Breathing new life into Northside nonprofits, the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE) is expanding its service beyond the East End. The service and leadership program announced it has recruited 14 additional fellows, bringing a total of 30 energetic college grads who will serve and live in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods starting this August.

Talk about further clogging the 1990s “brain drain.”

“Our expansion to Northside is directly connected to the increase in quantity and quality of young adults and Pittsburgh nonprofits interested in PULSE,” says Chris Cooke, executive director of PULSE.

In fact, applications numbers for the yearlong program increased 75 percent for next year. The program is attracting students from colleges and universities from around the country and even the world, adds Cooke.

Support for the Northside program expansion is currently coming from the Buhl Foundation.

In August, the new fellows will move into their PULSE houses – three in the East End and four on the Northside – and begin their work at nonprofits throughout the city, yet to be identified.

Founded in 1994 by a small group of community leaders, PULSE has partnered with more than 100 Pittsburgh nonprofits over the years. Over the last 20 years, approximately 175 new college graduates – recruited from local, national and international universities – have contributed some 300,000 service hours to the city and its residents – in places like the Carnegie Library, Fred Rogers Company and Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation.

Current fellow Jess Sprunger works at the Garfield Community Farm, planting and harvesting microgreens in a bioshelter space and learning about permaculture, a system of sustainable agriculture. Also working at the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, she is a “jack-of-all-trades,” researching the history of urban agriculture in Pittsburgh and creating visual displays relating to the food system.

“I love the physical nature of the job and all of the practical skills I am gaining. The Food Policy Council has opened my eyes to broader perspectives and issues surrounding food. Now I not only enjoy eating food, I am interested in learning more about who has access, where my food is coming from and how to create a more just system,” says Sprunger, a graduate of Goshen College.

Adding to the city’s growing youthful population, more than 60 PULSE alumni remain in the city where they continue to invest in the East Liberty, Garfield and Highland Park neighborhoods.

“Pittsburgh is hot right now. Lots of young adults are excited to call Pittsburgh home. It is a great time to be in the city,” says Cooke.

PULSE is hosting a Northside Nonprofit Gathering for interested Northside nonprofits from 12 to 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 7th at Bistro to Go on East Ohio Street.

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.