Some of the greatest lessons are never taught in the classroom. The education they provide is tailor-made to the student’s needs. These types of educators don’t have to tell you how good they are; their actions serve as the artifact. They are our parents and grandparents, athletic coaches, deacons and mentors. Muzz Meyers is such an educator. A man of principles and passion, he has helped the children of the East End navigate their way through life both in the K-12 space and in the real world.

A few years ago, Meyers came into my classroom and told me about an idea he had for a project he was calling “Day One.” He wanted to start a full service-program for single mothers and their children based on the lessons he had learned through the years serving youth in the community. His rationale came from all his experiences in education up to this point. Working at the high school level, he’d seen how hard it was to change old habits and play the game of catch-up. Muzz understood that in order for children to be able to learn at school, they must feel safe and secure at home. He planned to organize resources and build a house where families could one day call home. I was excited for my friend. But to understand how he was able to pull off this vision, you have to know who Muzz is and what he’s done.

Muzz Meyers was born in Pittsburgh. The son of progressive parents, he acquired a sense of service at an early age. Muzz attended Allderdice and was a graduate of the class of ‘73.  After earning both his Bachelor’s and a Master’s from Colgate, he returned to the city in hopes of landing a History teaching position in Pittsburgh Public. Unfortunately, Meyers entered a work force that didn’t have a lot of work to go around. The city’s population had been dwindling for years, resulting in educational opportunities being few and far between.

After subbing for some time without any permanent leads, Meyers pivoted professionally, or so he thought. For eighteen years, he co-owned and operated The Shadyside Balcony with his friend Bobby. Still a young man himself, Meyers was able to genuinely connect with his staff, most of whom were fresh out of high school and yearned for a bit of guidance and a supportive push as they transitioned into adulthood. Muzz taught them that punctuality, communication and responsibility were not only important in the hospitality industry, but in life. He wasn’t looking for specific credentials; instead, he wanted to build character and intangible qualities to sustain each individual over a lifetime. Along with mentoring, Muzz and Bobby made sure the workplace was fun–everyone loved working there.

Michelle, Muzz’s wife and a former employee of The Shadyside Balcony, provides an affectionate reflection, explaining Muzz was unlike any manager she had ever known. “He and Bobby really cared for their employees. They were his family at the time. They’d take the kids home after a late shift that sometimes didn’t end until 3am. This late-night carpool dropped kids off in The Hill, Homewood and Wilkinsburg.” She went further, explaining, “If someone needed glasses, a bite to eat or a bit of guidance, Muzz and Bobby provided it.” They prioritized their employees as people and were invested in their long term success. He didn’t want the kids to stay with him forever, but he saw the grill as a chance to establish best practices and prepare them for the next steps in life.

After his stint in the restaurant industry ended, Meyers wanted to remain connected with young people. Leaning on the skills from his previous employment, he joined East End Cooperative Ministries’ Youth and Business Initiative, where he taught business and marketing skills to teenagers. While working with the nonprofit Muzz organized the East End’s Efest with students from nine different schools. This quasi-capstone project lasted for nine years, 1999-2007. It showcased dozens of local artists and exhibits from around the city.  Michelle says that Muzz loved his time with the organization and the young people he worked with there. His time with this non-profit led him to his next chapter in life at Pittsburgh Westinghouse.

While working at Westinghouse, Meyers has been cast in more roles than Samuel Jackson. He’s been a soccer coach, day-to-day substitute teacher, long term sub, project manager, and producer of the last school play. In one of the more remarkable stories from his twenty-year journey with The House, he helped a young mother with twin boys. After taking time to get to know the family in and out of school, he began to mentor the young mom and help her get through her post-secondary education. It’s been over ten years since they met and he is still a very active participant in their lives. This led him to Day One.

When Muzz began to build Day One, things started off slow but soon, swarms of people signed up to help his cause. He was able to raise funds with well attended events such as a t-shirt gala, block party and Mad Mex fundraiser. When he posted in the Highland Park listserv for washing machines, beds, babysitters and appliances, the people of the city responded quickly and consistently. The moral stock he’d built by helping to build up youth within his community was now paying dividends.

Since he broke-ground on Day One, it has served as a model for full-service early childhood education. He and his team have helped eleven mothers work their way towards degrees, trades and various certifications. The program has provided a safe living space for fourteen infants and toddlers, who may have gone without if not for the program’s structure, support and resources. He’s kept the lights on so mothers could read before bed instead of working a second job. He’s made sure every fridge was full, knowing no child can learn on an empty stomach. Day One has provided clothing to keep the kids warm and made sure Santa’s sleigh stopped by every Christmas.

Day One removes systemic and societal barriers, helping mothers to focus on becoming empowered women for themselves and their children. The Day One team has arranged financial, educational and counseling mentorship for each mother, so they can exit the program with careers and provide for themselves. To ensure the proper participation and accountability, these classes are mandated. The stakes are simply too high for opt-outs or excuses. Throughout the process, Muzz has built relationships with every service imaginable. He has humbly sought advice from folks that knew things that he didn’t. He has never let ego or attitude stand in the way of opportunity for those under his care.

During a recent board meeting, Muzz told us he’d be stepping down from his position as Day One’s CEO. Although he’s not completely retired, remaining as a sub at Westinghouse, he felt it was time to pass the baton of leading Day One. I admit, I was little confused. He put in all this work to build this and now he was just going to leave? But what I didn’t completely realize then, but I respect now, was that this was always part of the plan. To plant the seed, to organize others to help it grow, so that more people could play a part in the process, so that more families could benefit in the end.

Over the years Muzz has made his projects a family affair. A great dad to his own children, Sonya, Cary and Luke, he’s made sure that each of them has played an essential part in the process. Muzz inspires us to be better versions of ourselves. And while he’s more of a hoodie guy and not a fan of red sweaters, you can count on Muzz Meyers taking care of his neighborhood. He’s been doing it from Day One.

By Sean Means
Secondary Social Studies Teacher
Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy