The New Voices of Youth (NVOY) is a program of The Pittsburgh Foundation seeking to encourage youth engagement in creating and sharing innovative solutions to a community issue in southwestern Pennsylvania. The NVOY is an online forum for local youth to become agents of change.

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Agents of change are individuals and/or groups who:

  • Identify a critical issue that has an impact on the quality of life in their schools, their neighborhoods, and their communities;
  • Can imagine a future where these critical issues have been addressed in a nonviolent and sustainable way;
  • Bring great passion and commitment to everything they do and inspire passion and commitment in others;
  • Respect and honor diverse cultural and community perspectives and points of view;
  • Combine a strong sense of urgency to all that they do with an equally strong respect for how diverse communities work to effect change; and
  • Seek solutions to problems and are willing to demand fundamental shifts in the way human beings interact with the world around them.

Before you learn about the problem facing your community today, roll over the images on the right and discover how famous Change Agents took action and evoked change.

Ai Weiwei

International artist, political critic.
Weiwei mobilizes people through the use of social media & has been censored by Chinese authorities due to his criticism on the Chinese government’s position on human rights & democracy.
Image Source: Washington Post, 2011 / Andy Wong / AP

Buckminster Fuller

Designer for Sustainable Living. Fuller’s work included a multitude of designs that revolutionized the field of engineering and influenced designers, architects & scientists to think in terms of sustainable living when addressing design & engineering issues.

Jane Goodall

Scientist of humans & chimpanzees. Jane Goodall is an internationally revered scientist whose work & research has led to a greater understanding of the behavior similarities between humans & chimpanzees.  [Image: Attila JANDI/]

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Clergyman & Nobel Peace Prize Recipient. King led numerous demonstrations, including the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration in 1955 & the famous peaceful march on Washington, D.C. where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Image: Daniel M. Silva /

Rosa Parks

Mother of civil rights movement. Rosa Parks became an iconic figure in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger Montgomery, Alabama – an act of defiance that led to the end of legal segregation in America. Image Source: American Academy of Achievement / © UPI/Bettman

Spike Lee

Writer, Actor, Director, Documentarian. Lee's work addresses issues of race, color, and the portrayal of the African-American life, among other political issues.

Steve Jobs

Innovator of accessible technology. With a mission of making computers cheaper, accessible to everyday consumers, and user-friendly, Apple Inc. was an influential player in the evolution of modern technology. Image: Denys Prykhodov /

Ella Baker

Social activist for economic justice. Ella Baker fought for economic justice and power for African-Americans. (
Image Source:

Rachel Carson

Ecologist & writer from Springdale, PA. Rachel Carson was the author of Silent Spring (1962), a breakthrough book on the dangers of excessive use of synthetic chemical pesticides on the environment after World War II.    [Image: Neftali/]

The Breathe Project

When your grandparents were young, the thick smoke in Pittsburgh’s sky blocked the sun and made the city appear dark even in broad daylight. We were known as a “two-shirts-a-day town” because just standing outside turned your clothes black with soot.

Thankfully, much of the industrial pollution that earned us the title of “Smoky City” is long gone. But our region’s air quality still ranks among the worst in the nation.

Soot and smog levels in southwestern Pennsylvania are higher than in most places in the U.S. These invisible particles come from car tailpipes, wood burning, diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industry smokestacks. They can travel deep into your lungs and lead to heart and lung disease, asthma and even early death.

Not only does air pollution affect our health, it impacts our economy. Poor air quality puts added regulatory burdens on business, increases healthcare costs and makes it harder to attract workers and companies to the region.

That’s why The Heinz Endowments launched The Breathe Project in the fall of 2011. We are a coalition of businesses, government, organizations—and people like you—working to clean our air for healthy families and a strong economy. Our goal is to make sure everyone in the Pittsburgh area has clean air to breathe everyday.

