We are excited to welcome a new addition to our team at ELDI, Damilola Onakomaiya. Damilola is a talented university graduate from Wooster who is serving as a PULSE – Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience fellow with us this year.

We sat down with her for a short Q&A to learn more about why she was motivated to become a PULSE fellow, what exactly that entails and what she will be focusing on at ELDI.


Could you talk about where you’re from and how you found your way to PULSE?

I’m from Ibadan, Nigeria, and I graduated from the college of Wooster in May where I heard about the PULSE program through a friend that did the program last year and was a real champion of the PULSE Mission.

What motivated you to become a PULSE fellow?

Their commitment to revitalizing Pittsburgh through young servant leadership, their focus on intentional community and community engagement through nonprofit partnership. I feel like I’m learning so much about Pittsburgh history and how it has evolved over time. Especially working and living in the East End.

How were you placed with ELDI and how long is the placement?

I found my way to the Community Revitalization Fellow position though the partner match event where the PULSE fellows interview with several non-profits in the Pittsburgh area. Kendall and I had an amazing conversation about the mixed income housing initiative here at ELD, I and it really struck a chord with me as this is an important component to sustainable redevelopment, in my opinion. The placement is for 11 months.

How does PULSE support you throughout this process?

As I said, there is a focus on intentional community and community engagement. So in addition to housing and the placement, as a PULSE fellow I get a mentor though the program and participate in seminars with PULSE program coordinators in which we learn about Pittsburgh, the communities we live in, go out into the community to volunteer and understand how we fit into the fabric of the city.

Could you talk about your role within ELDI and what you will be working on?

My role this year is as a Community Revitalization Fellow, working with the Land Recycling department (Kendall Pelling). I’m working on several projects, but right now I’m focused on conservatorship law and property management. Conservatorship is useful especially in a city like Pittsburgh where abandoned properties can pose a problem for revitalization efforts. It helps get through a lot of the red tape and confusion involved in the initial process of fixing up old abandoned properties.

What are you looking forward to learning during this placement?

I look forward to learning about the evolution of East Liberty, exploring the different models of mixed income development employed by ELDI and learning about the conservatorship process here in Pittsburgh.

What are you looking forward to contributing?

What I love about ELDI is its community focus when it’s thinking about what it means to revitalize an area through property development.This was a big pull for me to join PULSE and to take the ELDI placement. I look forward to contributing my passion for this type of work and a fresh perspective on East Liberty as a new resident in the area and community member.

Do you hope to stay in Pittsburgh/East Liberty after this fellowship?

So far I’ve had a very positive experience here; it’s definitely on the short list for next year!

What areas/industries do you hope to pursue when your time with PULSE is over?

After PULSE, I’m planning a path to a law degree, which also influenced my decision to work at ELDI this year because of all the work they are doing with conservatorship.

Do you have a favorite spot or part of East Liberty?

Saint Peter and Paul’s Church, which is a historical landmark ELDI recently put into conservatorship, is pretty cool and right across from the site of a new park. I have a soft spot for Gothic Architecture.

What’s been most surprising about Pittsburgh/East Liberty so far?

When I told people about my move to the area, they told me all these wild stories and I didn’t know what to expect. I have been pleasantly surprised by the beauty and safety of East Liberty and how friendly people are here. It’s been a super positive experience so far!

Thanks, Damilola!

You can find out more about PULSE and their programs here: http://pulsepittsburgh.org/