Working in collaboration with Perry High School and the Community College of Allegheny County, One Northside has partnered with BMe Community and Ya Momz House, Inc. to create Northside Narratives, an initiative that was created to spark entrepreneurship in students at PHS.

Harry Johnson, BMe Pittsburgh community manager, said the program began by engaging with young men and women in grades 9-12 at PHS to have them submit proposals that included an introduction about themselves along with a description of how they would better the Northside using $1,000. Johnson said over 300 proposals were submitted, but only 40 were able to be chosen to complete their projects.

The students, whose project proposals were chosen, will receive $1,000 from One Northside and also receive enrollment in an entrepreneurship course for three credits from CCAC. One Northside and The Buhl Foundation are the financial backers for this project.

“What separates Northside Narratives from a lot of other programs is that entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing sectors and to give students $1,000 to put towards something with an entrepreneur spin, that also benefits their community, speaks volumes of how this program is taking steps to changing communities and the trajectories of a lot of students’ lives,” said Emmai Alaquiva, BMe leader and an Emmy-Award winner.

Johnson said PHS Principal James Cooper has fully backed the project and was able to help broker the relationship with CCAC, which is the first time the community college has partnered with PHS for a class of this caliber.

Some of the students chosen proposals include an urban gardening project, engaging PHS alumni to mentor current students, and creating a support group that addresses self-confidence issues for young black women.

Johnson said Victoria Snyder, executive vice president of Ya Momz House, Inc., has been “instrumental to this endeavor” in helping reimagining how public schools can be better through a program such as Northside Narratives.

“It shows what can be done differently and empower students, and give them a voice and a platform,” Johnson said.

On Thursday, February 2 a pitch fair will be held at Alloy 26 in Nova Place, where community members will be able to come in and view the student’s ideas, similar to a science fair, Johnson said. The goal is to get the community involved and match individuals with student projects for support.

Alaquiva said there have been a lot of changes on the Northside, especially when it comes to economics and real estate, and that using Alloy 26 as a gathering place is a way to bring people from the neighborhood to explore what some see as “a big spaceship that landed on their community.”

“What better way to create a bridge between Alloy 26 and the community, and bring them into a new space that they are unfamiliar with,” Alaquiva said.

BMe Community is a movement inspired by black men to build a more caring and prosperous America together. Since 2013, BMe’s 40,000 members have helped themselves and 2 million others to improve their health, wealth, hope and communities. BMe is backed by individual donors and leading foundation, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, The William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable trust, the Buhl Foundation, and The Heinz Endowments.