Amanda’s Letter

Amanda Alexandre (Long Beach, NY /Susquehanna University ‘17)

Amanda Alexandre, a native of Long Beach, NY, completed her undergraduate degree at Susquehanna University with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Spanish. During her time in school, she was a Global Ambassador Intern, supporting international students’ transition to a new culture and providing academic advice. She also raised donations to help build houses in Snyder County with Habitat for Humanity.  In her free time, Amanda practices yoga and meditation.  She also enjoys running, reading, crocheting, and traveling. She is a part of the East End cohort, and is serving at the Crossroads Foundation.

Recently, Amanda wrote this letter of support to invite others to join in supporting next year’s group of PULSE fellows.

“Dear Friends…

This time last year, I was overjoyed because I knew that at 22 I had an opportunity to leave a lasting impact on others through PULSE. PULSE cultivates a community of young servant leaders to positively influence some of the most vulnerable people and nonprofit organizations in Pittsburgh.

It is Spring again, and somehow, my year of service with PULSE is less than two months away from ending. With the support I have had from coworkers and the PULSE community, these past nine months have been a greater experience than for which I could have hoped for. Through PULSE, I have had the chance to live in an intentional community, to immerse myself in the city and grow as a leader, and to serve in a nonprofit organization, Crossroads Foundation, for 35 hours a week.

It is empowering to be among 32 young adults participating and believing in organizations that improve the lives of others. I am fortunate to live with four incredible other Fellows and hear about the trail they are paving at their organizations at the end of the day; their works ranges from serving at an environmental charter school, an age friendly organization, a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities, and one that helps foster a bond between mothers who have lost a child and a mother who is in need of donations of breast milk to keep their premature baby alive.

PULSE pushes us to be better individuals through weekly seminars led by local leaders and our diverse group of talented Fellows on relevant or controversial topics such as gentrification in Pittsburgh. PULSE also provides us with professional networking events and opportunities to explore local organizations like our local coffee shops, and many more.

Other ways I have been able to grow is by having a mentor in PULSE and a career coaching group. In addition to growing professionally, PULSE encourages us to join communities and organizations that relate to our passion; for this reason, I volunteer at an organization called Literacy Pittsburgh that focuses on teaching English to people of all walks of life living in Pittsburgh as refugees or professionals. Through this experience, I have gotten to know an incredible couple from China that I tutor English to twice a week.

Of course, the best part of being a PULSE Fellow is working with vulnerable youth at Crossroads Foundation. It is unaccountably rewarding to work with these young adults whose living experiences reflect my own at that age. Crossroads provides an equitable education to low-income high school students by sending them to one of our six partnering Catholic high schools in Pittsburgh. Aside from funding their high quality Catholic education, our students have a Crossroads Counselor at school to help with academic, social, and personal obstacles. Finally, we guide our scholars’ parents along their high school and college journey by hosting workshops and events to prepare them for their child’s continued education. I am privileged to take part in making a difference in these youths’ lives by coordinating and facilitating events to help guide their parents in their transitional period. Through my direct service role, I am able to go to the high schools to meet with our junior and senior scholars to prepare them for college, and to also offer support to those in their first year of college by checking in during their semester.

The most rewarding part of my job at Crossroad Foundation is seeing many of our first-generation college students beginning to hope for their future. I have seen students’ progress from being hesitant to meet with me in the beginning of my service year to thanking me for getting them to where they needed to be. Out of our 31 seniors, all of them have gotten accepted to a college or a university and will be attending some of the most well-known schools in the country such as Carnegie Mellon University, American University, Northeastern University, Howard University, and many more. As I imagine my future, I know I want my career to mimic my experience this past year. No matter the path I choose, I hope it will be filled with the same joy of making a positive change in our youths’ future, and with the contentment of knowing they will continue to pass it forward.

