With a passion for destigmatizing mental health and making treatment resources more equitable in Louisville amongst youth and underserved populations, Demarco Harris is changing lives every day in his role as the Community Partner Manager for Maryhurst’s Renewal program. Having just been awarded the University of Louisville’s Dean’s Scholarship for Nonprofit Service and Excellence, it is clear Demarco is a rising star in Louisville’s nonprofit sector.
Building Kentucky sat down with Demarco to learn more about his background and his life-changing work with Maryhurst.
Building Kentucky: Demarco, could you share what motivates your passion for serving others and improving your community?
Demarco: My grandmother had a profound impact on me. She was deeply involved in our community back in Hopkinsville, and her dedication inspired me to use my experiences and skills to make the world a better place for everyone. Her example showed me the value of giving back and making a positive change.
Building Kentucky: Can you tell us about your journey from being a youth counselor to your current role as the Community Partner Manager for Maryhurst’s Renewal program?
Demarco: After graduating from Murray State University, I started as a youth counselor in Maryhurst’s residential program. That experience exposed me to the challenges that vulnerable youth face. I became part of Maryhurst’s Support Team, which focused on using creative expression and self-esteem programs to help these kids. Over time, I established arts-based activities like music groups and poetry slams, which left a lasting impact. I was humbled to receive the ArtsReach Living the Vision Award in 2020 for my contributions to Louisville’s youth.
Building Kentucky: How has your role evolved as you moved into the Maryhurst Renewal program?
Demarco: As I progressed in my career, I joined Maryhurst Renewal, a program providing outpatient social services to children and families struggling with behavioral health or family stability. The program’s growth has been incredible, now reaching students in 110 schools across Jefferson County. It’s heartening to be part of an organization prioritizing mental health and actively working to better the community.
Building Kentucky: Could you explain how you’re integrating mental health support into career and housing resources?
Demarco: The Spot, a collaboration between Maryhurst and Goodwill of Kentucky and KentuckianaWorks, is a unique place. It offers young adults not just career and housing resources but also crucial mental health support. Many participants at The Spot deal with unresolved traumas that hinder their goals. By combining our efforts, we’re showing that nonprofits can achieve more together than individually, bridging gaps for these individuals.
Building Kentucky: Your 501 c(3), Worth the Words Inc., is impressive. How do your programs there address mental health challenges in youth through creative outlets?
Demarco: Worth the Words Inc. is close to my heart. Through this nonprofit, we provide enrichment opportunities in music production, vocal production, and creative writing. These avenues offer youth transferable skills and healthy outlets to process emotional trauma. Art and music allow kids to express themselves when words fall short. Every individual’s journey is unique, and just like art, their way of healing and expressing emotions is distinct.
Building Kentucky: How do you envision the future of mental health education and support in your community?
Demarco: My vision is rooted in inclusivity and creativity. By tailoring interventions to each person’s unique experiences and needs, we can make mental health support more effective. I’m determined to continue expanding education and creative enrichment opportunities, particularly among underserved youth. My goal is to provide equitable resources across Louisville, creating a stronger and more resilient community.