CITY Program’s Final Impact on Local Pittsburgh Youth

CITY Program Youth

Since 2016, Robert and Patty Tunno’s CITY (Community Innovation Training for Youth) program has created unique and engaging experiences for local youth. It has provided more than 100 Pittsburgh high school students with out-of-classroom learning opportunities to help them develop the skills needed to succeed academically and live a prosperous and rewarding life after graduation.

As of 2021, the CITY program will no longer be held. We are deeply grateful for the support from the community and partners to help this program and its students grow and succeed. A special thank you to Robert and Patty Tunno for creating and sponsoring the program. 

Through the program, students conducted STEAM experiments, visited local cultural sites, explored post-graduation options, learned about wellness, completed community service projects, and made lifelong connections and friendships. 

“For the past five years, we have seen some incredible students take part in this unique experience,” said Tom Bartnik, director at Penn State Center Pittsburgh. “Students have had the opportunity to visit local Penn State campuses, building-trade apprenticeship programs, and regional colleges. They produced the CITY-Eats cookbook, formed eggshell geode crystals, received SAT tutoring, built and monitored an aquaponics system, plus many more great activities. We’re excited to see the impact these students will make on their communities in the future.”

Students who have completed the program have gone on to do great things. Several students have enrolled at Penn State’s Greater Allegheny campus, some are working steady after-school jobs, and a few are still navigating high school. The program has seen students ace exams, get promoted, receive scholarships, and even win some awards.

Maurice (CITY 2019 alum and student at the Community College of Allegheny County) received a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day writing award for having the best submission from his school. Mya (CITY 2020 alum and Penn State Greater Allegheny student) won the Poetry Out Loud competition at her high school and was selected to participate in the Southwestern PA regional competition with the Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media.

Although the CITY program will no longer be working with Pittsburgh students, there is a new and innovative program for youth in Pittsburgh — the Readiness Institute at Penn State.

Emma Hance, who lead the CITY program, will now serve as Readiness Institute program manager. “I’ve loved every minute of my time working with the CITY program over the past few years. The energy and curiosity that the students brought to the program every day was invigorating, and I really appreciated having the opportunity to explore new topics and learn alongside our students,” says Hance. She will be joined by former CITY program assistant Lloyd Cleveland, who will continue to support and mentor students in his new role as Readiness Institute program assistant.

The Readiness Institute, funded by the Heinz Endowments, is a Penn State Outreach initiative that creates personalized pathways to success for every learner. It kicks off this month with the inaugural Summer Program, a six-week paid opportunity for high school students to learn by seeking solutions to problems affecting the greater Pittsburgh region. Participants will take part in a mix of onsite, offsite, and virtual programs.

Later this fall, the Readiness Institute will partner with the Mark Cuban Foundation AI Bootcamp to provide high school students in the Pittsburgh region an opportunity to immerse themselves in artificial intelligence and machine learning.