Robert Morris University wrapped up their Black History Month programs with a luncheon at the Sewall Center.
The luncheon which was free to students and $10 for faculty, staff and had guest speakers that included the founder of Steel Smiling, Julius Boatwright and John Dunn, an adjunct economics and legal studies professor. The Black History Month programs all were organized by Multicultural Student Services.
“I believe everybody who came to each program was meant to be there,” said Director of Multicultural Student Services, Fred Hodges. “Each person who had came and supported the program, they truly appreciated it. They had a good time and they learned something.”
Throughout the month, there were events such as Black History Month Jeopardy, a walking art exhibit titled Optic Voices, a comedy show, an open mic poetry slam and a speaker who spoke about achieving academic success.
“I think it went well… there’s always room for improvement, but that’s just how I am,” said Hodges. “I’m proud of the work that I’ve done thus far and I look forward to doing more.”
The keynote speaker for the luncheon, Boatwright, spoke about faith and the beginnings of his company, Steel Smiling.
“It’s a really exciting time to be an entrepreneur… in Pittsburgh because in my mind it’s all about collaboration,” said Boatwright. “Anytime we can share resources, we can sit down at a table and break bread and talk about ideas and how we can serve together. It is a really, really great time, a really amazing time, to be an entrepreneur in Pittsburgh.”
Steel Smiling is a nonprofit organization that began in December of 2015. It was initially to serve as an online resource for community members who might not be able to afford services, before realizing that just being online wasn’t enough.
“Working in therapy I’ve just been seeing that there’s a gap. We go in we do in intervention with the family and then one month later they’re right back in social services, in the system,” said Boatwright. “So for me, take my challenges and losing my best friend, and the work that I’ve been doing in the field, I saw the gap and I felt the call to fill that gap.”
Steel Smiling began in the Hill District in March of 2016. In the year 2017, they plan to serve 40-50 community members through their Beams to Bridges program. The Program will give community members the opportunities to become certified in Mental Health First Aid, learn from practitioners in workshops and share their stories with clinicians in community sessions.
“So one of the big things that we’re trying to do is strengthen the relationships between these community members and mental health care providers. So one of the needs that we’re filling, gaps that we’re bridging, is connecting those folks,” said Boatwright. “We try to help them identify those needs and address some of these needs so they can get connected and stay connected to some of these resources.”