Current Participants

Abaye, MennaMENNA ABAYE (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia / Wittenberg University ’15)

Menna Abaye, originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has spent the last four years in Springfield, Ohio and graduated from Wittenberg University with dual degrees in Biology and Business Management. Among numerous other on-campus activities, Menna was heavily involved with the international community at Witt, most recently serving as the President of the American International Association (AIA).  In May 2014, Menna won the Global Social Venture Competition in Osaka, Japan.  Menna is excited to explore leadership and personal development opportunities in Pittsburgh while meeting new people and friends.  In her free time, she enjoys reading motivational books, watching documentaries, meditating and running.  She will be serving at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care.

Ahmed, ZebaZEBA AHMED (Wyomissing, PA/University of Pittsburgh ’14)

Originally from Wyomissing, PA, Zeba Ahmed graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Japanese and Sociology in 2014. While at Pitt, Zeba was involved in the Asian Studies Center, Origami Club, and the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania. After graduation she moved to Sendai, Japan as a Fulbright Fellow where she studied economics at Tohoku University. In Sendai, Zeba also volunteered with the UN World Conference and was active in the Tohoku University Art Club.  She will be serving at the Northside Leadership Conference alongside Jackson Bush.

Bush, JacksonJACKSON BUSH (Bluffton, Ohio / Goshen College ’15)

Jackson Bush comes to Pittsburgh by way of Bluffton, Ohio.  Jackson received his degree in Mathematics along with a minor in Spanish from Goshen College.  Jackson enjoys most recreational activities, having played Varsity Soccer and intramurals at Goshen all four years and started a cycling club his senior year.  Jackson is also no stranger to working with children, as he was a school-aged tutor for Math and Spanish, as well as with children in Peru during his study abroad semester.   Upon Jackson’s move to Pittsburgh, he will likely be seen cycling around the city.  He will be serving at the Northside Leadership Conference alongside Zeba Ahmed.

Cuenca, ReneRENE CUENCA (San Salvador, El Salvador / Carnegie Mellon University ’15)

Rene Cuenca graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in Environmental Policy and Architecture.  Rene was active on CMU’s campus as a co-leader with CMU Eco-Reps which lead and implemented sustainable initiatives on-campus and the social media manager for Lunar Gala fashion show, the largest student-led event on campus.  Rene also worked with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and The Sierra Club Legislative Office.  Rene enjoys exploring new places, a joy fostered by growing up in El Salvador then Miami, moving to Pittsburgh, and studying for a semester in Denmark.  In PULSE, Rene is excited to grow his community organizing skills, develop long-lasting connections, and become more involved in Pittsburgh.  He will be serving at The Buhl Fondation/Design Center.

Doong, SimonSIMON DOONG (Beltsville, MD/The College of Wooster ’15)

Simon Doong, from Beltsville, MD, comes to Pittsburgh from Wooster, OH where he studied International Relations, Economics, Spanish, and Latin American Studies. During his time at Wooster he was the secretary of the Hans H. Jenny Investment Club, volunteered with the US National Arboretum, and worked with the Wooster Recording Crew. Simon also spent a summer abroad studying at the UABJO in Oaxaca, Mexico where his courses were taught in all Spanish. Simon loves outdoor activities and is looking forward to exploring Pittsburgh’s trails.  He will be serving at Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (3RWIB) alongside Rebecca Michelson.

MARIA DRIEDIGER (Harrisonburg, VA / Eastern Mennonite University ’15)

Maria Driediger, from Harrisonburg, VA, graduated from Eastern Mennonite University with a degree in Peacebuilding and Development. Maria has much experience working with and advocating for youth. She was a camp counselor at Camp Overlook in VA for five years and volunteered weekly with The Collins Center. Maria also spent a semester studying in South Africa and Lesotho. Maria is excited to explore Pittsburgh and experience new adventures.  You may find her out and about in Pittsburgh running, playing soccer, or listening to live music.  She will be serving at the Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh.

