Inside USD

Alumnus McKellar Passionate About Community Organizing

Monday, October 13, 2008

Joseph McKellar is a community organizer. At age 26, the 2004 USD alum is acting on his desire to be part of the solution. He credits the University of San Diego, where he graduated with a double major in Spanish and Political Science, for developing his ambition.

“USD really formed my conscience for peace and justice,” says McKellar, who works for the San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP). “I worked with University Ministry, going to Tijuana Spring Break and helping others. I attended the summer program in Guadalajara. Had I not attended USD I would not be an organizer. It helped me find my purpose. It’s a values-based institution and I got what I was looking for here.” 

McKellar was back at his college alma mater Thursday, Oct 9, as a featured speaker, discussing effective community organizing at a workshop offered in conjunction with the 19th annual Social Issues Conference in the Hahn University Center. 

He spoke of ways to create a more “just world” with key ingredients being organizing (teach to build or exercise power to create change), social service agencies and counselors (to provide valuable support) and advocates and activists (to speak up for others who are suffering). 

McKellar’s commitment to making a difference has been felt as far away as Boston. He joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps where he taught at an inner-city school. He also worked at a soup kitchen, serving as a floor manager where he was able to meet and develop friendships with people who benefited from his commitment. 

He showed a five-minute video clip of the work of the PICO National Network, which counts the San Diego Organizing Project among its membership. The PICO National Network, according to “is a national network of faith-based community organizations working to create innovative solutions to problems facing urban, suburban and rural communities.” 

McKellar’s immediate focus is working to help San Diego’s youth. “There’s been a rise in gang violence and a rise in the number of youth dropping out of school. We’ve asked our county, city and local officials to look into how it funds youth programs when it seems that they’re the first things cut from the budget.” 

The SDOP hosted the Hope and Opportunity for our Youth Conference on Sunday, Oct. 12 at the San Diego Convention Center. It’s part of the organization’s 2008 Year of Our Youth campaign. McKellar said SDOP congregations, officials from cities, San Diego County, schools, state legislators and local members of Congress were expected to attend. 

Discussion topics, according to , include the need for more after-school programs, improving graduation rates in area high schools, early intervention for students falling behind, arts and sports programs, jobs and job training for teenagers, tutoring and mentoring programs and bringing street outreach workers in to help decrease gang violence and improve neighborhood safety. 

Prior to the conference, McKellar encouraged attendees to show up for a noon mass at Chicano Park in Logan Heights (Barrio Logan), followed by a 1 p.m. March Together for Youth from Chicano Park to the convention center where the conference was held. 

For more information about SDOP, go to: or call (619) 285-0797. 

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