When you ask Gregg Dietz to tell you about his work as a student counselor and youth advocate, he’s more likely to hand you over to one of the many young people he serves so they can speak for themselves. To Dietz, a veteran counselor and mental health therapist with positions at the University of Pittsburgh and with the Shaler Area School District, that’s the whole point of his approach to youth empowerment: Enable kids to speak and act for themselves.
“I’ve been working with kids in the Millvale community and at Shaler since the early 1980s and it’s often been challenging to convince kids of their true potential,” says Dietz. “There can be a sense of division among kids, especially in schools where really different communities are combined under one roof.”
As one of the coordinators of the Youth Advocacy League, Dietz connects young people committed to social justice and positive community change from across the Pittsburgh region. Again, the focus is on student-led action, with the youth being empowered to identify the challenges they want to address and organize a response that is meaningful to them.
Whether it’s creating safer schools for LGBTQ youth, breaking down the barriers of race and class division, or taking on entrenched gender inequality, the students behind the Youth Advocacy League look to Dietz’s decades of experience as a community organizer and social justice activist for guidance and inspiration.
Youth Advocacy League will soon move into new permanent facilities on Grant Ave, right next door to the Millvale Community Library in the heart of the community.
“We want to do so much more. There is a lot of momentum in the community, especially among youth.” Dietz says. “I’d like to build on that momentum so our kids can realize the potential they have to be a leader in their communities. Then I’d like to connect them to the bigger picture– connect them with other youth activists in our area and in cities across the country.”