Samantha Hauck | Staff Writer
Sept. 29, 2022
Student volunteers from Duquesne University helped clean up the South Side on Saturday morning. Events such as this happen frequently throughout the year, and have been a helping hand to the Pittsburgh community for over a decade.
Alia Pustorino-Clevenger is the Director of Extracurricular Community Engagement at Duquesne. She has co-facilitated clean-ups in the South Side for 15 years. Due to Covid-19, the involvement for these clean-ups has decreased in size.
“We recognize that, due to Covid, this might be the first clean-up that many students are participating in and [we’re] excited for them to meet the residents and Block Watch participants on the South Side,” Pustorino-Clevenger said.
This is an ongoing program, with preparation beginning in the spring. The team consists of Pustorino-Clevenger and members of the South Side Community Block Watch. These events are not only clean-up efforts, but are also a way to work on beautification of the community.
Preparation begins by recruiting volunteers. The Block Watch looks for volunteers and team leaders within their community, while student volunteers are recruited from Duquesne’s campus. Block Watch also reached out to neighbors in an effort to get them involved.
The team also had to agree on a date that would allow for large student, community and neighborhood involvement. A flyer was posted around campus to inform students and staff, complete with a link for potential participants to sign up.
The team created a list of needed supplies for the volunteers to have a successful clean-up. They also contacted the Department of Public Works to see what they can and can’t collect, as well as what they can possibly reuse.
Like many cities, Pittsburgh is faced with littering and other illegal dumping. This effort reflects the large issue of systemic waste.
The Center for Community Engaged Teaching and Research is able to contact the city and state to reflect on their efforts to better the community and arrange for the city to pick up all of the waste when the clean-up is finished.
This, in turn, helps address larger issues of improper waste disposal beyond Pittsburgh.
Removing waste can also create a safer neighborhood. Not only are there many Duquesne residents living on the South Side, but this is also a place where many college students spend their free time.
Evan Stoddard is the retired Associate Dean of the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts. He’s also a volunteer leader of the Block Watch.
“We want there to be no glass on the sidewalks to injure animals,” Stoddard said. “We want our neighborhood to be clean, safe and welcoming for all who live, work and socialize here.”
Edward Walsh is a second-year law student and is president of the Environmental Law Society. He participated in the clean-up because it aligned with the values embedded in the Environmental Law Society.
“I think this goes to show how tight-knit of a community Pittsburgh truly is, compared to other large cities,” Walsh said. “Duquesne, along with other members of the Pittsburgh community, came out in full force to clean up parts of the city that, for some, they don’t even live in.”
The clean-up program plays a very important part in both the Duquesne community and the South Side community. This event is more than just a clean-up and beautification effort. It helps bring the community together, provides mentorship and gets students more involved in the city.
This event was important to Stoddard, who has lived on 17th Street for over 50 years and raised his family in the South Side.
“The day was lovely, we enjoyed working together and we got a lot done,” Stoddard said. “The neighborhood looks much better than when we started, and I believe we all left with a sense of satisfaction that we had done good work.”
The event helped volunteers recognize the need for community efforts such as this and left students and South Side residents with a new outlook.
“This is a powerful opportunity to build relationships with residents who deeply care about their neighborhood, and for our Duquesne students to also develop relationships that they can expand upon during college if they become active volunteers in our South Side Community Council or Block Watch programs.” said Pustorino-Clevenger.
Pustorino-Clevenger also added that it is not uncommon for volunteers to be stopped by residents who thank them for working to beautify the community.
Another South Side clean-up will take place in April. Students who are interested can contact Dr. Alia Pustorino-Clevenger closer to the event at email@example.com.