Carey Harris

In November 2018, Carey Harris became CEO of Literacy Pittsburgh — the largest provider of adult basic education in Allegheny and Beaver Counties. She leads the nationally acclaimed organization in helping disadvantaged job seekers ready themselves for today’s workforce. Carey, who grew up in Crafton, lives in the South Side with her family.

What upcoming events are you excited to attend?

I’m looking forward to opening night of “We are Among Us” at City Theatre, which gives a window into the immigrant experience. The music lineup for the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival is amazing, and I hope to catch a few of those shows. Graduation parties, end-of-schoolyear events and soccer games for my kids, plus a couple of bridal showers are also on my list!

Carey Harris, chief executive officer of Literacy Pittsburgh.

What’s your big idea for Pittsburgh?

What if Pittsburgh’s next big bet was on young children and their families? What if we invested in making sure every family with young children had opportunities for parents to upskill so they could earn family-sustaining wages?

What if we also offered paid family leave and high-quality early care and education so that parents could take advantage of the opportunities offered by today’s strong economy? What if we built the blueprint for the rest of the nation? We have the talent and resources; do we have the collective will?

What’s the best part about your job?

Working on behalf of never-give-uppers, the overcomers, the strivers — is an honor and a privilege. Our students are courageous and resilient adults who come to Literacy Pittsburgh because they want to make a positive change in their lives. For some, that means improving their reading, writing and math skills so they can become more employable, enter post-secondary education or job training, and help their own children succeed in school. For others, immigrants and refugees, that means learning how to navigate the language and culture of their new home.

I love that I get to help clear the path to make it possible for these determined men and women to achieve their goals. By raising awareness and resources, by aligning our work to systems and partners, and by supporting our amazing staff and volunteers, we can help make our students’ lives better through learning.

Carey Harris with her husband John Werling and their children (L to R) James, Audrey and Lilly.

One thing you’d like to change about Pittsburgh:

A more integrated Pittsburgh would be so much richer, more prosperous and livable. Our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, restaurants and entertainment are too often separated by race, culture, income and political thinking — it’s stifling at times.

Favorite podcast:

It’s a toss-up between The Moth Radio Hour and Invisibilia. Each one exposes things about the human condition that give me hope, make me think and remind me how we are all related.

Ideal date night in Pittsburgh?

Summer outdoor concerts and performances with my husband.

Three words to describe Pittsburgh:

Authentic, unpretentious and, at times, stifling.

In Pittsburgh, I can’t live without my:

French fries on my salad. According to Bart Simpson, you can’t make friends with salad, but he clearly has not had a Pittsburgh salad.

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Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.