Ally of the Year Awardee: Julius Boatwright/Steel Smiling
The Ally of the Year Award is given to an individual or organization that embodies what it means to be a “neighborhood ally” by genuinely partnering and collaborating with Neighborhood Allies to help advance our mission of supporting the people, organizations and partnerships committed to creating and maintaining healthy neighborhoods.
Steel Smiling is an exemplar grantee and partner to Neighborhood Allies. Julius and his team have spent well over a year in the Hilltop creating space for Black neighbors to process, share and make sense of their pasts, truths, and lived experiences. The Beams to Bridges program promotes advocacy and awareness around mental health, and builds on-ramps for local Black people to seek culturally and racially competent services, that may otherwise be unbeknownst or inaccessible. This centering and prioritization of the individual needs of Black community members is a stark divergence from the traditional mental health system’s standard practice, which does little to acknowledge the various ways that race permeates delivery and/or perceptions of service. Julius’ approach, led by Black people and for Black people, advances a person-centered model, and truly seeks to understand each individual cohort participant in the full context of their lived experience and environment. The Beams to Bridges program also empowers a new cadre of resident-leaders, who are referred to as “Mental Health Champions.” Mental Health Champions are past cohort participants interested in sharing the information and resources they have acquired with their immediates spheres of influence, including their friends, family and neighbors. After the incredible success of the Beams to Bridges program in the 2019-2020 year, Steel Smiling will be scaling the initiative to four new neighborhoods, all of which are in Neighborhood Allies’ shared priority areas: Wilkinsburg, Larimer/Lincoln, Homewood and the Hill District.
Additionally, Neighborhood Allies and Steel Smiling collaborate extremely well on a host of other endeavors. Aside from serving as Steel Smiling’s fiscal sponsor, Neighborhood Allies has explored (and secured!) joint fundraising efforts together. We have explored and continue to consider pathways for aligned programming. We continue to share strategy, resources and ideas. In all aspects of nonprofit work – programming, organizational, strategic alignment, etc – Julius is always thinking of ways to share the light, that light he carries within, with others around him. Time and time again, Julius proves himself to be one of Neighborhood Allies and the larger Pittsburgh region’s most invaluable partners. We’re honored to align our efforts with such a phenomenal organization, mission and leader!
Watch Steel Smiling’s Awardee Video!
Thanks to our partners at Pittsburgh Tech Council for interviewing Julius Boatwright, Founder of Steel Smiling!
You can listen here by clicking on the player below!
We highlighted two amazing members from the Hilltop Cohort, this week! Check out their interviews below!
‘Steel Smiling’s Beams to Bridges is More Than A Program; It’s a Lifestyle’ | Interview with Hilltop Cohort Leader Rick Bigelow
Steel Smiling is expanding their Beams to Bridges Black Mental Health Workforce Development Program into new neighborhoods this year! If you live in the Hilltop, Hill District, Homewood, Wilkinsburg, Larimer, or Lincoln-Lemington and are interested in learning more or joining a cohort, reach out to email@example.com!
Steel Smiling is launching a youth mental health education & advocacy program, too! Check it out!