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CITY Connections’ Story

You help teens gain valuable skills at the Library!

Thanks to you, teens are preparing for life after graduation and finding meaningful learning opportunities.

Every Friday from 10 to 11:30 am, Anna Rhad, Transition Teacher for CITY Connections at Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS), is at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Main Library in Oakland with her students. None of them want to miss it. Actually, most of the students she’s been bringing since 2016 wouldn’t dream of it. Fridays at the Library are the best.

“The group heads straight to the Teenspace,” Anna says. “As soon as we arrive, they are asking for Leah Durand, Library Services Manager at CLP – Main, Teen. Leah always shows them the newest activities and programs. Once everyone is at their activity in the Library, the scene is electric. Everyone is excited to get to the Library and the time goes so fast they don’t want to leave.” 

Developed as a community-based transition program for students age 18-21 within the PPS system, CITY Connections has been a nationally recognized program for more than 20 years, helping young adults with disabilities achieve individually tailored goals that have been identified by the students, their families, and educational support professionals. With an eye towards encouraging a post-graduation life rich with opportunities to work and connect and contribute to the community, the program fosters an encouraging environment of growth for the students as they transition out of high school and into the next chapter of their lives.

The group’s relationship with the Library began in 2016 when Anna signed her students up for the Library’s Wise Walks, a program that encouraged patrons to get some exercise with a one-to two-mile, volunteer-led walk around Oakland. Although the program ended in 2018, “we continue our weekly walks and visits to the Main Library to this day, weather permitting,” says Anna. 

To get to CLP – Main, her students must first plan their bus route from their respective CITY Connections sites located in Squirrel Hill and the North Side. During their commute, everyone is talking, plans are being made, and activities are carefully chosen. There’s not a minute to waste! On any given Friday, seven to ten of Anna’s students might choose to spend their time at the Library making music, solving puzzles, going on scavenger hunts, using the computers, or checking out books. 

Your support gives these teens a place to grow, learn, and be themselves. “It’s fun here,” says BJ, one of Anna’s students. “I like it here. I get to show my creativity with all kinds of art. When I get older, I would like to hang my art in the museum so others can be inspired. Miss Leah is my favorite librarian. She is so cool and awesome. She always has activities.”

Another student, Artur, has been learning Portuguese, Spanish, and Hebrew on the Library’s computers by watching YouTube videos. He recently recorded the national anthem of Portugal using the Library’s music equipment. 

A teen watches YouTube videos at the Library

“We support lifelong learners with engaged staff, our digital and physical materials collections, and specifically in the Teenspace, by providing an array of creative opportunities,” says Library Services Manager Leah Durand. “Thanks to generous donors, we have a craft cabinet where patrons can help themselves to a variety of art supplies and a button maker. Plus, we have iMacs loaded with creative learning programs, from ‘Minecraft’ to the Adobe Suite to ‘GarageBand’. Teens learn best when their interests are supported and when they have a caring adult in their lives. Our role as teen specialists is to be that mentor by forming relationships, learning their interests, and supporting them through library services and programs.”

That connection has resonated with Anna’s students, including Spencer, who always looks forward to visiting the Library every week. “The Library is my happy place,” he says. “It is such a great place to be when you want to decompress. Miss Leah is friendly. She is the best. Outgoing and always happy to see us. It makes me happy to see Miss Leah.”

The strong relationship that has developed between the librarian and students was a two-way street from the beginning. Leah says, “I really enjoyed getting to know the students and learning about what activities they found interesting. I love building a relationship with them and sharing my passion and love for the Library.  I want everyone who comes here to be successful and feel welcome, whether it’s by finding a new book to read, getting help with applications, or surfing the internet.

For Anna, each weekly visit to the Library serves as another invaluable opportunity for her students to grow and develop their interests and knowledge and mature as young adults. “It is a friendly, enriching environment – a community resource that they can access for lifelong learning that offers experiences to open minds young and old,” she says.

Thank you for your contributions that help Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh build and nurture important relationships.

Your generosity helps local teens prepare for their new future.

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