I am beyond grateful to have had an amazing year of service with PULSE after graduating from Susquehanna. This experience was only possible due to my PULSE predecessor raising enough money to allow the next generation of Fellows to share this opportunity with our housing, meals, and transportation covered for the year.

If you are able, would you please consider donating to PULSE so this amazing experience may be offered to another deserving individual? As a team, we are so close to our goal of raising enough money to support the incoming cohort and I am asking for your help to assist me in passing this forward.

An experience like this starts with people like you. In supporting PULSE, you support not only the Fellows, like the one I have become, but also to the school students whom I serve today, and whom I once was. I could not be here without people like you. Thank you for impacting my life in the many ways that you have.

Sincerely,

Amanda Alexandre

17-18 PULSE Participant”

The goal is within reach.  $80K of $85K, 95% has been raised by the current PULSE fellows. 

Will you consider joining us as we work together to help Amanda and the PULSE fellows reach their goal?

Every gift matters.  Every gift counts.

DONATE TODAY!

Participant Story: Ashish Bibireddy

“I learned that there are hidden jewels in neighborhoods that are not noticeable on the surface, but being a resident and getting involved helps uncover some really cool things.” – Ashish Bibireddy

A graduate of University of Pittsburgh, Ashish Bibireddy majored in Neuroscience and Urban Studies while minoring in Chemistry.  He was heavily involved in university research and teaching at Pitt. He worked with Dr. Michael Glass as an Urban Studies research assistant, with Dr. Julie Fiez as a Chancellors Research Fellow, and as a Human Physiology teaching assistant with Dr. Laurel Roberts.  He also served extensively in Pitt committees on Body Wellness and Sexual Assault Technology. Additionally, Ashish worked as a Patient Evaluator with UPMC Canterbury Place and with the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation.  Ashish’s hobbies include sports of all sorts, traveling spending time with friends and family, photography, movies, camping, and trying new things.  He is a part of the Northside cohort, and is serving at the American Heart Association.

Dan: Describe a typical day at your nonprofit partnership.

Ashish: I wear many hats at my nonprofit partnership with the American Heart Association. I am responsible for bringing and coordinating wellness program throughout Allegheny County. I build relationships with nonprofits, I teach heart health classes, I help improve the efficacy of our curriculum, I analyze the health outcomes data, I help out communities with their own wellness programs, and anything else that comes up!

Dan: How has PULSE inspired you to live/think/act differently?

Ashish: It inspired me to be more intentional about including social justice initiatives in my endeavors. Many PULSErs are passionate about advocating for some of the prevalent issues today. This energy is contagious and has inspiring as well.

Dan: Tell me something you are learning about yourself through PULSE.

Ashish: PULSE is supportive of everyone’s strength and recognizes talents. During this year, I am reminded that by being my true self, I can make a positive impact. My unique story is capable of making a difference.

Dan: What has been the most valuable part of the PULSE experience so far?

Ashish: Building relationships with my neighbors, the local non-profits and being able to immerse myself in the wealth of opportunities the Northside has to offer. I learned that there are hidden jewels in neighborhoods that are not noticeable on the surface, but being a resident and getting involved helps uncover some really cool things.

Dan: What have you enjoyed most about living in community?

Ashish: Building close relationships with individuals in my community has been really great. Learning new recipes or supporting each other’s service programs is awesome. Also, having someone you can share your experiences with and navigate obstacles with them has been very beneficial. It is also nice to have a supportive environment.

Story by PULSE Participant Dan Shaffer.

Read more Participant Stories from Fellows about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation:

Participant Story: Tom McIntyre

I enjoy serving with a lot of passionate people who are willing to work with me through and on my personal growth.” – Tom McIntyre

 

Thomas McIntyre hails from New York, and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh, receiving degrees in both Linguistics and Political Science.  At Pitt, Thomas was a member of the Songburghs acapella group and Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity.  During his time in school, he was heavily involved in the Pitt Dance Marathon which raises funds and awareness for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He also spent two years working with PittServes.  Thomas is passionate about food justice, connecting with community members, and hopes to pursue a legal career. He also enjoys participating in musicals and singing has been a lifelong hobby.  He is a part of the East End cohort, and is serving at Planned Parenthood Western PA.

