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Obama Scholar advocates for youth mental health

Obama Scholar advocates for education and mental health for young men

DeKevious Wilson, a Black man with a deep skin tone, looks off camera as he stands in front of a home. He has a salt and pepper afro and beard. He is wearing a Becoming a Man t-shirt and denim jacket.

DeKevious Wilson knows how powerful an investment in the next generation can be. He says his path was shaped by mentorship, and that’s why he mentors dozens of students across the country.

DeKevious is a 2022-2023 Obama Foundation Scholar at the University of Chicago, and the regional manager at Becoming a Man (Opens in a new tab) (BAM), a mentoring and counseling program for young men in Chicago. He says he’s dedicated his career to helping youth reach their full potential. 

He says the key to his success is relationship building and listening to the voices of others. 

“My focus has always been advocacy for young people, when it comes to education and opportunities,” he reflected. “I carry their stories in every room I enter. I'm no one's savior, I'm just a bridge connector. My job consists of listening and responding to young people in need.”

Through his work, he has co-created space and events for young men to learn responsible decision-making, practice their social cognitive skills, and expose them to life and career opportunities after high school.

DeKevious recently completed his second master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy in order to create lasting change for the communities he serves. 

“When you create a policy, you affect everybody, not just the people it was intended for. The Civil Rights era taught me that change comes through policy. It comes through voting,” he reflected. “You need the right words and you need the right people. That’s what I've learned at Harris—the science behind policy building.”

DeKevious Wilson, a Black man with a deep skin tone, points up as he stands in the middle in front of a Martin Luther King Jr. Statue. He is surrounded by a group of young men that range from light to deep skin tones. All are pointing toward the sky. Some are wearing a Becoming a Man t-shir

He says his bottom line is simple: to help others. 

“I want to make mental health a priority for Black and brown boys and teach them how policy works,” DeKevious shared. “It's such a blessing to be in this position. My life's work is connected to the destinies of more than 55 young men that I've worked with at BAM.”

DeKevious credits the Obama Scholars program for equipping him with the tools and network to extend his impact for young people in Chicago and in his home state of Arkansas. He says he’s most inspired by the work of his cohort. 

“My cohort is doing phenomenal work in Chicago and beyond. This program has shown me that I don’t have to do this work alone. I’m constantly learning from those around me. I've been able to grow just by cultivating those relationships. They pour into me and vice versa,” he reflected.

Looking ahead, DeKevious says he hopes to bring his knowledge of policy and community building back to his home state and maybe even run for office. 

“The work that I do is dedicated to my mother who passed away in 1996 from domestic violence, and the village that surrounded me thereafter. It was my grandfather who taught me that if you see a need and have the means to meet it, you should meet it. So, that's what I'm doing and will continue to do.”

Get excited! The 2023-2024 class of Scholars at University of Chicago and Columbia University Scholars launches next week.