By Diane Averill
You can find almost anything at the Highland Park Yard Sale — including civic mindedness and a glimpse of real promise. That’s what folks found last September, among the artwork, toys, books and clothing on offer at the Key family home on Jackson Street. This particular sale took in $714, all of which was donated to Pittsburgh Promise in the name of Amber Key, a 2012 graduate of Pittsburgh CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts) and a Promise scholarship recipient.
Having run track for both Westinghouse and Obama high schools, Amber accepted a track and cross-country scholarship at West Chester University, only to find her energies ignited while working in the university’s communications media projects. She gave up the track scholarship in order to devote more time to her true calling and was able to follow her dream thanks to her Promise scholarship.
“The Promise gave me options,” Amber said in a recent conversation. ”I’m so grateful to have graduated without debt.” As the eldest of three children in the family, she was grateful, as well, that her scholarship allowed some financial breathing room for the education of her younger siblings.
With her BA in communications studies, Amber entered the workforce selling TV ads and since then has become a producer at WUSA9, a CBS-affiliated TV station in Washington, D. C., where she currently resides.
When Amber’s parents decided to participate in the COVID-belated Highland Park Yard Sale, she saw it as a multi-pronged opportunity and decided that she would come home to launch her new business, Jackson Street Media, from its eponymous location while using the sale as a platform for giving back to Pittsburgh Promise. On her Facebook page, she encouraged other Promise alumni to visit the yard sale and buy a Jackson Street Media t-shirt or simply make a donation in support of future Promise recipients.
“A lot of people gave donations without buying anything,” said Marion Key, Amber’s mother. She estimated that the bulk of the sale proceeds came from donations and t-shirt sales.
“Amber has a very philanthropic spirit,” Marion said, adding that during the previous summer, her daughter had spearheaded a drive to collect cosmetics and personal hygiene products for distribution to D.C.’s homeless population. It’s a spirit that Amber comes by quite honestly; Marion Key is development director for FAME, Fund for Advancement of Minorities Through Education.
With a day job as a TV producer and a new side business in website development and marketing plans, Amber Key might seem to be a very busy young woman. But wait. On May 7, she will receive a Master’s degree in Journalism and Digital Storytelling from American University.
Did somebody say, “promise?”