“Pittsburgh is a great place that you can make your own if you open yourself up to it.”
Chaz Kellem is one of those people making a positive difference in Pittsburgh. For a decade, Chaz managed diversity initiatives for the Pittsburgh Pirates, organizing annual events and raising disability awareness. For the past few years he led the Race & Gender Equity program at the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh and most recently, transitioned to a new role as Director of PittServes at the University of Pittsburgh. We caught up with him to find out what’s new and how we can all do more to make a positive community impact in 2019.
You’re a Panther now! Tell us about PittServes and your new role.
PittServes is a university-led initiative that engages Pitt students in ethical and sustainable service to the community at a local, national, and international level. We have a specific focus on sustainability, education and community development, which allows us to increase student community service opportunities and broaden our impact. Locally, we focus largely on education programs and students can engage with kids ranging from pre-K to 3rd grade from various communities through education and creativity. Community service is not a graduation requirement,but we have thousands of students participate across all of our PittServes initiatives, so it’s amazing to see their voluntary dedication to service and their community. It’s important to us that we create opportunities with students and the communities in a collaborative process from start to finish; linking them together empowers both audiences and makes the experience more impactful.
For my new role, I’m lucky to be surrounded by a fantastic team and to work with students daily, which I love. I wanted to utilize my experiences and resources and to make a difference in the lives of the students to help build a better community and one we can all be proud of. Pitt is a really great place to do it.
Inclusion means different things to different people, how has it manifested in your life?
I’m a person of color, I have a physical disability, and was a male working for a women’s agency at the YWCA. I’m living proof that with the right environment and the right scenarios that anything is possible, and inclusion is real. I also believe that men have to be held accountable and have a unique responsibility to make sure women and others have opportunities. That’s not just in the workplace. It takes all of us to make that happen.
You’ve always been passionate about sports and working with youth, what have been some of your favorite initiatives over the years?
There’s something about sports and kids that’s magical. You can learn a lot of life lessons when you bring people together with energy and purpose. I managed the Pittsburgh chapter of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, an MLB initiative with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania that gives children the chance to play sports while encouraging them to achieve inschool. I’m also the assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelwheelers, a competitive adult wheelchair basketball team that finished seventh nationally in the 2017 season. I also love playing sports. I tell everyone: Don’t go home after work, do something! There’s so much to do in Pittsburgh.
What are some of your go-to spots and what recommendations do you have for newcomers or those considering a move to Pittsburgh?
My wife Laura and I love to explore the city and enjoy sports, local museums, and live music. A few of our favorite restaurants are Fuel & Fuddle in Oakland, City Works in Market Square, Stokes Grill on McKnight Rd, and Caliente in Gibsonia.
For newcomers, give Pittsburgh a little time. Be patient and be open to trying new things. Pittsburgh is a great place that you can make your own if you open yourself up to it. While we still have work to do, I’ve noticed a shift in the last couple of years here. People are intentionally being allies for other people and engaging audiences outside of their own. There’s a lot of great things happening at the grassroots level throughout the city and I’m excited to see where we go from here.