Christian McGhee has walked among the homeless. He's mentored juveniles in a correctional facility.
He’s seen what happens when children struggle to hang on, to survive.
Instead of drifting away, following any number of career paths open to him, McGhee is helping children and teens leaving correctional centers create a future.
McGhee was a 2018 President’s Prize winner for his vision to fight youth homelessness by creating a transitional home for juveniles leaving correctional facilities.
The project, GROW (Getting Ready Opportunities & Work), aims to create a non-profit transitional home in Columbus for three to five teenagers. McGhee’s vision is to build the leading youth transition centers throughout the nation.
“We want to make a big impact in these kids’ lives,” McGhee says. “I can’t stand to watch kids’ future be squandered because of absence of help.”
It’s a breathtaking dream for a Westerville native who grew up an Ohio State fan and a good student but not necessarily a visionary.
“I didn’t even know my potential until I came to Ohio State,” says McGhee, a Fisher College of Business marketing major with a 3.9 GPA. “I wanted to do well, but I didn’t really challenge myself. Once I got to Ohio State, I started to see I had the potential to do good. I started to seek out challenges.”
One of those challenges was applying for, and being accepted into, the Fisher Honors Cohort. McGhee entered his junior year.
McGhee’s idea for GROW began with the Honors Cohort’s Impact Challenge. McGhee and his team chose to focus on incarcerated youths following guidance from Susan Colbert, in the Office of Extension, and Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Terri Jamison, who educated the team on the difficulties young people face when leaving juvenile detention centers
Once the idea for GROW took root, McGhee looked the problem in the eye. He joined BuckeyeREACH to mentor at the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility. He and his team also toured homeless “tent cities” around Columbus to see what homeless teens endure.
While helping people is at the center of GROW, understanding people is bedrock of McGhee’s academics. The marketing major also minors in economics and fashion and retail studies. And he is a research assistant for Steven Spencer in the Self, Stereotypes and Social Norms Laboratory, which McGhee says allows for him to understand issues of stereotyping.
“I’ve always had a heart for understanding people — who they are, what it is they want,” says McGhee, who graduated in May of 2019. “I wanted to use my education to learn about people and meet them where they are.”