Crossroads Foundation alumni motivating young professionals to give back


Ryan McCarthy, a young attorney at Reed Smith and a combat veteran of the Iraq war, is also notable for another significant life achievement—he is a 1999 graduate of Crossroads Foundation. “You take that part away, and the rest of it never happens,” he says.
McCarthy and fellow Crossroads alum Malik Johnson, a Risk Assurance associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers and a 2010 Crossroads graduate, brought together nearly 100 of Pittsburgh’s young up-and-comers in the fields of law, accounting and finance for “Cocktails with Crossroads,” a friendraiser held Oct. 13, at the Reed Smith Conference Center.
McCarthy and Johnson reached out to peers at Reed, Schneider Downs, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Merrill Lynch, Huntington Bank, Babst Calland, Jackson-Lewis, USX and more, and what was expected to be a group of two dozen grew to a crowd of 100. The friendraiser is one of a series of initiatives underway at the 29-year-old non-profit aimed at engaging Pittsburgh’s future leaders into the Crossroads mission of helping local at-risk youth access a college education and career success.
“Back in 1995, I was an 8th grader at St. Peter’s grade school on North Side with no money, no connections and no chances,” says McCarthy, who served as a medical platoon leader in Operation Iraqi Freedom and graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown Law School in 2012.
“I was headed to a failing public high school when I was accepted into the Crossroads program.  Going to Central Catholic and getting the academic support I needed from Crossroads was a life-changer for me.”
Johnson, who grew up in the Hill District and graduated from Central Catholic through the Crossroads program in 2010, couldn’t agree more.  Johnson’s academic performance in high school earned him the KSEF Robert Morris University Presidential Full Tuition Scholarship and he also holds a Master’s degree in Information Security and Assurance from Robert Morris.
“I’m giving back so that more underprivileged students can have the opportunities I had,” he says, “not only to attend a strong college prep high school, but also to access the other key support programs Crossroads offers that truly boost your chances at attending and completing college.”
At the event, McCarthy and Johnson spoke to the many ways young area professionals can get involved in helping Crossroads students, including helping with college and career exposure, or serving on Crossroads’ burgeoning Young Leadership Council.  “It’s the extra support Crossroads provides on top of the tuition assistance that makes the scholarship work so well,” says McCarthy.
Currently in its 29th school year, Crossroads has been offering a route out of poverty for local low-income youth with a unique 4-part scholarship that is the only model of its kind in the Pittsburgh region—and even possibly the country.  It includes:
•Tuition assistance so that promising youth living in economically-distressed neighborhoods with perennially failing public schools can attend one of six local Catholic high schools;
•Academic tutoring throughout the school year and summer;
•Extensive and individualized college and career preparation; and
•Social wellness programming to help students overcome the unique obstacles to learning caused by poverty.
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