In 1995, Michelle Fanzo, a young graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote an op-ed piece for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. She voiced her concern that too many of her friends were leaving the region in search of career opportunities and more dynamic, vibrant cities. A group of young people who shared Michelle’s concern started meeting in small groups throughout Pittsburgh’s East End. The idea to create PUMP was born.
PUMP was incorporated in 1996 to get lots of voices and opinions circulating. The following year the first Executive Director was hired to add some structure to the project so it could have a positive, wide ranging impact on our region. PUMP became a magnet for young professionals who envisioned a city that could attract talented people and retain the ones that are here.
Over the next few years, networking opportunities, informal discussions of issues, workshops and events helped identify PUMP as a dynamic catalyst for change. Momentum continued. The Pittsburgh Sports League (PSL) was formed to provide young professionals a team-sport oriented outlet. PUMP joined forces with WQED and Pittsburgh Magazine to present the 40 Under 40 awards to honor talented individuals that are positively shaping the region’s development. In 2001, PUMP hosted imPAct, the first state-wide convention for young professionals that attracted 500 participants. PUMP brought young people to the table to promote and leverage their collective political voice through their civic participation forums.
In 2003 Elsie Hillman was quoted as saying, “Young people that want to make their voices heard should follow PUMP’s lead.” And they did. By 2004, after a merger with Pittsburgh’s Next, 800 highly motivated PUMP members tackled the issues affecting their community. PUMP’s programming initiatives continued to expand and diversify. The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network was formed after PUMP hosted 250 people at Up on The Roof. PUMP’s Discover Pittsburgh provided a forum to connect college students and young professionals with the business, cultural, recreational and educational communities. New Trustees for a New Pittsburgh connected young professionals to nonprofit boards. And the PSL continued to grow year upon year.
Perhaps most important, PUMP positioned itself as THE voice for young people in this city through advocacy and public policy education. Through the years, PUMP weighed in on and influenced many issue debates focusing on public transportation, city life, education, city finances, and more.
Now many years from formation, PUMP has established itself as a community leader through important collaborations and a record of accomplishment. And, most importantly, the trends in Pittsburgh at PUMP’s founding have been reversed as young people between the ages of 25-34 are moving back to the urban core. Today, PUMP engages nearly 25,000 young Pittsburghers annually and is proud to be the premier voice for young people in this great city.
Click below for a video retrospective of PUMP's development.