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Social Impact Heroes: German DuBois III is leveraging the power of art to affect change in the lives of those with the greatest need of support

I have worked with youth my entire career, and have always been inspired to empower them to strive to become the best version of themselves, despite the odds that are often stacked against them. I strive to be an example of ‘possibility’ to the young men and women and always relate my personal journey, including […]


I have worked with youth my entire career, and have always been inspired to empower them to strive to become the best version of themselves, despite the odds that are often stacked against them. I strive to be an example of ‘possibility’ to the young men and women and always relate my personal journey, including both my struggles and my victories, to their lives. I hold myself accountable by challenging all of the myths, stereotypes, labels, and judgments that have been placed upon me throughout my personal development and work tirelessly to prove my naysayers wrong. I know that many who came before, sacrificed for me to succeed. I am simply a return on their investment and must pay it forward by advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves.


I had the pleasure to interview German DuBois III. German is a professional educator, with over 25 years of experience in Non-Profit Executive Management, who has dedicated his career to developing youth, families, and communities. Born and raised in the Bronx, NYC public school product, Division 1AA Athlete, this native New Yorker brings a wealth of knowledge to South Florida. With a Master’s in Education from Columbia University Teachers College, and his Bachelor’s of Arts from Colgate University, German’s passion for youth development began as teacher at Roosevelt HS in the Bronx, and since then has served in a multitude of leadership roles, in both the private and public education sectors throughout the U.S. As founder and Executive Director of HOPE Murals, German is also well known for his passion and capacity to leverage the Power of Art to affect change in the lives of those to be in the greatest need of support. He led the Puerto Rico Hope mural campaign, raising awareness about the ongoing struggles for survival in Puerto Rico, via the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and mobilized Muralists during Art Basel 2017 to paint a massive collection of murals and raise funds to support relief efforts. Having presented to hundreds of youth practitioners on both national and international platforms, one of his greatest strengths is his ability to connect to both youth and adults from diverse communities. Mr. DuBois brings professional integrity to his work and lives by example, incorporating health and wellness best practices in his daily life.


Thank you so much for joining us German! What is your “backstory”?

I was born and raised in the Bronx, a graduate of NYC public schools, and the first generation in my family to attend/graduate college. I’ve always believed that I had a responsibility to serve others that were less fortunate and was taught always to demonstrate gratitude for the opportunities that were provided to me. Serving others has been ingrained in me by my parents, who both worked in civil service positions, and continue to serve as active leaders to families in need at their place of worship. Although I had initial plans to attend Law School, I realized my calling to work with youth while serving as a residential summer counselor at a small college in upstate NY. The project was a state-funded college-readiness initiative that recruited minority high school students with academic potential, to spend their summer on a college campus, attend educational enrichment classes and gain exposure to the collegiate experience. I realized that summer that I wanted to become an Educator and support children in their educational pursuits as a means of breaking the generational cycles of poverty that many of them faced. I’ve never turned back.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

Currently, HOPE Murals is painting a “mural a month” with incarcerated teens at the Miami Dade County Juvenile Detention Center. The teens are involved in every facet of the mural process, from conceptual development, wall preparation, and mural completion. The Arts Based Youth development model is intended to engage the teens in the evolution of the mural, while simultaneously challenging them to think critically about their decisions/choices that have lead them to their current circumstances, but more importantly motivating them to envision their future lives beyond the bars. Ultimately, we instill HOPE and inspire them to persevere through their current challenges.

So how exactly does your organization help people?

HOPE Murals is designed to leverage the magic of art to impact the lives of youth by teaching the power of self-efficacy. Teens are often encouraged by parents and teachers to set goals, but they are not taught how to develop a strategic plan to achieve them. At HOPE Murals, participants are immersed in the creative process of the mural design from beginning to end. They are responsible for developing the messaging and symbolism that will be reflected in the art. This requires the group to make collective decisions based on an active exchange of well thought out ideas. This process affords us opportunities to draw parallels to their respective lives, by empowering them to become artists of their future and applying the same principles despite their current circumstances. Lastly, the HOPE Murals model promotes critical life skills such as grit and accountability, while also instilling values of confidence and self-worth, via an artistic platform that encourages risk-taking, creativity, and collective effort.

Can you tell me a story about a person that you helped?

Recently, I was asked to appear in court to serve as a character reference for a teen who participated in the mural project while serving time at the Juvenile Detention Center. It was an honor to provide testimony regarding her active participation, creative spirit, willingness to contribute and the genuine interest she exemplified throughout the mural project. Since her release, I have continued to communicate with her and her mother, offer “mentorship” and guidance in her efforts to graduate HS, enroll in college and obtain employment to pay for her incurred legal fees.

This obviously is not easy work. What drives you?

