PITTSBURGH—The Community College of Allegheny County’s Young Adult Empowerment Program seeks to help undereducated and underemployed 17-to-24-year-olds overcome their life situations and succeed. It’s a mission Gregory James Collier can get behind. After all, it was his story, too.
Collier, a native of Homewood-Brushton, said he barely graduated from Westinghouse High School, taking an extra year to finish. Even in that additional year, he feared his grades were too poor to permit him to graduate—but he did.
He served a term in the US Air Force and worked to further his education. After 12 on-again, off-again years, he graduated with a degree in business administration and human resources management. Then he went on to earn a master’s degree in organizational leadership.
Collier was recently selected to run the Young Adult Empowerment Program, a collaboration between CCAC and community organizations including the Black Political Empowerment Project/Coalition Against Violence (B-PEP/CAV), Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council (GPLC) and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. The Heinz Endowments is providing additional support for the initiative.
“I am very happy to serve in this capacity at CCAC,” Collier said. “I was one of the undereducated and underemployed individuals that we aim to serve through the program. The hope is that I can become a living, breathing pillar of hope for those participants who elect to walk through the YAEP initiative.”
Collier said his background gives him a particular passion for helping others. He has extensive government and public policy experience, including work with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh mayor’s office. In addition, he is a noted life coach and facilitator for community groups, human service agencies and places of worship.
He has invested in a variety of grassroots community projects, including founding urban youth outreach programs in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, starting and directing two weekly men’s forums and leading a community Bible study. He has fostered 15 children.
“We are excited to have someone of Mr. Collier’s experience and passion join this initiative,” said CCAC President Alex Johnson, PhD. “Working alongside our partners, we hope to enable many more young people to succeed in breaking a cycle of unfulfilled potential.”
Under Collier’s direction, the YAEP will aim to increase the number of young adults who will graduate from college and find employment in high-demand, high-priority fields. The program plans to establish an employer “gateway” that will create a pipeline of qualified personnel in these high-priority fields. In addition, it will address the growing need for remediation in higher education.
“For many individuals, graduating from college may seem like an unreachable goal,” said Donald Block, executive director of GPLC. “The YAEP will help them to develop and apply the academic and life skills they need to succeed in higher education and their careers.”
Participants may enter the program directly or with the help of participating community organizations. These community organization efforts will be coordinated in cooperation with B-PEP/CAV, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and GPLC.
“The partnership among these numerous community organizations is key to the YAEP’s success,” said Tim Stevens, chairman of B-PEP/CAV. “By working together, we can better identify and support young adults as they seek to improve their lives through this program and join the region’s skilled workforce. I am personally thrilled to see the idea first advanced at a breakfast meeting in 2008 finally become a reality. The choice of Gregory Collier as the YAEP’s leader will help guarantee the program’s success.”
Once in the program, participants will be able to:
Through the YAEP, students can train to become industrial machinery mechanics, field service technicians, engineering assistants, quality technicians, welders, automotive technicians, plumbers, building construction workers or heating, air conditioning and refrigeration specialists.
“For young people who see themselves in a dead-end job without the skills to reach their potential, the YAEP offers a lifeline,” said Esther Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Pittsburgh. “It provides a chance for them to rise above their circumstances and succeed.”
For more information about the YAEP, call 412.788.7500 or write to YAEP@ccac.edu.
The Community College of Allegheny County is the largest institution of postsecondary higher education in Pennsylvania. The college serves 30,000 credit students through 170 degree and certificate programs and offers thousands of lifelong learning non-credit and workforce development courses to 35,000 students annually. Incorporating a learning-centered environment committed to the future of the region, CCAC continues to expand its reach through innovative programming and accessible instruction offered via convenient day, evening, weekend and online courses. With four campuses and six centers serving Allegheny County and surrounding communities, CCAC endeavors to fulfill its mission to provide affordable access to quality education and offer a dynamic, diverse and supportive learning environment that prepares the region’s residents for academic, professional and personal success in our changing global society.