Family health scares and a historic tragedy spur me to champion Pittsburgh, not leave it

A person with glasses, wearing a patterned dress, is standing outside on a sunny day, holding a book close to their chest. Trees and buildings are visible in the background.

After I graduate college, I could take my new credentials anywhere. But the opportunities and ties in my hometown will keep me rooted here.

I was in eighth grade when the Tree of Life mass shooting occurred, and I was experiencing a lot of change. My sister had been diagnosed with cavernous malformation — a genetic brain disorder — and Von Willebrand, a blood disorder. My brother and I had to get tested in case we, too, had them. I found out on my 13th birthday that my brother had tested positive for the brain disorder, while I had tested negative for both.

Add to that the tragedy of the shooting. I had heard about other shootings on the news, but I never thought I had to worry about them happening in my own community.  My mom was working at the Jewish Community Center at the time as the Judaics teacher, so the antisemitic crime was much on our minds. We are practicing Catholics, but were raised to have respect for people who have different beliefs, so I couldn’t wrap my head around it. 

It could have been enough to sour me on Pittsburgh. I’d be far from the first young person to look for the exits.

Instead, almost six years later, I’m a student at Carlow University, majoring in communications with a concentration in advocacy and social change, on a three-year track. I am not yet sure what my career will be but I am sure that I want to stay here. Pittsburgh is a city with room to grow, and I want to be a part of that growth.

To read more of this first-person essay by Carlow University’s Jane Windsheimer, a communications major, please follow this link: Family health issues, local tragedy led me to champion Pittsburgh (

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