Return to Headlines

Summer of Healing’ Grant Supports Development of Student-led Safety Plan at Pittsburgh’s Perry High School

PITTSBURGH (October 12, 2022) –  Students at Pittsburgh Perry High School have completed the development of a student-led safety plan at Perry High School with support from a $21,600 grant from The Hear Foundation’s Summer of Healing grant program. Launched in June 2022, The Hear Foundation is dedicated exclusively to fostering collaboration between law enforcement, city officials, community groups, and residents in order to build a safe, thriving community for all.

Working in conjunction with a school social worker and the violence prevention nonprofit Infinite Lifestyle Solutions, four Student Safety Ambassadors (SSAs) from the community spent the summer developing a plan to address conflict and ensure a safe and conducive learning environment for students at Pittsburgh Perry.

The project also provided a workplace experience for students. SSAs attended sessions presented by guest speakers on topics that included planning school events, cyber bullying, restorative practices, trauma-informed practices and selfcare, relationship-based policing, violence as a public health issue and financial literacy. During the school year, SSAs will inform peers about resources, encourage peers to use safe ways to resolve conflict, assist with organizing and hosting school events, and promote community wellness events. SSAs are also creating a safe passage plan to ensure students stay safe when they leave the school building.

Safety Ambassador goals for the year include organizing a school-wide summit for students and participating in mentoring and additional trainings. SSA leaders also designed t-shirts featuring inspiring quotes. SSAs wear the t-shirts when they are hosting or co-hosting events for the school or in the community, and when they are representing the group for activities. The quotes students selected are: "Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace"; "You don't get what you wish for you get what you work for"; "Peace begins with a smile"; and "Creating Peace".

               “These students went through a 10-week program where they learned about trauma, about policing, and about how to create a stronger sense of community,” said The Hear Foundation Co-founder Leon Ford. “During this program, they developed and designed a plan to transform the culture of their school. The more we invest in our youth, the more people will step into leadership roles. It’s powerful, and it provides another way forward in transforming our city.”

The Pittsburgh Perry Student Safety Ambassador program is one of three inaugural community microgrants awarded by The Hear Foundation this summer with the support of a $75,000 grant from Heal America. Summer of Healing 2022 projects also included Voices Against Violence, Hope 4 Tomorrow, and Youth Enrichment Services summer camps. Each six-week camp included resilience workshops presented by Imagine Further Collective on equipping youth ages 8-16 with methods for handling the effects of adversity, finding and building strong support systems, developing healthier coping skills, and nurturing resiliency. Community police officers also attended the camps, engaging young people in discussions on topics such as police reform, public safety concerns, careers in law enforcement, processing prior police encounters, and media portrayals of police and youth.

"These camps provided the opportunity for kids to meet and get to know police officers from their neighborhood in a neutral, positive setting, and in a space where they are supported by their counselors, their peers and their teachers,” said Tiffany Kline-Costa, sergeant, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Community Engagement Office, and board member of The Hear Foundation. “One of the foundations of our unit is relational policing, and we see time and time again that kids share when they know you are listening. We love what we do, and we are dedicated to being present for these kids.

“We also recognize that seeing an officer may trigger stress or trauma from prior experiences, from media displays, or from something they’ve learned from a family member that may be incredibly negative. Having conversations with the kids, seeing them in various settings so they get to know us as people and recognize us when they are out in their neighborhoods or downtown – these efforts build relationships and change perspectives. The opportunity to spend time with youth, to talk with them about making good decisions, about how to have safe interactions with police is priceless, and we know it is having an impact.”

Reflections from youth engaged in the camps included the following:

●        “I learned that it is good to have a support system that you can trust and talk to.”

●        “I learned to keep my body safe and clean. I also learned to work in a team better.”

●        “Now, I know that how I feel is okay and that I don't have to be embarrassed or ashamed.”

●        “ I learned that I can talk to my support system and that I can have red and green people in my support system.”