Free programs on North Side help kids escape abuse

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Violence is a real problem among young people in Pittsburgh, as we saw especially when 11 people were shot and two killed at a party in the city’s East Allegheny neighborhood on Easter Sunday. .

But there is a school on the north side that offers young people another option. Manchester Bidwell Corporation offers free after-school and summer programs for children and teens, and it changes lives.

When you enter the establishment, everywhere you go you are surrounded by art, beauty and peaceful sounds. But when Bill Strickland started the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild in 1968, he wanted a place where children could escape race riots and street crime in the same way that art changed his life when he was a troubled teenager in the North Side.

“I would have been in jail or dead,” Strickland told KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen.

He says he had no direction until he met Frank Ross, who taught him ceramics at Oliver High School.

“I am very grateful to my teacher. I am very grateful to my mother because she raised me so that race was not a barrier to learning,” he said, especially because Ross was white and Strickland is black.

Ross mentored Strickland and helped him go to the University of Pittsburgh. After graduating, Strickland started art programs for students with the help of prominent Pittsburgh residents, including Elsie Hillman, the Mellon family, John Heinz, and Governor Dick Thornburg.

“A lot of the students we deal with come from very difficult backgrounds. Some are poor. Some of them are economically discouraged,” Strickland said. “And I understood that if you put people in a nurturing environment and you give them good food and lots of encouragement and competent faculty, you can actually change the way they are born. So rather than seeing the day as a series of disappointments, they can see the day as a series of opportunities.”

What is now called MCG Youth and Arts offers free after-school and summer programs for children and teens in ceramics, photography, fashion design, painting and more.

In addition to this, Manchester has partnered with the Bidwell Training Center since 1972 to provide vocational training in programs such as culinary arts, horticulture and medical technology.

Strickland is now focused on spreading the message about how this model can work anywhere. It already has a presence in 10 cities across the United States and Israel, with the most recent opening in Westmoreland County this summer.

In 2016, Bill and Kristine checked into the hospital where he underwent a double lung transplant after years of smoking damaged his lungs. It made him even more focused on making a difference.

“So you better get serious. Every day counts. If you don’t mean it, wait until you’re in your last week of life, and every day will come more than you think,” he said. declared.

Manchester Bidwell recently named the building after Strickland to honor his legacy, but for him it’s not about recognition – it’s about helping more people achieve the American Dream.

“I started dragging kids through the streets to save their souls with clay and I still do.”

Bill was heavily influenced by jazz and built a world-class auditorium and recording studio, and MCG Jazz now has five Grammy Awards.

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