Oakland block party, decorated with gold and blue balloons
Features & Articles

Block party series brings together Oakland residents

  • Community Impact
  • Our City/Our Campus

The past year and a half has kept many people stuck in their bubbles — but if you live in Oakland, Pitt is offering a way to rejoin the community. Tuesday, Sept. 7, marked the first of the summer’s four Be a Good Neighbor Block Party events, back after a year’s hiatus.

The block party series, sponsored by Pitt’s Office of Engagement and Community Affairs, brings together students living in Oakland and the long-term residents of the neighborhoods to give both groups an opportunity to learn more about one another and build a sense of neighborhood community.

“Everyone, on and off campus, has a responsibility to be a respectful and mindful member of the community,” said University of Pittsburgh Assistant Director of Community Engagement Alex Toner, who helped organize the events. “We think that when neighbors meet neighbors, it helps contribute to a positive and healthy community dynamic throughout Oakland.”

A taco truck, prizes and smooth beats courtesy of WPTS DJs were on offer at the South Oakland event on Tuesday as locals and students enjoyed a sunny late-summer evening at Dan Marino field. 

Special education PhD student Sarah DeMaria (A&S ’13, EDUC ’15G) and secondary math education master’s student Caroline Repola (ENGR ’15) attended the block party as recent returnees to the neighborhood. Compared to their days as Pitt undergraduates, they’re finding many more opportunities to interact with their neighbors, especially as the pandemic has kept them stuck at home. “I couldn’t get to know anyone in my program,” Repola said. “But I could still sit outside and talk to our neighbors — to at least see people and not feel isolated.”

Over the past year DeMaria and Repola have shared home-grown vegetables and held dinner parties with other South Oakland residents. “We’ve actually been able to get to know our neighbors, and that’s been really nice,” DeMaria said.

Pitt’s Office of Engagement and Community Affairs will hold three more block parties this summer: one today for the Central Oakland Neighborhood, one for North Oakland on Sept. 14 and one for West Oakland on Sept. 21.

South Oakland resident Andrea Lavin Kossis also attended the Tuesday event with her family. “I think we have a great community,” she said. “We’re a diverse neighborhood and we welcome new neighbors. This is a great way to come out and be a part of the community and not just a student who’s doing their time at Pitt.”


— Patrick Monahan