By Jason Phox

Brookline Teen Outreach won’t allow a lack of financial resources to prevent youth in the community from having access to quality after-school programs.

Founder and Executive Director Caitlin McNulty launched the organization in 2015 to provide youth ages 10-18 with life skills, tutoring, community service opportunities and licensed counseling.

“I can attest to the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into growing this community asset,”  McNulty says. 

A 2020 study by the Afterschool Alliance reports that 40% of parents in Pennsylvania cannot enroll their children in an after-school program due to a lack of availability in their area, and 3 in 5 parents say that the cost of programs is an essential factor in their decision not to enroll their child in a program.

Brookline Teen Outreach’s free programming addresses those issues. And it just got easier to do so thanks to a $5,000 Community Impact Grant from Duquesne Light Company.

On July 7, the company announced that it is providing $250,000 to 40 nonprofits in the Pittsburgh area to support environmental justice, education and social equity. 

McNulty says the grant money will not only help Brookline Teen Outreach continue to provide free after-school programming but will support its other programs as well, including a little free library with books and art supplies and a “take-what-you-need” pantry for residents experiencing food insecurity. 

“We believe in approaching each teen from an individualized, empowering and trauma-informed perspective. We provide them with a safe space where they can be heard, practice using their voice and develop their skills,” says McNulty. “This method is effective for all students, even those who come from healthy, stable environments, because everyone flourishes in spaces where they feel respected, seen and valued.”

Open Field received a $5,000 Community Impact Grant from Duquesne Light Company. Photo courtesy of Open Field.

Open Field, another grant recipient dedicated to improving the lives of students, uses soccer to teach confidence and leadership skills to youth ages 6 to 18. The younger children learn from high schoolers who serve as coaches, referees and mentors. 

Open Field started in 2010 when CEO and founder Justin Forzano teamed up with Cameroonian Peter Ngwane to start free youth soccer camps, after-school programs and an international team. Programming was expanded to Pittsburgh in 2019. 

Open Field partners with the Frick Park Tennis Association to run soccer camps and works with organizations serving refugees such as the Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education and South Hills Interfaith Movement.

“We create a space for youth from low-income communities, primarily immigrant and refugee youth, to come together, play soccer and build relationships with adult coach mentors,” says Forzano. “We employ teenagers to be assistant coaches, and they help us run the program in their neighborhood, and they get, you know, stipends, and then they benefit from the experience of coaching and being mentors, being role models to kids in their neighborhood.” 

Open Field received $5,000 from the Duquesne Light program. 

Forzano says the organization is partnering with Community College of Allegheny County to launch a competitive men’s club soccer team for 2023 and will help student-athletes with mentoring and workforce readiness.

“We see this [CCAC Soccer team] as a really viable option to help young people get their associate degree and get higher paying jobs,” says Forzano.

This is the second year Duquesne Light has awarded Community Impact Grants.

“We continue to be impressed by the positive response to the CIG program and the incredible organizations that have applied,” says Sam Hartzman, company’s relations manager for Duquesne Light Company.