KeAndra Hollis: What has been the most valuable part of the PULSE experience so far?

Tom McIntyre: PULSE is connected to so many different people in the community. For example, Chris Cooke has so many connections within Pittsburgh that he is excited to share with us. This has allowed me to grow professionally, while also allowing me to be more effective within my partnership and as a servant leader.

KeAndra: How has PULSE inspired you to live/think/act differently?

Tom: PULSE does an amazing job inspiring discussion. I am able to engage in “safe topics”, as well as uncomfortable topics with people who I may not know very well. For example, I have been able to engage in open conversation with one of my roommates about their stance on marriage. Though we have different views, I have learned that these discussions matter in order to understand where people are coming from and how our unique experiences have led us to have different perspectives.

KeAndra: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh so far?

Tom: My favorite adventure so far was attending the Art Crawl Downtown with some fellow PULSErs. There was free wine and art. It was amazing. I participated in a project in which an artist was making plaster noses of people passing through the art gallery. After the artist made a casting of my nose, I was able to take someone else’s plaster nose home. After the art crawl, we took the T to Hilltopolis where there was food, drinks, vendors, and a music group performing right over Pittsburgh’s beautiful skyline. That night was very fun.

KeAndrea: What do you enjoy most about your nonprofit partnership?

Tom: I enjoy serving with a lot of passionate people who are willing to work with me through and on my personal growth. Additionally, I’ve always been passionate about HIV awareness and I’ve really enjoyed being able to bring out that passion through a project (finger-prick testing) within my partnership. The opportunity is extremely rewarding.

KeAndrea: What have you enjoyed most about living in community?

Tom: I like that when I come home, my housemates are always there doing something, whether it’s watching television, playing a game, or just talking with one another.  It’s great to always have the company of one of my roommates.

Story by PULSE Participant KeAndra Hollis.

Read more Participant Stories from Fellows about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation:

Participant Story: Koehler Powell

It’s been great learning about Pittsburgh not only from a neighborhood perspective, but also learning what the everyday things look like.” – Koehler Powell 

 

Koehler Powell has a long history with Pittsburgh having grown up here. Koehler left Pittsburgh to study at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota where she received her degree in Biology.  While at Carleton, Koehler was able to study evolutionary ecology in Australia and New Zealand, perform molecular biology research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical School, and interview and counsel prospective students as one of Carleton’s Admissions Fellows.  Prior to joining PULSE, she worked as the HOPE Center Program Director with Carleton College’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement Office and was involved on her campus with many other forms of sexual violence advocacy. In her free time, Koehler enjoys film photography, cooking, and rock-climbing.  She is serving at Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank.

Sid Dash: What do you enjoy most about your nonprofit partnership?

Koehler Powell: I have really enjoyed working with such a small group of women. Since there are only a few people working at the Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank, it really feels like a community. Everyone does a little bit of everything, and everyone is cross-trained so we can do each other’s jobs. We all work together and everyone is very supportive. If coworkers know that I am sick or had a difficult day they kick me out even if I try to work through it. Human milk is also fascinating, but that may be the bio nerd in me.

Sid: Describe a typical day at your nonprofit partnership.

Koehler: I usually get to my service around 7 a.m. Once we have at least three people, we start processing breast milk from the night before. We mix breast milk deposits from 2-5 donors together into Erlenmeyer flasks, homogenize it, and then pour the milk into bottles which we then pasteurize. That process ends around 10 a.m. We go back up front and unlock the door and then I work on assorted projects. Right now, I am completing a literature review for differences in bioactive retention between Holder pasteurization and retort processing. At some point during the day, I give a donor a tour of the milk bank. I show her where all the milk is and log in her milk so we know what kind of milk we have. The job also involves labeling and putting together milk orders.

