Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh hires Advocacy & Policy Officer, Youth Program Leaders and an Opportunity Broker


The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh announced on Aug. 17 the hiring for key positions to better serve Allegheny and surrounding counties, the New Pittsburgh Courier has learned:  John Ukenye as its new Advocacy and Policy Officer, Joshua Smith as its new Associate Director of Youth Leadership Programs & Black Male Leadership Development Institute Director, Ginger Underwood as its Black Female Leadership Development Program Manager and Loretta Ellis as an Opportunity Broker.

Ukenye, the Advocacy and Policy Officer, will work in conjunction with the President & CEO Carlos T. Carter, and collaborate with internal and external stakeholders to develop and deploy strategies that reduce barriers to and create conditions conducive to the advancement of the Urban League mission of enabling African Americans to achieve economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights. Currently, he is focused on a voter registration program, COVID awareness and several important issues affecting the African American community.  

Ukenye received his Juris Doctor at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis in 2020, Missouri, and has a BA in Political Science from the Florida International University in 2017. He is a former Policy Analyst for PennFuture (Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future) and served as a legal intern in the United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform. 

Ukenye said: “Both the National Urban League and the Greater Pittsburgh affiliate have an earned reputation of tirelessly fighting for human rights and directly serving the most in need in our communities, and I am honored to have the opportunity to play a role in continuing this legacy. I aim to join the fight for civil justice that has rapidly evolved over the past decade to include the need for environmental justice, protecting LGBTQ+ rights, expanding access to healthcare, and equitably funded schools, just to name a few.”



The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh hired Joshua Smith as Associate Director of Youth Leadership. As such, Smith will be responsible for the operation, growth and continuing development of the highly regarded Black Female and Black Male Leadership Development Institutes (BFLDI & BMLDI). Participants from both Leadership programs     learn skills based on the Servant Leadership model, a style and philosophy where individuals interact with each other to achieve authority rather than power.

Smith has 15 years of experience in youth programming, having previously served as assistant program manager at FamilyLinks in Wilkinsburg in their Residential Autism Program. He is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a Masters in Social Work.


 Ginger Underwood will lead the BFLDI (Black Female Leadership Development Institute) as a Program Manager. The Black Female Leadership Development Institute program is a leadership initiative for African American adolescent girls ages 13-18 living in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Participants will attend seminars with civic leaders, activists and artists, learn about advocacy communications and network with young leaders. Underwood was a Student Success Coach at the Community College of Allegheny County for nineteen years and holds several degrees from Carlow College.

“One of the best things about working at CCAC was helping young women see themselves as agents of change,” Underwood said. “I hope to bring the same thing to BFLDI at the Urban League. I hope to help young women see themselves as agents of change locally and globally.”


In addition, Loretta Ellis has been hired as an Opportunity Broker. Opportunity Brokers seek to connect residents in economically distressed and disadvantaged neighborhoods to programs and services that build economic self-reliance. Last year, 544 participants gained access to job readiness, training or employment through the Urban League’s Opportunity Broker program which aims to move unemployed and underemployed working-aged adults to household sustaining employment and satisfying work experiences.

Ellis received her Master of Science in Student Affairs at Carlow University and was the co-director of the Honors Program there. She is a former Program Manager for Pittsburgh Public Schools—Science and Math Academy at Westinghouse High School.

Ellis said: “While I’ve held a variety of jobs, I have continued to advocate for low-income and first-generation students and other marginalized groups.”

Ellis will continue her mission as an Opportunity Broker.

Carlos T. Carter, President & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, said: “We are proud to have these talented and mission focused leaders join our team.  As the new leader of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, my goal is to make us the best place to work in Pittsburgh: a place where empowered people empower others; a high performance and innovative culture that is empowered and committed to excellence!  I am excited that these new hires will team with us to enable African American and other marginalized communities to achieve economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights.”


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