(New York, February 23, 2023) This Black History Month it is vital to acknowledge the ongoing challenges facing institutions that serve people of color. From political assaults on Black history education to bomb threats at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), distressing and longstanding disparities faced by the African American community are on display – particularly in the areas of education, mental health and economics.

In an ongoing effort to support students of color and help them reach their full potential, the Steve Fund, a nonprofit organization that exists to promote the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people of color, has developed a suite of programming explicitly designed to address the unique needs of America’s HBCUs. This HBCU Initiative builds on the Steve Fund’s mental health and higher education expertise and mobilizes partnerships with academic institutions, nonprofits, and corporate citizens to:

  • Build a clear vision of the needs of HBCU students through research
  • Expand mental health support for HBCU students and provide proven, tailored resources for on-campus mental health professionals
  • Partner with colleges and universities and key organizations in the HBCU space

This initiative reflects the Steve Fund’s commitment to the power of HBCUs to create safe learning environments that effectively center the mental health and wellbeing of tomorrow’s young leaders of color. To date, activities and partnerships include:

  • Participation in The Steve Fund’s Equity in Mental Health on Campus Initiative: In the Steve Fund’s signature program, colleges develop and implement on-campus programs to support the emotional wellbeing and mental health of students of color over a rigorous 18-month engagement.
  • United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Partnership:  In 2021, the Steve Fund assisted UNCF with a survey that revealed a need for mental health focus on HBCU campuses; and brought expertise to the “Unapologetically Whole” Student Conference and the UNITE conference of HBCU leaders, faculty and staff.
  • Executive Leadership Council (ELC) Partnership: In 2021, the Steve Fund conducted a mental health needs assessment with partnering HBCUs and delivered staff and student-facing mental health content for ELC’s Black Male Initiative.
  • HBCU Scholars Program: The Steve Fund worked with a funding partner to introduce mental health and emotional well-being supports into its ambitious scholarship program.  

“HBCUs have a long history of serving as critical sources of higher education for African Americans, and have played a pivotal role in promoting social and economic mobility for the community,” said Evan Rose, co-founder and Board chair of the Steve Fund. “Put simply, the Steve Fund is where you go when you’re thinking of student mental health at HBCUs. By growing our work with HBCUs, we can help these institutions as they lead the conversation on mental health care for young people of color.”

In 2023, the Steve Fund’s HBCU Initiative will include several new programs poised to help HBCU students manage grief, anxiety, depression, trauma and wellbeing, including UNCF’s Student Conference workshops and the UNAPOLOGETICALLY FREE National Campaign. Additional programs are in the final stages of preparation and will be announced soon.

Partnership with UNCF and Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) 

  • On February 13th, the Steve Fund, UNCF, and Thurgood Marshall College Fund launched an unprecedented national effort, UNAPOLOGETICALLY FREE: Centering Mental Health on Black College Campuses. It includes a customized set of culturally responsive programs and opportunities to support mental health on Black college campuses
    • A series of virtual workshops
    • A virtual student conference to be held in April 
    • Sessions in July at UNITE 2023: UNCF Summit for Black Higher Education in Atlanta, GA

Facilitation of the Healthy Minds Study

  • For the first time, with facilitation from the Steve Fund, this annual survey of college student mental health will have a module dedicated to HBCUs and will be deployed at up to 40 HBCUs and PBIs

Conducting HBCU Staff and Student Workshops: The Steve Fund will support HBCU campuses and expand its footprint at  HBCU and PBI schools with seminars on grief, anxiety, depression, trauma, and well-being in color

Online mental health education modules for HBCU students

“Our work in 2023 – particularly the Healthy Minds Study which will be the first census of mental health of students at HBCUs – has the potential to help transform the mental health environment  for youth of color in higher education,” said Rose. “By working together with our visionary partners on campus and beyond, as well as our funders, we have the ability to leverage our collective expertise, resources and networks to make an even greater impact.”

The Steve Fund and our academic and nonprofit partners are deeply grateful to the funders who continue to support our work with HBCUs and this Initiative, including: the New York Life Foundation, Macy’s, Peloton, Lumina Foundation, Janssen, The Executive Leadership Council, UNCF, and others.


About the Steve Fund

The Steve Fund promotes the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people of color as they transition from adolescence into higher education, throughout their higher education experience, and as they transition into the workforce so that they can lead healthy lives; attain personal, academic, and career success; and realize their full potential. The Steve Fund’s HBCU Initiative partners with HBCU organizations, students, and colleges to improve mental health by providing customized resources,  and programs and increasing capacity of faculty and staff to support emotional well-being of HBCU students. Learn more at stevefund.org and follow the Steve Fund at @thestevefund.