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03-31-2010 -- Head of new CCAC program shares experience of the young adults he serves
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
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
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
"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
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
About CCACThe 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.