This week on Community Corner, we had the pleasure of introducing you to Mark Dunkerly, President and CEO of the Oasis Center. The Oasis Center is an organization here in Nashville working with youth on things like crisis intervention, youth leadership and community engagement, and college and career access.
Dunkerly graduated from Vanderbilt and went on to found his own brewery focused on a mission of charitable givebacks, while also starting a career in sports marketing. While pursuing these endeavors, a friend working at the Oasis Center inspired Dunkerly to volunteer with the organization, going out into the community and connecting youth with vital services. It wasn’t long before he was convinced to take up a full time role in development, raising much needed funds for Oasis Center. Fast forward to today, and Dunkerly is at the helm, overseeing an organization that has expanded its services while also expanding its reach to thousands of young members of our community.
The Oasis Center has recently unveiled a new slogan – “there’s more to youth.” According to Dunkerly, it’s about reframing the way adults view younger people. Rather than viewing youth as “less than,” or judging a young person by the circumstance they’ve found theirselves in, the Oasis Center seeks to see the potential waiting to be unlocked. Their strengths-based approach focuses on positive reinforcement, which for many kids is the only encouragement they’re receiving.
The past year created several challenges for Oasis Center, an organization strongly rooted in community. While they had to continue their crisis services (like those for homeless youth) in-person, some programs had to shift to a virtual format. One bright spot was the Just Us program, an LGBTQ+ advocacy program that was able to connect to youth from greater distances that normally wouldn’t be able to make frequent trips into Nashville.
As we return to physical community spaces like the Oasis Center, Dunkerly says there are numerous ways that Nashvillians can help. Lightning 100 listeners who were moved by hearing about this vital work in our city can head to the Oasis Center website to learn about how to get involved as a volunteer or as a donor. To hear the full interview with CEO and President of the Oasis Center, Mark Dunkerly, listen below: