedication shows as he bonds with our youth and forms positive mentor relationships. As a strong male role model, Alan has engaged fully in our program. From coming to our staff mechanic training so he could also learn how to fix bikes, to coming to our bike repair sessions, Alan has been a valuable contributor to our team and in the lives of our youth.

This May we will be taking our youth on an overnight cyclo-tour camping trip! Alan will be joining our team and we know that his skills, dedication, and patience will help us to reach that extra mile as we cycle down the Great Allegheny Passage. Thank you to Alan for your hard work, leadership skills and commitment to our youth. We don’t know what we would do without your helping hand.

*Name has been changed

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