‘Absolutely Thrilled’ About What’s to Come: Community Engagement Center Marks First Year

Ariel Snell, a third-year student in the School of Dental Medicine, tries to visit the Community Engagement Center in Homewood every month.

“I come to see how the community is. I feel like the more you come, the more you get a chance to experience and get to know the community and what they like,” said Snell, who is starting a program called Homewood Healthy Smiles that aims to bring dental health and education to teens and adolescents in the community.

On Oct. 16, Snell, along with Pitt faculty, staff and students from Pitt Nursing and the schools of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and Education and the Swanson School of Engineering, among others, joined community members and collaborators for an evening of music, food and mingling to celebrate the center’s first anniversary.

They weren’t only celebrating a year of programming that brought resources to the community through intentional partnership. They were also excited for collaborations and initiatives to come, including health and wellness services and new educational programming set to debut in early 2020.

What makes the CEC possible

Over 12 months, more than 4,500 community members have visited the center, attending more than 660 events, including community meetings and family fun nights. The center also offers 41 ongoing programs for people of all ages; topics include economic prosperity, family support, cultural arts, innovation and business growth.

Daren Ellerbee“It does truly take a village,” said Daren Ellerbee, director of the center in the Office of Community and Governmental Relations. “We’ve had 30 Pitt schools and units involved in the work here.”

Many were on hand to share resources and work with community residents. Mihloti Williams, project coordinator for the REACT! study in the Brain Aging and Cognitive Health Lab, uses African cultural studies to get older African Americans engaged in activities, including dance, that might be beneficial to their cognition.

Ellerbee recognized the guidance of the community advisory council, as well as Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, “whose unwavering support and vision laid out in the Plan for Pitt made the CEC possible.”

‘An extension of our campus’

Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees, emphasized partnership with the Homewood community to event participants. “We worked with the community to find out was needed and how we could be better partners with you,” she said.

“And now in just one year we have a place in Homewood to gather together to collaborate and grow, a place where Pitt has built an extension of our campus that enables us to serve our community,” Humphrey said. “It only happened because we had a good foundation.”

Humphrey expressed excitement at what she called a great year, but also what is to come, including health and wellness programming such as infant health, oral health, medication consultations, nutrition education, physical therapy and rehabilitation services to the center. Additionally, this second phase of community engagement will offer innovative educational opportunities and fitness classes.

“I’m absolutely thrilled about what we are doing today; I’m even more thrilled about what we’re going to do in the future,” she said.

Check out additional coverage in University Times.

  • Pitt alumna and Legacy Laureate Noma Anderson (SHRS ’79G) (left) talks to Ariel Snell, a student in the School of Dental Medicine, who plans to bring a dental health program to the health and wellness pavilion set to open at the CEC in Homewood in early 2020. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • “I always said the word community means to be in union with, means to be connected to, doesn’t mean that you’re walking together. It means that you are connected as you are working together,” said Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees. “That’s our greatest hope for our CEC here in Homewood.” (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Kelsey Voltz, instructor at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), offered a high five to Duncan Lwanga, son of Department of Music graduate student Charles Lwanga. Duncan; Mark Williams (left), son of Mihloti Williams; and Ronald Lwanga, research assistant in the REACT! study at the Brain Aging and Cognitive Health Lab (no relation to Duncan or Charles), tested their motor skills at the SHRS occupational therapy table. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)