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Grow A Future: A Conversation with Dr. Mike Anderson

Written by Alyssa Wilson, University of Lynchburg Bonner Intern 

SHARE Greater Lynchburg continues its Conversations series this week with Mike Anderson, Founder and Board Chair of Grow A Future, an organization on a mission to enhance urban families and communities through cultural, educational, after-school activities and other enrichment programs.

SHARE: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
Mike: I was born and raised in Central Virginia, and had a tragedy early on in my own life that drove me to become a mental health professional. My dad took his life, and it put our family in significant turmoil. Fortunately, I was able to get a full basketball scholarship and go to college. I decided to major in psychology in college. After finishing college, I was able to avoid dealing with the full sadness of thinking about losing my dad by continuing to  play a couple years of professional sports. That’s what carried me through, you know, playing sports, getting athletic scholarships, going to class and just learning about how I could contribute and give back to the mental health field to prevent anyone else from ever having to go through what my family went through. 

I’ve committed my life and my trade to interpersonal trauma, understanding it, treating it, and I’ve developed a trauma model called the AIM (Anderson Insight Model) approach, that we hope to be able to train high school students in trauma-informed care, so that they can can be there for each other on a peer-to-peer level. 

SHARE: What is the mission and vision of Grow A Future? 
Mike: The mission is to increase literacy where we see a price being paid by the community for a lack of literacy. So we want to improve financial, academic, cultural, and technological literacies among those that lack those literacies. We do that by partnering with community organizations, pulling them in not to reinvent the wheel, but pulling them in to be a part and partner with us. They will come out and spend time teaching courses and classes for free, and then these individuals will come in and be a part of that. United Bank is one of our partners who sends staff to teach financial literacy, not just how to open a checking account, but how to understand compound interest, how to purchase a house rather than rent, and how to save money. These are skills that many people with financial challenges desperately need. 

I’m not really interested as much in talking about race, because race is an independent variable. My approach is not to spend a lot of time on what color you are. Like, what color is integrity? What ethnicity is a work ethic? The things that really matter are dependent variables, and they’re dependent on the individual, what you do, who you are. 

SHARE: What programs are going on right now or are coming up in the future? 
Mike: The program we have coming up is an Art Gala this Friday, February 24 from 6-8pm. Some of our clients who receive counseling from Propel Counseling and Anderson Counseling are bringing out their own personal art, and they’re putting it on display for the community to come out and see. We also have a Mental Health Day that we’re offering to the community on April 29. There’s a group called The Gathering, sponsored by Patrick Henry Family Services, they assemble nonprofits to come together once a month to talk about what services each partner provides. GAF is a host site. We have a children’s exercise program for middle and high school students. We partner with the Wolfpack youth football to sponsor their tutoring program for the Wolfpack football team. Anywhere from 25 to 40 young student-athletes attend tutoring every Monday and Thursday evening. We host a women’s group once a month to support new mothers. 

It’s all free to the public, and that’s where we need support financially in order to facilitate the programs. Grow a Future does not want to disincentivize people by telling them if they can’t pay, they can’t come. A modest level of supportive funding will be a key to success!

To learn more about Grow A Future’s current and upcoming programs and services, visit their SHARE profile.

To see our SHARE Greater Lynchburg interview with Dr. Anderson on The Mike Show/, click here.


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