Mayada Christiansen loves putting puzzles together. She always has, both literally and figuratively. Christiansen’s favorite pastime is symbolic of the collage of pieces she has placed together to create a thriving workforce development ecosystem for the region.

As senior director of youth workforce programs for Partner4Work, the workforce development board for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, her priority is to ensure that young adults have the resources they need to thrive through Partner4Work or in partnership with the region’s many nonprofits and youth-serving agencies. This includes providing services to complete high school, earn a GED diploma or certificate, obtain certifications or search for and find employment. 

“I like connecting the dots for young people and bridging the two worlds between workforce and education,” Christiansen said. “I’m mission-driven to create quality experiences for young people with a systems approach, which fosters access to all opportunities and resources that are available, but may be harder to find for the 18-24 segment of our community.”

From Christiansen’s perspective as a member of the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership [GPNP], where she serves on the Advisory Team, the region is well-equipped with partnerships to help youth succeed in becoming the next generation of leaders and employees.

Instructor Somdatta Basu (left) and Ashley Priore (middle) teaching chess to a student at the Mansions on Fifth. (Photo courtesy of Rosemary Martinelli)

“One of the things I value most about The Forbes Funds and being a member of its GPNP network is the fact that we come into the sector with a fixed mindset that no one, single organization can uniquely solve the problems facing our communities, particularly for our youth,” Christiansen explained.

Ashley Priore, founder and CEO of Queens Gambit, a national nonprofit elevating a new generation of strategic, inclusive and civic-minded leaders through the power of chess, could not agree more. Priore is working with GPNP to center youth in the conversations that will take place at this year’s GPNP summit on Nov. 9 and 10. 

“Intergenerational conversations are key when it comes to workforce development and inclusive engagement,” Priore said. “At this year’s summit, The Forbes Funds is showing intergenerational diversity in action, providing a blueprint for the region on effective youth engagement.” This year’s summit will engage numerous youth voices not only as participants, but also as partners and presenters.

Priore said she believes youth must be included in and leading conversations about topics that affect them, including about their participation in the workforce. 

As Priore sees it, “it’s important to note though that intergenerational diversity can’t be one-sided. It requires a dialogue and mutual understanding between all generations with a common, shared end goal: a thriving region.” 

Participants from the Future Kings Mentoring Program gather and learn with founders Sean Spencer (far right) and Terrell Galloway (far left) for opportunities in the community, career, and world. (Photo courtesy of Future Kings Mentoring)

This year’s GPNP summit will create a space to do just that. Sean Spencer, co-founder and chief financial officer at Future Kings Mentoring, and Vidya Surti, Radiant Hall board member and youngest member of the Regional Asset District Advisory Board, will be presenting at the summit, highlighting the power of cross-generational impact and intersectional engagement. 

“Youth have more power than they even realize and often go through challenges to have the courage to speak up or the adult audience isn’t taking their voice serious[ly],” Spencer said. “At Future Kings Mentoring, we empower our young men to know their voices have power and can be used as a bridge for understanding and unity.” 

Along with more than 1,200 attendees of the GPNP summit, organizations like Partner4Work will be demonstrating the power of partnerships to give youth a seat at the workforce development table, creating pathways to employment for the change makers of tomorrow. And when that happens, you might find Christiansen high-fiving a young professional, knowing the future of the region’s workforce puzzle is in great hands.

Any community member can help design innovative and essential summit content that will inspire action by recommending speakers for the GPNP summit. To secure your spot now at this year’s event and take advantage of early bird pricing, get your ticket today.


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