Chris McGilvery: Ordinary People Can be Extraordinary

By Kehli Berry

In partnership with the Fox Family, our Youth Leadership Hub provides micro grants to projects which nurture the compassionate, visionary leadership of our nation’s youth. Our leadership team for this hub is comprised of extraordinary grantees of The Pollination Project, who will seek out and mentor projects to fund through this program.

We asked the team to interview each other so that we all got a chance to know them better. Here Kehli Berry writes about Chris McGilvery.

Chris McGilvery

Have you ever meet someone whose life journey inspired you and left you with an overwhelming sense of joy and purpose? Well that’s exactly how I feel after getting to know Chris McGilvery, Founder and Executive Director of the Nonprofit Organization Give More HUGS (Helping Unite Giving Souls). Chris is from San Antonio, Texas, and his passion for volunteering and giving back to the community has always been a part of his life.  As a teen, he led the student club Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU ) mentoring elementary students about the dangers of smoking. He also served as a student assistant for a special education class at Stinson Middle School.  He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and two Masters Degrees in Higher Education and Curriculum and Instruction from Angelo State University in San Angelo Texas.

His passions for helping future generations reach their potential led him to start a teaching career, but Chris wasn’t your average teacher.  He was a Newcomer Academy Teacher at San Jacinto Junior High in Midland Texas, and he taught students who recently entered the USA as refugees or immigrants.  His love for education was enhanced by his passion for technology.  Chris designed curriculum, conducted research and became proficient in implementing technology methodologies to support teaching and learning.

During his career as a teacher, Chris and his wife moved to the beautiful island of Dominica in the West Indies.  Little did they know, this life experience would change their lives. Chris’ passion to help others realize their potential is evident in his support for his wife while she attended medical school in Dominica.  His background in technology and education opened doors for him to work at Ross University School of Medicine as the Academic Director for Faculty Development. It was during this time in Dominica that Chris realized that he wanted to be more impactful and help bring about change for students who are less fortunate.

Chris’ commitment to help create awareness of the need for educational equality stems from his mother’s story as well, which has a beautiful ending.  Chris’ mother was born and raised in the Philippines. Life was not easy for her. She worked hard on her family’s farm, lived in a bamboo house, and did not have access to running water. She grew up in extreme poverty. At the age of eleven, her education was taken away from her. She had to drop out of school to work.  Chris’ mother met his father who was stationed in the Philippines serving in the US Military.  After they married they moved back to the United States.  As a child Chris’ mother would stress the importance of an education and the benefits it can have on increasing the standard of life for individuals.

Chris credits his desire for youth advocacy and education to his mother’s love and inspiration.In 2012 the vision of Give More HUGS (GMH) was formed.  HUGS stands for Helping Unite Giving Souls.   Chris and his wife found themselves providing families with access to basic resources, school supplies, and compassion. He understood that there is more to life than what is often projected and there are kids who are silently crying for support.  The mission of GMH is to help unite giving souls to provide students in need with the tools that inspire a love for learning, reading, and creativity. Chris and his team received a seed grant from The Pollination Project in March 2015 to support the HUGS Book Share program. “Everyone deserves words of encouragement, support, and love along the way, and this program does that and more” explains Chris. This program provides new or gently used books, each with a handwritten inspirational message to empower and encourage students to be and do their best.  Since the grant, Chris and his team has given over 4,000 books to spread the love for reading and give hope to students who need it the most.

This year alone, the GMH team has collected over 4,000 books, and several HUGS Ambassadors, community organizations and volunteers are joining their efforts to help write inspirational messages to empower and encourage students.  Not only does GMH provide books and hope, but this awesome organization provides educational materials, art supplies, mentorships, and leadership development. His vision helped launch the HUGS Ambassador program, which provides middle school, high school, and college students a training opportunity to become a social change makers who are active in their community.

Chris’ passion and work for youth led him to be a part of the TPP Youth Development Fellowship. He envisions that the TPP Fellowship can help to transform how communities work together.  “Ordinary people can be extraordinary!” Chris explains. Fellows can help projects flourish and cross pollinate with others in different regions of the world.  Chris McGilvery is an asset to the TPP Youth Leadership Team.  He has the skillset to help generate ideas to broaden our audience and project our vision to a wider audience.  We are excited about the work Chris McGilvery is doing in his community and we look forward to his contribution as a TPP Fellow.


About The Author

Kehli Berry
Kehli Berry is a member of the Youth Environment Hub, a collaboration between The Pollination Project and Levis Strauss & Co. Read more about the team here