Coming from a middle school teaching background, Susie Backscheider came to Pittsburgh in 2011 to serve as an AmeriCorps volunteer. She taught English as a Second Language to adult refugees through Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council for two years. During this time period, she fell in love with the neighborhood in which she served, Prospect Park, in the Whitehall area of the South Hills. This community is filled with families from all over the world including Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, Bosnia, Liberia, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey, and more. Susie enjoyed spending time with the refugees in this community, young and old, so much that after her terms of AmeriCorps were complete, she sought permanent employment in the Prospect Park neighborhood.
Susie was brought on as the youth mentoring coordinator for South Hills Interfaith Ministries in 2013. She oversees six mentoring groups who meet throughout the week. The mentoring program consists of about 60 middle and high school refugee students who live in the neighborhood. Each week, the groups, led by volunteer adult mentors, engage in fun activities and participate in discussions centered on making positive choices, building skills at home and in school, and planning for college and future careers. Susie also plans fun and educational field trips for the youth to help students get out of the neighborhood in which they are sometimes confined (due to lack of transportation and resources) and experience new and educational opportunities. The youth additionally have opportunities throughout the year to volunteer in community service activities so they can give back to the neighborhood and city which has welcomed them.