When I formally entered the social impact sector, I was sure of my commitment to improving the overall quality of life for children and families. What I was not sure of, however, was the full scope of the vast and unique role philanthropic and for impact organizations could play in facilitating such change. Having navigated concentrated poverty, I brought deep experience on the dance floor. I have since learned the importance of going to the balcony to affect and effect change on both the individual and enterprise levels.  

This couldn’t be more important as it pertains to mental health and well-being, especially amongst our nation’s young people of color. We are facing unprecedented times, and our emotional, psychological, and emotional well-being is at stake. As U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy has plainly stated, this is “the defining public health issue of our time.” I wholeheartedly agree, and it will take not some but all of us to create the conditions that position our youth for a thriving future. 

It is in this context that I join The Steve Fund and humbly request your courageous collaboration as we hold hands and wrap our arms around the youth, young adults, families, and communities that need and deserve our support. So, for those of you who don’t know me…Hello, my name is David.

My journey is rooted in Flint, Michigan, where I was born and raised. I am the son of two loving parents who celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary last month. My mother does not hold a college degree, yet she is still one of the wisest people I know. My father, a paraplegic not defined by his disability, is one of the strongest people I know. I am also the brother of a caring brother, my first teacher, of whom shoulders I still stand today. Additionally, I am the son of a community that cared for me, created opportunities for me, and prioritized my mental health and emotional well-being, often without me even knowing it.

I lift these people and experiences because they are an essential part of who I am as a person and leader. And, as a husband and a father, I come to this work committed to transformational and generational change. 

Although I didn’t realize it then, my childhood experiences would shape my appreciation for the love of humanity – also known as philanthropy. The term philanthropy is derived from two words, “philos” and “Anthropos.” Amazingly, Philos means love, and Anthropos means humanity. This definition is a constant reminder that the love, advocacy, and support marginalized populations need isn’t solely reserved for specific individuals and institutions. We all have a vital role to play.

My prior professional work has focused on creating opportunities for the most marginalized in society, consistent with The Steve Fund’s commitment and vision.  

In furthering this commitment, as I assume this assignment, my immediate focus will be three-fold: 

  1. Eagerly Listen to & Learn from young people about the mental health and emotional well-being supports they and their peers desire, want, and need. 
  2. Engage in Courageous Conversations with dedicated advocates, unusual suspects, and unlikely allies on how to best collaborate to offer such support.
  3. Explore Opportunities for Impact & Scale so that environments and communities are transformed, creating even more welcoming and nurturing spaces for young people of color.

Individual and institutional change is paramount if we are to prioritize the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color. This Curb-Cut Effect is the only way to achieve equity in mental health for all. In other words, ensuring advancing this work in a collaborative way isn’t simply nice to do; it is necessary. It is necessary in our educational environments. It is necessary in our respective organizational environments. And it is necessary in our workplace environments. 

I have already begun thinking and planning with The Steve Fund’s incredible staff, board, and partners. I am hopeful that we will continue to spur proven, practical, and promising innovative approaches to mental health and emotional well-being support for our nation’s young people of color, contributing to many positive efforts already underway.

In the months to come, as I am listening and learning, I look forward to meeting as many current and prospective partners as I can. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me at: david.mcghee@stevefund.org.