KEVIN FERNANDO (Pittsburgh, PA / University of Pittsburgh ’15)

As a Pennsylvania native who studied at the University of Pittsburgh, Kevin Fernando is no stranger to the region. He studied Architectural Studies and History of Art and Architecture, with minors in Studio Arts and Museum Studies. Kevin has been actively involved in the art scene in Pittsburgh, working with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, the University of Pittsburgh Art Gallery, the Andy Warhol Museum, and more, while co-creating the art market research project, Dear Pittsburgh. Outside of his interest in art, Kevin enjoys tennis, restoring old furniture, and taking long city walks.  He will be serving at Union Project.

NATHANIEL FEUERSTEIN (Lowell, MA / Kalamazoo College ’15)

Nathaniel Feuerstein, originally of Lowell, MA, graduated from Kalamazoo College with a degree in Anthropology/Sociology.  At Kalamazoo, Nathaniel was involved in CAPS, providing after-school tutoring to elementary and high school students. He also served as a Sustainability Intern for Kalamazoo College.  Nathaniel spent six months studying in Dakar, Senegal.  Nathaniel’s work as a Park Ranger for the Lowell National Historical Park was most rewarding to him.  Outside of work and academics, Nathaniel enjoys reading, backpacking trips, biking, and walking.  He will be serving at Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse.

CECILIA FRANCHI (San Jose, CA / Carnegie Mellon University ’15)

Cecilia Franchi is a native of San Jose, CA, but is not new to Pittsburgh. She attended Carnegie Mellon University where she studied Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience.  Cecilia has much experience working with youth; she is a Classroom Aide with the Carriage House Children’s Center, volunteers at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and assisted in Kindergarten and First Grade classrooms regularly. Additionally, Cecilia is the Volunteer “Co-Owner” of Big Idea Book Store & Café.  Cecelia is excited to continue to explore Pittsburgh through new community engagement opportunities.  She will serving at the Manchester Academic Charter School.

RACHEL GINGRICH (Kitchener, Ontario / Wilfrid Laurier University ’14)

Rachel Gingrich is a native of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and earned her Music Therapy degree from Wilfrid Laurier University. Since graduating in 2014, Rachel has kept busy honing her music therapy skills at Sunnyside Long Term Care, where she creates programs for residents. Beyond her musical accomplishments, Rachel is passionate about social justice. She has worked as an inclusions facilitator at a Hidden Acres Camp and has training in trauma awareness. Rachel loves to knit, garden, and build strong communities.  She will be serving at the YWCA.

BENJAMIN GRABER (Plain City, OH / Otterbein University ’15)

Benjamin Graber comes to Pittsburgh from Plain City, OH, with a stop at Otterbein University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics. During his college years, he studied abroad in Chile and Argentina. Benjamin was active in the Otterbein Christian Fellowship, Ottertuned (A Capella Choir), and Habitat for Humanity. He has explored his passion for environmental issues by interning in the energy industry and working on a farm. You might find Benjamin at the theater or playing sports.  He will be serving at East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI).

NEIL GRBACH (Pittsburgh, PA / University of Pittsburgh ’15)

Neil Grbach, a native to the Pittsburgh area, studied Urban Studies and History at the University of Pittsburgh. He was involved in a number of ways on campus, including as the Fundraising Chair for the Phi Sigma Pi National Honors Fraternity and an active participant in the Emerging Leaders program. Neil recently completed an internship with the Design Center of Pittsburgh. Neil is passionate about urban planning issues, and is excited to start PULSE and make a positive change in Pittsburgh.  He will be serving at the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation.


JENNA HANNER (Marietta, OH / University of Pittsburgh ’15)

Jenna Hanner is no stranger to Pittsburgh, although she grew up in Marietta, OH, she moved here four years ago to study Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Through her studies, Jenna designed a sustainable woven knee brace to address unique challenges in East African countries. She was also the president of the University of Pittsburgh Global Brigades, through which she volunteered with sustainable development programs in Honduras. When she is not advocating for access to healthcare, you might find Jenna playing soccer or reading a good book.  She will be serving at 3E Now.

