Taking Advantage of Our Privileges

Mike DeVaul is being honored as a White House Champion of Change for his leadership and commitment to the ideals of the YMCA.

Mike DeVaul

As a Champion of Change focusing on the importance of global service and inspiring global impact, I am proud and privileged to promote and serve the Greater Charlotte community.   The YMCA in Charlotte has a rich 160- year history of service.  Our community has exponentially changed over the last ten years.  We are a global community with a number of Fortune 500 companies anchoring their global headquarters here in our town.  We have schools where more than 20 languages can be heard in the hallways, so we literally have global communities in our backyard. Our city was founded by German immigrants and named after the German Queen, Charlotte. In order to remain relevant in our mission to serve all we must continue to expand our global lenses.

I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel for the YMCA early in my career.  Visiting YMCAs in Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Bangladesh, and England, it was my responsibility to come back and develop a plan to infuse what I learned into a local plan. It was in this early experience that I found the importance of integrating our work into everyday Y activity. It was also here that I realized we have much in common with our Y friends across continents, and our responsibility to align and engage.

I am a believer and champion of the catchphrase ‘Think globally, Act locally’, and I am often reminded “You don’t have to leave the country to have a global experience.” With business globalization, immigration, and refugee resettlement, Charlotte has experienced significant demographic changes over the past 15 years. Our Association has seen the Global Center of Excellence strategy as a way to ensure that all community members in Charlotte feel welcome at the Y. We have worked hard to collaborate with organizations like the Latin American Chamber, Gantt African American Cultural Center, Asian Chamber and the Mayors International Cabinet to enrich our approach and help ignite our teen global service program. 

Our recent service learning trips focused on literacy, and have captured the hearts and empowered the voices of our teens and young adults about the critical nature that illiteracy anywhere leads to poverty everywhere.  These experiences are important for teens as they develop to become our future global workforce and community leaders.

I am often reminded of the enormous privilege we enjoy living in a country like ours, and if left unchecked, not given away, these privileges can turn toxic. We see the global strategy as one that helps to cement hope to impact.  Our work has been centered on the importance of one’s national origin, insisting everyone has an immigration story to be told. By emphasizing our lineage and history, we embrace the story of building our own global community. This is what makes a YMCA and a country likes our great!

Mike DeVaul is the SVP of Organization Advancement, YMCA of Greater Charlotte (NC)

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