5 community resources helping Pittsburgh teens lead healthier lives

When it comes to health, Pittsburgh is making great strides. The city once known for chip-chopped ham now boasts walkable and bike-friendly neighborhoods, green spaces and affordable housing. And the health benefits of living in Pittsburgh aren’t limited to adults. Healthy options for teens abound–from structured wellness programs to cooking classes and activities that emphasize stress management, exercise and the outdoors. In this article, Kidsburgh presents a few ideas to help Pittsburgh teens embrace healthy lifestyles.

The Center for Adolescent and Young Adult Health at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC serves youth ages 12 to 26 as they transition to adulthood. Physicians and a team of social work grad students help teens identify goals and challenges and connect them with adult allies and community resources. “Sometimes teens have a particular individual need or identity that helps guide where the connection will be most beneficial,” says Clinical Director Jonathan R. Pletcher, MD. “For example, the Persad Center for teens who are GLBQTIA, or the Thelma Lovette YMCA, [which] has an excellent program for adaptive sports like wheelchair basketball.”

Through CHANGE (Children’s Hospital Advisory Network for Guidance and Empowerment), the Center also offers monthly workshops that double as social events and focus on themes chosen by its youth board including mental health, healthy relationships and nutrition.

“I think any time you teach kids to cook, you give them a sense of agency,” says Rosemarie Perla, who instructs children and teenagers in everything from knife skills to basic recipes and the social value of eating. Her Teach a Kid to Cook classes—co-taught with Kelsey Weisgerber who heads up the food service department at the Environmental Charter School—occasionally pop up at Marty’s Market in the Strip. Teach a Kid to Cook is just one project of Slow Food Pittsburgh, which empowers teens to take control of their food through classes on topics like canning and foraging.

Venture Outdoors offers programming for all ages and skill levels—outings include kayaking, hiking and cross-country skiing. Excursions vary by season, but Venture Outdoors covers a lot of territory year-round, showcasing the unique beauty of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s green spaces and urban neighborhoods alike. The group also hosts GPS-powered treasure hunts in the form of geocaching. Similar to geocaching, letterboxing involves following clues posted online to find log books hidden in parks and other outdoor locations, which are then marked with hand-carved rubber stamps.

Bike Pittsburgh offers something for everyone, from coordinated biking events to maps of the most bike-friendly areas in the city. Its City Cycling Classes teach essential skills to teens like proper positioning, performing safety checks and avoiding obstacles.

And if two wheels just aren’t enough, there’s always roller derby. Likes its adult counterpart Steel City Roller Derby, Pittsburgh Derby Brats is a full-contact league. Girls ages 10 to 17 are eligible to participate in this dynamic sport that builds physical strength, teaches healthy competition and relieves stress.

Featured photo: Girl biking forest trails, Photo by Jacek Chabraszewski