Hart, StephenSTEPHEN HART (Franklin, PA/Gannon University ’15)

Stephen Hart graduated from Gannon University with degrees in Theology and Biology. During his college years, Stephen was involved on campus as a resident advisor, teaching assistant, and research lab assistant. Stephen also travelled to Ndola, Zambia as a team leader with Habitat for Humanity and visited Port-au-Prince, Haiti for a service trip. He has worked as a Nursing Assistant in a UPMC Telemetry/Stroke Unit. Outside of these involvements, Stephen enjoys music, theatre, hiking, camping, and biking.  He will be serving at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh.

KRISTEN HOCHREITER (Yardley, PA/University of Pittsburgh ’15)

Kristen Hochreiter is no stranger to Pittsburgh, having spent the past four years at the University of Pittsburgh earning her Bachelor of Social Work with Certificates in Global and African Studies. During her time in college, Kristen held leadership positions with Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment (FORGE) and Bachelor of Social Work Club, studied abroad in Uganda, and tutored students at Miller African Centered Academy. In her free time, Kristen loves to play the saxophone, clarinet, and piano, and explore the great outdoors.  She will be serving at the Acculturation for Justices, Access and Peach Outreach (AJAPO) alongside Jordan West.

Hupp, KatiKATHERINE HUPP (Naperville, IL / University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign ’15)

Katherine Hupp graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in English. During her time in college, Katherine worked as a Student Ambassador and wrote for Uloop News. She also spent a semester abroad studying in Australia and worked at Walt Disney World.  Katherine is passionate about working with kids, the environment, and writing. She is looking forward to living in community with the other PULSErs in the coming year.  She will be serving at WYEP 91.3.

King, RachelRACHEL KING (West Unity, OH/Eastern Mennonite University ’15)

Rachel King, a native of West Unity, OH, graduated from Eastern Mennonite University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Aside from her degree, Rachel also completed a study term in Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. Rachel was very involved on campus as a Student Government Association Senator, the Pre-Professional Health Sciences Co-President, and an academic tutor. She also spent time volunteering at a retirement community doing physical therapy work with residents. Rachel loves to play sports, make art, and cook good food.  She will be serving at Tree Pittsburgh.

Longia, PermveerPERMVEER LONGIA (Mechanicsburg, PA/University of Pittsburgh ’15)

Permveer Longia moved to Pittsburgh from Mechanicsburg, PA, to study Neuroscience and Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. He was very involved on campus at Pitt, serving as the president of theSouth Asian Student Association, mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters, volunteering in the Hospital Elderly Life Program at UPMC, and earning multiple awards for commitment to diversity, outstanding achievement, and more. Permveer is excited to serve in a Pittsburgh nonprofit and live in community with other PULSE fellows.  He will be serving at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.

REBECCA MICHELSON (Wayne, PA/Wesleyan University ’15)

Rebecca Michelson comes to Pittsburgh via the Philadelphia area, with a stop in Middletown, CT, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Wesleyan University. Rebecca has a lot of teaching experience, having worked as a Writing Workshop Tutor and Coursera Teaching Intern. In addition to working with students, she spent time as a legal intern, on the Wesleyan Women’s Rowing Crew, and as the principal flutist in the Wesleyan Wind Ensemble. Outside of these activities, you might find Rebecca hiking or practicing yoga.  She will be serving at Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (3RWIB) alongside Simon Doong.

NATALIE NAGEL (Allison Park, PA/Grove City College ’15)

Natalie Nagel, a Western PA native from Allison Park, graduated from Grove City College with a degree in Political Science and minors in Sociology and Theater. During her college years, Natalie interned at a courthouse, law firm, and mentored girls at a summer camp. Natalie is passionate about arts and theater. She has participated in over 50 shows as a cast member, director, and crew member, and was nominated for an acting award at an international competition. Outside of these pursuits, Natalie loves to dance and play the flute.  She will be serving at Urban Impact.