I have worked with youth my entire career, and have always been inspired to empower them to strive to become the best version of themselves, despite the odds that are often stacked against them. I strive to be an example of ‘possibility’ to the young men and women and always relate my personal journey, including both my struggles and my victories, to their lives. I hold myself accountable by challenging all of the myths, stereotypes, labels, and judgments that have been placed upon me throughout my personal development and work tirelessly to prove my naysayers wrong. I know that many who came before, sacrificed for me to succeed. I am simply a return on their investment and must pay it forward by advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Prison reform has been a topic of national discussion for decades now. There is plenty of research and data that demonstrates the incompetence of our prison system. Juvenile justice needs a major overhaul, from examining how youth are processed through the court system to the facilities in which youth are housed. Reform should be focused on teaching corrective behavior for juvenile offenders and develop alternative approaches for addressing punishment for the crimes committed. Time in a cell block is not the answer. As a matter of fact, it contributes to the high rates of recidivism and the booming profits made by the private sector, yet our society allows for it to continue. Funding for alternative programming, such as HOPE Murals, would offer evidence that is both cost-effective and demonstrates the significant social return on investment for our local communities and society at large. I challenge politicians, community leaders, and educators to mobilize and embrace the challenge of juvenile justice prison reform or witness the destruction of an entire generation of lives.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I will always be grateful to my parents who are both my example and heroes of what service to others embodies. They have always given selflessly of their home, resources, time, and prayer for others, including family, friends, neighbors, and strangers who were less fortunate. Throughout my youth, I innocently assumed that everyone was as naturally generous as they were. Unfortunately, I learned quickly that service and sacrifice is not a common attribute among all human beings. Upon attending Colgate University, I was submerged in a culture of wealth and ‘Have Not”, in which I had never been exposed to. I was confronted with the harsh realization that I was poor, under-served, under-resourced, and entirely unprepared for what the next four years of higher education had in store for me. Despite the inner voice of perseverance, that was fueled by my Dad’s expectations of me to make the family proud, I was blessed with the opportunity to meet a Faculty/Administrator, Dr. Elleni Tedla, who became my surrogate mother, unofficial academic adviser and personal life coach (before that title existed). She was instrumental in guiding my revolutionary spirit and re-directed my energy to focus on serving others for a better tomorrow. Her understanding of human nature and the power of co-existing despite our differences always resonated with me. Dr. Tedla always inspired me to rise above the day to day challenges of campus life and remember the duty I had to serve in a fashion that would help others that would follow in years to come. Without knowing, she taught me how to pay it forward. I was not her only collegiate son. There many others that she impacted significantly. I am genuinely grateful for all the lessons she taught me about human dignity, respect, and service to others!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. I wish someone had told me that fundraising for such a worthy cause would be more challenging.than what I anticipated. Everyone that learns of HOPE Murals and the amazing work we are facilitating with youth is truly impressed, and they share tons of accolades that are appreciated, but I can’t serve youth with accolades. Financial resources, supplies, donors/sponsors are needed to run an effective youth development organization that has a significant impact on the youth we serve. We are turning lives around. How much is that worth?

2. I wish someone had told me how bureaucratic our juvenile justice system is and how unfair the outcomes are for youth whose families don’t have the financial resources to secure experienced legal representation, which in turn would save many of the youth from experiencing the spiral downfall of incarceration.

3. I wish someone had told me that painting with teens would be so incredibly eye-opening to the inner voice that all our youth posses. The weekly engagement with them has afforded us the opportunities to listen to their perceptions of the world around them. I wish I didn’t have to crush their naive notions about success and remove the filters that mask many of their visions, but I believe that tough love mentoring is critical to their future prosperity.

4. I wish someone had told me when I was a teen, that when I was ‘bombing” / “tagging” also known as vandalism, would be an art form that would develop into a multi-million dollar industry that I could have prospered.

5. I wish someone had told me that during a single year, an estimated 2.1 million youth under the age of 18 are arrested in the United States. I have a lot of walls to paint and youth to save!

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see just see this. 🙂

Barack Obama — a present example of how the sacrifice, perseverance and persistent effort of many who came before him historically, created the foundation for him to serve as an example of leadership. With great power comes great responsibility.

Michael Jordan — one of the few living legends who is an example of how his love and passion for a single cause (the game of basketball) became a lifelong commitment that has afforded him opportunities to see the world and give back to others in regions that few even know to exist.

Oprah Winfrey — her international empire is an example of how success breeds success, which maximizes her capacity to help others.

Larry Page / Sergery Brin (founders of Google) need I say more. Their invention revolutionized the world into the next era of how we operate.

Marc Anthony / Jennifer Lopez — examples of contemporary artists who became international icons via the arts, yet are still true to their roots.

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