U.S. billionaire Robert F. Smith is no stranger when it comes to uplifting others. After all, it falls in line with his vision to create value for Black people. In 2019, he paid the outstanding tuition costs for the entire Morehouse graduating class, estimated at $40 million.
In 2020, he also made a $15 million donation to Cornell University to provide financial aid to engineering students from historically underrepresented communities. Smith previously made a $50 million donation to the university in 2016 to provide funding to underrepresented students at Cornell’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
In his latest move to support black excellence, the richest Black billionaire in America is collaborating with renowned author Deepak Chopra to launch The Soul of Leadership, a program focusing on the mental health and leadership development of the Black community.
A press statement on the partnership notes that the NeverAlone movement, facilitated by Chopra, will focus on providing mental health services, leadership development courses targeted towards Black youth, and content to support Black entrepreneurs.
The initiative will offer programming for Black youth at no fee. The aim is to develop them into future leaders and equip them with the resiliency and skillset to unlock their fullest potential and thrive in the face of uncertainty.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), adult African-Americans are more likely to report continuous symptoms of emotional distress than white adults. Also, African Americans living below the poverty line are more likely to report experiencing psychological distress than those with more financial security.
Despite these challenges, Blacks continue to face barriers to mental health care. Some of these barriers include socioeconomic disparities, stigma, provider bias and inequality in care.
“In order to build the leaders of tomorrow, first we must set a solid foundation where young people can fully thrive,” Smith, founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners said.
According to him, “addressing mental health is a critical component of this leadership development. By arming Black youth with tools to understand their mental and emotional needs, we are setting them on the path to success and creating empathetic leaders of the future that have a greater capacity for understanding and navigating the world around them.”
On his part, Chopra, founder of The Chopra Foundation, said, “I am privileged to work with Robert Smith on this much-needed initiative for the empowerment of our future leaders, particularly from the Black American community.
“As our nation focuses greater attention on the current mental health epidemic, we must deploy our resources in an equitable manner to ensure that everyone is able to receive the help they need.”
Starting in early 2023, The Soul of Leadership will be a free online catalog of leadership development courses.