Sid: What surprised you most about Pittsburgh?

Koehler: Even though I grew up in Pittsburgh, I never lived in the city itself. It’s been great learning about Pittsburgh not only from a neighborhood perspective, but also learning what the everyday things look like. For example, where to shop for groceries, who takes the bus to the Strip District in the morning, and what the city is like from a young adult perspective.

Sid: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh so far?

Koehler: One night, I went dancing with my two roommates from PULSE Start (Heather and Maura). We went to a place that Maura knew, which had great dancing, but it was completely empty. We waited to see if it picked up, but it didn’t, so, we just spent 4 hours talking. At the end of night, there was a DJ playing music, but still no one was dancing. We wanted to dance at least for a bit, so we decided to go dance. We danced for 5 minutes, before stopping because everyone was staring at us.

Sid: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?

Koehler: I enjoy anything with garlic. Our house is obsessed with garlic. We even add it to recipes that don’t need garlic. So far, the best recipe has been Amanda’s Boy which is a flour dumpling that is put into a soup of pureed black beans. I was her sous chef when she was making it, so she taught me how much water to use and the correct shape to roll them into. We had fun cooking, eating, and making puns about it.

Story by PULSE Participant Siddhartha Dash.

Read more Participant Stories from Fellows about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation:

Participant Story: Cecilia Lapp Stoltzfus

I’ve been surprised by the small community atmosphere that I’ve found throughout the city. I’m constantly finding out about connections between my neighbors, coworkers, and mentors.” – Cecilia Lapp Stoltzfus

Cecilia Lapp Stoltzfus, raised in Mount Rainier, MD, completed her undergraduate studies at Goshen College with a degree in Environmental Science/Sustainability and a minor in Music.  At Goshen, Cecilia was involved in environmental advocacy through her service on the Ecological Stewardship Committee and as a leader of the EcoPAX Environmental Justice Club and the GCDivest campaign where she co-wrote a literature review entitled “Socially Responsible Investing and Mennonite Education Agency”. Near her DC-area home, she has spent recent summers as a swim coach and wetland restoration intern along the Anacostia and Patuxent rivers. In her free time, Cecilia enjoys playing rugby, swimming, and singing in choirs.  She is a part of the Northside cohort, and is serving at The Door Campaign.

Ben Emswiler: How has PULSE inspired you to live/think/act differently?  

Cecilia Lapp Stoltzfus: PULSE has inspired me to wrestle with what it means to be a good neighbor. Between connections with families on the block, our local pre-teen “biker gang,” and other PULSE houses, I’ve found very strong community in Perry South.

Ben: What do you enjoy most about your nonprofit partnership?

Cecilia: Through The Door Campaign I have daily opportunities to connect with young, vibrant leaders in Pittsburgh. My supervisor is an inspirational example of a community-grounded visionary and I learn a lot from him about making the city’s wealth of resources available in underserved communities.  

Ben: Describe a typical day at your nonprofit partnership.

Cecilia: Every morning I ride my bike to my office: a coworking space in downtown Pittsburgh. Although it’s just my supervisor and me in the office, we spend a lot of time in meetings with our board, consultants, and other nonprofit partners. Several times a week I also go visit local schools to coordinate our Aquaponics Sustainability Program.

Ben: What surprised you most about Pittsburgh?

Cecilia: I’ve been surprised by the small community atmosphere that I’ve found throughout the city. I’m constantly finding out about connections between my neighbors, coworkers, and mentors.

Ben: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh so far?

Cecilia: Relying on biking as my primary form of transportation has led me to discover many interesting areas in the city. I’ve explored riverfront trails, gone on an urban farm tour by bike, and have become all too familiar with the city’s many hills!

Story by PULSE Participant Ben Emswiler.

Read more Participant Stories from Fellows about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation:

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