Mission and History

Pittsburgh Learning Commons (PLC) is an educational nonprofit whose mission is to: 1) provide educational opportunities that break down disciplinary boundaries and relate to real-world contexts, 2) create an environment where learners can claim ownership over their education and build lifelong learning skills, and 3) support learners in developing expertise in applied STEAM fields. We aim to accomplish our mission by having the voices and ideas of our youth mold our space and programming, bringing in advanced practitioners as instructors in STEAM fields, and building community partnerships. We prioritize free programs and scholarships to the residents in our Wilkinsburg neighborhood.

Pittsburgh Learning Commons (PLC) was formed in 2016 by a group of graduate students and young professionals with origins in the greater Pittsburgh area. With a goal to create educational programming for communities that are in need and looking for resources, PLC is planting seeds in the greater Pittsburgh area in order to grow with the community. In 2017, PLC partnered with a new community space (Community Forge) in Wilkinsburg to create public learning environments and afterschool programming for local residents. We are constantly looking for collaborators, so if you are interested, reach out to learn more!


Throughout all of our programs, we aim to work in practices that reflect our principles.

Encourage Lifelong Learners

Learning never stops, whether 8 or 80. We will offer a range of programs that support learners of all ages.

Learner-Directed Space and Programs

Our learners have the ability to shape the nature of our space and what programs that we bring in. We will intentionally build community directed practices into our programs, so that youth and adults can help direct where our money is spent and co-create the programs we provide.

Building Communities of Learners

We explicitly work on consensus building and collaborative practices through our programs to support our learners to work together. We promote cross-generational learning opportunities as all have something to learn from one another, no matter our age.

Blended Programming

Practitioners in all fields know that you need 21st Century skills and knowledge that draw across of subjects. Our programs emphasize interdisciplinary topics that pull from STEM, arts, and social studies.

Becoming Experts

We want to support learners in their goals to become experts. To do this, we aim to offer programs of different levels to initial introduce new subjects and also have project-based programs for deeper dives by those learners who want to push themselves further. We will move learners from their first engagement with ideas all the way to mastery.

People and Partners

Our Instructors and Officers

  • Jacqueline Cameron (Co-executive Director)
  • Patrick Cooper (Co-executive Director)
  • Cherelle Dankins (Program Staff)
  • Leigh Pugliano (Partner, Executive of Barrels to Beethoven)
  • Mike Skirpan (Grants and Programs Advisor // Program Staff)
  • Travis Alvarez (Board Member and Program Staff)

Our Partners

Beyond building our own programs, we love connecting with, bringing in, and supporting other organizations who are bringing unique opportunities to youth in our area. Our partners include:

  • Wilkinsburg Youth Project
  • Barrels to Beethoven
  • Queen’s Gambit
  • St.Stephen’s Church: Neighborhood Youth Outreach Program
  • Spirit Fingers
  • Wilkinsburg School District

Our Board

  • Julie Cafarella (President)
  • Simone Hyater-Adams (Compliance Officer)
  • Christopher Stumm (Secretary)
  • Geoffrey Ryan (Treasurer)
  • Cory Tamler (Board Member)
  • Travis Alvarez (Board Member)