Chaz Kellem remembers how formative his experiences with community service have been, particularly when he volunteered to teach sports to kids with disabilities and special needs.
“When I was teaching them, they were teaching me as well,” said Kellem, who joined Pitt last month as the new head of PittServes, which oversees student service initiatives University-wide, as well as volunteer projects involving faculty and staff. “They taught me patience. The ability to have passion. They taught me to pay attention to what I can do. And they sure as heck kept me accountable in a variety of ways.”
Overall, Kellem said, volunteering to work in his community has helped him find his own voice.
Pitt Volunteer Days
Day of Caring: 8:30-4 p.m. Oct. 19, organized by the Office of Community and Government Relations.
Make a DIfference Day: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 20, organized by PittServes
“As a person with a disability, I’ve had to find that voice early and often,” he said, “using my voice, my opportunity, to help other people to speak up in times of difficulty and challenge,” said Kellem, who uses a wheelchair due to a rare, congenital bone disorder.
Kellem said he plans to continue PittServes as a resource portal for volunteer opportunities, not just in Oakland but throughout many Pitt communities, as well as nationally and internationally. PittServes’ school- and department-specific partnerships, as well as its student civic engagement council, which plans and implements up to 30 service projects each month with many community partners, will continue focusing on sustainability, education and community development projects.
The office’s most visible effort, Pitt Make a Difference Day, is set for Oct. 20. Last year, it involved 4,194 people from all Pitt campuses, as well as alumni chapters, in service projects throughout the region. Kellem said he hopes to involve 5,000 people from the Pitt community this year.
“Our mission goes to engaging Pitt students in meaningful service to the community. While we’re located in Oakland, our reach is far and wide.”
From the Pirates to Pitt
Kellem spent a decade managing diversity initiatives for the Pittsburgh Pirates, then in 2015 moved to the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh to head its Race and Gender Equity program.
He managed the local chapter of R.B.I. (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), teaming with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania and Major League Baseball to encourage participation in sports as well as achievement in school, and served as assistant coach of the Pittsburgh Steelwheelers, an adult wheelchair basketball team.
Kellem also has been on the boards of several nonprofits, such as CORO Pittsburgh, VisitPittsburgh, and the Hill House Association, while teaching a marketing course at Seton Hill University in Greensburg.
He graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2004 with a degree in sports administration and has a masters in organizational leadership from Robert Morris University.
Why come to Pitt?
“Why not come to Pitt? I love this institution,” he said. “As a Pittsburgh native, I’ve seen its transformation over the years. I want to be a part of a team that directly impacts, supports and serves our students. This team is phenomenal: talented, energetic and skilled.
“I think we all have an obligation to make our community better.”
Not only do PittServes projects have a positive effect on their recipients, he added, “our students learn valuable lessons,” applying new skills outside the classroom, such as time management, decision making and coaching.
“We need participation from everyone to have the impact we want,” Kellem said, “and welcome and encourage participation at all levels.”