MCKENZIE SAUDER (Elizabethtown, PA/Eastern Mennonite University ’15)

Originally from Elizabethtown, PA, McKenzie Sauder spent the last four years at Eastern Mennonite University completing a degree in Social Work. In addition to completing a semester study abroad in Spain and Morocco, she served as president of the EMU Women’s Association, coordinated Take Back the Night Week, and led the Social Work is People club. McKenzie is passionate about social justice, particularly women’s issues. When she is not doing this work, you can find McKenzie painting, dancing, or kayaking.  She will be serving at POWER.

MARY SCHRAG (Moundridge, KS/Bluffton University ’15)

Mary Schrag, a native of Moundridge, KS, graduated from Bluffton University with a degree in Biblical and Theological Studies. While at Bluffton, Mary was active in the Honors Program and Chapel Planning Committee. She won Third Place Bi-Nationally in the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest. Mary is also a traveler, having studied abroad in Guatemala and in Trinidad & Tobago. While in Guatemala, Mary pursued her passion for women’s rights by serving with ANADESA, a community development organization and women’s cooperative.  She will be serving at Green Building Alliance.

EMILY SHANK (Broadway, VA/Eastern Mennonite University ’15)

Emily Shank spent the past four years studying psychology at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. She has extensive experience working with mental health programs, including facilitating group therapy sessions, providing bereavement support through a hospice program, and volunteering with an equine therapy program. During her time at EMU, Emily was active in the Psychology Club and Women’s Association. Emily also loves to bake, read mystery novels, and win Scrabble games.  She will be serving at Strong Women, Strong Girls.

SARAH SLATER (Mars, PA/Houghton College ’15)

A native of Southwestern PA, Sarah Slater graduated from Houghton College with a Bachelor of Science in International Development and Business Administration. While at Houghton, Sarah wrote for the campus newspaper, served on the Student Conduct Committee, and was involved in spiritual life on campus as a chapel deacon. Over the past year, she completed an honors thesis on mission change in Christian international development organizations. Sarah spent one semester in Romania working with a youth development organization and studying Romanian culture and language, and also took a month-long academic trip through the Balkan peninsula. She is passionate about urban development and public transportation, and looks forward to investing time and energy in Pittsburgh.  She will be serving at the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG).

JESSICA SMUCKER (Cincinnati, OH/Goshen College ’15)

Originally from Cincinnati, OH, Jessica Smucker has spent the past four years completing her degree in Environmental Science and Sociology at Goshen College. Jessica is passionate about environmental issues, and has a lot of experience working in this field. She has worked on wetlands restoration with the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, improved environmental sustainability at a retirement community, and created a pollinator garden. In addition to this work, Jessica spent a semester studying in Cambodia. She enjoys playing violin, cooking, and biking.  She will be working at Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Stelitano, CasyCASY STELITANO (Pittsburgh, PA/Point Park University ’14)

A Pittsburgh native, Casy Stelitano completed her degree in Global Cultural Studies from Point Park University. During her college years, Casy was very active on campus. She served as a peer mentor, president of the Honors Student Organization, treasurer of the Global Cultural Studies Club, and was involved in the Alpha Chi Honor Society. Casy cares deeply about education and human rights issues, and she loves to play music and write poetry.  She will be serving at Pittsburghers for Public Transit.

TAYLOR THORP (Hackettstown, NJ/The College of Wooster ’15)

Originally from New Jersey, Taylor Thorp spent the past four years studying Anthropology at The College of Wooster in Ohio. During her time in college, Taylor pursued her passions for children’s rights and environmental rights. She traveled to Haiti and produced a research paper on child vulnerability and NGOs in Port-au-Prince, and volunteered with a nonprofit Wilderness Center. Taylor’s travel experience extends to Samoa, where she spent a semester studying women in sports. She loves playing field hockey, hiking, and running.  She will be serving at Best of the Batch Foundation.

