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Auberle's 412 Youth Zone

A drop-in center for youth transitioning out of foster care or experiencing homelessness, which supports their journey to adulthood.

The 412 Youth Zone provides a variety of resources and opportunities that fosters a healing environment that promotes learning and creativity. We strive to create positive learning experiences outside of a traditional classroom setting so that youth can identify and pursue their unique interests. We meet young people where they are as they transition to adulthood.


Information on this page is provided by the innovator and has not been evaluated by HundrED.

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January 2019
The Youth Zone is more than a physical space – it’s also a network of caring adults who create lasting connections with youth to help guide them through the many challenges of early adulthood.

About the innovation

What is Auberle's 412 Youth Zone

The 412 Youth Zone was established in response to a request for proposals from Allegheny County Department of Human Services to address the need for comprehensive supports for young adults who are aging out of the foster care system or experiencing homelessness. 

While the transition from adolescence to adulthood is an exciting period of growth and change, it always involves challenges. Disconnected youth face many additional obstacles to becoming healthy and productive adults. Experiences while in foster care, including frequent changes in placement, can compound the trauma of the neglect or abuse that led to them being removed from their homes and placed in the foster care system. Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that young adults who experienced foster care have worse outcomes than their peers in the general population across a variety of spectrums – from education to employment to housing to early parenthood. According to their 2018 report, only 75 percent of foster youth in Pennsylvania achieved a high school diploma or GED by age 21 compared to 92 percent of the state’s general population. 

Youth experiencing homelessness are similarly vulnerable. Homeless youth are 87 percent more likely to drop out of high school, and the lack of a high school diploma or GED leads to a 378 percent higher risk of youth homelessness. Without a safe place to stay, youth are at high risk of labor or sex trafficking. Youth homelessness also has impacts on infants and toddlers, as up to 20 percent of unaccompanied homeless youth are pregnant, and unmarried parenting youth are 200 percent more likely to become homeless than their housed peers.

Disconnected youth need additional support toward achieving their educational and career goals as well as establishing or maintaining safe, stable housing as they approach adulthood. The supports offered to the general population in schools are not always adequate to surmount the challenges that they face. Disconnected youth do not have access to the vital assistance often provided by families and communities during this crucial developmental stage. Our youth not only have to navigate post-secondary and career options after school, frequently they also lack stable and consistent adult supports.

The 412 Youth Zone is a drop-in center located in downtown Pittsburgh where young adults ages 16-23 can meet their basic needs, increase stability in their lives, learn life skills, build positive relationships, foster creative expression, and grow into self-sufficient and independent adults. However, the Youth Zone is more than a physical space – it’s also a network of caring adults who create lasting connections with youth to help guide them through the many challenges of early adulthood. Upon entry to the program, each young person is assigned to a youth coach to be their primary support person toward achieving their own independent living goals. The youth coach can visit the youth where they live as well as assist them with transportation to the 412 Youth Zone drop-in center. Throughout a youth’s time at the Youth Zone, we assess their needs in order to collaboratively plan and connect the youth with resources to achieve their own goals. Often, the first goal that a youth works on with their coach is obtaining vital documents like a birth certificate, social security card, and state ID; these items are necessary for achieving independent living goals like finding a job or obtaining housing. Youth can participate in classes like Ballin’ on a Budget to learn financial literacy skills and Prep to become prepared to rent their own apartment. The healthy connections that youth can build at the Youth Zone before their eighteenth birthday continue to be available to them after graduating from high school or leaving the foster care system, a time when teachers and caseworkers become less available to youth as everyday supports.

We practice trauma informed care. We rely on six core values that drive our work with young people.

Our Core Values

Healthy connection with caring adults leads to positive outcomes for disconnected youth. Over the past eight months, 28 of the 33 youth who aged out of the program were positively discharged with all their vital documents, state ID card, health insurance, stable housing, and reliable income on their 24th birthday. The remaining five youth had four of the five positive discharge criteria.


Paint Parties at the 412 Youth Zone
Painting comes to life here at our Youth Zone for youth at all artistic levels. .
A Trip to Lake Erie
Youth were able to take part in a day trip to experience fun and adventure on one of our great lakes. 
A Fine Dining Experience
Elegance was inspired for a night when youth enjoyed a sit-down, four course meal and a presentation on table etiquette.
The performance of making music is easy with CEEMI, (pronounced: see-me!) CEEMI, Collaborative Experiential Electronic Musical Instrument, is described as the generator of an instant virtual music group that turns any WiFi compatible device into a  collaborative electronic musical instrument. Designed for the performance of music by groups of people without prior musical training. 
Giving Back
Warming the hearts of those in a domestic violence shelter by making homemade hot chocolate recipes in decorated jars and donating them.
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Youth receive opportunities to experience musical theater and live performances through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. 
Continuously inspiring youth creativity and the act of expressing oneself through the work of art.
Museums Galore!
The 412 Youth Zone is fortunate to be nestled in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh which provides easy access to the many Pittsburgh museums. Museums such as: The Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Science Center, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The National Aviary and Phipps Conservatory, are  just a few that we frequently visited. Pictured here is youth enjoying an exhibit at the Mattress Factory Museum.
Science at the Youth Zone
LabRatz, one of our regular monthly programs, promotes curiosity, problem solving and discovery. Not your typical science workshop!
Where gear ratio, sensors, programming, and pulleys come together to create fun robotic games with Legos!
Celebrating Education
Each year we put a party together and recognize the hard work and determination that goes into every diploma, GED, degree and certification at the 412 Youth Zone.

Implementation steps

Identify stakeholders

-Meet and talk with stakeholders to determine the need and desire for this innovation in your community

-Seek investment and support from community members 

-Youth voice and input from youth stakeholders is key to developing a program

Secure resources

-Identify a location for the drop in center

-Create partnerships with organizations that want to work to help deliver services

-Recruit individuals who are passionate about working with young people

-Involve youth in making these decisions

Develop program expectations, values, and goals

-Establishing program expectations early will help youth understand the rules and expectations of the program and will help staff or volunteers to have consistency in their interactions with young people.

-A set of agreed upon values for the program and working with young people helps everyone to stay mission and vision focused.

-As the program is being developed, it's a good idea to begin thinking about program goals and how you will measure them.

-Youth voice and input in the creation of expectations, values, and goals help to assure that the program will effectively meet youth needs.

Plan and Promote

-Put together a schedule of activities, programs, and events for youth to participate in

-Share these opportunities publicly  through social media, organization website, and other outlets that your target population and stakeholders would regularly be in contact with

Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)

-Periodically, re-evaluate programming and services and make adjustments as necessary

-Survey youth and hold focus groups to ensure that youth voice continues to be a key element of the program

-Continue to find ways to reach and connect young people

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