Yet despite its numerous accolades and strong economic growth, a closer look at the data reveal that Pittsburgh's transformation has not benefited all of its residents equally. In fact, according to data published by the Brookings Institute, on some metrics, Pittsburgh leads the nation in racial and economic inequality. For example, African Americans in Pittsburgh earn only $0.52 for each $1 earned by their white counterparts. Further, compared to the nation's 100 largest metro areas, between 2007 and 2017, Pittsburgh ranked 96th in the change in white/people of color median earnings gap (i.e., the gap increased by $5,349) and 94th in the change in white/people of color relative poverty gap (i.e., the gap increased by 5.4%).
In response to these inequities, Pitt's School of Social Work's and Center on Race and Social Problems developed Pitt-Assisted Communities and Schools (PACS), a community-based research-to-practice initiative with a mission of mobilizing university resources to simultaneously 1) enrich the lives of African American children, youth, and families, and 2) advance Pitt's commitment to transformative research, learning, and impact. PACS connects faculty and students from across the university with preK-12 school principals, teachers, student services professionals, community residents, and community-based organizations to design, implement, and evaluate a suite of interventions and participatory research initiatives supporting the well-being of youth and families in distressed neighborhoods.
In this symposium we highlight four of PACS's research-to-practice efforts: 1) The Justice Scholarsa dual high school/college enrollment program in which high school students earn college credits from Pitt along with supplemental college readiness training; 2) Just Disciplinea school climate and discipline intervention that uses relational and restorative practices to reduce disciplinary problems and increase achievement; 3) the Spaces and People in Neighborhoods (SPIN) project's Youth Research Advisory Board, through which young people are trained as leaders and researchers to assist in the design and pilot of research on their own community; and 4) Research for Equity and Powera community-based participatory research and training project designed to mobilize and strengthen residents' civic engagement on the topic of equitable development (versus gentrification).
Individually, the projects presented in this symposium have exposed students and community members to numerous educational and career opportunities; significantly improved school climate, achievement, and college access; and mobilized residents to be proactively involved in community planning and development. Collectively, these research-to-practice initiatives represent multiple strands of PACS's overall approach to leveraging university-community partnerships in ways that re-imagine and transform inequitable systems at the school and community levels.