RACHEL TULLIO (Rochester, NY/University of Notre Dame ’15)

Rachel Tullio comes to Pittsburgh from Rochester, NY, via Notre Dame where she spent the past four years completing her Science Pre-Professional degree.  She spent much of her time in college working with healthcare organizations, including interning at a clinic and serving at a hospitality home for pregnant women. Rachel also worked as a Resident Assistant, a tutor, and spent one semester studying in London, England. Rachel is excited to learn about the unique challenges facing the health care system in Pittsburgh.  She will be serving at Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone, Inc. (ARTEZ).

CHRISTIAN UMBACH (Washington, PA/Allegheny College ’15)

Christian Umbach, a Western PA native from Washington, PA, completed his Environmental Science degree with a minor in Creative Writing at Allegheny College. During his time in College, he worked with youth through the Pittsburgh Project, was the Executive Board Leader for the Allegheny Christian Outreach, interned with the Meadville City Manager, and DJed at a radio station. Christian is looking forward to learning more about the unique challenges Pittsburgh neighborhoods face during his time with PULSE.  He will be serving at the Design Center.

SAMANTHA WEAVER (Lititz, PA/Goshen College ’15)

Originally from Lititz, PA, Samantha Weaver comes to Pittsburgh from Goshen, IN where she completed her degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Spanish. Samantha explored her passion for environmental sustainability during a study abroad term in Nicaragua where she helped with reforestation. She was also the captain of the Goshen College Women’s Soccer Team, an intern at a health clinic, and has worked in a ceramics lab. Samantha loves to rock climb, play all sports, and dance.  She will be serving at Allegheny Cleanways.

JORDAN WEST (Oak Park, IL/University of Scranton ’15)

Jordan West graduated from the University of Scranton with a degree in Italian, and minors in Spanish and International Studies. He spent one academic year during college studying in Milan, Italy, where he also interned at a newspaper and worked as an English tutor. Jordan has much experience working with high school students, including college-readiness mentoring and work-readiness skills teaching. Jordan is looking forward to serving in community throughout his time with PULSE.  He will be serving at the Acculturation for Justices, Access and Peach Outreach (AJAPO) alongside Kristen Hochreiter.

Wortman, RachelRACHEL WORTMAN (Connellsville, OH / College of Wooster ’15)

Rachel Wortman graduated from the College of Wooster with a degree in neuroscience. During her college years, Rachel spent a semester studying abroad in London, England. She was very involved on campus at Wooster as a member of the Phi Sigma Tau Honor Society, a program leader for the Wooster Women in Science Neuroscience Program, a writer for The Wooster Voice, and a member of the marching and symphonic bands. Rachel is excited to pursue her interests of environmental and social justice while living in Pittsburgh.  She will be serving at the Parkinson Foundation of Western Pennsylvania.

Second Year Participants

Schneider editSARAH SCHNEIDER (Arcola, IL / Southern Illinois University Carbondale ’14)

Sarah Schneider comes to Pittsburgh by way of Illinois. Much of Sarah’s time at Southern Illinois was spent as Editor-in-Chief at the Daily Egyptian, the student newspaper. Sarah’s love of writing has opened the opportunity for her to intern with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this summer, where she will start to get to know Pittsburgh. Outside of writing, Sarah loves animals. She is looking forward to volunteering at an animal shelter in Pittsburgh. Sarah is serving at WESA.


Julia Smucker croppedJULIA SMUCKER (Goshen, IN / Kalamazoo College ’13)

Julia Smucker, originally of Goshen, IN, graduated from Kalamazoo College with a degree in English Writing and French. Before coming to Pittsburgh, she was a teaching assistant at a high school in France. Some of Julia’s skills include acting, singing, playing cello, and creating documentaries. Some of Julia’s other experiences include transcription and archival work at the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society and working as a Service-Learning Tutor at Woodward Elementary School. Julia is serving at Amizade.

Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience - Cultivating a community of young servant leaders to transform Pittsburgh
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