Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Mentor Spotlight Interview with Christopher McGilvery

By Ashley Lin, former Assistant Editor, Poetry Editor, and Adult Spotlight Interviewer


Think back to back-to-school shopping… is it a good memory? For me, it always is. I get to pick out colorful pens, notebooks, and even new backpacks! I am lucky to be provided the proper school supplies, resources, and support to thrive at school; unfortunately, this isn’t the reality for many of our underserved peers. Too often, students don’t have the necessary supplies to start learning, much less foster a love for learning. Think about it – how excited would you be in reading if you didn’t own your own book? Or writing, if you didn’t have a pencil? Or even school, if you didn’t have a backpack?

All children deserve an opportunity to receive and actively participate in a quality education, which is at the heart of Give More HUGS: a nonprofit whose mission is to Help Unite Giving Souls to provide students in need with the tools to inspire a love for learning, reading, and creativity. Whether it’s educational materials, books with inspirational messages, or extracurricular scholarships, these words and actions of encouragement make a huge difference in a student’s educational experience. If you are in middle school or older, consider applying to become a Give More HUGS Ambassador here, where you could help raise awareness about students in need, and provide the essential tools to help foster their academic success. How cool is that?

When tools vital to success in school is there, kids are more likely to be enjoy being creative, reading, and learning – and realize they have a role to play in bringing change to their own communities Today, we have the opportunity to talk with Christopher McGilvery, Founder and Executive Director of Give More HUGS. He’s going to share with us more about his journey and inspire us to give back ourselves!

Amazing Kids (AK): What inspired or called you to create Give More HUGS?

Christopher McGilvery (CM): My mother’s story inspires me every day. Growing up, my mother would tell my sisters and I about the opportunities we could have because of our education. At the age of 11, she had to quit school to work on her family’s farm in the Philippines, but she motivated me to do well in school and work hard. She was right about education providing me opportunities. I was able to pursue a career in education and higher education administration because of my education and experiences. I taught middle school, adult ESL courses, and education and communication courses at the university level. When my wife Taryn and I lived in Dominica in 2011, I was reminded of my mother’s story.  During my volunteer time at local schools and afterschool programs, I was inspired to start Give More HUGS. The island taught and gave me (and so many other Ross University School of Medicine families) so much. Dominica transforms you. I was inspired to create a nonprofit to continue to help children in Dominica. It evolved from helping children in Dominica to mentoring students in middle school, high school and college to support students in need locally and globally. I believe every student needs opportunities to use their voice and actions to help the millions of students who need our united support.

AK:  If you had to describe GMH in two words, what would they be and why?

CM: Giving Students. Give More HUGS is all about inspiring students to give back to students, teachers and schools need. One of our values is Giving. We give our heart, kindness and resources to those students in need. Unfortunately, there are a number of students who do not have access to this support. We found a solution for this. We bring giving students together to help inspire and transform the education and literacy crisis that many students are facing. It’s powerful to witness students use their voice and actions to give back to students in need. There are millions of students who are not receiving the proper tools and education to reach their potential. We arming students to be giving students who change lives, one student at a time.

AK: The themes of uniting giving souls, education, and hugs stand out in your mission statement. How did you decide on these ideas?

CM: HUGS stands for Helping Unite Giving Souls. We unite communities to help students in need. Giving souls represent the people in a community. Brining the community together can change the world. I believe our communities should come together no matter the differences in race, social class, and beliefs. We help unite the community no matter what. We bring people from all walks of life together. It’s amazing to see the whole community come together to help students in need.  There are so many giving souls in a community, and together we can transform education opportunities for students in underserved areas. HUGS, also known as the Helping Unite Giving Souls team is a great way to start a conversation about the work we do. People often wonder why we are called Give More HUGS, and it’s easy way to grab their attention from the start. Everyone needs HUGS! ☺

AK: Give More HUGS has had many achievements, from hosting more than 25 book drives and impacting more than 26,000 students. How do you define success?

CM: Success is when students can come together to help students in need. Success is when students’ passions turns into advocacy work for students who might not have a voice. It’s amazing when students can bring their peers, businesses, and community together to help raise awareness of those students in need of educational materials and books in low-income areas. To date we have trained and mentored 86 students who have helped us impact thousands of students’ lives. I am proud of students who step into their ambassador role and show up for students in need.

AK: What are the challenges to running a constantly growing and expanding nonprofit, and what makes everything “worth it”?

CM: There are many challenges, but having an amazing team that supports you keeps me going. I love meeting and connecting with people. I have learned over the years, your team can take you to the next level. We have an amazing team and the work we do to help students in need makes every challenge we face worth it. When you see the transformation first hand, you are inspired to keep going.

AK: What is the most memorable moment you have had with a student GMH served, and how has it impacted your life?

CM: I have many memorable moments with students GMH served. One of the most memorable is from this year. GMH started on the island of Dominica and I had the honor to volunteer alongside Jessica Garrido (former ambassador and current Marketing volunteer) and Darin Iraj (current ambassador) and a handful of amazing volunteers to help children and communities in Dominica. I loved how students wanted to go back to Dominica where the GMH mission began. Dominica changes you, and it was amazing to see Darin and Jessica give so much love and support to the children, families and communities of Dominica. I saw their transformation first hand. It’s hard to describe, but I think every student needs opportunities to witness and support students in need locally and globally.

AK: How has GMH grown, expanded, and changed?

CM: We have evolved as our work has grown. We see power in developing student leaders who help students in need. We see that our virtual trainings are a great way to engage and collaborate with students. I’m excited to launch a series of video trainings to support students’ busy schedules. I believe this will help us reach more students to help impact more students’ lives.

AK: What are some goals for the future?

CM: I hope to have a Giving Students conference in the future. I’d love to bring ambassadors and giving students together to share their volunteer experiences, attend fun leadership workshops, and participate in fellowship to keep them going! Every student needs to feel supported and we hope to have a Giving Students conference to help continue the legacy of Give More HUGS.

I’m just going to put this out there. I hope that Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, President Obama and as many giving souls can see the power in our work and want to invest in keeping the mission alive. I hope that someone reads this and feels inspired to get involved.

AK: How can everyday students get involved and give back to the community with GMH?

CM: Apply to become an ambassador. We accept applications every spring and the deadline is May 31. Apply to be a part of our team! We cannot wait for you to help host book drives, school supply drives, and share the love for learning, reading and creativity with students in need.

AK: Who has been a mentor or confidante to you throughout your life or experience with GMH?

CM: This one is pretty easy. This person has been there since college. I remember when I was working on my Masters degree and this person stood out to me. She was kind, supportive, and always listened. She supported me and my family. She believed in me and saw so much potential. She believed in my wife. She adores our family. She has been a supporter of Give More HUGS and my own personal and professional journey since my college days. You don’t meet people like this often, and she inspires me to be that and more for others. Pam Callan, an extraordinary woman with a big heart who has been a huge mentor and supporter throughout my life.

And with that, another inspiring story! Thank you so much, Mr. McGilvery, for sharing your time and expertise with us today. I know that I’m inspired to share the love of reading, learning, and creativity with underserved students in my local community, and I hope you are too! If you are interested in reading more about Give More HUGS, please check out their website here!