How Assemble Inspires Pittsburgh’s Workforce of Tomorrow

Nina Barbuto at Assemble

In our efforts to protect Pittsburgh’s workers, we’ve always supported nonprofits that inspire the region’s future workforce. One of the most exciting nonprofits today is Assemble, a Garfield-based afterschool program that offers STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) programming to the community for free. Under the guidance of Founder and Executive Director Nina Barbuto, Assemble has flourished into a popular part of life for Garfield families. 

Assemble Students Working on Computers

Making Technical Subjects Fun

Assemble aims to empower people to create, connect, learn, and transform. By using STEAM lessons, students learn on multiple levels at the same time—while simultaneously building on previous ideas. “Everything in STEAM ties together,” Barbuto says. In Science, students make observations on living things. In Math, they review metrics to prove their scientific observations. These observations prepare them for Engineering, which gives them the tools to create new things. Technology is part of the things we create, and it has a direct influence on how we communicate with other people. Art then helps us push our communication even further. Barbuto gives the example of a student who loves Physics, but he becomes paralyzed with fear when he has to draw a diagram explaining a concept. Art lessons help him better communicate beyond the numbers and words he writes to express his ideas. 

Assemble Students Outside with Hats

Community-Minded

The concept of keeping people engaged and constantly learning is one of the reasons Barbuto chose Garfield for Assemble’s home. When Barbuto was looking for an office, she recognized the power of Garfield’s First Friday gallery crawl, but she also noticed how the excitement for the arts died down during the rest of the month. Assemble works to inspire that same First Friday creativity all month long.

Just as important was Barbuto’s drive to provide the community with a free afterschool program, something that’s hard to find in the neighborhood. By mixing in STEAM activities, Assemble creates exciting programming that keeps kids coming back week after week. 

The third draw to Garfield was Barbuto’s personal connection to the neighborhood. “My grandparents used to own a pizza shop back when there were very few restaurant options in Garfield.” Today, many parents and grandparents come into Assemble and remark, “Hey, you’re Joe’s granddaughter!” Through Assemble, Barbuto continues her family’s legacy of bringing the community together. 

Unique Programming

Assemble offers numerous programming options to ensure kids and adults return each week. Three of the most popular programs are:

  • Summer camps. Assemble hosts eight weeks of summer camp, with each week focused on a different theme. Previous themes have included “Survival of the Futurist” and “You-Topia,” both of which focused on technologies of the future but catered the content to different age groups.
  • Assemble’s afterschool program. With different programs each every afternoon, students will always encounter something new and exciting at Assemble.
  • Friday and Saturday special programming. The third Friday of every month is for “Learning Parties” that let students explore STEAM activities. The fourth Friday of each month is reserved for adults to learn a unique craft. Saturdays, meanwhile, are for free drop-in workshops called “Crafternoons.”

Assemble frequently features guest STEAM professionals who live and work in Pittsburgh. By seeing this constant stream of local experts, students can connect their lessons with real-world examples they may one day encounter in the workforce.

Assemble’s Long-Term Impact

Assemble Student Working on a Craft

Assemble has transformed the lives that have passed through its doors. Barbuto gives the example of Veronica, a former Assemble participant and recent high school graduate who started a photography business while working through general education classes at CCAC. Thanks in part to Assemble’s variety of STEAM workshops, Veronica is also interested in pursuing physical therapy and coding. As she debates whether she wants to transfer to the University of Pittsburgh for future schooling, she volunteers for Assemble’s photography workshops. In return, the team and connections at Assemble are helping her decide exactly what she wants to do for her career.

Through education and inspiration, Assemble is inspiring the future leaders of Pittsburgh. If you’re interested in joining Assemble’s mission, check its website for volunteer opportunities.

At Dugan & Associates, we care about the health, safety, and well-being of people within our community. If you’d like to learn more about our community engagement or our legal work, contact us

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