"The need to express yourself is a very human need, but whenever you're alone, the need becomes even greater. Just to have your own voice, even in a sea of voices, is really a good thing."By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The pandemic has been difficult for many young people who have to do school from home, can’t be with their friends and can’t go to activities because they’re canceled, but one local organization is making sure kids can continue expressing themselves through the arts with classes that are free to those in Allegheny County and anyone in need.

MCG Youth and Arts has transformed countless young lives with after-school classes and mentoring at its school in Manchester on the North Side. When the pandemic forced them to close, they found a way to continue online, knowing that young people would need the arts, creative expression and personal connection now more than ever.

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Sam Schomburg is a senior at Deer Lakes High School and a student at MCG Youth and Arts and says, “The need to express yourself is a very human need, but whenever you’re alone, the need becomes even greater. Just to have your own voice, even in a sea of voices, is really a good thing.”

Shomburg takes ceramics, now at home. MCG gave her a kit with all the clay and tools she needs.

Sophomore Rebecca Carter, who’s a student at Pittsburgh CAPA High School, takes fashion and photography and is documenting these historic times. “Through photography, especially, you kind of get these snapshots of time that you can look back on in the future,” she says.

High school senior Alexandra Sarsaba stays up, or wakes up, at three in the morning to take her photography class online all the way from her home in the Phillipines.

Sarsaba says, “To be honest, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, I wouldn’t be able to know about Zoom or even online classes itself.”

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Thirty percent of the students are enrolled in MCG classes for the first time now that transportation is no longer an obstacle.

Schomburg’s grandmother used to drive her 40 minutes to the classes that were recommended by her therapist.

“The only transportation I need to get to my class now is my own two feet. So that’s pretty nice,” Schomburg says. “I don’t have to worry about if my Grandma’s working late…. It’s a lot easier to do; however, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.”

Nothing replaces being in person, but the students are grateful to connect with people from different backgrounds and countries, to learn new things and to have a creative outlet for their feelings.

Justin Mazzei, MCG Youth and Arts Executive Director, says, “Our goal really is to make this as easy as possible for youth in our region to have a transformative, positive experience through positive mentorship in the arts, so we want to try to limit any type of barrier that students would have to participate in high-quality arts education.”

The classes at MCG Youth and Arts are free for all high school students who live in Allegheny County, and for anyone else who cannot afford the classes, they have scholarships.

Enrollment for the next session begins Feb. 8.

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More details and enrollment here: https://www.mcgyouthandarts.org/
More stories and help for families: Kidsburgh.org

Kristine Sorensen