To learn more about the Breathe Project and find easy ways you can be part of the solution, visit You also can like us on Facebook and join the conversation @breatheproject on Twitter.

Young people know best the conditions that impact their daily lives, yet in most contexts, they are not given the opportunity to speak out or take action that leads to meaningful change. This competition is designed to provide opportunities for youth, with adult mentors, to take action on air quality issues in their communities.

Now that you read about the issue of clean air – think about how you can get involved. This is your chance to be the change.

Share your ideas

BE A RESEARCHER:Share what you've learned.
A researcher conducts a systematic investigation to establish facts or principles, or to collect information on a subject. Using library, classroom or online resources, uncover the answers to your air pollution questions.

BE A JOURNALIST:Inform the community.
A journalist investigates and reports on events taking place that the community needs to know about. Start reporting on the actions taking place in your school, neighborhood or community to reduce air pollution.

BE AN ARTIST:Inspire a conversation.
An artist reflects the world in creative and often unexpected ways: a sculptor in the shape of things, a poet in words, and a musician in sounds. Reflect your thoughts on how air quality looks, feels or sounds in a creative manner.


BE AN ACTIVIST:Be the change that you want to see.
Participating youth and their mentors are asked to design a project that meets at least one of the following goals:

  • Increase awareness of the impact of air quality issues in the Pittsburgh region.
  • Create first-time opportunities for youth to participate as a volunteer or in a service learning opportunity to improve air quality in our region.
  • Expand opportunities for young people to learn about historical and contemporary movements for change and put those lessons into an action plan to improve the region’s air quality.

Feature of the Month

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Conversations about Air Quality

Six students from the Pittsburgh area met at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to discuss air quality.     
Discussion Item #1:  What does clean air mean to you?
Stephanie:  Clean air means the world to me.  Pittsburgh is highly affected by air pollution, which harms my friends, my family and myself.  My dad has asthma and my friend had childhood leukemia which are both directly linked to the air quality around our homes.
Yasha:  Less health problems, better quality of life, and a more beautiful city.  Plus, the sky would be a lot less gray.
Elizabeth:  Clean air is better breathing and healthier living.  Better breathing today, for a healthier life tomorrow.  With clean air the city will continue to prosper.  We will be presented with greater opportunities.  I hope to establish a prosperous medical career within the city.  If there is no clean air, then there is no city, and I will have to find a different place to be a doctor.
Discussion Item # 2:  What can students do to improve our region's air quality?
Lex:  Students can walk, take a bus, carpool or bike.  They can also spread awareness to people of all ages and give others information on how they can help contribute to the betterment of our air quality.  For example, one person could plant a tree, buy local fruits & vegetables and even buy clean energy.
For more information about how you can create change and improve air quality in our region, check out the IDEAS section.
Be part of the conversation by adding your ideas and comments.
Be a change agent and submit a project that could win up to $2,500 to turn your idea into a reality.


Take a peek at youths' creative ideas on solving the problem.

Art and Air


CAPA 6-12



Falk Labratory School

sticking togther


schiller classical acadmey

Evolution of Pollution in Pittsburgh



Save Gotham; Don't Pollute

Hand Sanitizer


3 Fun and Easy Ways to Improve Our Air

South Allegheny



See how other youth are taking action to bring their ideas to life.

Art and Air

7th Grade Visual Arts

CAPA 6-12

"Got it yet?"

Lucas Nash

Mt. Lebanon High School



Falk Labratory School

Pollution Mural

Plants for Air

Falk School

Signes for Change


Falk Laboratory School

Evolution of Pollution in Pittsburgh





Help for Students

If you’re hitting a few bumps in the problem-solving road, check out the links below. They’ll give you more information on the project, provide some basic research, show other organizations taking action and point you to our collaborators.

These resources are especially for you, so take full advantage of them.

All Teachers:

Click on the icon to the left to download curriculum standards and resources to stir your students’ imaginations.

To enter your idea or action you must visit the website from a desktop computer.