PITTSBURGH — Ryan Brownfield grew up in a small town and elected to go to Waynesburg University in Greene County — just two blocks away from his family’s home. When he graduated in 2020 with a business degree, he was slightly apprehensive about traveling 50 miles north to work in the big city of Pittsburgh.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19 shutdowns, he landed a job in Allegheny County that came with a number of perks, including a lovely furnished apartment in Sewickley and a network of 14 roommates and neighbors who are also class of 2020 college graduates.
The 15 young men and women had been accepted into Pittsburgh Fellows — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit program where they “learn to seamlessly integrate faith and work,” according to the pittsburghfellows.com website.
Pittsburgh Fellows is a partner ministry of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. The program is a faith-based, Christian and nondenominational. Most Fellows are not Anglicans.
The program has corporate and business partners who interview and hire Pittsburgh Fellows, who then work from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Corporate partners pay the Fellows market-rate salaries for entry-level jobs. The program is geared toward business majors.
Partners range from corporate giants such as UPMC to small local companies with just five employees.
Fellows live in two houses owned by the nonprofit or two houses rented from St. Stephen’s.
“We give them nine months to get on their feet,” said Julie McCormick, the executive director, who runs Pittsburgh Fellows with two part-time employees.
“It’s a wonderful bridge between college and the working world,” said board chairman Ken Smith. A former corporate CEO who is now a full-time professor at Grove City College, he has volunteered with Pittsburgh Fellows since 2006, when the program started.
The yearly operating budget is about $300,000, he said, which comes from donations and fundraisers. St. Stephen’s members also contribute to the program.